Symptoms of magnesium deficiency

We'll call him Ronnie. His magnesium deficiency showed up in a blood test. This is quite unusual, as our body successfully endeavers to keep the blood level constant until it is really in very short supply.

He came in recently, reporting that he was not as tired and could stay awake longer. He had fewer headaches, cramps and less general muscle stiffness.

His Magnesium levels had been...
July 2011 0.72mmol/l (reference range¹ 0.70 - 1.10)
October 2011 0.58
November 2011 0.62
January 2012 0.71
February 2012 0.74

His (complicated) medical condition had not changed significantly, but a magnesium supplement had the desired effect.

Magnesium can get low from a number of drugs. The cause of Ronnie's magnesium deficiency was Cyclosporin, an anti-rejection drug.

Recently some people on PPI drugs to stop acid in the stomach, have got severe muscle weakness, twitching, and irregular heart rhythm from low magnesium. Some of them who were admitted to hospital, only recovered when the drug was stopped, despite being given magnesium supplements.

Cis-platinum, diuretics, Gentamicin and laxative abuse are other causes.

Lots of illnesses can also cause it, particularly if there is weight loss. The most common is diabetes² - and it can contribute to the causes of diabetes.

Zinc deficiency can also cause magnesium to drop, as the stomach acid needed for its digestion is diminished. Ironically this can be missed and PPI drugs prescribed for the reflux which results, thereby aggravating the Mg deficiency.

Magnesium deficiency can cause potassium deficiency, and fluid retention, via effects in the kidney.

Long term magnesium deficit is at least a marker for or likely, a cause of, coronary artery disease⁴.

Greenmedinfo has a good article on the health importance of magnesium.

Testing for magnesium deficiency.

The serum Mg isn't very sensitive, as mentioned. In a study³ of elderly people, all were in the normal range but 57% had low Mg in their red blood cells.

The best test is probably 24 hour urine level before and after a load of Mg.

Dietary sources of magnesium.

Soils vary in magnesium content at least tenfold and some areas (including Australia) are very low. This variation will show in the tap water and food chain.
Chlorophyll has this element, so dark green vegetables are one source. Seeds have everything that the next generation needs to start growth, so legumes, bran, whole grain cereals, pumpkin seeds, cocoa, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts are good too. Flesh foods such as fish are good sources.

An extensive list is at

Magnesium supplements

My naturopath mentor settled on freshly prepared Magnesiuim ascorbate as he found it to be the best absorbed form.

Fluid magnesia is magnesium bicarbonate. Ascorbic acid powder is sprinkled into this, and the mixture fizzes madly as the acid/alkali reaction produces carbon dioxide.

40ml of the fluid magnesia is a good dose, and one continues to slowly sprinkle the vitamin C powder until the fizzing stops.

One now has magnesium ascorbate.

Notes and references for Magnesium deficiency

1. The reference range is not a "normal range" but includes the average +/- two standard deviations, 95% of a supposedly healthy population.

Reference ranges are commonly derived from a not particularly healthy population. Ideally they should reflect the state of affairs in people who are in perfect health, but blood samples from such people are hard to come by.

Sam Queen from the Institute for Health Realities (now Designed2Win), has worked out his own reference ranges and they are quite different to those quoted for a number of tests.

2. An excellent and readable study on magnesium in diabetes, is in chapter 2, P36 of a thesis by monika Walti.

3. Ulger Z et al "Intra-erythrocyte magnesium levels and their clinical implications in geriatric outpatients" J Nutr Health Aging 2010 Dec; Vol. 14 (10), pp. 810-4.

4. Am J Clin Nutr June 2013 vol. 97 no. 6 1299-1306

From magnesium deficiency page back to main index page

PPI drugs are very commonly used for gastro-oesophageal reflux or ulcer healing. They inhibit the proton pump in the stomach cells which make the acid we depend on to kill pathogenic organisms in our food.


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