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Is magnesium helpful when treating anxiety?

Is magnesium helpful when treating anxiety?

Magnesium plays an essential role in over 300 enzyme reactions in our bodies including blood sugar regulation, bone health, immune health, Vitamin D metabolism, hormone production, cognition and sleep.   Magnesium is also essential for our nervous system and depleted magnesium levels are directly associated with anxiety and other mood disorders.    

There is an abundance of studies demonstrating the benefits of magnesium supplementation for the treatment of anxiety. For example, a 2017 systematic review evaluated 18 clinical trials all of which found magnesium reduced anxiety.  These studies looked at mild anxiety, anxiety during premenstrual syndrome, postpartum anxiety, and generalized anxiety(1).

Research also demonstrates that magnesium plays an important role in the production and regulation of neurotransmitters such as cortisol, melatonin and serotonin.   

Furthermore, during times of stress and poor sleep magnesium is rapidly utilised while the demand for magnesium increases. 

So it is clear that magnesium is most definitely helpful when treating anxiety.  

Which foods are rich in Magnesium?

Foods rich in magnesium include:

·      Leafy greens - spinach, broccoli, bok choy, kale and brussel sprouts. 

·      Nuts and seeds -  almonds, cashew nuts, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds

·      Grains - brown rice, rolled or steel-cut oats, barley and buckwheat 

·      Lentils and legumes 

·      Fish – mackerel, salmon and halibut

·      Avocados

·      Organic dark organic chocolate (minimum 70% cacao), raw cacao powder and cacao nibs.  


Which magnesium supplement is best for anxiety?

If you can’t get your daily requirement of magnesium from food then a supplement is a good idea.   It is especially useful if you are already deficient in magnesium to restore optimal levels.  There are several different forms of magnesium and some work better than others.  

Magnesium glycinate – a well-absorbed, gentle form of magnesium that is usually delivered as a powder taken in water.   Best taken before bed it is wonderful at promoting a good night's sleep.   Research supports its use for anxiety and also insomnia, stress and depression.  This type of magnesium is mostly found in practitioner products and some good quality over-the-counter products from pharmacies and health food stores.   

Magnesium citrate – also a well-absorbed form of magnesium.  A good all-rounder and my choice if there is anxiety, constipation and fussy eating.   Delivered as a powder or capsule and mostly found in practitioner products. 

Magnesium Orotate  - is a reasonably well-absorbed form of magnesium.  Studies support its use for anxiety, sleep and cardiovascular health.    It plays an essential role in heart health and regulating heart rhythm. 

Magnesium chloride – this form is used in topical magnesium products such as bath salts, oils and creams.   Topical magnesium is absorbed directly into the muscle and is great for conditions such as restless legs but might not be a sufficient therapeutic dose for anxiety.  However, if you are struggling to get your child to take a magnesium topical magnesium is the next best thing.  Some will be absorbed into the blood via the skin, but at a lower dose than an oral supplement. 


Which magnesium to avoid? 

Magnesium oxide is not well absorbed by our digestive system and is very stimulating on the bowels.  It can be used to treat chronic constipation, bowel impaction and encopresis.  Please note it is very strong and works like an enema to clear the bowel.  This can be a little traumatic for children and may also deplete valuable microbiome.  It is not my preferred choice of magnesium.  If you or your child have chronic constipation there are much more gentle ways to treat it.   This cheaper form of magnesium is often found in supermarket brand supplements or over-the-counter products in chemists.  

Magnesium sulphate, also known as Epsom salt doesn’t generally support magnesium absorption but will help with detoxification.   Epsom salt baths can be very calming and beneficial for promoting detoxification and relaxation but they will not address magnesium deficiency.     

Magnesium lactate. Often used as a food additive or cheaper supplements.  Also known as E329 when added to foods and drinks.  This form of magnesium is very very stimulating on the bowels and should be avoided.   

You also want to avoid any vitamin gummies that are promoted as magnesium supplements.  The gums, chemicals and artificial sweeteners added to gummy vitamins can be detrimental to your gut health.  Also, they tend to be a very low dose, not a therapeutic dose like practitioner products,  therefore they won't have a positive impact on magnesium levels.  


How do you know if you have a magnesium deficiency? 

It is important to remember supplements only work if you have a deficiency.   At Elemental Health we can test your vitamin and mineral levels, including magnesium, with a non-invasive scan.   The scan assesses the nutrient levels in your tissue which allows us to then advise which foods and supplements will be beneficial for you.  


If you or your children have anxiety taking a magnesium supplement and increasing magnesium in your diet can be beneficial not only for your anxiety but for your overall health and well-being. 

If you need support with your health and wellbeing  book an appointment with a naturopathat Elemental Health.  If you have any questions or would like to understand how we can help you with your health goals book a free Discovery call.   Alternately you can call our reception during business hours on (02) 8084 0081.


(1)   Boyle NB, et. al. (2017). The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress – A systematic review. DOI: 10.3390/nu9050429

Posted on 8 February 2023
Author:Jean Jarrett
Tags:Children's healthFood as medicineStress managementanxiety

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