Lack of magnesium: Main causes, symptoms and treatment


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The lack of magnesium, also known as hypomagnesemia causes various diseases such as deregulation of blood, changes in the nerves and muscles. Some of the symptoms experienced include loss of appetite, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and muscle weakness. Moreover, lack of magnesium may also be related to other chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes mellitus.

The main source of magnesium in the body is the diet, through intake of foods such as seeds, peanuts and milk. A lack of magnesium in the body will therefore happen when these foods are not consumed in the right amounts.

Main causes

Although one of the main causes of lack of magnesium is insufficient consumption of vegetables, seed and fruits as well as the high consumption of industrialized and processed products. Other causes include:

  • Low absorption of magnesium by the intestines: Occurs due to chronic diarrhoea, bariatric surgery or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Alcoholism: Alcohol decreases the amount of vitamin D of the body which is important for the absorption of magnesium by the intestine, in addition, it increases the elimination of magnesium by urine
  • Use of some medicines: Especially proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole, lanzoprazole, esomeprazole), antibiotics (gentamicin, neomycin, tobramycin, amicacin, amphoticin B), immunosuppressants (cyclosporine, sirolimus), diuretics (furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide), chemotherapy (cisplatin, carboplatin) and monoclonal antibodies (cetuximabe, panitumumab)
  • Gitelman syndrome: This is a genetic disease of the kidneys in which there is an increase in the elimination of magnesium by the kidneys
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In addition during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, there is usually a greater elimination of magnesium by the kidneys and for this reason there is need for magnesium supplementation.

Symptoms of lack of magnesium

Symptoms related to magnesium deficiency are:

  • Tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Cramps and tingling
  • Depression, nervousness, tension
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Fast heartbeat

Moreover, lack of magnesium in the body increases the risk of having diseases such as diabetes mellitus (type 2), heart attack, heart failure, angina, high blood pressure, kidney stones, premenstrual tension, mental disorders as well as eclampsia during pregnancy.

Tests that confirm the diagnosis

Lack of magnesium can be diagnosed using a conventional blood or urine test. At the time of examination, it is important to inform the doctor of all the drugs that have been used, as they may alter the results.

How treatment is done

Treatment for lack of magnesium should be done according to the guidance of a doctor or a nutritionist. In mild cases, treatment consists of increasing the consumption of foods rich in magnesium such as almonds, oats, bananas or spinach.

However, when feeding is not enough to restore the composition of magnesium in the body, the doctor may prescribe supplements or medications that contain magnesium salts, which will be administered orally. Supplements can also have adverse side effects such as diarrhoea and abdominal cramps and they can often not be tolerated.

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In the most severe cases, the lack of magnesium may require hospital admission and magnesium administration which will be injected directly into the vein.

Magnesium deficiency usually does not occur in isolation and calcium and potassium deficiency may also be part of the treatment. Therefore, it will not only correct lack of magnesium but also the changes in calcium and potassium.


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