Magnesium Deficiency and what to do about it

My darling boyfriend (I still think it sounds idiotic to say boyfriend at my age. Can’t we coin a new phrase America?) has restless leg syndrome. Until recently I truly thought that was just a made-up syndrome. Doesn’t it sound ridiculous? Well poor Rob has a terrible time with completely involuntary and uncontrollable restlessness in his legs, feet and ankles. We will be sitting down watching a movie on the couch, and his legs hurt, they are cramping and he has this “itch’ to get up and move or to shake his legs. He’s tried to describe it to me, but it’s a really difficult feeling to describe. Then, after he’s sound asleep in bed his legs literally kick every couple of minutes all night long. He says it’s like when you are at the doctor and they hit your knee with the reflex hammer. So this has resulted in two things. One, my legs are black and blue from being kicked in my sleep all night and Two, I’ve been doing a lot of research on restless legs and what on earth causes this! Here is what I found out:


Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the human body and is essential to good health. It is critical in over 350 essential biochemical reactions in the body including digestion, energy production, muscle function, bone formation, creation of new cells, activation of B vitamins, relaxation of muscles, and also assists in the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, adrenals, brain and nervous system. In fact, Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body—it can be found in human bones, teeth and red blood cells, and activates more enzyme systems than both Iron and Zinc combined.

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is running rampant among Americans. One study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health shows that 68% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Other experts put the number closer 80%.

If you’re a geek like me and like to read the actual health studies:

  • “Dietary Magnesium and C-reactive Protein Levels,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, No. 3, 166-171 (2009).
  • Jaffe R MD. “How to Know if You are Magnesium Deficient: Over 75% of Americans Are” (transcript), 06/16/09,

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

  • Leg Cramps
  • Foot Pain
  • Muscle Twitches
  • Insomnia
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Low Energy
  • Muscle Weakness
  • PMS
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Osteoporosis
  • Restless Legs (aha!)
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Kidney stones (calcium oxate)
  • Constipation
  • Insulin Resistance

Of all the minerals required for good health, calcium has been pushed into the spotlight. There has been a flood of calcium-fortified foods, beverages, and supplements. Ironically, without magnesium, calcium cannot be properly used or absorbed by the body. If there’s no magnesium, then the calcium builds up in the cells causing angina, arrhythmia, hypertension, headaches, and asthma.

Compounding the problem is the knowledge that the body actually strips magnesium and calcium from the bones during periods of “functioning” low magnesium. This effect can cause a doubly difficult scenario: seemingly adequate magnesium levels that mask a true deficiency, coupled by ongoing damage to bone structures. Thus experts advise the suspicion of magnesium deficiency whenever risk factors for related conditions are present, rather than relying upon tests or overt symptoms alone.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency

If you eat like a typical American—many processed and refined foods, convenience foods, and junk foods—then you’re probably seriously magnesium deficient. Just the process of refining foods strips nutrients, including magnesium. Some examples:

  • Dry roasting nuts removes the highly nutritious oils which contain magnesium.
  • Milling flour from grains strips magnesium from the grain.
  • Sugar in anything uses up magnesium.
  • Fluoridated, softened, and distilled water depletes magnesium.
  • Carbonated beverages and some processed foods, like lunch meat, contain phosphates that bind to magnesium molecules and flush it out of the body.
  • Alcohol blocks magnesium, especially if you have three or more drinks a day.
  • Caffeine flushes magnesium from of the body.
  • Some foods—like raw or roasted nuts and seeds, grains, soybeans, spinach, and chard—contain compounds called phytic acid and oxalic acid which can cause magnesium to be eliminated from the body.

You can find ample amounts of magnesium in green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains — but only if they’re grown under optimal growing conditions by an organic farmer who also uses a nutrient-rich fertilizer containing magnesium.

So while eating magnesium-rich foods is a noble goal, it just might not be realistic given the lack of nutrients found in our food and in our soil today.

So both Rob and I are trying external magnesium therapy. I made homemade magnesium oil, because this stuff is seriously expensive at the health food store.  I’ll post the very simple, very cheap recipe for Homemade Magnesium Oil tomorrow, and how to apply it. I’ll also keep you posted on how this works for his restless legs. My fingers are crossed!



  1. Jane said,

    March 30, 2012 at 4:30 AM

    Wow very interesting! I had no idea that magnesium was so hard to “keep” in foods. I have headache issues, and always was told magnesium would help, although I never really investigated it. I can’t wait to hear about your magnesium oil! I hope it helps your boyfriend’s legs and you can get some sleep! 🙂

  2. denlyn3 said,

    March 30, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    I have a number of these symptoms, I will look into this more. Thanks for the post.

    • March 30, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      Another great resource to check out would be Morley Robbins, you can find him all over the internet. I just listened to a great podcast on Underground Wellness featuring Morley. You can listen to it at Blog Talk Radio’s website, Just click on the link to Underground Wellness. It is also free on iTunes, just search for Underground Wellness. It was featured on Wednesday 3-28-12 and was all about magnesium deficiency and Morleys extensive research on the subject.

  3. Jasmine Pahl said,

    March 30, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Very important post!!!! This is great information about a very real issue and I’m so happy to see it.:)

    As for your boyfriend naming issue…lover? sweetheart? fancy man?

    I agree, we need new relationship nomenclature. ‘Partner’ just sounds like you’ve found the person you always dreamed of opening a law firm with.

    • March 30, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      Jasmine you crack me up! I think I’ll just start calling him Stud Muffin until I come up with something 🙂

      • Jasmine Pahl said,

        March 30, 2012 at 10:19 AM

        Perfect!! I’m sure he’ll be a gluten-free, super foods Stud Muffin! 😉

      • March 30, 2012 at 10:22 AM

        You must have drank your funny juice today 🙂

  4. March 30, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    I have a few people who your post will hit a note with, thank you- my father who is really heathy otherwise has some heart trouble, hypertension and also migranes, with no explanation.

    Looking forward to the magnesium oil recipe

    • March 30, 2012 at 10:47 AM

      See if you can get your dad to listen to the Underground Wellness podcast mentioned above. I wish I had heard it before I wrote this post. It is so clear and helpful and contains a TON of information.

  5. March 30, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    great info! Refined foods are evil in more ways than one! Raw organics is always the way to go!! Thanks

    • March 30, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      I agree! This subject has motivated me to go out and buy a juicer. Raw, fresh juice is very high in magnesium. I need more green leafies….

      • March 30, 2012 at 11:18 AM

        I have a juicer but a pain to clean! I use the ninja blender and I love It and great for alot of other thing too!

  6. hipsta mama said,

    March 30, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    hmmm….my husband suffers from several of those symptoms. I’ll have to tune in to see how you make that magnesium oil!

  7. March 30, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    Amazing research lady!! Great stuff. I didn’t know magnesium was linked to so many things. I also want to add it’s a great thing to put on anything you want to “draw out,” like a spider bite, or bee sting or even a nasty pimple that won’t go away. Applied topically the magnesium will draw out the bad stuff, I’ve healed several nasty spider bites with magnesium. 🙂

  8. March 31, 2012 at 1:11 AM

    […] results. The fact that up to 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium really scared me (see health studies mentioned yesterday) and prompted Rob and I to do an experiment. We eat a whole lot of magnesium rich foods, and for […]

  9. pumpkinhoney said,

    April 3, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    I love both your posts about Magnesium! Restless leg syndrome actually runs in my family. Mine is worst just before I go to bed, or when I have to sit somewhere for prolonged time (airplanes). It’s so frustrating! I usually end up getting out of bed and doing yoga for 20 minutes & cross my fingers that I can fall asleep. I feel for Rob. And I can’t wait to try your magnesium solution 🙂

    • April 4, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      We plan to both use it religiously every night before bed, and I am really praying that it works for him. He has the same issue, if he sits still for too long he gets the “Heeby Jeebies” as he calls it 🙂 A couple of his brothers also have this issue, I wonder if it can run in families like that? Is it hereditary? Or is the whole family just Magnesium deficient….hmmmm

      • pumpkinhoney said,

        April 4, 2012 at 11:04 AM

        I was always under the impression it was hereditary just because my grandmother, mom, aunt & cousin all seem to have it. I would definitely call it the heebie jeebies!

        But I bet having the proper mineral & nutrient supplementation would help.

  10. beccacfowler said,

    April 5, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    very interesting. is there a dietary change that can be made in addition to using magnesium oil?

    • April 6, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      There are many foods rich in magnesium. Spinach, pumpkin seeds, halibut, black beans, dried herbs, cocoa powder etc. The problem is the quantity you would have to eat to get the 400-1000 mg of Magnesium recommended would be A LOT. We also have depleted the magnesium in the soil by using conventional farming practices. The soil itself does not contain as much magnesium as it should, so these foods have even less magnesium…making it almost impossible to get enough via diet alone. I DO recommend a mineral rich diet, but I think a supplement is practical for most of us as well.

      • beccacfowler said,

        April 6, 2012 at 9:35 AM

        i have taken so many supplements over the past few years… i feel like a granny taking out my pill box. so i’m always looking for ways to enhance my diet rather than add another pill to my box. 😉 this is very interesting to me, though. thanks for sharing!

      • April 6, 2012 at 9:37 AM

        Right now I am taking Cod liver oil, Bio Kult (probiotics) and spraying magnesium on the skin and thats it. I have gone over board with the supplements in the past, and I know how you feel. It can also get super expensive! I think if you were growing a lot of your own food in magnesium rich soil, you would probably be getting a larger does of magnesium. Raw juice is also a good source….

  11. April 27, 2012 at 2:09 AM

    […] Magnesium Deficiency (and why there is an 80% chance that you have it!) […]

  12. May 25, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    […] which is important for many, many functions and is a crucial, but often overlooked mineral. See my post about magnesium here. Salt is important for muscle contraction and expansion, nerve stimulation, and the proper […]

  13. April 7, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    […] about Rob’s restless leg syndrome. For those of you who missed it, the original post is HERE and how to make the Magnesium Oil for cheap is […]

  14. April 7, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    […] Magnesium Defiency and What to do about it […]

  15. July 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    […] little research tied everything together: turns out low magnesium levels make you more prone to stress and tension, […]

  16. January 2, 2015 at 3:34 AM

    […] Magnesium Deficiency and what to do about it | A Real Food … – 30/3/2012 · April 6, 2012 at 9:28 AM. There are many foods rich in magnesium. Spinach, pumpkin seeds, halibut, black beans, dried herbs, cocoa powder etc. The …… […]

  17. March 23, 2015 at 12:13 AM

    […] Magnesium Deficiency and What to do about it […]

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