The last post in our Magnesium Basics series looked at how and why magnesium is needed for every major bodily function. This led us to the fact that magnesium deficiency can be found in all major diseases. This includes health conditions of our brain, nerves, heart, bones, muscles, DNA, skin, sleep and digestion. In this post we look at all the symptoms of magnesium deficiency, as well as what the best and worst available tests are for measuring magnesium levels.


Magnesium deficiency symptoms:

Below is a list of all the known symptoms of magnesium deficiency. If you have any of these, there is a very good chance you are deficient, as our next post explains why over 90% of people are! It’s also important to make this distinction: while restoring your magnesium may not completely relieve all of these conditions, the fact is that it is impossible to cure them without restoring magnesium. Magnesium is the most essential nutrient factor to overall health.

Mild symptoms: ADD – mild (trouble concentrating), constipation, cravings, dizziness, excessive menstrual pain, facial twitch, fatigue, headaches, heart palpitations, hiccups, hyper/hypoglycemia, irritability, memory loss, mood swings, muscle cramps, nausea, nervousness, Raynaud’s syndrome, weakness.

Moderate symptoms:  anxiety, arthritis, asthma, attention deficit disorder, upper and lower back pain, cystitis, ear infections, gluten sensitivity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, hypertension (high blood pressure), inflammation (found in every body part), insomnia, insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), migraines, obesity, osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis), panic attacks, PMS, poor concentration, sinusitis, TMJ disorder (jaw pain), weight gain around waist

Advanced symptoms: arteriosclerosis, blood clots, bowel disease, calcified mitral valve in heart, chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis, celiac disease, cerebral palsy, concussion vulnerability, depression, diabetes, epilepsy/seizures, endothelial (blood vessel) dysfunction,  failure to thrive, Friedreich Ataxia, heart arrhythmias, hormonal imbalance, hyperparathyroid, hypothyroid, kidney disease, liver disease, metabolic syndrome, miscarriage vulnerability, mitral valve prolapse, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, severe obesity

Debilitating symptoms: alcoholism, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Alzheimer’s, cancers of breast, colon, and prostate, cardiac afibrillation, congestive heart failure, eclampsia, emphysema, kidney failure, myocardial infarction, severe obesity, Parkinson’s, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), stroke, sudden cardiac death, ventricular fibrillation

Now that we see just how problematic magnesium deficiency can be, let’s look at the best and worst magnesium testing methods.

Your doctor uses the worst test possible

The serum blood tests is the standard magnesium test that medical doctors are advised to use. Why is this test unreliable? There are 2 reasons:

  1. 99% of a healthy human’s magnesium is found in their cells. Less than half of 1% is in their blood serum.
  2. Our blood serum’s magnesium level DOES NOT paint an accurate picture of the magnesium levels in our cells. This is because our body steals magnesium from the cells of our organs and bones to fill our blood serum and keep its levels in the safe range. [1] This is due to magnesium’s vital role in our serum’s electrolyte balance which, when disturbed, can result in sudden death.

In other words, even though we need less magnesium in our blood serum, low serum magnesium can cause immediate problems, whereas low magnesium in the cells of our organs, tissues and bones causes a more steady and gradual deterioration and dysfunction of our body.

Now, because gradual disease progression is better than immediate death, our body will keep taking magnesium from various parts of the body to satisfy our blood serum’s immediate need of magnesium, and this disguises our true magnesium levels.

The conclusion is simple: using a serum blood test CANNOT determine the level of magnesium in the rest of our body. Yet these areas of our body are where magnesium deficiency causes most major diseases.

Magnesium experts agree

Many doctors and scientists who are experts in the field of diagnostic testing and/or magnesium and human health agree that using the blood serum to gauge magnesium deficiency in the body is simply not effective.

Professor Judy Driskell – Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Nebraska: “Normal serum and plasma magnesium concentrations have been found in individuals with low magnesium in [red blood cells] and tissues. Yet efforts to find an indicator of subclinical magnesium status have not yet yielded a cost-effective one that has been well validated.”[2]

Doctors Dierck-Harmut & Dierck-Ekkehard Liebscher have further concluded in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition that a staggering 50% of magnesium deficiencies may be going untreated as a result of the unreliability of serum testing.[3]


So, which tests work?

Several tests can give us an accurate measure of our whole-body magnesium levels. These include the sublingual test, the ionized magnesium test and the RBC test. The first two are very expensive, rarely covered by insurance and only performed in a handful of labs around the world. (You can learn more about them at MgHealth.) The RBC test is also reliable, as well as readily available and affordable:

Magnesium RBC (Red Blood Cell) Test

This test measures the magnesium in our red blood cells instead of our blood’s serum like the standard test. This is important because red blood cells have been shown to reflect the levels of magnesium in our other cell types accurately.[4,5] Various organizations and clinics in North America offer the RBC test for between $40 to $105 including: Request-a-test, Dynacare, LifeLabs, and 

However it’s also important to understand that more than 90% of people in North America are deficient in magnesium. When we consider that the body’s innate magnesium regulation makes it impossible to overdose on magnesium supplements, we realize that most of us can start raising our magnesium levels right away.

The next posts in our Magnesium Basics series look at:

  1. Why over 90% of people are deficient (including stats).
  2. What we can do to prevent excess magnesium loss and restore our magnesium naturally.

Related Posts:

Magnesium Basics Part 2:  Magnesium & Your Body Parts

Magnesium Basics part 4: Magnesium Deficiency in 90% of People?

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  1. Magnesium metabolism. A review with special reference to the relationship between intracellular content and serum levels.
  2. Nutrition and exercise concerns of middle age.
  3. About the Misdiagnosis of Magnesium Deficiency.
  4. Erythrocyte intracellular Mg(2+) concentration as an index of recognition and memory.
  5. Assessment of magnesium status in newly diagnosed diabetic children: measurement of erythrocyte magnesium level and magnesium tolerance testing.

Anything not referenced/cited here can be found on iMag Library ( This is our sister website that we created for you with all the scientific literature about magnesium and the human body.

(We assume no responsibility and/or credit for any of the graphics used in this post. All credit goes to the various and individual creators of graphic and visual content.)