Like most nutrients, magnesium levels in the human body depend on consumption, absorption, and retention.
This means you need to eat enough of it, your body needs to break it down and absorb it, and then your body needs to retain what it has absorbed.
Most of the common causes of low magnesium levels involve interrupting at least one of these three steps, and if you do so for a long enough time and you can end up dealing with the symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of the advice of a healthcare professional. While my wife and I have been taking magnesium supplements every day for years, I can't say how they might affect you. Always consult a doctor if you have health concerns: don't try to self-diagnose!
You Are What You Eat
What is your first thought when you think of any vitamin or mineral deficiency?
Chances are your instinct is to just consume more of it. Your levels are low so increase how much of it you eat.
You can do this by checking labels to find foods high in magnesium. This is especially important because unlike calcium there aren’t a ton of foods that are ‘Fortified with Magnesium’.
Another option is to take a magnesium supplement. There are a ton of them on the market and you can get them in tablets, powders, or liquids. Just make sure to choose one that’s high quality!
Quite often this is all you need to do in order to keep your magnesium at a healthy level.
Absorb The Magnesium You Do Eat
Sometimes simply increasing the amount of magnesium you eat isn’t enough though.
Before your body can use the magnesium you consume, your digestive system needs to break it down and absorb it. This is how it becomes available to the muscles and organs that need it.
A number of things can interrupt the absorption process:
- Diseases such as Crohn’s disease make it difficult to absorb nutrients.
- The aging process also reduces our nutrient absorption.
- Certain medications can interfere with magnesium absorption as well, including some types of antibiotics.
- Diuretics are a very common cause of magnesium absorption problems. This includes the caffeine in coffee and soda!
Your calcium levels also affect how much magnesium you can absorb. Calcium and magnesium go hand-in-hand, and consuming too much of one can prevent the other from being absorbed.
This is another reason why it’s important to remember just how many foods and drinks are now ‘fortified’ with calcium. Many people also take calcium as a supplement in order to increase bone strength and/or ward off osteoporosis, but calcium intake needs to be balanced with magnesium or low magnesium levels can occur.
Work On Your Magnesium Retention
Finally, once absorbed your body needs to retain its magnesium.
This may sound simple but there are actually a number of things that can cause your body to lose (excrete) the magnesium it has already absorbed:
- Both caffeine and alcohol are very common magnesium deficiency causes.
- There’s your coffee and soda again!
- High stress levels.
- Physical trauma such as surgery, sports injuries, and car accidents.
After doing all the work of eating it and absorbing it, it makes sense to do what you can to retain your magnesium.
Know The Common Causes of Low Magnesium And Prevent Them Through Tweaks
Of course only some of the factors above may be under your control.
You can easily consume more magnesium through better foods and supplements, avoid caffeine and alcohol to improve your magnesium absorption and retention, and work on your magnesium calcium ratio.
However some causes of low magnesium may be out of your control. You can do things to reduce your stress but you may not be able to eliminate it, and physical trauma is already something everyone wants to avoid.
So just like anything else, try to tweak the things you can control to maintain optimum magnesium levels.
Think about the foods you eat, the drinks you consume, and the medications and supplements you take, and consider if any of them could be working against the magnesium requirements of you and your body.
As always, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your physician or other qualified medical professional to help determine your own optimal level of magnesium, and to see whether magnesium supplementation is right for you.
A lot of information about the food and medications used, that’s good, but let’s not forget that stress is also a factor that makes organism lose magnesium. Because of low magnesium levels, organism is less resistant to stress and then stress makes it lose even more. It’s like a closed circle.
Andrew McVagh says
Great point! Stress impacts our bodies in so many negative ways, and losing magnesium is one of them.
It’s really important to learn stress management techniques, in particular how exercise can counteract some of the effects.
This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. Thanks for sharing!
Barbara Ross says
Hi I had all the symptoms of Magnesium deficiency for years and I was getting worse but couldn’t tolerate the supplements, I would feel ill if I took them making everything worse. Then I tried Magnedium Gel. What a difference everything has got better, my sleep, my hip pains, my endurance, my migraines, restless legs all improving quickly. The biggest improvement is my sleep and muscle pain thank goodness. I can’t tolerate gluten and I’m pretty sure this lead to me not absorbing nutrients correctly . Taking gluten out if my diet also made a huge difference but I still had problems then taking the magnesium has helped massivel.y
How do I knw I have high or low magnesium levels. All these symptoms being stated here can signal any.
The RBC magnesium test tends to be the best test that most people have access to. It should give you a good indicator of whether or not your magnesium levels are low or high.
If you end up getting tested please stop back and let us known how it goes!