Low on Magnesium? Here are 5 Signs

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

As an integrative doctor, one of the things I’m acutely tuned into is nutrient deficiencies. I cannot overstate how important it is to give your body the nutrition it needs. Several times over my career, I saw firsthand how reversing a deficiency saved patient lives.

One of the nutrients I’m increasingly concerned we don’t get enough of is magnesium.

In addition to being one of my Awesome Foursome nutrients for heart health, magnesium is a vital player everywhere in the body. More than 300 different enzymatic reactions depend on it.

That’s a lot, in my book!

How Magnesium Helps Maintain Your Health

Don’t worry; I won’t inundate  you with all of the reasons why it’s important to keep your magnesium level up. But I will share a handful of important ones…

  • Magnesium helps keep your heart beating in a predictable rhythm
  • Magnesium regulates your electrolyte balance, which keeps nerves and muscles working normally
  • Magnesium helps the body absorb calcium, which keeps bones strong
  • Magnesium is needed to produce glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant
  • Magnesium helps regulate the breakdown of sugars and fats during digestion and manage your blood sugar level
  • Magnesium is involved in the synthesis of DNA and RNA

Perhaps most importantly, though, magnesium helps raise cellular energy and vibration. That’s because it’s a vital nutrient in producing ATP, which is literally the “energy of life.” This is why it’s one of my Awesome Foursome and why I take it every day, without fail.

5 Common Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

It’s easy to see why you don’t want to become deficient. Yet far too many of us are.

Unfortunately, you can’t rely on a simple blood test to know if you have a magnesium deficiency. Only a small percentage of the total magnesium in your body circulates in the blood. The rest is in your cells and other tissues.

That doesn’t mean, though that your body won’t send you signals that your levels are low. It often does. Here are a few to be on the lookout for…

Muscle Cramps

One of the great benefits of magnesium is that it helps us relax, muscles especially.

Healthy muscles—the kind that work when and how we need them to—depend on having the right balance of magnesium, calcium, and potassium inside muscle cells. When magnesium levels are low, too much calcium gets inside. That overstimulates the cells and makes them jumpy.  So, if you’re prone to charley horses or muscle twitches, a magnesium deficiency could be why. Every year I go fly fishing in the Bahamas, walking the flats sometimes several miles a day. Taking magnesium at bedtime has been a lifesaver for preventing cramps while I sleep!

Heart Palpitations

Fluttering, racing, and skipping beats are a few of the ways people tend to describe heart palpitations, which admittedly are one of the scarier signs you may be low on magnesium. Again, it’s important to recognize that the heart is really just a big muscle—and it needs a lot of magnesium to make sure its cells contract in a smooth, rhythmic way. A deficiency can lead to some unsettling and even dangerous changes.

If you feel palpitations, be sure to get them checked out. Magnesium deficiencies are just one cause. You’ll want to rule out more serious cardiac issues.

High Blood Pressure

When it comes to blood pressure, magnesium’s biggest job is to relax the smooth muscle cells in artery walls. This helps the arteries dilate and stay flexible. When the opposite happens, and arteries become tense and rigid, blood pressure goes up (along with your heart attack risk). Gradually rising blood pressure can be a sign of many things, low magnesium levels among them.

Fatigue and Weakness

Given the vital role magnesium plays in cellular energy production, it’s easy to see how fatigue may be a sign that your levels are low. Just being tired, though, probably doesn’t mean you have a problem. If you’re deficient, your muscle strength will suffer, too.

Depression, Anxiety and/or Insomnia

If you suffer from depression, anxiety, and/or insomnia, it could be due, in part, to low magnesium. Magnesium affects the body’s ability to use an amino acid called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is active in the brain. GABA has a calming effect and it’s been linked with both anxiety and insomnia. Since magnesium helps your body use GABA more effectively, a deficiency may make it harder for you to relax—both during the day and at night. In the rat model, supplementing with magnesium has been shown to lessen depressive or anxious behaviors, and researchers have noted that this could have to do with magnesium’s role in moderating the stress response.

I also want to add here that stress—which itself is a cause of anxiety and insomnia— is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to depleting our magnesium stores. If you’re under pressure, I would definitely up your intake of magnesium to help stop nutrient loss. In addition, it’s been demonstrated that magnesium supplements can also help improve heart rate variability, a tangible measure of stress and cardiovascular risk.

How to Heal a Magnesium Deficiency

What should you do if you suspect your magnesium levels are low?

First off, add more magnesium-rich foods to your grocery list. Avocado, nuts and seeds, and dark leafy greens like spinach a few good places to start. (Check out my full list of foods that will raise your magnesium levels.)

Second, and probably most importantly, add a magnesium supplement to your vitamin regimen.

Eating more magnesium-rich foods will certainly help you. But if you really want to get your magnesium level up—and keep it there—you’re going to need some nutraceutical help.

Industrialized farming has slowly reduced the amount of magnesium that’s naturally in the soil, which means foods don’t absorb as much as they once did. Combine that with a situation where most of us are already low on magnesium, and you can see why an extra boost is so important.

How to Choose (and Use) a Magnesium Supplement

Now, what to buy… There are a wide range of magnesium supplements available and a wide range of magnesium types, some of them incredibly cheap. Don’t let price be your guide, though. If you really want to feel the benefits of higher magnesium levels, you’ll want to make sure you buy the product that’s most absorbable.

I like a broad spectrum supplement that combines these four forms of magnesium: orotate, citrate, glycinate, and taurinate.

These specific forms are effective at helping boost cellular energy production—and the more energy your cells produce, the faster they vibrate and the healthier you are. They’re also more absorbable than other forms.

As far as dosage goes, I recommend 400–800 mg a day. If you have cardiovascular issues, you’ll want to stay toward the high end of that range.

There’s only one group of people who shouldn’t take magnesium supplements, and that’s anyone with kidney issues. If you have any renal insufficiency, don’t start a magnesium supplement without first talking to your doctor about the risks and benefits.

Even if you don’t have magnesium deficiency symptoms, there’s no harm in adding it to your supplement regimen. In fact, I’d recommend it. With this nutrient, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


© 2018 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply


  1. RAUL C.

    on April 11, 2018 at 12:46 pm


  2. Jennifer Ypma

    on April 11, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    If your already on a Beta Blocker can you take Magnesium or will it drop your blood pressure even more?

  3. HeartMD Editor

    on April 12, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Hi Raul,

    Dr. Sinatra discusses nutritional supplements that can help stabilize erratic heart rhythms in this article: Types of Arrhythmias. Magnesium is included in the recommendations. Magnesium helps keep your heart beating in a predictable rhythm and helps keep muscles (the heart) working normally. Discuss taking magnesium with your doctor.

  4. Kash

    on April 12, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Does Magnesium alleviate high Systolic BP?
    Does magnesium (200mgs) interact with Clonidine, Losartan, Atenolol,Norvasc?

  5. Roni M.

    on April 12, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    I was having leg cramps and started taking Chelated Magnesium, which has stopped the cramps. My test results show a 1.8 msg/dL magnesium, so I feel that’s ok. My TSH IS 6.15mIU/L and I will have it tested again in May. I have started taking a Kelp 350mcg supplement twice a day. The only indication I have had that my thyroid was out of whack is my hair seems to be falling a little more than usual. (I color my hair, so I normally have a little loss, but it’s a little more now.) I eat well, sleep well, have good energy, I’m 5’1″ and weigh 104-108 lbs. we eat a lot of veggies (all kinds). I love avocados, leafy greens, etc. and I love salmon, shrimp dishes, and eat a minimal amount of red meat. How can I get my Thyroid numbers back to normal without getting on a med for it?

  6. Mary Linda Smith

    on April 13, 2018 at 4:28 am

    Please go to an endocrinologist or functional doc and have a complete thyroid panel, checking especially your antibodies’ numbers. If you have Hashimoto’s or Graves, you will want to research going on an AIP diet (autoimmune protocol/paleo diet). That might help your numbers and get the condition into remission. There is starting to be a lot of info on thyroid and autoimmunity. If you want to find out more, Dr. Amy Myers and Dr. Izabella Wentz have both authored books on these subjects. Once you start the investigation, many more experts will come to light as well. There are now webinars w/ many experts on these issues too. There are also several products that can help w/ your hair. I use Hair Essentials products and I also just ordered from Juve Tress. The former has helped a LOT, with the exception of a few months last year in which I don’t know what was going on. I haven’t tried Juve Tress yet. My endocrinologist suggested using the same product as most men use for hair loss. I haven’t done that yet as there can be side effects, I believe.

  7. Mary Wilson

    on April 14, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    I am so impressed with the information you have provided for us !! I just spoke with a lady today, in her mid 70s , Two years she had cancer and took Chemo. (of course), they have told her she is cancer free now. Let’s hope!! She is such a nice lady! I wanted so to help her. Her skin is dull, her hair is so dull and brittle looking, she looks tired all over. I can’t help but feel it has to be the poison from the treatment. But, how to you get over this and get your body back on track? She has a great attitude and wants to get her life back. I suggested she get blood work done by a lab that did a real report on what she needs, she said her doctor is going to do that. I told her she needs more than what he is interested in, because all he wants to know is, if she is lacking in something a prescription will take care of. My thoughts are she needs something that her body will be happy to work with, that will really help her and help her body get rid of the poison it is trying to deal with. My question is; What do you have or what would you suggest she might try. Forget what I just wrote!!! Just give me suggestions for how someone that might have such a problem could use!!!! Thanks!! Keep up the good work!!! Mary

  8. HeartMD Editor

    on April 18, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Hi Mary,

    One of the best things your friend can do, is eat a nutrient dense and gently detoxifying diet full of fresh fruits and veggies, like Dr. Sinatra’s PAMM Diet. Testing for deficiencies with her doctor is a great plan and will help them to know what supplements she may want to consider and which foods she may want to focus on in her diet. Gentle breath work from practices, such as yoga, can also do wonders for improving energy, range of motion and overall well-being.

  9. Ynosencia D.

    on April 21, 2018 at 10:57 am

    I have a stent in my heart , And want to know witch supplements should I be taking? Help please!

  10. Jean

    on April 22, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    WHY is there only 100 mg of mag in your magnesium supplement? It is a good mix but lots to swallow.

  11. Marilee Reyes

    on May 3, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    For the person who mentioned having trouble swallowing large pills. I have that same problem and have found that I can crush them or open the capsule and add to juice or my smoothie.

  12. joyce m.

    on May 16, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    had my magnesium levels checked shows 2.6 high——take dr sinatras multi vit for women which has 250 mg and was taking 400 mg magnesium glycinate. I also take blood pressure medicine. please advise. thank you

  13. eric

    on July 4, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    BP: 147/79, will this cause my heart health problem? how to reverse back to normal? I am male 69 yr old, 165 tall with 54Kg in weight. Thank you.

  14. Nancy G.

    on August 18, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    My bloodwork shows I am low in magnesium even though a take a high quality magnesium to the maximum amount. I can increase my intake but my concern is that I have bradycardia. Won’t this slow my heart rate down even more? I also have very low blood pressure.

  15. Marty

    on September 19, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Hello, and thank you for the helpful advice. You recommended in your article that we should take magnesium with ” orotate, citrate, glycinate, and taurinate” in it. I have scoured the internet for just such a product, but can’t find one. Do you have one that you can recommend ?

  16. Eric

    on November 26, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Can taking magnesium for palpitations mask another heart problem? the magnesium is working and my palpitations have stopped! i was drinking 6-15 beers a day for 10 months and i have recently quit.

  17. HeartMD Editor

    on December 3, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Eric,

    Congratulations on stopping the beer! Magnesium would just cure a magnesium deficiency – very common in the population at wide, and further compounded in your situation as alcohol is an acute magnesium diuretic – so you were likely excreting a lot of it and quite deficient. Sounds like your body is doing great with the influx of magnesium you’ve supplemented with. Keep it up! If other heart conditions are present, you will have symptoms and it never hurts to get a work-up for prevention’s sake and to put your mind at ease.

  18. Sal Cervellera

    on December 27, 2018 at 4:40 am

    Dr. Sintra, I’ve been told by my cardiologist that all my heart valves are leaking. I am 70 years old and recovered from prostate cancer almost 5 years ago; treated with radiation seeds. I have good energy. Can the chelated forms of magnesium help to benefit the physiology or the condition of the heart valves?
    Thank you, Sal

  19. amy

    on January 13, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    what is the brand of the full spectrum Mg that you lilke? and what about what i have read that taurine can be lowered with Mg glycinate? thanks. (we have been vegan for about 6 months and although i had Afib before it has snuck back up and wondering if taurine is an issue– can that be measured?

  20. Ford

    on February 15, 2019 at 5:15 am

    Hi, I am a 52 year old female. Was diagnosed with SVT in my early twenties and started on 10 mg propanolol. Worked for a few years and then changed to Celiprolol for about 10 years now I’m on Metroprolol 23.75mg once per day. Over the last 4-6 months my SVT has been getting worse or palpitations are different, For the last couple of months I have also been hyperventilating or overbreathing which I think is causing or making my palpitations more frequent. I am sensitive to caffeine and my heart seems to react to everything. Just had a holter monitor test done and am waiting to get the results next week. I am getting palpitations constantly, but strangely very few at night. I don’t sleep much because I have restless legs. I can go to the gym and I don’t get many palpitations then either. Other times I just get them constantly every few minutes or so. Any suggestions would be great. I am seeing a rhythm specialist but given my treatment over the years being only medicine based, I don’t hold out much hope for a cure or even a cause.

  21. Dottie D.

    on August 7, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    57 year old female, never smoked, never took drugs, VERY RARELY drink alcohol, low blood pressure. None of the obvious risks for AFIB, yet was diagnosed with it on June 9 during a non-related doctor visit. No obvious symptoms other than feeling my heart pounding after getting up on the examining table. Hospitalized four times between 6/9 and 7/10 with Afib w/RVR, and related heart failure. Had two electric cardioversions and tried various meds. Am now on amirodarone w small dose of metropolol, Eliquis, and Losartan potassium. Looking at the results of blood tests taken in hospital, I noticed a trend. With each admittance, my magnesium level was lower on the date of admittance than date of release (always given magnesium in hospital). The admittance level was on the cusp between normal and low, with a 1.9 and the highest level was 2.2. Last magnesium test done as outpatient was 2.1 and was told it “was good”, although when I checked, it was a decrease from my last hospital release date. Am loading up on magnesium rich foods, but am hesitant to take supplements without doctor’s approval, and I feel like my concern to them is falling on deaf ears. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  22. Jeff W

    on November 27, 2019 at 11:33 am


    I’m a retired alternative health care professional and developed paroxysmal A-Fib two years ago when I was 70 years old. I was scheduled for ablation but couldn’t get an appointment with the electrophysiologist that I wanted to do the procedure for five weeks. I was having about 3 – 4
    20 to 45 minute events daily. I began Taking magnesium citrate 800 mg daily. Within a week, 80% of the A-fib events no longer existed. In view of the remaining events, I elected to have the procedure because I love to travel to various “turquoise water islands” for fun in the sun and snorkeling. I’d mentioned the magnesium to the electrophysiology doc and he said it couldn’t possibly have played a role!

  23. Martha

    on November 27, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    I have IBS, and I’m afraid magnesium would escalate it. Is there type of magnesium without the laxative effects? I have most of the symptoms that you wrote about; low energy, heart palpitations, etc. But I really want to end the latter problems! Thank you so much!

  24. Mary R

    on November 30, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    I’m taking 2 of yr magnesium. ( 2 in a.m. & [email protected] p.m.). Why do I still have muscle cramping off & on? Thank you! I stand a lot on my job. Should I up my intake. Afraid of loose stools & loosing liquid if this happens.

  25. Jackie Price

    on November 30, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Dr Sinatra
    Do u make the magnesium with all the ingredients you listed in your article

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