Magnesium is both a mineral and an electrolyte. It carries an electrical charge as it transports other electrolytes, potassium and calcium, through your cell membranes. The nutrient serves a wide range of purposes in your body, including regulation of your blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate. Magnesium is also involved in protein synthesis and supports your immune system. Because the mineral is crucial to your body's most basic functions, maintaining normal levels in your body is important.
Testing magnesium levels to find if they are normal requires a simple blood draw. Levels are considered normal in the range of 1.7 to 2.2 mg/dL. Your doctor might choose to test your magnesium levels if you have tested low for potassium and calcium or if you have a history of kidney disease. Sometimes your body will released store magnesium from your bones to make up for a deficiency. In this situation, your blood test could read normal, but additional testing or symptoms may lead your doctor to find that your magnesium levels are in fact not normal.
Consuming magnesium through diet can help you maintain normal blood serum levels. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommended daily allowance for magnesium was last updated in 1997. Babies under 1 year old should consume 30 to 75 mg daily based on age; children between 1 and 3 years old require 80 mg of magnesium each day. Children between 4 and 8 should get 130 mg, with the recommendation rising to 240 mg for 9- to 13-year-olds. Once young adults reach the age of 14, males require more magnesium than females. Boys should consume 410 mg and girls 360 mg during adolescence. Adult males aged 19 and older require 410 to 420 mg, while women routinely only need 310 to 320 mg. The one exception is during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when women should adjust their magnesium intake to between 360 and 400 mg daily.
You might experience lower-than-normal levels of magnesium in conjunction with a variety of underlying health conditions. Crohn's disease, poorly managed diabetes, chronic alcoholism, celiac disease, liver problems and the use of diuretics can all lead to low magnesium levels. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include diarrhea, nausea, tremors, mood changes and sodium retention. Women in their last two trimesters of pregnancy may also experience lower-than-normal magnesium levels, a situation that resolves after childbirth.
Magnesium levels that read higher than normal may be the result of taking thyroid medication or insulin, having chronic kidney disease, being dehydrated or using laxatives. Symptoms of high magnesium levels can include muscle weakness, mood changes, confusion and heart arrhythmia.
Foods high in magnesium include bananas, oat bran, blackstrap molasses, almonds and peanuts, spinach, okra and brown rice.