In this article, we will delve into an often overlooked but essential mineral - magnesium content. The body can't produce enough magnesium intake, meaning you must obtain it from your diet, such as green leafy vegetables, fruit, whole grains, cereals, legumes, and dairy products like breakfast cereals. Unfortunately, a large number of people in the United States are deficient in magnesium content for a long time due to poor dietary intake. In this blog, I will explore the reasons for this deficiency, its side effects, and the consequences of a lack of magnesium intake.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency

First, let's look at what can induce a loss of magnesium.

Chronic Stress

The first factor is stress. Chronic, low-grade stress that's constantly present contributes to long-term magnesium suppression and deficiency.


Another common cause is diuretics, such as caffeine and alcohol. Regular consumption of these can contribute to a depression of magnesium storage in the body. Furthermore, blood pressure medications can also lead to a magnesium deficiency.


Lastly, a major common effect reducing magnesium levels in the US is diet, specifically a high intake of refined carbohydrates. These include breads, pastas, cereals, cakes, crackers, cookies and other processed foods with a lot of calories from carbs or sugars and very little nutritional value.

These are the three major lifestyle areas in the US that induce a magnesium deficiency.

Consequences of Low Magnesium

Now let's explore the side effects of a deficiency in magnesium.


One of the first things that can happen is depression. Antidepressants are one of the top-selling drugs in America, and it's possible that magnesium deficiency contributes to some cases of depression.

Vasoconstriction and High Blood Pressure

Magnesium deficiency can cause vasoconstriction, which leads to high blood pressure. Interestingly, one treatment for high blood pressure is diuretics, which, as we've seen, can exacerbate magnesium deficiency.

Bone Loss

A lack of magnesium can lead to bone loss, contributing to conditions like osteoporosis or osteopenia. Often, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is prescribed for these conditions, which can further deplete the body of essential vitamins.

Muscle Spasms

Magnesium deficiency can also cause muscle spasms, which in turn can lead to muscle pain and the need for pain medication. Many of these medications deplete the body of other important nutrients.

Increased Blood Thickness

Another consequence is the thickening of the blood, which can lead to increased blood pressure, increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Elevated Cholesterol Levels

Lastly, magnesium deficiency has been linked to an elevation in cholesterol. The most common treatment for high cholesterol is statin medication, which can create other forms of heart disease.

Testing for Magnesium Deficiency

If your diet is high in refined carbohydrates, if you frequently use diuretics, or if you are under chronic stress, it's wise to check your dietary magnesium levels, especially for older adults. I recommend an RBC Magnesium test, which can measure the amount of magnesium that's actually inside your cells, providing a much more accurate result. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is difficult to accurately measure the amount of magnesium in a person’s body. In the United States, doctors estimate a person’s dietary intake of magnesium to establish their magnesium status. People with certain health conditions and in certain situations are at an increased risk of low levels of magnesium, such as 30% to 80% of people with alcohol use disorder. Dangerously low levels of magnesium have the potential to cause fatal cardiac arrhythmias. For healthy adults, including older adults, the recommended daily intake of magnesium is 310 to 420 milligrams. If you have loose, frequent stools or irritable bowel syndrome, consider using magnesium glycinate — a specific salt of magnesium that tends to have fewer GI side effects. The typical dose of magnesium is 250 to 500 milligrams daily.

Remember, magnesium is necessary for more than 18,000 functions in the human body. These are just a few of the potential consequences of a deficiency. So, ask your doctor for a spectra cell test, measure your magnesium levels, and make sure it's not something you need to supplement.

The Magnesium RBC Test vs The Serum Magnesium Test

When evaluating magnesium levels in the body, two of the most common tests used are the Magnesium RBC (Red Blood Cell) test and the Serum Magnesium test. These tests, while both useful, have some significant differences in terms of what they measure and how accurately they can reflect the body's level of magnesium. However, if you have symptoms of magnesium deficiency or abnormal calcium or potassium levels, your doctor may refer you for a blood test or a urine test to diagnose magnesium deficiency in healthy adults. Your health care provider will also perform a physical exam to assess your overall health and inquire about your symptoms. It's important for people to know the signs of magnesium deficiency symptoms and consult their doctor if they're worried about a deficiency. Fatigue, leg cramping or twitching, and unexplained muscle weakness are some of the day-to-day symptoms that can indicate low magnesium levels, including abdominal cramping. These symptoms can be very vague, so that's where blood work is needed to determine whether magnesium levels are actually low.


What is the Serum Magnesium Test?

The Serum Magnesium Test measures the amount of magnesium in the clear part of the blood, or the "serum." This test gives an overview of the total amount of magnesium present in the blood. However, only about 1% of the body's total magnesium is found in the blood serum, making this test less accurate in assessing the body's overall magnesium status.

Limitations of the Serum Magnesium Test

The main limitation of the Serum Magnesium Test is that it only measures the magnesium in the serum, not within cells. This is a significant drawback because the majority of magnesium in the body is intracellular, meaning it resides inside the cells. Therefore, a normal serum magnesium test result does not necessarily mean that the body's overall magnesium status is adequate in clinical practice. It's possible to have a normal serum magnesium level while being deficient in magnesium within your cells, a condition known as "cellular magnesium deficiency." In severe cases of cellular magnesium deficiency, cardiac arrest may occur, highlighting the critical role of intracellular magnesium levels in maintaining proper heart function. Additionally, magnesium is essential for various cellular processes, such as DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis, which further emphasizes the importance of intracellular magnesium levels for overall cellular function.

Benefits of the Magnesium RBC Test

This test is considered superior for assessing the body's magnesium status because it better reflects the amount of magnesium stored in the body. A low result on a Magnesium RBC test can indicate a magnesium deficiency, even if a Serum Magnesium test result is normal.


In conclusion, while both tests are used to measure magnesium levels, they each have their strengths and weaknesses. The Serum Magnesium Test is useful for identifying severe deficiencies or excesses of magnesium in the blood, but may not accurately reflect the overall magnesium status of the body. The Magnesium RBC Test is considered more accurate for evaluating the body's total magnesium status, especially in cases of cellular magnesium deficiency.

It's always best to discuss with your healthcare provider which test may be most suitable for you based on your symptoms, lifestyle, and overall health status.

Questions and Answers:

What are symptoms of low magnesium?

Some common symptoms of low magnesium levels in the body include muscle cramps, tremors, spasms, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, irregular heartbeat, and mood changes. In more severe cases, low magnesium levels can lead to muscle weakness, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythm. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or suspect that you may have low magnesium levels, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How can I raise my magnesium quickly?

To quickly raise your magnesium levels, you can try incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes are good sources of magnesium. You can also consider taking a magnesium supplement, but it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements. Additionally, Epsom salt baths or magnesium oil can be absorbed through the skin and help increase your magnesium levels. Remember that it's important to maintain a balanced diet and lifestyle overall to support optimal nutrient levels in your body.

What are some of the causes of low magnesium?

Low magnesium levels can be caused by several factors, including:

  • - Inadequate dietary intake: Not consuming enough magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, can lead to low magnesium levels.
  • - Certain medical conditions: Conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders (e.g., Crohn's disease), diabetes, kidney disease, and alcoholism can interfere with the absorption or excretion of magnesium.
  • - Medications: Some medications, such as diuretics, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and certain antibiotics, can increase the risk of low magnesium levels.
  • - Chronic stress: Prolonged stress and anxiety can deplete magnesium stores in the body.
  • - Excessive alcohol consumption: Alcohol can interfere with the absorption and utilization of magnesium.
  • - Aging: As we age, our ability to absorb and retain magnesium may decrease.

If you suspect that you have low magnesium levels or are experiencing symptoms related to magnesium deficiency (such as muscle cramps, fatigue, or irregular heartbeat), it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. They may recommend dietary changes or supplementation to help normalize your magnesium levels.

Is it possible to get enough magnesium from food?

Yes, it is possible to get enough magnesium from food. Magnesium is found in a variety of foods, including leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, and seafood. By incorporating these foods into your diet on a regular basis, you can help ensure that you are getting an adequate amount of magnesium. However, some individuals may have difficulty meeting their magnesium needs through diet alone, especially if they have certain medical conditions or dietary restrictions. In such cases, a healthcare professional may recommend magnesium supplements to help meet their needs. It's always best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach for your individual situation.

Who should not take magnesium?

Magnesium is generally safe for most people when taken in appropriate doses. However, there are some individuals who should exercise caution or avoid taking magnesium supplements altogether. These include:

1. Individuals with kidney problems: If you have kidney disease or impaired kidney function, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking magnesium supplements, as they may not be well tolerated and could potentially worsen your condition.

2. Individuals with heart or gastrointestinal conditions: People with certain heart conditions, such as heart block or bradycardia (slow heartbeat), or gastrointestinal conditions, such as bowel obstructions or inflammatory bowel disease, should speak with their doctor before taking magnesium supplements.

3. Individuals taking certain medications: Magnesium can interact with certain medications, including antibiotics (such as tetracycline), diuretics, bisphosphonates (used to treat osteoporosis), and certain medications used to manage high blood pressure. It is important to check with your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications to ensure that there are no potential interactions.

As always, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen to determine if it is appropriate for your specific health needs and circumstances.

What kind of magnesium is best?

There are several different types of magnesium supplements available, and the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and health goals. Some popular forms of magnesium include magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium malate.

Magnesium citrate is often used for its laxative effects and can help relieve constipation. Magnesium glycinate is known for its high absorption rate and can be a good option for those with low magnesium levels or individuals who experience digestive issues with other forms of magnesium. Magnesium oxide is commonly found in over-the-counter antacids and may be used to relieve heartburn or acid reflux symptoms. Magnesium malate is often used to support energy production and muscle function.

It's important to note that individual responses to different forms of magnesium can vary, so it may take some trial and error to find the form that works best for you. It's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

What diseases cause low magnesium?

There are several diseases and conditions that can cause low magnesium levels in the body. Some examples include:

- Gastrointestinal disorders: Conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease can interfere with the absorption of magnesium from the diet, leading to low levels.

- Kidney disease: The kidneys play a crucial role in maintaining proper magnesium balance in the body. Chronic kidney disease or certain kidney disorders can impair magnesium excretion and lead to low levels.

- Alcoholism: Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with magnesium absorption and increase urinary excretion, resulting in low levels.

- Diabetes: Poorly controlled diabetes or high blood sugar levels can increase urinary excretion of magnesium and contribute to low levels.

- Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid gland can affect mineral metabolism, including magnesium, potentially leading to low levels.

It is important to note that these are just some examples, and there may be other causes of low magnesium levels. If you suspect you have low magnesium or have any concerns about your health, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


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