How to test for a magnesium deficiency

Written by devra gartenstein
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Magnesium plays a vital role in our health, participating in more than 300 enzymatic reactions. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include headaches, muscle spasms, severe menstrual cramps, constipation, joint pain and backache. It can be difficult for doctors to test for deficiency because most of the body's magnesium stays in the cells, rather than in the bloodstream or the urine. But there are several lab tests that offer a degree of information about the body's magnesium levels. In addition, doctors can evaluate whether a patient is suffering from magnesium deficiency on the basis of the symptoms he exhibits.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 24-hour fasting urine test
  • Sublingual epithelial test

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  1. 1

    Perform a 24-hour urine test to determine the total amount of magnesium your body is excreting. After collecting your urine, your doctor will give you an injection with a specified amount of magnesium, then collect your urine for another 24 hours to determine how much of the magnesium your body has retained. If your body has retained more magnesium than normal, then your doctor can conclude that you are deficient in the mineral and that your body has retained the magnesium from the injection to compensate for this deficiency.

  2. 2

    Schedule a sublingual epithelial test to assess your magnesium level. A health care practitioner will scrape under your tongue with a tongue depressor to obtain epithelial cells, then send this sample to a lab for analysis. This method of testing tends to be more accurate than the 24-hour urine test because it checks for magnesium in the cells, where most of it is present.

  3. 3

    Evaluate your overall symptoms to determine whether they coincide with common indicators of magnesium deficiency. Many of these symtoms, such as back pain, menstrual cramps and headaches, can be symptoms of a wide range of ailments. But if you experience multiple symptoms that can point to magnesium deficiency, your health care practitioner may be able to use these symptoms to diagnose you.

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