Your body needs magnesium—along with many other minerals—to function properly and stay healthy. But what happens if you aren’t getting enough of it? And how can you tell?
In this guide, we explain:
- what it means to have low magnesium, and what causes it
- how to tell you have low magnesium levels
- what you can do to increase your magnesium levels
- What does it mean to have a magnesium deficiency?
- What causes it?
- Are some people more prone to magnesium deficiency than others?
- What are the warning signs?
- How can I tell my magnesium levels are low?
- Are there any magnesium tests I can do at home?
- What can I do to increase my magnesium levels?
What does it mean to have a magnesium deficiency?
It simply means that the levels of magnesium in your body are lower than they should be—a condition known as hypomagnesemia. When this happens, it can cause certain health problems.
Responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions within the body, magnesium is essential to many of your bodily functions. It:
- keeps your energy levels up
- helps your muscles and nerves to work properly
- boosts your mood by converting certain amino acids into serotonin, the hormone believed to contribute to general good feeling
What causes it?
The most common cause is diet. Consuming a lot of processed fats, refined sugars, salt, synthetic sweeteners or caffeine hinders your body’s ability to absorb magnesium.
It might also be because you’re not eating enough magnesium-rich foods, such as:
- nuts (e.g. peanuts, almonds and cashews)
- beans (e.g. black, kidney and edamame beans)
- wholegrain bread
- brown rice
- soy milk[ 1 ]
You can also develop low magnesium levels if the calcium—another essential mineral—in your blood is too high. Having high levels of calcium can affect how much magnesium your body can absorb.
Are some people more prone to magnesium deficiency than others?
Yes. You’re more at risk if you:
- a gastrointestinal disorder such as Crohn's disease or coeliac disease
- type 2 diabetes
- hyperparathyroidism (when your parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone, causing the levels of calcium in your blood to rise)
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- are elderly
- take certain medication, such as antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or diuretics[ 2 ]
What are the warning signs?
It can be quite difficult to know when your magnesium levels are low as the signs are easy to mistake for other health conditions. But some common signs include poor sleep, fatigue and heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat.
How can I tell my magnesium levels are low?
The best way to tell is by doing a blood test. This will only detect the magnesium in your blood, so it won’t show how much there is in your bones or muscle tissue, for example. But the results will be enough for you to determine whether you have low levels of magnesium.
The magnesium blood test is explained in detail here.
Are there any magnesium tests I can do at home?
Yes, there are kits you can buy that allow you to take a sample of hair, then send off the results for analysis in a laboratory. You then receive the results a few days later.
Many of these are available online, such as the Mineral Check testing kit.
What can I do to increase my magnesium levels?
It’s relatively easy to rectify low magnesium levels—you can:
- increase the amount of magnesium you take in via your diet, by eating more magnesium-rich foods
- use magnesium supplements
As the NHS says, you should be able to get all the magnesium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
These come in a range of forms, from sprays and lotions to body butters and flakes you dissolve in bathwater. There are also magnesium tablets that you take like any other oral vitamins or minerals.
At BetterYou, we offer a variety of products, all of which are intended to increase your magnesium intake quickly and easily by absorbing into your skin.
- Magnesium lotions
- Magnesium flakes
- Magnesium sprays
- Magnesium gel
- Magnesium oil
- Magnesium body butter
According to the NHS, the amount of magnesium you need is:
- 300mg a day for men (aged 19–64)
- 270mg a day for women (aged 19–64 years)
It’s advised not to take magnesium supplements in high doses—an intake of 400mg or less a day is more than enough.
Read the UK Government’s dietary recommendations here.