Health Topics

Why Does Magnesium Deficiency Cause Low Stomach Acid?

Importance of Magnesium

The mineral magnesium is critical to hundreds of processes in the body, from muscle contraction and relaxation, to transport of energy, to the production of protein. Despite the importance of magnesium, an estimated 20 percent of the population has insufficient levels of this mineral. The body is able to store magnesium in bones and soft tissue, but dietary sources are important in maintaining adequate magnesium levels.

Magnesium Deficiency and Low Stomach Acid

Magnesium deficiency does not cause low stomach acid. Rather, low stomach acid can be a factor in magnesium deficiency. One third to 1/2 of the magnesium found in foods is absorbed by the body in the small intestine. Foods high in sugar and fats are difficult for the stomach to digest. If the stomach fails to produce enough digestive acid, these foods leave the stomach without being fully digested and the intestines are unable to absorb nutrients. These foods have an additive effect on magnesium deficiency when they result in acid reflux, or indigestion. Indigestion is frequently treated with antacids, which act by neutralizing stomach acid. Overuse of antacids can weaken the acidity of digestive fluids, reducing the effectiveness of the stomach acid and resulting in more poorly digestive foods entering the intestines.

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

The first signs of magnesium deficiency include decreased appetite, muscle cramps and twitching, confusion, irritability, insomnia, headaches (including migraines and tension headaches), constipation and memory difficulties. More severe deficiency causes rapid heartbeat, delirium, vertigo, hallucinations, osteoporosis and numbness.


Magnesium deficiency is generally caused by poor diet. Good dietary sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. However, vegetables grown in mineral-poor soil will not contain sufficient levels of magnesium. Tap water can be a good source of magnesium but only if it is “hard,” or untreated. Many municipalities over treat water and the minerals are removed. Foods that are processed or highly refined, such as bleached white flour and polished white rice, have lost much of their nutrients. Carbonated, sugary beverages and foods such as soybeans contain enzymes that increase magnesium elimination from the body. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and flushes magnesium from the body. Alcohol blocks magnesium absorption, and chronic alcoholism can also result in overall malnutrition. Other causes include gastrointestinal disorders such as Cohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease, or bowel injury caused by surgical procedures or radiation.