Magnesium: The Anti-Stress & Sleep Doctor

Magnesium is known as the anti-stress mineral and is an important electrolyte needed for proper muscle, nerve, and enzyme function. It helps the body use energy and is needed to move other electrolytes (potassium and sodium) into and out of cells. Most of the magnesium in the body is found in bones and inside cells. Magnesium is needed for vitamin D utilisation, aids weight loss, helps regulate blood pressure and promotes better sleep.

Unfortunately due to modern day farming techniques, soil depletion, lifestyle and diet choices it is estimated that as many as 80% of us are deficient in this essential mineral. (1)

Magnesium is often prescribed to treat the following

  • Irritability, anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty getting to and staying asleep
  • Muscle spasms and cramps
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Low blood pressure
  • Poor nail growth
  • Poor dental health
  • Constipation
  • Allergies and sensitivities
  • Coldness of the extremities
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unhealthy ratio of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol to LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

Possible causes of magnesium deficiency

  • Poor soil quality, pesticides and herbicides – over the last 50 years, soil quality and therefore mineral quality for our crops has declined
  • High alcohol consumption – causes the kidneys to excrete magnesium
  • High consumption of caffeinated drinks – causes the kidneys to excrete magnesium
  • A diet high in refined sugar – causes the kidneys to excrete magnesium
  • Physical and emotional stress – the body uses magnesium during stressful times, a lack of it in the diet added to a ‘stressful’ lifestyle, whether perceived or not, further depletes the body
  • Excessive exercise and dehydration – if you exercise regularly and drink only water to hydrate, chances are that you may need to balance your electrolytes. This includes paying attention to your magnesium intake
  • Over the counter medication – Drugs like birth control pills, hypertension medicine, diuretics, insulin and certain antibiotics (among others) deplete magnesium levels.

Foods high in magnesium

Mens recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 400 milligrams and Womens RDA is 310 milligrams a day
DV = Daily Values/Recommended Daily Amount

  • Spinach — 1 cup: 157 milligrams (40% DV)
  • Chard — 1 cup: 154 milligrams (38% DV)
  • Pumpkin seeds — 1/8 cup: 92 milligrams (23% DV)
  • Yogurt or Kefir — 1 cup: 50 milligrams (13% DV)
  • Almonds — 1 ounce: 80 milligrams (20% DV)
  • Black Beans — ½ cup: 60 milligrams (15% DV)
  • Avocado — 1 medium: 58 milligrams  (15% DV)
  • Figs — ½ cup: 50 milligrams (13% DV)
  • Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95 milligrams (24% DV)
  • Banana — 1 medium: 32 milligrams (8% DV)

Other foods that are also high in magnesium include: salmon, coriander, cashews, goat cheese and artichokes. (2)

Epsom Salts: Natures Cure

Along with ‘upping’ magnesium rich foods, I recommend Epsom salts (to be used in a bath) to many of my friends and family when they need to de-stress, relax tired muscles or are in need of a good nights sleep. It’s akin to having a spa in the comfort of your own home.

The great thing about Epsom salt baths is that studies suggest they may be naturally self-limiting: when you’ve had enough magnesium, your body just stops absorbing it. This makes them a better and safer choice, especially for children or the elderly who are more vulnerable to an overdose in the first place. (3)

In certain individuals, taking too much oral magnesium can cause diarrhoea, nausea, headache, feelings of lightheadedness, flushed skin, depression and lethargy before progressing to muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, extreme hypotension, irregular heartbeat, and cardiac arrest. (4)

Magnesium the De-stress and sleep Dr

Epsom Salt Bath Recipe

  • 500 grams or 2 cups of Epsom Salts with 5 drops of Lavender essential oil to a warm bath
  • Soak for 20 minutes before bed.

You can buy Epsom Salts at Guardian Pharmacy or online at




This article provides information that should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your healthcare providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health. Any mention in this article of a specific brand name is not an endorsement of the product.

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