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Magnesium Deficiency Signs and Symptoms


Updated February 09, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Magnesium deficiency can occur when you don't consume enough foods that contain magnesium, or if you suffer from certain health problems or take medications that may result in the loss of magnesium or reduce the amount your body can absorb in your small intestine. DiabetesalcoholismCrohn's diseaseceliac disease, or intestinal surgery may result in magnesium deficiency.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency aren't common, but they can mimic other disorders. Not getting enough may increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases and decreases your immune system function.

You may feel weak and tired, lose your appetite, become nauseated and start vomiting if you have a deficiency. Numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms can develop as the deficiency progresses.

If you have these symptoms, you need to see a health care provider who can order blood tests to determine if a magnesium deficiency is the problem or if there are other causes.

The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium depends upon your age and gender. Adult males need around 400 to 420 milligrams per day and women need 310 to 32 milligrams per day. Magnesium is found in green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Halibut, oatmeal, peanuts and yogurt are also good sources.

Too Much Magnesium

Getting too much magnesium from the foods you eat is very unlikely, but taking large amounts of dietary magnesium supplements can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Taking too much magnesium for longer periods of time may result in changes in mental status, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, weakness, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and irregular heartbeat.

Don't take magnesium supplements in large doses -- more than 350 mg -- without speaking with your health care provider.


Source: Office of Dietary Supplements. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Magnesium." Accessed July 26, 2010. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/magnesium/.

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