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  • Writer's pictureTina Deas

Stress? Headaches? Restless legs? Poor Sleep? Could Magnesium Be The Answer?

Magnesium is an essential mineral for humans which is needed in relatively large quantities. The exact quantity required depends on age and gender, but it is approximately between 300-400 mg per day.

Magnesium plays a part over 300 reactions within the body. It is anti-inflammatory, its needed for metabolism and energy production, it reduces stress hormones, it is essential for nerve function and neurotransmitter release, and contributes towards muscle contraction and relaxation to name just a few.

Why Could We Be Deficient In Magnesium?

Stress depletes the human body of magnesium and unfortunately stress is a modern life phenomenon. Stress depletes the human body of magnesium and this is one of the reasons why so many people are deficient.

Increasing our caffeine and alcohol levels to cope with stress may also contribute towards magnesium depletion. Studies show that chronic and long-term stress causes progressive magnesium deficiency to occur (Seelig,1994).

Despite the importance of Magnesium and it being present in an abundance of foods, it is estimated that around 50% of the Western population do not get enough magnesium. In the UK, National Diet and Nutrition Surveys indicate that over 70 % of women and 50% of men do not currently consume the required daily amount for this mineral.

How Can You Get Magnesium From Your Diet?

Magnesium rich foods include:-

Chickpeas, edamame beans, lentils , black beans and peas.

Avocados, spinach and kale.


Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts and cashews.

Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds,

oatmeal, whole wheat, barley and buckwheat.

Salmon, mackerel, and halibut.

And not forgetting dark chocolate!

Sadly, much of the food content of magnesium is lost during food processing and many foods do not contain as much of the mineral as they would have done in the past due to modern farming methods.

What Can Be A Sign Of Magnesium Deficiency?

Usually when we visit a GP with symptoms, they will prescribe us medication to treat our symptoms. Due to time pressures and lack of training in nutrition, they are unlikely to look at any potential nutritional deficiencies which may be at the root cause of some of our medical issues. But we as individuals can do that and try supplementing our diet if we think it could help.

Here are some of the issues that we could potentially suffer with if we are deficient in magnesium.

Are you suffering from headaches and migraines?

Magnesium has been found to be effective at both preventing and treating migraine attacks. Whilst the specific causes of headaches and migraines are unclear, many of the theories support the use of magnesium in reducing the restriction of blood supply associated with them.


Constipation can often be helped by drinking lots of water. Magnesium citrate and Magnesium chloride are particularly helpful in relieving constipation as magnesium helps to pull water into the intestines and softens stools. It neutralises stomach acid and moves food through the intestine.

Poor Sleep?

There are many reasons why we can suffer with poor sleep. Too much alcohol, caffeine, stress, irregular sleeping habits and eating patterns to name but a few. Long term sleep disruption can be miserable, and many may resort to relying on prescribed sleeping tablets to help with insomnia. Unfortunately, these can disrupt our essential sleep patterns if they are taken for prolonged periods which can be detrimental to us in other ways.

Sleeping pills usually work by decreasing our REM or dream sleep. During REM sleep the brain replays and integrates emotions and memories, making connection and sense of our experiences. REM sleep is associated with the emotional processing of what we felt during the day so that we feel much less distressed the following day. REM sleep is also essential for processing any trauma we may experience.

Along with a good sleep hygiene, Magnesium supplementation may improve the quality of our sleep. It can help to stimulate the GABA receptors making the body’s own production of this neurotransmitter more effective at calming and relaxing the body.

Leg cramps, restless legs and exercise performance ?

Studies have shown magnesium supplementation to be effective at enhancing exercise performance by moving blood sugar into the muscles and helping to dispose of lactate which can build up in muscles during exercise, causing pain.

As Magnesium is involved in muscle contraction and relaxation, and contributes to normal muscle function, it has also been used successfully for restless leg syndrome.

Taking Magnesium Supplements

If you are suffering from any of the above, why not try upping your intake of magnesium rich foods and/or taking a magnesium supplement for a month or so so see if your symptoms improve.

Magnesium supplements are available in several different forms. The most widely recommended form of supplement by health professionals is Magnesium Citrate this means that the magnesium is bound with citric acid. This magnesium supplement is recommended due to its high bioavailability (its effective absorption rate).

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