stress and liver health

Magnesium deficiency? What are the signs? And why does it happen.

Magnesium deficiency can come about for a number of reasons that can and does affect many of us.

Those with malabsorption issues seen in coeliac disease or irritable bowel disease are more likely to have a deficiency, but it is also commonly seen in people taking antacid medications used to prevent heartburn/acid reflux for example. This is because stomach acid is needed to liberate minerals such as magnesium from its protein-bound matrix. Therefore, blocking acid production prevents magnesium from being available for absorption. In addition, some of us will have an increased need for magnesium depending on a diet, lifestyle and genetic predisposition.

Symptoms of magnesium

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can manifest as:

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lower bone density

As magnesium is used in over 300 reactions in the body it is a critical requirement for our bodies to function optimally. This includes brain, heart and muscle movement and bone health. It is also needed for cellular respiration; your cell’s ability to create energy, so if you feel tired you may need to boost your magnesium levels.

Additionally, research has commonly demonstrated that magnesium deficiency is associated with headaches, depression and anxiety.

Magnesium is needed to relax muscles in between contractions i.e. heartbeat and the wave-like movement in gut motility called peristalsis. Increasing magnesium can help alleviate chronic constipation by supporting peristalsis plus increasing magnesium rich foods in your diet would naturally increase the fibre content which is key to keeping things moving.  I often see the benefits of increasing dietary magnesium, in my clients who suffer with depression, fatigue, insomnia, migraines and constipation.

Generally, in the UK we just don’t seem to be getting enough from our diet. This is most likely due to us not eating enough plant-based, wholegrains foods. We can get magnesium from foods such as; nuts, legumes, wholegrains, beans, seeds, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, rocket, lettuce). Fish is also an excellent source.

We need about 300-400mg of magnesium every day. This is equal to having ½ cup of oats, 1 tablespoons of seeds (sunflower), 1 cup of yoghurt, 1 slice of wholegrain bread, 1 cup of spinach and  ½ cup of brown rice. Plus a square of dark chocolate which is an excellent source of magnesium!!

Don’t’ forget you can also absorb magnesium through the skin by having a lovely, relaxing Epsom salt bath which can also help aid a restful night’s sleep.

Increase your magnesium levels by aiming to have at least 4-5 servings of vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and beans every day to see your energy levels soar and improve your sleep.

Case Study

My client (41 yrs) suffered with recurrent cluster migraines with aura. These would be debilitating and require complete rest and darkness to recover and were occurring approximately 3-4 times per month. After removing some common dietary triggers for migraines they reduced by over 50%. We then worked together further to focus in on hormone-balancing and supported a strong dietary protocol with supplemental magnesium complex specifically designed for migraine relief and she has now been migraine free for the past 5 months.


If you do suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned, it is useful to know that some supplemental forms of magnesium can be a really helpful addition to a healthy diet to help alleviate insomnia, migraines, headaches, fatigue, constipation and muscle/bone weakness. However, different forms have different actions in the body which can cause tummy upsets therefore, it is important to get the right advice to find what will be best to suit your needs.

If you have any health concerns/conditions and would like my help and advice, please get in touch.

Written by Evie Whitehead, Evienutrition. 2018.


(Reference: Gropper & Smith, 2013, p443-449)

Rajizadeh et al. 2017.

Yablon et al., 2011

Tangvoraphonkchai & Davenport, 2018.

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