It plays a role in nerve and muscle function, blood sugar, bone health, and metabolism, among other things, says Lauren Manaker, R.D., founder of Nutrition Now Counseling.
That's because magnesium is basically the unsung hero of your body: It plays a role in nerve and muscle function, blood sugar, bone health, and metabolism, among other things, says Lauren Manaker, R.D., founder of Nutrition Now Counseling.
And when you don't get enough of it, it can wreak some serious havoc.
Women should be taking in 310 to 320 mg of magnesium per day (350 to 360 milligrams for pregnant women), according to the National Institutes of Health. Luckily, it's everywhere: dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans, avocado, bananas, yogurt-even dark chocolate has magnesium.
But uh, most people still aren't getting as much as they should, per the NIH. Low levels of magnesium are often seen in those with underlying health issues like Crohn's disease, celiac disease, or insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes), says Amy Shapiro, R.D., founder of Real Nutrition NYC.
Lifestyle choices can lead to low levels, too: "People who abuse alcohol, have poor diet, gastrointestinal problems, or vitamin D deficiency also have a higher risk of magnesium deficiencies," says Shapiro.
A magnesium deficiency doesn't necessarily cause immediate symptoms, but over time, can lead to some pretty gnarly issues. Here are some symptoms of magnesium deficiency you should definitely tell your doctor about.
“Since magnesium plays a role in nerve impulses in the body, a deficiency may lead to numbness or tingling," says Manaker. This can happen mainly in the extremities, like your fingers and toes, and often feels like your limb has fallen asleep.
Think: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. These usually are the first symptoms to appear when someone is deficient in magnesium, says Manaker.
Of course, these could be a sign of many other things, including the flu. See your doctor if the symptoms don't go away within five days, says Manaker.
Seizures are a symptoms of worsening magnesium deficiency, per the NIH. That's because seizures happen when there's abnormal electrical activity in your brain-and a lack of magnesium can cause this, says Manaker. If you've had a seizure, get checked out by a doctor immediately.
These muscle contractions can make your legs or arms feel stiff, heavy, or difficult to move, says Beth Warren, R.D., author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl. “Researchers think this is caused by a greater flow of calcium into nerve cells when magnesium levels are low, which overexcites or hyperstimulates the muscle nerves,” she explains.
This is a common issue in pregnant women, says Manaker. “Pregnant women may experience leg cramps, and some clinical trials suggest that supplementation with magnesium can help improve the frequency and intensity of pregnancy leg cramps," she adds.
Low magnesium levels can also lead to changes in your mood and personality and increase your risk of depression. Some signs might include mental numbness, a lack of feeling emotions, and increased feelings of anxiety, says Shapiro.
Magnesium deficiency can cause your potassium levels to drop, which can affect your heart muscle cells and throw off your normal heart rhythm, says Warren. If you feel like your heart beat is slower or faster than usual, make sure to mention it to your doctor.
“If you’re constipated, it may be an indication that magnesium is needed in the diet to offer a laxative effect,” Manaker says.
What’s normal when it comes to number two? “The common definition of ‘normal’ bowel movements is, on average, three times a week,” she explains. Many health experts agree that having fewer than three bowel movements a week means you're experiencing constipation.