Magnesium Deficiency in Women: A Primer For Causes and Remedies

Why is Magnesium such a big deal? It’s because magnesium is a veritable master mineral responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body. It impacts your blood pressure, metabolism and thyroid function, your immunity, nerve and muscle function, blood sugar, energy production, and the manufacture of protein and bones.

Magnesium also plays a key role in women’s health. Adequate levels are crucial for prevention of PMS, postpartum depression, osteoporosis and during pregnancy.

But, are we women getting enough of this ‘superstar’ mineral?

Studies say “No”. Magnesium deficiency is a veritable public health epidemic and some estimates suggest that 90 % of us are deficient.

What causes a magnesium deficiency?

Magnesium is found in water bodies and soil and can be obtained by eating plants and animals that live in water. So, there shouldn’t be a problem ingesting enough magnesium, for god’s sake. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality!

The magnesium story is a bit like the Vitamin D story- This “sunshine vitamin” can be easily synthesized by our skin from sunlight exposure, yet almost 90 % of us are deficient and living in agony because we just don’t stay outside for long enough to allow our bodies to make vitamin D.

Similarly, our lifestyle is the biggest barrier to magnesium absorption.  

We have polluted and depleted our soils and the plants and meat from animals that feed on these plants are now extremely low in magnesium. The use of chemicals like fluoride and chlorine in our water supply also makes magnesium less available as these bind to magnesium.

Caffeine and sugar –our favourite fixes, also deplete your body’s magnesium levels…

And so does stress.

Serious magnesium deficiency though is often caused by conditions or medicines that reduce gut absorption of the mineral or increase magnesium loss through urine.

Other factors that contribute to magnesium deficiency are:

  1. Poor diet – Eating too much sugar and caffeine blocks the optimum absorption of magnesium. Being a vegetarian is also a problem.

  2. Medications like certain antibiotics and diuretics are also responsible for a deficiency.

  3. Chronic gut problems like the leaky gut syndrome stop the absorption of this mineral.

Why do women need to get enough magnesium?

The impact of low magnesium intake in women is serious and multi-pronged.

The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium in healthy women is 310 to 320 mg daily. But, most women even in the developed part of the world don’t get over 234 mg of magnesium daily.

This shortfall has been shown to cause depression, anxiety, PMS, and headaches apart from the damage caused to nerves, muscles, heart, brain and gut, to name just a few.

Studies have proven conclusively that magnesium is an effective intervention for depression. This is because it regulates the functioning of neurons that make up your central nervous system.

It also has a major role in regulating the functioning of your thyroid gland – a small gland in the throat that regulates metabolism. An underactive thyroid is a known cause of depression.

Magnesium is also critical if you struggle with PMS, including migraines, irritability, crankiness, mood swings, and cramps. (

If women who are low in magnesium become mothers, they are also more likely to suffer from post partum depression.

Magnesium is very important for pregnant women and the baby growing inside. During pregnancy, a woman's nutritional needs change drastically to keep pace with the changes in her body due to the growing foetus. For this reason, pregnant women need to have a minimum daily intake of magnesium between 350 and 360 milligrams for all her organs to function properly, ensuring a safe delivery.

Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency

The early magnesium deficiency symptoms of a deficiency are nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fatigue. These are usually masked in otherwise healthy people with a low magnesium intake because their body compensates for low magnesium intake by reducing magnesium loss through the kidneys and increasing its absorption through the intestine.

The common symptoms of serious magnesium deficiency are:

1. Muscle cramps or spasms: Muscle cramps are caused due to muscle spasms in muscles of your legs like the calf muscles. These occur because magnesium helps relax muscles throughout your body, so when you're deficient your muscles contract involuntarily.

2. Hypothyroidism: Magnesium is essential to make the thyroid hormone which veritably runs your body.

2. Insomnia: Magnesium, a relaxing mineral has a big role to play in nixing insomnia because it affects the functioning of your central nervous system.

3. Chocolate cravings: Dark chocolate is high in magnesium and most people who are low in magnesium invariably develop a strong craving for it.

4. Anxiety: Anxiety is a common symptom of a deficiency as magnesium is the most powerful ‘relaxation’ mineral.

5. High blood pressure: Magnesium relaxes and dilates your blood vessels. When you're low in magnesium, your blood vessels become constricted, causing high blood pressure.

6. Irregular heartbeat: Low magnesium levels cause heart irregularities because it can’t contract properly.

7. Constipation: Regular constipation is a sure shot sign of magnesium deficiency. This happens because your intestines contract more, making it harder for stool to pass. Magnesium relaxes the intestines and it also pulls more water into your gut, softening the stool.

Major health impacts of a magnesium deficiency

The muscles of your body become weaker when you have a magnesium deficiency and this causes a problem with your heart.

You are unable to sleep properly, or relax... you suffer from more severe attention deficit disorders, PMS, depression, and adrenal fatigue, as we have seen above.

Other impacts of low magnesium are:

  • Poor memory
    Brain fog and memory problems are associated with low magnesium levels, according to MIT researchers who’ve found that magnesium plays a pivotal role in regulating receptors in your brain.
    Magnesium also enhances your brain's ability to heal and grow new neural pathways and prevents dementia.

  • Migraines and headaches
    ​At least 50 percent of people who suffer from migraines are deficient in magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels in the brain.

  • Inflammation
    Inflammation is the one thing in common in a slew of chronic health problems like diabetes and arthritis as magnesium has been shown to lower levels of an important inflammatory protein.

  • Insulin resistance
    Higher magnesium levels can lower risks for metabolic syndromes like diabetes.

  • Makes bones stronger
    Magnesium increases bone mineral content, reducing osteoporosis risk significantly.

How can you increase your magnesium intake naturally?

The first thing you should do is to stop eating foods that deplete magnesium like flour and sugar.

Instead eat foods high in magnesium like meat, avocados, leafy green vegetables like spinach and nuts.

You can also snack on pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, figs and bananas.

You can have chocolates too as they are magnesium-rich, but make sure it’s at least 70% cocoa.

If  you can't get enough magnesium from your daily diet, you may need to take magnesium supplements.

We suggest you go for Magnesium Gluconate supplementation instead of Magnesium Chloride or Magnesium Citrate and get around 500 milligrams each day, checking your levels every few months.

About the Author

Shikha Gandhi

Shikha Gandhi is a health journalist and a short film maker. She is also a certified Pranic healer and a lover of long walks.