Should You Take Magnesium Supplements?

A flat lay of foods that are rich in magnesium

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Key Takeaways

  • Magnesium is a mineral that is necessary for keeping the muscles, nerves, bones and heart healthy. 
  • It’s rare for healthy people to have magnesium deficiencies, however, if you are concerned about this, you should talk with your doctor to check your magnesium levels.
  • Health experts recommend boosting magnesium levels through certain foods versus taking supplements.

Health experts on TikTok are touting magnesium as a key mineral that helps with sleep, muscle cramping, and bowel movement. It may also help fight depression, boost exercise performance, lower blood pressure, and prevent migraines.

With so many influencers raving about magnesium, you might think you should start taking magnesium supplements to maximize your health. But you’re most likely getting enough magnesium from your diet already.

Magnesium is one of the essential minerals that the body needs to stay healthy, said Candace Pumper, MS, RD, LD, a staff dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. It plays an important role in the regulation of various biological processes.

“It is the fourth most abundant mineral after calcium, sodium, and potassium that the body requires daily,” Pumper said. 

Magnesium is abundant in many foods, such as grains and nuts, dark chocolate, beans, and leafy greens. Most people don’t need a magnesium supplement, but it can help fill gaps in a nutrient-deficient diet. It might also benefit those at higher risk of magnesium deficiency, but they should always consult a healthcare provider first, Pumper said.

What Happens If You Have a Magnesium Deficiency?

People who don’t consume enough magnesium in their diet don’t usually have any noticeable symptoms in the short term, according to Julie Shimko, MA, RD, a clinical registered dietitian at Stanford Health Care. It’s rare for healthy individuals to have a true magnesium deficiency.

“Your kidneys do a great job at regulating magnesium levels,” Shimko told Verywell. “Magnesium deficiency is rare and usually caused by a health condition which affects the body’s ability to absorb magnesium.” 

Symptoms of deficiency may occur if an individual has a chronically low magnesium intake. In addition, some people may be at higher risk for magnesium deficiency if they have a medical condition that interferes with the absorption or excretion of the mineral, such as excessive alcohol use, kidney disease, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Some signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include nausea, headache, muscle weakness and spasms, mental confusion, and irregular heartbeat.

Shimko said the most common way to test for magnesium deficiency is through a blood test that’s typically ordered through your provider.

“There are other less common tests, such as urine test and magnesium tolerance test,” Shimko added. “But those options should be discussed with your doctor.”

When Would You Need a Magnesium Supplement?

Other than eating magnesium-rich foods, people can get magnesium topically in lotions or creams, Shimko said. Taking a bath with Epsom salt can also help absorb magnesium through the skin.

Magnesium is available in oral supplements on its own or included in a multivitamin, but a magnesium supplementation should only be considered if efforts to meet individual nutrient needs from diet and other methods are unsuccessful, Shimko added.

Magnesium supplements are available in many forms and they each have different effects on the body. Sometimes, they have the potential to interact with and reduce the absorption of other medications like antibiotics and zinc supplements, according to Pumper.

There’s a long list of magnesium supplements on the market. For example, magnesium citrate can promote bowel movement to address constipation, while magnesium chloride can help manage gastrointestinal issues and reduce blood pressure. Magnesium malate—a combination of magnesium and malic acid—may help relieve inflammation, fatigue, and symptoms of depression.

Shimko emphasized that these supplements are not recommended unless your healthcare provider has directed you to take them.

“There are several forms of magnesium, each with different side effects, uses and absorption rates, so please speak to your doctor about what form is best for your unique circumstances,” she said. 

What This Means For You

Magnesium plays an important role in helping us maintain good health. Many foods are rich in magnesium. However, if you're unable to meet magnesium levels via diet, supplementation may be considered. Before taking any supplements, talk with your doctor about your magnesium levels and decide what option is right for you. 

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium.

By Alyssa Hui
Alyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.