8 Causes of Magnesium Deficiency and How to Fix It

Magnesium is a fundamental mineral for your body, so you must consume the right kind of foods to avoid a dangerous magnesium deficiency.
8 Causes of Magnesium Deficiency and How to Fix It
Eliana Delgado Villanueva

Reviewed and approved by the nutritionist Eliana Delgado Villanueva.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Magnesium is an essential mineral because it helps to regulate your nervous system, promote relaxation, and facilitate muscle contractions. Apart from that, it is also involved in 300 other chemical reactions in your body. In this article we’ll look at all the causes of magnesium deficiency.

There are experts who believe that almost all diseases are associated with magnesium deficiency.

In addition to being necessary for balancing your body’s electrical levels, it’s one of the most difficult minerals to absorb. This is because your kidneys excrete a significant amount of it.

Memory problems, learning difficulties, and constant muscle cramps are some of the signs of a decrease in or lack of this mineral. Although it might seem normal at first, it’s best to try to identify the cause and intervene in a timely manner.

That’s why today we want to tell you eight of the causes of magnesium deficiency, along with the foods that contain it.

1. Causes of magnesium deficiency: limited dietary consumption

A woman eating a salad.

One of the most common causes of a magnesium deficiency is the low consumption of foods that provide it naturally. As a consequence, an unbalanced diet with lots of unhealthy foods make it hard to absorb adequate magnesium sufficiently.

2. Intestinal problems

Disorders that affect your intestinal health or that of your entire digestive system can also be responsible for magnesium deficiency. When your body has difficulty carrying out digestive processes and absorbing nutrients properly, you eventually lose magnesium.

3. Consumption of alcohol and laxatives

A woman drinking too much.

The toxins that build up in your body due to excessive alcohol consumption, as well as the alterations that laxatives cause, can also prevent the absorption of magnesium.

Alcohol alters the way your kidneys function and can also be guilty of depleting stores of this mineral from your body’s tissues.

4. Poor kidney health

Having a deficiency in magnesium is one of the signs of kidney failure. It’s rarely detected in a timely manner, however, because doctors don’t typically include its diagnosis during tests.

Nevertheless, if you’ve been diagnosed with any type of renal failure it’s time for you to increase your consumption of this mineral.

5. Certain medications

A handful of pills.

Medications such as cisplatin and certain antibiotics can alter your kidney function and keep you from absorbing magnesium. This is a more common problem among patients who are undergoing a treatment that requires them to take these medications for prolonged periods of time.

6. Endocrine disorders

Problems with your endocrine system, including dysfunction of the thyroid gland, the parathyroid, and diabetes can hinder your absorption of this nutrient.
Hormone problems can lead you to lose magnesium in even greater amounts, contributing to the remarkable decrease.

7. Physical overexertion

It is well known that magnesium is an essential mineral when it comes to having good physical and mental performance. When you overwork yourself, however, it’s common to see your magnesium levels drop.

8. Abuse of diuretics

Something that’s important to know about magnesium is that it is eliminated through the urine. That’s why you might be deficient in it if you’re taking lots of diuretics.

It doesn’t matter if they are natural or commercial diuretics: their excessive use can be harmful to your health.

How to remedy a magnesium deficiency

A plate of magnesium salt.

The recommended daily amount of magnesium for men is 350 mg, and for women it’s 330 mg.

You can obtain magnesium through supplements, salt baths, and special lotions, but the best way to get it is by eating healthy foods.

The ones we mention below are some of the most highly recommended. All the portions listed below are for every 100 g.

  • Firstly, cocoa or dark chocolate: 420 mg
  • Brazil nuts: 410 mg
  • Soybean flour: 230 mg
  • Almonds: 230 mg
  • Peanuts: 180 mg
  • Walnuts: 180 mg
  • Hazelnuts: 180 mg
  • Beans: 60 mg
  • Pistachios: 160 mg
  • Ginger: 130 mg
  • Legumes: 120 mg
  • Whole grains: 120 mg
  • Sunflower seeds: 420 mg
  • Dried seaweed: 770 mg
  • Wheat bran: 611 mg
  • Caviar: 300 mg
  • Table salt: 290 mg
  • And, finally, dried oregano: 270 mg

Keep in mind that the quantities we have stated above are approximations, and actual amounts may vary according to the quality of the food. Also, note that these amounts correspond to every 100 grams, and not all of these foods should be ingested at these levels.

Try to keep a balanced diet and incorporate several of the food items that contribute significant amounts.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rondón-Berríos, Helbert. (2006). Hipomagnesemia. Anales de la Facultad de Medicina67(1), 38-48.  http://www.scielo.org.pe/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&;pid=S1025-55832006000100007&lng=es&tlng=es.
  • Konrad M, Schlingmann KP, Gudermann T. Insights into the molecular nature of magnesium homeostasis. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2004;286(4):F599-605.
  • Meij IC, Koenderink JB, De Jong JC, De Pont JJ, Monnens LA, Van Den Heuvel LP, et al. Dominant isolated renal magnesium loss is caused by misrouting of the Na+,K+-ATPase gamma-subunit. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003;986:437-43.
  • Herbert P, Mehta N, Wang J, Hindmarsh T, Jones G, Cardinal P. Functional magnesium deficiency in critically ill patients identified using a magnesium-loading test. Crit Care Med. 1997;25:749–55.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.