Healthy people usually experience magnesium deficiency. As a result, they usually need to take magnesium supplements. Epidemiologists estimate that between 75 and 80% of North Americans, for example, don’t get enough magnesium in their daily diets.[1]

But it isn’t just failure to get enough magnesium that’s the problem.

The healthier you are, the more magnesium your body needs. In fact, the things healthy people do to stay healthy are the reasons their bodies need extra magnesium for optimal structure and function.

Take a look at these 10 situations to see if they apply to you.

1. Too Much Vitamin D Causes Magnesium Deficiency

Vitamin D is still considered an especially sexy supplement. So many of us have low vitamin D levels that most people need either more sunlight or a vitamin D supplement.

Taking more and more vitamin D, or getting more and more time in the sun, however, quickly leads to magnesium deficiency. Why?

Because your body needs magnesium to convert the storage form of vitamin D, D2, into the active form of vitamin D, D3. Magnesium is needed at not just one but at eight different steps. [2]

It is a critical component of three of the enzymes that activate vitamin D.[3]

In addition, magnesium is essential for making vitamin D “stick” to the protein that carries it through the bloodstream.[4]


woman looking out over water at sunset


Your parathyroid glands won’t make adequate amounts of the hormone that tells your body it needs to use vitamin D unless you also have adequate magnesium, and some people who don’t respond to vitamin D only start getting the benefits of vitamin D once they start getting enough magnesium.[5]

Therefore, if you spend a lot of time in the sun or take vitamin D supplements, then you may very well have a magnesium deficiency and should take supplemental magnesium.

Who is Likely to be Getting Too Much Vitamin D and Not Enough Magnesium?

Even a “healthy” diet usually only provides enough magnesium for the body to use 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D every day. That means:

  • If you spend a lot of time in the sun, your body probably makes 10,000 to 20,000 IU of vitamin D per day, and needs supplemental magnesium to use it.
  • Also, if you are taking any dosage of vitamin D supplements over 1,000 IU per day, you also need supplemental magnesium.
  • If you started taking vitamin D supplements and noticed that you felt worse, not better, you almost certainly need to be taking magnesium.

2. Paleo Dieters Need Magnesium Supplements

A paleo diet is an alkalizing diet. That’s the opposite of an acidifying diet. Acidifying diets leach minerals out of the body. Alkalizing diets allow the body to avoid sending minerals out with their urine.[6]

It would be reasonable to assume that a paleo diet would provide all the minerals the body needs, plus the alkaline environment the body needs to conserve them.

But the surprising fact is that people on paleo diets usually don’t get enough magnesium. That’s because they eat lots of meat along with lots of healthy plant foods. When your body breaks down protein, it produces homocysteine.

If you eat lots of protein, your body produces lots of homocysteine. Too much homocysteine can damage your arteries the same way too much of the wrong form of LDL cholesterol can.

The enzymes that your body uses to break down homocysteine into a harmless form all require the presence of magnesium in your bloodstream.

That is, you have to have a certain amount of “extra” magnesium for folate, B6, and B12 to do you any good in detoxifying homocysteine.[7] Therefore, if you are a paleo dieter, you may very well have a magnesium deficiency.


paleo letters with food in them


Eating The Right Plant Foods

Another reason that people on paleo diets don’t get enough magnesium is that they don’t eat the plant foods that provide the most magnesium, namely, whole grains.

Grains with bran are an excellent source of magnesium. There’s 39 times as much magnesium in a 100-gram serving of rice bran, for example, as there is in a 100-gram serving of chicken.

Paleo dieters have good reasons for avoiding grains, but if they don’t get their magnesium from grains, chances are they won’t get their magnesium from leafy green vegetables, either. It turns out that there is a “catch” in using the most popular green vegetables as a source of mineral nutrition.

Whether you are on a paleo diet or not, leafy greens often don’t provide the magnesium a healthy body needs.

3. Eating Too Many of the Wrong Green Vegetables Causes Magnesium Deficiency

Green vegetables have lots of magnesium, so eating more green vegetables is a good way to get all the magnesium you need, right? Wrong!

There are some kinds of green vegetables that contain high concentrations of oxalates, which act as a kind of anti-magnesium.

Oxalates bind to magnesium to form insoluble compounds. These compounds can’t circulate in the bloodstream. They have to be eliminated from the body through bowel movement. When magnesium binds to oxalates in food, it never finds its way inside the body.

Which foods are high in oxalates? In order from higher oxalate content to lower oxalate content, here are some common plant foods that can deplete magnesium when eaten in excess:

  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Amaranth greens.
  • Spinach
  • Beet greens.
  • Rhubarb
  • Swiss chard (silverbeet).
  • Beets
  • Watercress
  • Lettuce
  • Green beans.
  • Celery

All of these popular plant foods contain more of the magnesium-binding oxalates in their raw form than when they are cooked. Fermenting them (for example, to make kimchi) removes most of their oxalate content.

There are a few other vegetables that have even higher oxalate content and would be familiar to foodies because of their unique flavor. Their taste is due to their oxalate content.

Good King Henry (an herb used to make a soup), purslane (used in Greek soups and salads), lamb’s quarters (usually eaten steamed as a side dish), sorrel, and chervil (these two also used in soups) would cause problems if they were eaten more often than on special occasions.

Other Plant Food Problems

On the other hand, there are some other plant foods that don’t contain a lot of oxalates in small servings but that can cause problems when they are eaten to excess.

These include soy, miso, peanuts, sesame seeds/tahini, tea, coffee, beer, and chocolate. But you don’t have to eliminate all of these foods from your diet.

It’s OK to eat your veggies as long as you eat them in moderation. Don’t use vast quantities of green veggies to make juices or smoothies every day, or if you do, take magnesium supplements.

Taking magnesium not only ensures that your body will receive enough magnesium, it also helps dissolve the excess oxalates that could accumulate in your kidneys to form stones.[8]

4. Eating Too Much Fructose Leads to Magnesium Deficiency

Everybody knows that high-fructose corn syrup is detrimental to good health. The idea that high-fructose fruit can also be detrimental to good health is a little more controversial, but the basic principle is this:

With Fructose, it’s Very Easy to Get Too Much of a Basically Good Thing.

Your liver can process small amounts of fructose without turning it into fat. As long as you don’t eat more than about 25 grams (100 calories) in fructose from fruit and high-fructose corn syrup (counted together) in any single day, there aren’t any serious problems.

Your liver not only can use fructose for ready energy, it even makes some enzymes that help it use glucose from other carbohydrates more efficiently. A little fructose every day, about the equivalent a single 4 oz (120 ml) glass of juice, is actually good for you.

You don’t have to sacrifice vitamin C to avoid fructose in fresh fruit juices if you stop at one glass a day.

The problem comes when you guzzle down multiple glasses of juice or you visit the corner Seven-Eleven to get a soda every day. Fructose over-consumption is also a problem if you eat 8 or more pieces of fruit every day.


arial shot of 3 cups of soda causing magnesium deficiency


Your body just can’t use that much fructose for making energy. It has to turn the excess fructose into fat.[9] And to turn it into fat, your liver needs about twice as much magnesium as it does when you don’t eat fructose.[10]

Fructose and The Liver

Your liver can’t use the amino acid leucine to make proteins when it is processing fructose unless it has lots of magnesium to make enzymes. When it can’t use leucine to make some of its fuel-burning enzymes, it is forced to turn fructose into fat.

Your liver will try to do the healthy thing as long as it can, even until it depletes its magnesium supply. But if you keep eating more and more of this common fruit sugar, you will surely be confronted with a magnesium deficiency in your body.

Part of the solution to this problem is to swear off high-fructose corn syrup in foods and beverages forever.

But you don’t have to give up fruit and fruit juices. You can still have some fruit, even up to two or three pieces a day, and one glass of juice a day. But if you eat fruit or drink fruit juice at all, you need to make sure you get enough magnesium.

5. Eating Too Many Whole Grains Can Cause Magnesium Deficiency

Phytic acid, which is found in the bran of seeds and in the hulls of seeds, binds with magnesium. It ties up magnesium in the digestive tract so that it is never absorbed into the body.

Ironically, this is true even in those kinds of bran that contain large amounts of magnesium, such as rice bran.

Cereals and whole grains and seeds don’t give up their magnesium unless they are specially treated. Soaking seeds and grains for 8 to 12 hours removes phytate. You drain off the water, and drain away the phytate.

This changes the seeds and grains so that they can release minerals, and so that they won’t interfere with the absorption of minerals from other foods.

whole grains on a white background

If you eat a lot of grains and seeds that haven’t been sprouted, you run the risk of magnesium depletion and you need to take a magnesium supplement. Soy foods contain large amounts of phytic acid which can only be broken down by fermentation.

Miso and tempeh won’t interfere with your body’s absorption of magnesium, but tofu and edamame will. If you eat a lot of tofu, or you drink a lot of soy milk, chances are that you need supplemental magnesium.[11]

6. Drinking Bottled Water Leads to Magnesium Deficiency

Everywhere you go in some warmer climates you will see people chugging down bottled water. We all have to keep hydrated, after all. But the truth is, not all waters are equally as healthy. Trace minerals help our cells retain magnesium and other positively charged ions that “electrify” the cell. We get a lot of our trace minerals from drinking water.

Magnesium also helps cells maintain a healthy electrical charge. Drinking water is also an important source of magnesium. Bottled water and desalinated water are deficient in magnesium. As a result, drinking them can cause a critical magnesium deficiency in your body.

Just How Big a Deal is it to Not Get Normal Amounts of Magnesium in Your Drinking Water?

Dr. Michael Shechter is an expert in the role of trace minerals in drinking water in cardiovascular health. For the last 16 years he has been studying heart disease rates in two sets of cities in Israel.

In one group of cities people drink desalinated sea water that does not contain magnesium.

In the other group of cities people drink ordinary tap water, which contains nutritionally significant amounts of magnesium. Shecther ran blood tests on people in both areas.

People who lived in cities where there was no natural magnesium in the drinking water had lower bloodstream levels of magnesium. They also had up to 163% greater risk of dying of heart attacks, compared to people who drank ordinary tap water. [12]

In addition, if you drink bottled water, or desalinated water, or your tap water is unusually “soft” water, then you need a magnesium supplement because you likely have a magnesium deficiency.

Scientists Know a Lot About How Magnesium Supplementation Helps People Who Have Heart Disease and Heart Disease Risk Factors:

  • Heart cells that don’t have enough magnesium tend to accumulate too much sodium and too little potassium. This makes them “excitable” so that small inputs from the nervous system and hormones cause abnormal heart rhythms.[13] A little excitement might cause a large increase in heart rate. Light exercise might trigger arrhythmia. Magnesium therapy is a well-known remedy for abnormal rhythms of the heart.[14]
  • Taking at 430 mg of magnesium every day for four months improves the ratio of HDL (“good” cholesterol”) to LDL (“bad cholesterol”).[15]
  • A clinical trial conducted by Dr. Shechter and his colleagues showed that heart patients who took 730 mg of magnesium a day for six months could exercise longer, had less chest pain when they exercised, and fewer abnormal heart rhythms as a result of exercise.[16]
  • Magnesium supplementation reduces the activity of platelet activation factor even in healthy people.[17] This makes blood less likely to clot, and it also slows down the activation stage of allergic reactions.

What do all of these studies tell us? If you have any family history of heart disease, to stay on the safe side, you need a magnesium supplement.


husband and wife making heart shape with hands at sunset

7. But Drinking Tap Water Can Cause Magnesium Deficiency, Too

If your tap water is fluoridated, then it’s possible that you could develop an unusual kind of magnesium deficiency.

This is caused by the fluoride in the water. It combines with the magnesium in your bones and tendons to form a mineral called sellaite. This mineral is a weaker version of apatite.

Ordinarily, apatite makes bones and teeth strong. Sellaite makes them brittle and breakable. It’s not likely you will have this problem unless you drink fluoridated tap water and you use fluoride toothpaste. It’s worse if you are taking a medication that contains fluoride like some common antibiotics, antifungal drugs, and antidepressants.

The solution is not to stop taking the medication your doctor prescribed. Rather, you need to take a magnesium supplement.[18]

If you live in a community that fluoridates its water, the best beverage for you is mineral water, but if you can’t afford that, take supplemental magnesium.

8. Working Out Too Hard Can Deplete Magnesium

It’s possible to “sweat out” magnesium. If you do workouts in hot weather, or if you do hot yoga, or if you regularly work out to the point that you break out in a sweat, then you probably need a magnesium supplement. Working out too hard can cause a magnesium deficiency.

Scientists conducted a series of studies on magnesium losses during perspiration in the 1970’s. One study found that steady exercise at a temperature of just 80° F (27° C) for 90 minutes caused a healthy person to lose about 15% of the body’s total supply serum magnesium to perspiration. [19]

The body can slowly learn how to conserve magnesium in high-heat conditions. When researchers tested volunteers who had a chance to acclimate to the heat, working out 30 minutes a day in a room heated to 45° C (113° F), they lost less magnesium to perspiration, but still about 8% of all the available magnesium in their bodies.

Magnesium May Help Your Athletic Performance

If you work out in the heat, even if you are accustomed to it, then you probably will benefit from magnesium supplements. And research finds that your athletic performance may be better when you take magnesium:

  • A study of 25 professional volleyball players found that taking 350 mg of magnesium a day for four weeks increased their performance under anaerobic conditions, when they were playing so hard that they were short of breath. They were able to jump on average 3 cm (about 1-1/4 inches) higher and swing their arms on average 3 cm farther if they took magnesium supplements.[20]
  • In addition, another study of young people (aged 18 to 22) who did taekwondo 90 to 120 minutes a day five days a week and who took 10 mg of magnesium per day for each kilogram of their body weight found that the athletes who took magnesium had higher red blood cell counts, higher white blood cell counts, and higher hemoglobin after four weeks.[21]
  • A study of cyclists found that they reported less exertion on 20-kilometer ride when they took supplemental magnesium.[22]


athletic woman jumping with silhouette on grey wall

9. Taking Too Much Calcium Pushes Out Magnesium

Everybody knows that we need calcium for healthy bones. When we are children (if we grow up in the Americas), we are told we need to drink milk. When we get older, we are told that we need calcium supplements.

What we aren’t told is that too much calcium can be just as detrimental to bone health and to general health as too little. Magnesium helps keep calcium in its soluble form.

When calcium precipitates out of the bloodstream of body fluids it can form kidney stones, bone spurs, calcium deposits in the breasts, and hardened cholesterol in the linings of the arteries.

Too much calcium can also trigger fibromyalgia and muscle spasms. All of these problems can occur to a lesser or greater degree when the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the diet is anything over 1 to 1.

We need the same amount of magnesium as calcium in our diets, but we don’t get the same amount of calcium as magnesium in our food:

  • Milk provides 7 times as much calcium as magnesium.
  • Yogurt provides 11 times as much calcium as magnesium.
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice provides 27 times as much calcium as magnesium.
  • Antacids provide 100 times as much calcium as magnesium.

When you add calcium supplements to a dairy-rich diet, or you drink calcium-enriched orange juice and still take calcium supplements, or you use calcium-rich antacids to keep heartburn in check, you quickly deplete magnesium.

You may not have full-fledged magnesium deficiency symptoms just because you consume too much calcium.

And you may not have the symptoms of calcium precipitation listed above, However, you likely will not enjoy optimal health and energy. It’s OK to take calcium supplements, up to 1,000 mg per day.

Just be sure that you take magnesium supplements, too.

10. Taking Some Magnesium But Not Taking Enough Magnesium Causes Magnesium Deficiency

This nutritional principle is counterintuitive. Taking some magnesium but not taking enough magnesium can cause magnesium deficiency. It’s a little like stomping down on your accelerator when your gas tank is empty.

The benefits of a very low dose of magnesium, 100 mg or less, may last about 2-1/2 hours, but that is only enough time for your body to start making some of the magnesium-dependent enzymes it needs without making others.[23] You can wind up feeling worse than when you started.

So who would take magnesium but not take enough? The problem is more common than you might think. Taking the wrong kind of magnesium leads to the same result as taking Milk of Magnesia. You develop diarrhea.

The #1 reason people don’t take all the magnesium they need is diarrhea.

What are the Wrong Kinds of Magnesium Supplements?

The least expensive magnesium supplement is magnesium oxide. It is also the most likely to cause diarrhea. That’s because only about 4% of the magnesium in a magnesium oxide supplement is absorbed into the bloodstream.

The other 96% of the magnesium in the supplement stays in the intestines and acts as a laxative.

The most commonly prescribed form of magnesium is magnesium citrate. This is the form of magnesium that is used for colonoscopy prep. It is used specifically for its laxative effect.

Magnesium citrate is about twice as well absorbed as magnesium oxide, but that still leaves 92% of the magnesium in the product in your lower digestive tract to cause diarrhea. None of the “inorganic” forms of magnesium are very well absorbed.

These include magnesium bicarbonate, magnesium carbonate, magnesium chloride, magnesium lysinate, magnesium malate, magnesium orotate, magnesium oxide, magnesium phosphate, magnesium sulfate, and magnesium taurate.

All of the “organic” forms of magnesium, however, are better absorbed so that they are less likely to cause diarrhea. These products include magnesium adipate, magnesium aspartate, magnesium citrate, magnesium glutamate, and most importantly magnesium glycinate.

Of all of these forms of magnesium supplements, the one supplement that is the most completely absorbed by the human body is magnesium glycinate. OmniBiotics sources the purest magnesium glycinate available to create their powerful magnesium supplement.

If you know you need magnesium, but you have a sensitive stomach, then take magnesium glycinate. It’s the form of magnesium your body can absorb, so it works in your body and not in your bowel.


omnibiotics magnesium glycinate supplement 120 caps on rock at beach