Magnesium deficiency and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Magnesium is important in more than 300 chemical reactions to keep the body working. These include growth and maintenance of bones, function of nerves, muscles and many other parts of the body. In the stomach magnesium helps to neutralise stomach acid and moves stools through the intestine.

Because it is involved in so many functions changes in the levels of magnesium can have a wide ranging effect on the body.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Facial tics
  • Poor sleep
  • Chronic pain

Magnesium deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test at your doctors. Some companies also provide private home testing* - such as this one (based in the UK).

Why might people with IBD be deficient in magnesium?

Magnesium deficiency is not uncommon among the general population and can be even more common among people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) - Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and microscopic colitis. Both chronic diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to a magnesium deficiency.

Other reasons include:

  • Diet - Carbonated drinks, foods with refined sugars, caffeine and alcohol can all have a negative effect on magnesium levels
  • Stress - Being under stress can lead to magnesium deficiency
  • Age - Older adults are more likely to suffer from magnesium deficiency


How can magnesium deficiency be treated?

If you have low magnesium levels then you can increase the amount of food you eat that has magnesium naturally occurring in it.

In general food sources that are high in fibre are high in magnesium. These include:

  • Legumes
  • Wholegrains
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, squash and leafy green vegetables
  • Seeds and nuts

Other food sources include:

  • Dairy
  • Meats
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Water with high mineral content or hard water

You can also buy magnesium supplements* or transdermal products*. If you take supplements make sure you do not exceed the recommended dose.

Transdermal products include magnesium flakes which you can put into a full bath or foot bath to soak yourself in. The magnesium penetrates into your body. Read more about magnesium baths.

Magnesium supplements are usually taken in tablet form.

*Please note these are affiliate links which means if you buy from the company we may receive a commission. You will pay the same price as you normally would and any money earned will be used to support IBDrelief's work

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