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How to Check for Magnesium Deficiency

By Jessica Bruso

You need sufficient amounts of magnesium to keep your organs working properly, to keep your bones and teeth strong, and to regulate the levels of other nutrients in your body. Magnesium deficiency isn't all that common, even though not everyone gets as much magnesium as recommended, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. You can take a few factors into consideration to determine whether you may be at risk for magnesium deficiency, but visiting your doctor is the only surefire way to determine whether your magnesium levels are too low.

Get a Blood Test

The surest way to verify your magnesium status is to go to the doctor and get a blood test. Normal magnesium levels fall within the range of 1.7 to 2.2 milligrams per deciliter, according to MedlinePlus. If your serum magnesium level is less than 1.7 milligrams per deciliter, you are most likely deficient in magnesium.

Recommended Dietary Allowance Considerations

Adult men should get at least 400 to 420 milligrams of magnesium per day. Adult women need 310 to 320 milligrams per day unless they are pregnant, in which case the requirements increase to 350 to 360 milligrams per day. The best sources include green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, soy products, whole grains, avocados, bananas and dried apricots.

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Watch for Deficiency Symptoms

Some of the early signs of magnesium deficiency include insomnia, apathy, poor memory, fatigue, muscle twitching, irritability and confusion. As deficiency progresses, you may experience symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, numbness, tingling, delirium and hallucinations. Nausea, vomiting, restless leg syndrome, low blood pressure, hyperventilation, poor nail growth and seizures can also be signs of a magnesium deficiency.

Consider Potential Non-Dietary Causes

Even if you normally eat sufficient amounts of magnesium-rich foods to get the recommended dietary allowance each day through your diet, certain health problems could cause your magnesium needs to increase and lead to a deficiency. These include chronic diarrhea, alcoholism, low thyroid levels, ulcerative colitis, pancreatitis and kidney or liver problems. Certain medications, such as insulin, some types of antibiotics, diuretics, antacids and corticosteroids can decrease the absorption of magnesium and lower your magnesium levels.

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