Magnesium for anxiety, stress, high blood pressure and muscle pain

Magnesium for anxiety, stress, high blood pressure and muscle pain


Magnesium is an essential mineral that is critical for proper function of a number of body systems. For example, if levels of magnesium present in the nervous system fall below certain levels, it can’t function effectively resulting in anxiety, irritability, tension, stress and many other systemic disturbances.

It also functions as a co-factor in more than 300 enzyme reactions and is required for energy production and other vital metabolic processes. Importantly, magnesium has the ability to affect musculoskeletal system in multiple ways as it is essential for muscle relaxation and contraction, including the heart muscle, hence any deficiency will affect the entire cardiovascular system.

Although severe magnesium deficiency is less common, I find sub-clinical deficiency is widely prevalent in my clients as excessive or chronic stress experienced by many of them significantly increases the need for magnesium. People who may be at increased risk or factors which may promote deficiency include: the elderly; those with gastrointestinal diseases or chronic diarrhoea; metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes; alcoholism; those with increased loss through perspiration (in hot climates or high levels of physical activity/ sweating); and those using medications such as laxatives or certain diuretics, among others.

There are MANY more magnesium reqiurements and benefits for the body, and a large number of studies confirm just how important it is for health and wellbeing. Examples of important studies related to the nervous and cardiovascular system functions include the following:

  • Deficiency induces anxiety and related behaviours thus adequate intake is needed for excessive or chronic stress (1).
  • Chronic deficit is linked with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure suggesting that an increased intake will reduce the risk as well as symptoms (2).
  • Vitamin D requires magnesium as a co-factor to work in the body. In addition, hepatic and renal vitamin D conversion into the active, hormonal form is also magnesium dependent (3). This is also confirmed by my clinical experience. For some people it’s really difficult to raise their levels of vitamin D despite of supplementing with high doses over a longer period of time (3-6 months). I find that supplementing magnesium and vitamin D together facilitates an increase in vitamin D levels in majority of people.
  • It plays a role in lowering blood pressure. Researchers concluded that “magnesium supplementation appears to achieve a small but clinically significant reduction in BP” (4).

Majority of people who have a long standing magnesium deficiency need to supplement for 3-4 months at therapeutic (higher) doses as needed per their condition, to replenish the stores. This process must be supervised by a knowledgeable health professional who will select an optimal dose and the right type of magnesium for your condition.

Importantly, most of over-the-counter supplements contain cheap and poorly assimilated forms plus they don’t provide enough of elemental (pure) magnesium to make a real difference. After the magnesium is replenished the dose is reduced and many people are able to get enough of it from a well-designed diet and some supplementation, when required e.g. at times of increased stress.

Short self-assessment

Take the opportunity to test your magnesium levels by completing the short self-assessment below to determine if your magnesium level is likely to be low. The questionnaire is based on my experience treating magnesium deficiency and includes the most common symptoms I came across in my clinical practice. Select options that apply to your circumstances.


Risk factors / contributing factors


High stress, anxiety and irritability 5
High weekly levels of exercise with heavy sweating 5
High coffee intake – more than 3 per day 5
Daily alcohol use 5
Regular consumption of soft drinks containing caffeine (> 2 days/ week) 5
Frequent diarrhoea or vomiting 5
Oral contraceptive pill use 5
Chronic occupational exposure to loud noises (e.g. traffic related) 5
Diuretic, laxative, antacid, ACE inhibitor, oral corticosteroid use 5
Diet lacking in leafy green vegetables 5
Diet high in processed and takeaway foods 5


Results: If your total score is more than 20 points, you are likely to be magnesium deficient




Muscle cramps, spasms, or pain – e.g. leg/ foot cramps, back and neck ache 5
Muscle twitches (e.g. eyelids), ticks or jerks, and/ or muscle weakness 5
Muscle tremors – e.g. involuntary shaking of hands or arms 5
Poor mood and irritability 5
Poor concentration 5
Frequent constipation 5
Anxious, agitated | irritable | having panic attacks 5
Heart palpitations | arrhythmias 5
Elevated blood pressure 5
Breathlessness | chest tightness 5
Insomnia | difficulty falling asleep or frequent waking up during the night 3
Fatigue | frequent sighing | poor exercise endurance 3
Sensitivity to loud noises or sudden bright light 3
Headaches | migraines 3
Menstrual cramps | pain 3
Frequent chocolate craving – dark chocolate is high in magnesium! 3

Results: If you selected more than five symptoms, especially out of the first 10, you are likely to be deficient
(i.e. score of 20+)

Food sources of magnesium

Fortunately, magnesium is found in a wide range of foods with plant foods being the richest sources. Foods high in magnesium include:

  • Green leafy vegetables (contain large amounts of magnesium) – spinach, kale, parsley, silver beet
  • Other vegetables including beetroot, broccoli, bok choy and sea vegetables such as kelp, arame, wakame, nori
  • Nuts and seeds – sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts
  • Grains (unprocessed) quinoa, millet, buckwheat, brown rice
  • Other foods – organic molasses, beans and lentils, dried figs and apricots, dark chocolate (containing more than 70% cocoa, the higher % of cocoa the better)
  • Animal sources – prawns, sardines, mackerel, bee pollen

magnesium sourcesAs outlined above, eating foods containing magnesium on a daily basis is easy and vital to prevent deficiencies; however, you also need to absorb and utilise magnesium from your diet by having your digestion working well. Otherwise even if you eat the best organic foods, you will not be able to extract the full goodness out of them and continue to be deficient.

Next steps

Complete the self- assessment questionnaire to gauge if you likely have the need for more magnesium in your body and thus your diet. Feel free to contact me for further help assessing your magnesium requirements (and the levels of other synergistic nutrients magnesium needs to work properly in the body), as well as to assess your gut and digestion health plus to discuss the most suitable supplementation, if required.

Good health and blessings

Joanna Sochan
Adrenal Fatigue and Digestive Health Expert
Naturopath || Herbalist || Nutritionist || Reiki Practitioner

1) Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Sartori SB, Whittle N, Hetzenauer A and Singewald N, 2012, Neurophamacology, Volume 62, Issue 1, January, Pages 304-312.
2) Magnesium and the Cardiometabolic Syndrome. Barbagallo M and Dominguez LJ, 2012, Curr Nutr Rep 1:100–108.
3) Magnesium deficit – overlooked cause of low vitamin D status? Zittermann A, 2013, BMC Medicine, 11:229.
4) Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Kass L, Weekes J and L Carpenter L, 2012, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66, 411–418.

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  1. sheila October 19, 2015 at 6:09 am - Reply

    Thank you this site and information has helped. Believe I have magnesium deficiency.

    • Joanna Sochan October 19, 2015 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Sheila

      Thank you for taking the time to post a comment. I’m glad you found the information of help.
      All the best

  2. henia kaczmar April 30, 2016 at 2:23 am - Reply

    Thank you for for posting this very informative article Joanna.
    Its always a pleasure to read your posts!

    • Joanna Sochan April 30, 2016 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      Thank you very much for your feedback! Much appreciated.

  3. Joey May 25, 2016 at 11:42 am - Reply

    I have magnesium deficiency according to this survey and I’d like to know if taking a 1000 mg is to much

    • Joanna Sochan May 25, 2016 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      Hi there

      It all depends on what type of magnesium it is as some forms are better absorbed than others. E.g. magnesium citrate is well absorbed, so is magnesium orotate. Overall, if you overdose magnesium you’ll have loose stools or diarrhoea. Also, vitamin C increases absorption of magnesium, they are often taken together for that reason. It takes time to replenish magnesium (2-3 months on average) so higher dose is recommended during this time. When you get beck to sufficient levels (as judged by your symptoms), you’ll need to establish your maintenance dose and make sure you get plenty of magnesium from foods as well.

      All the best

  4. Karen August 27, 2016 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Hello, I have low blood pressure but other symptoms similar to adlrenal fatigues and depression. However, a naturopath has told me I cannot take magnesium supplement as it will lower my blood pressure more?

    • Joanna Sochan August 28, 2016 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      I don’t know your health circumstances or the reasons your naturopath made this suggestion, I’m sure justified by his/her analysis. Magnesium is effectively used for depression, adrenal fatigue and to normalise blood pressure but it would need to be prescribed in the right dose and frequency which are different for every person. Consider discussing pros and cons with your naturopath to better understand your particular needs.

  5. Margie June 1, 2017 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    I have been through a lot of tests and they keep telling me it’s in my muscles and are trying to say I have fibromyalgia, and with that I have anxiety and high blood pressure and feel bloated . I was wondering what kind of magnesium would be best for me to start with. I have been doing research and I think that this is part of my problem magnesium deficiency. Thanks for the great article.

    • Joanna Sochan June 5, 2017 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      I suggest you start with magnesium citrate without any other ingredients added (such as B vitamins etc). It’s best taken between meals for better absorption. Start with 400mg per day for a few weeks and see if it helps. You can go up to 800mg per day but everyone has a different tolerance level. The best gauge that you’ve reached your upper limit is loose bowels/ diarrhoea.

  6. Jade September 25, 2017 at 3:48 am - Reply

    Hello Thank you for your article. I found it very relevant. I have taken blood tests recently that show me deficient in both Vit D and Magnesium. The doctor has prescribed me Vitamin D but I am at a loss as to which Magnesium to take. My main symptoms are anxiety attacks and also pain in my legs including cramps. Can you advise me?

    • Joanna Sochan October 5, 2017 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      Magnesium glycinate is calming and helps with the cramps. Magnesium citrate could also be beneficial for you.

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