Magnesium deficiency: Why this essential mineral could be hurting more than you think

Magnesium Deficiency is unfortunately more common than it needs to be.

Magnesium (Mg) is an amazingly important essential mineral in our body and unfortunately many people suffer from magnesium deficiency and its side effects without even knowing it. Our bodies can’t make magnesium- we have to it get from diet or supplements. Up to 68% of Americans do not meet the recommended daily intake, despite its importance in bodily functions. Magnesium assists in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Just a few of its benefits include assisting in making DNA, helping muscles contract, keeping our heartbeats regular and keeping our brains healthy. Magnesium is also important for the construction of cell membranes and an important mineral for maintaining electrolyte balance within the cells.  Magnesium can also help with constipation, sleep and anxiety. (Be patient, it can take up to 3 months to see all these benefits!)

Excessive magnesium levels can lead to CNS depression, loss of muscle tone, respiratory and cardiac arrest. Low magnesium levels can lead to irritability, inattentiveness, cardiac and renal damage, depression, high blood pressure and many more.


magnesium deficient child

Magnesium and ADHD

Magnesium also plays a key role in the formation of neurotransmitters- chemicals that help us stay happy, focused, and calm. Ninety percent of ADHD kids have been found to be deficient in magnesium. If magnesium is too low- then attention regulating dopamine and mood-regulating serotonin are also low, leading to ADHD symptoms. Magnesium deprived brains lead to poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, depression, apathy, mood swings, fatigue, constipation, sleeping problems, etc.


Medications and their role in magnesium deficiency

Medications can also cause magnesium deficiency along with numerous other nutrient deficiencies, yet these are rarely discussed by physicians or pharmacists. Stimulant medications are notorious for causing cardiac problems- one reason is the leaching of magnesium out of the body. Diuretics, used to treat hypertension and fluid retention also deplete magnesium from the body by increasing urinary output through the kidneys. Calcium channel blockers can affect magnesium offing masking a significant Mg deficiency. Beta blockers also can deplete magnesium. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy are big contributors to magnesium deficiency, as well as other important nutrients. Proton pump inhibitors (Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Aciphex) when taken for longer than a year are notorious for causing hypomagnesemia. In studies, 25% of patients had to stop proton pump inhibitor for magnesium levels to be raised. Numerous antibiotics can cause low magnesium also. There are countless other medications, approved by the FDA, that affect magnesium levels.


How can we know if we are Magnesium deficient? There are several ways to test, but two are preferred.

The first is a Red Blood Cell Magnesium Blood level test. This show us an actual representation of what is actually happening inside the cell (intracellular) and therefore inside the body. All metabolism occurs inside the cell, not in our serum. Most practitioners will order serum nutrient testing, but this is less accurate than RBC testing. You can have high serum magnesium but your intracellular levels can be low. Some common reasons for high serum Mg could be poor transport of nutrient across the cell. missing cofactors (ex- B6) needed for the body to utilize the nutrient, malabsorption or digestive issues, circadian rhythm issues and even food intake. All of these can cause high serum Mg and low intracellular levels. If you are testing serum, you are getting a misrepresentation of your true Mg level.

Another test is the hair trace mineral analysis (HTMA). The HTMA shows us the levels of stored minerals and heavy metals within the tissues. As the body deposits excess minerals, the new hair growth hair is exposed to blood and intracellular fluids causing the hair shaft to harden and preserving this information for us. While blood testing gives us a snapshot in time, the HTMA gives us results from a longer time period, months or even years. This test can give us so much information about what is really happening in the body. It is definitely underutilized and underrated.


How can you repair your magnesium deficiency?

Often during nutrient deficiency, it is hard to get to normal levels again with just diet alone. Supplementation is usually necessary. Retesting can be important after 3-4 months to see your levels moving in the right directions.

Magnesium rich foods include: apples, broccoli, chia & pumpkins seeds, almonds, spinach, dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, legumes, seeds and leafy greens. This list is not conclusive.


Different Types of magnesium

Magnesium supplementation can be confusing because it comes in different forms: oxide, citrate, gluconate, lactate, glycinate, sulfate, chloride, L-threonate and more. Here is the important information in a nutshell. It is always best to discuss which type of Magnesium and dose that is right for you with your healthcare provider.

  • Mg Sulfate is Epsom Salt- great to soak tired feed and legs and also as a form of detox.
  • Mg Oxide- very poorly absorbed- I don’t recommend using this one (although it is most commonly prescribed by physicians)
  • Mg citrate- great absorption, has a well-known laxative effect
  • Mg lactate & chloride – good for repletion
  • Mg Glycinate- good for repletion and also supplying an amino acid that is needed by the body
  • Mg L-threonate- this is a synthesized form and can readily elevate magnesium levels in the brain therefore improving cognitive function.

Here are a few of my favorite Magnesium supplements:

Our favorite Mg supplements are whole food sources from Standard Process- E-Z Mg and Magnesium Lactate.

Natural Calm by Natural Vitality is a great option for kids. Comes in different flavors and kids can put in a drink of their choice rather than swallowing a pill.

Mag L-threonate is a great option if you need more increased focus and attentiveness.

Pure Labs Mg glycinate is another great one for replenishment.

At Revelation Wellness, we offer functional lab testing to check magnesium levels easily. If you are interested or have questions, please schedule a call with us to determine if it’s right for you.

Genesis 1:29- Then God said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.”

Important: Please check with your healthcare provider to determine if you have a Mg deficiency before beginning any supplement. This information is not meant to be healthcare advice. Please do not start or stop any medications with out consulting with your provider.



Schwalfenberg GK, Genuis SJ. The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica (Cairo). 2017;2017:4179326. doi: 10.1155/2017/4179326. Epub 2017 Sep 28. PMID: 29093983; PMCID: PMC5637834.

Magnesium, RBC | Test Detail | Quest Diagnostics

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Dr. Keta Dodds

Functional Medicine Pharmacist PharmD, CFMP

Combining my background in pharmacy with a functional medicine approach, I work with people to discover the root causes of their symptoms and help them find a path forward to better health.

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