Have you ever heard of magnesium? It’s one of the most vital minerals for our daily function, yet more than 80% of people are deficient in it. We used to get it from our food, but modernized farming practices have left natural quantities vastly depleted, and our diets these days rarely contain foods rich in magnesium. Other modern lifestyle factors also massively deplete us of the little amounts of the mineral we have left, including stress, excessive alcohol, coffee or soda consumption, sweating and antibiotics and other drugs.
The stress is the absolute kicker for me, because magnesium is the relaxation mineral, telling your muscles and brain to release and let go. When you’re stressed, your magnesium is depleted and when your magnesium is depleted, you’re far more likely to become stressed and anxious…it’s a vicious cycle, especially in today’s car-horn, constant email pings, adrenaline filled world.
I personally struggle with anxiety, and I’ve found magnesium supplementation to be an integral part of my tool kit. It’s wonderful on a mental level but also on a physical level – there’s a reason top athletes often soak in Epsom baths, which are a type of magnesium. When I get anxious, the muscles in my neck and upper back become super tight, which makes me more anxious and often causes headaches. Physical and mental feelings are often inextricably tangled, and magnesium helps the muscles relax so my mind can, and my mind relax so my muscles can.
Beyond anxiety, magnesium depletion can contribute to a host of other problems including muscle cramps, insomnia, palpitations, constipations, headaches, migraines, asthma, menstrual cramps and more (notice how all of these involve something seizing up, becoming tense or tightening…magnesium works because it relaxes the cramps, loosens your bowels, etc).
If you have any of these conditions, or chronic stress or anxiety, I think attempting to get your magnesium levels up is worth a shot. There are blood tests you can take to check your levels, but only 1% of your body’s magnesium is actually stored in your blood, making them an incredibly inaccurate measure. Luckily, it’s fairly hard to overdose on magnesium, as you’ll typically secrete any excess in your urine (although if you have any sort of kidney issue, please check with your doctor before consuming it).
There are a number of foods that contain decent levels of magnesium: kelp, cacao, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, and garlic are all decent sources (although again, because the soil is so depleted, they’re not as good as they used to be). You can also go swim in the ocean, which is a rich source of magnesium (you absorb it really well through your skin, often even better than through your gut, especially if your stomach lining is at all damaged due to IBS, celiac or anything of the sort).
If you’re interested in trying to incorporate more magnesium into your diet, here are a few of my favorite magnesium rich recipes: cacao and avocado fudgesicles, sea salt caramel cashew nut butter brownies, buckwheat crepes, honey walnut toasties, and almond butter chocolate chip cookies. Cacao and avocado also make great additions to green smoothies – chocolate mint is one of my go-to flavor combos.
I personally have found it really helpful to supplement with magnesium. I like to apply magnesium oil topically around my shoulder and neck area (where I carry a lot of tension), and I drink the lemon flavored Natural Calm, a powdered magnesium supplement, as a before-bed tea every night, as a lovely sleep-promoting ritual. It’s also one of the things I always pack when I travel because it’s AMAZING at relieving constipation, a common problem when you’re switching time zones and eating strange foods.
Have you ever tried supplementing with magnesium? Do you have another favorite supplement for stress and anxiety? It’s by no means a miracle cure-all – and you should be wary of anything that promotes itself as such – but it’s one of the supplements I recommend the most, and I see the most benefit from in myself and others.