4 ways magnesium can kick in when stress levels are high

Magnesium-rich foods

Plus, how you can get magnesium from food and choose the cleanest supplements when your "magnesium burn rate" is high 

Did you know there's a natural way to ease mild stress and the cascade of physiological responses it triggers in the brain and body? 

It's magnesium — a mineral that fits right into the self-care toolbox for folks who want to go the holistic route, and potentially feel a difference right away.*

Here are some highlights on how adequate magnesium intake can help with a mood boost and peace of mind, according to scientific studies:

  1. Stress and mild anxiety: Magnesium plays a vital role in regulating the body's stress response. Chronic physical or mental stress depletes your magnesium stores, and low magnesium levels magnify stress — creating a vicious cycle (more on this below). Magnesium modulates the body's stress-response system, and studies suggest increasing magnesium intake may ease mild anxiety and stress.*
  2. Mood and mild depression: Magnesium is essential for many of the pathways, enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation. Depletion of magnesium is also associated with inflammation, known to contribute to depression symptoms.
  3. Sleep: Magnesium interacts with GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces neurons' activity in the brain, quieting and calming the nervous system and encouraging restful sleep. It also impacts melatonin, the hormone that influences sleep-wake cycles, and relaxes muscles to induce a deeper sleep. Studies suggest magnesium boosts total sleep time and quality and helps folks fall asleep faster.
  4. Evening leg cramps and period symptoms: Magnesium helps relax muscles and eases mild leg cramps by reducing c-reactive protein and other inflammation markers, contributing to better rest.* Plus, magnesium eases mild premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and period cramps by relaxing the smooth muscle of the uterus and by reducing the prostaglandins that cause inflammation and uncomfortable periods*

But there's so much more to magnesium

Magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium is arguably the most important mineral in achieving overall optimal health.*

Depending on which studies you read, magnesium is responsible for 300 to 800 enzyme-driven processes in the body. Yet, at least 48% of the U.S. population gets less than the recommended daily amount of this critical mineral.

Does it matter if we're a bit deficient in magnesium? In 1968, scientists Wacker and Parisi reported that magnesium deficiency could cause depression, behavioral disturbances, headaches, muscle cramps, seizures, ataxia, psychosis, and irritability. And they claimed these conditions were all reversible with magnesium repletion.*

Further, studies show magnesium deficiency is at the center of common modern health issues due to its central role in activating 3,751 proteins, and thousands of enzyme processes.* This enlightening discovery was made by Morley Robbins, founder of the magnesium-driven Root Cause Protocol. 

Many of these processes are nervous system-related, which is why magnesium plays a crucial role in physiological and pathological function. 

Here are more studied ways magnesium works in the body: 

  • It facilitates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a busy molecule that provides energy.*
  • It supports brain function.*
  • It potentially eases mild headaches.*
  • It contributes to proper nerve function.*
  • It supports cardiovascular health and circulation.*
  • It helps to maintain optimal digestion.*
  • It supports elimination and helps the body digest and break down food for energy.*
  • It supports blood sugar regulation and, therefore, may ease mild inflammation.*
  • It supports healthy cell function, cellular repair and antioxidant status.*

Now that we understand magnesium's undeniable importance and its role in supporting a positive mood, let's look where you can get magnesium. 

Foods high in magnesium 

In general, foods containing dietary fiber contain magnesium. Check out the list below for your favorite nutritional sources of magnesium (RDA means recommended daily allowance).  

  • Pumpkin seeds: 46% of the RDA in a quarter cup (16 grams)
  • Spinach, lightly steamed: 39% of the RDA in a cup (180 grams)
  • Swiss chard, lightly steamed: 38% of the RDA in a cup (175 grams)
  • Dark chocolate (80% cocoa or higher): 33% of the RDA in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Black beans: 30% of the RDA in a cup (172 grams)
  • Quinoa, cooked: 33% of the RDA in a cup (185 grams)
  • Halibut: 27% of the RDA in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Almonds: 25% of the RDA in a quarter cup (24 grams)
  • Cashews: 25% of the RDA in a quarter cup (30 grams)
  • Mackerel: 19% of the RDA in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
  • Avocado: 15% of the RDA in one medium avocado (200 grams)
  • Salmon: 9% of the RDA in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)

And here are the top magnesium-rich foods Morley Robbins recommends:

  • Seafood: especially kelp and oysters.
  • Whole grains: especially buckwheat, millet and wild rice.
  • Leafy greens: especially collards, beet greens, mustard greens, spinach and kale.  
  • Nuts and seeds: especially cashews, almonds, pistachios and pumpkin seeds.
  • And everyone's favorite, chocolate! But only unprocessed, naturally-sweetened dark chocolate with a high cacao content of 80% or more. Go for 100% cacao if you can. 

Please take note, many commercially-available grains are processed in ways that remove the nutrient-rich germ and bran, lowering magnesium content substantially. 

The magnesium burn rate: Why it's tough to retain optimal magnesium levels 

As noted above, nuts, leafy greens, beans, seeds, avocado (and, yes, unprocessed dark chocolate!) are high in this mineral. But your diet may be limited. And even when we eat these magnesium-rich foods, they still can fall short. 

Due to a depletion of soil minerals, many foods do not deliver the nutrients they once did.

Further, our bodies don't manufacture magnesium, but we need it for virtually every system to work smoothly. 

Factors contributing to low magnesium retention include:

  • Age (the older you are, the less you retain),
  • Stress,
  • Exposure to aluminum,
  • And excretion of magnesium through urine and sweat glands.

Morley Robbins calls this the "magnesium burn rate." Just like every person has unique health circumstances and needs, people burn magnesium at different rates, too.

Says Morley:

"First, please know that stress consumes magnesium — it's how we're wired as a species. The more stress you're under, the more magnesium your body burns. … (the magnesium burn rate) is the metabolic price we pay for all that pressure and tension we feel.

Take an inventory of the dimensions of stress… Food allergies, dependence on processed food, exposure to heavy metals, use of Rx drugs, and the granddaddy of them all — mental and emotional stress, to name but a few of the stressors that deplete our magnesium stores. Take whatever steps you can to mitigate these issues to shore up these magnesium leaks.

And when you know your stress/magnesium burn rate is increasing, know that your body will be craving more magnesium."

In short, the mineral that your body eats up the quickest when you're stressed is precisely the mineral that can ease said stress, as we touched on above. 

The current recommended daily allowance for adults is between 320 and 420 mg daily. But even this is contingent on a person's unique biological needs and health history. 

Depending on your magnesium burn rate, i.e., the factors in your life that cause your body to use all of its available magnesium, you may require more. 

All of these reasons point to why many folks opt for magnesium supplementation in addition to their healthy diets. You can determine your ideal amount by working with a qualified healthcare practitioner familiar with gut health. 

How to get even more magnesium 

True to Smidge® philosophy, the first and best route is to get more magnesium from fresh, whole foods (see above for examples of magnesium-rich foods). 

Again, because of mineral depletion in the soil and modern food processing methods, it's nearly impossible to get enough magnesium from food alone, so supplementation is often necessary. 

The quickest way is by taking a quality, bioavailable magnesium supplement every day.

In addition, you can:

  • Use high-quality mineral drops in your water once a day, or add a smidge of sea salt to each glass of water you drink.
  • Take Epsom salt baths as necessary.
  • Drink mineral water. 
  • And/or find a natural magnesium oil and use it topically, such as rubbing it into the bottoms of your feet or taking a relaxing, warm foot bath. 

But how to find the right magnesium supplement? 

Once you start looking into magnesium supplementation, you'll discover there are nearly a dozen different forms. Magnesium is an ion that binds with a variety of other minerals and molecules to create salts or chelates; and this is why there are so many forms.

Most commercial magnesium supplements offer only one kind of magnesium, so that's what most folks choose. But when they try to take larger doses, having only one form of magnesium can cause digestive discomfort, like loose bowels.

Our customers shared that they wanted to avoid these digestive side effects and requested a clean formula with multiple magnesium forms. So we created two products that work in synergy, which offer unique benefits and deliver five types of premium magnesium throughout the day and night:

Smidge® Morning Magnesium

Morning Magnesium: A balanced formula that includes three naturally-derived forms: malate, orotate and taurinate. It helps enrich your body with the magnesium it needs, while providing that boost of energy you crave from coffee. Then, we added a smidge of the mineral boron, which helps your body absorb all that magnesium goodness and supports strong bones.* 

Smidge® Evening Magnesium

Evening Magnesium: A gentle, calming supplement made with a premium form of magnesium called glycinate complex. All-natural and easily absorbed, Evening Magnesium helps you relax, sleep and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed — not groggy and foggy-headed, like with commercial sleep aids.*  

Of course, our pure magnesium formulas are made in small batches from fresh ingredients and are free of common allergens. They have absolutely no fillers, synthetic additives or preservatives.

Taking these two Smidge® blends is unique because each has different benefits; one is suited for the morning and the other for the evening. (We didn't want to combine the types of magnesium into one, because it would be like taking an upper and a downer simultaneously.) In all, having the two products as companions supports your wake and sleep cycle, and offers magnesium's other benefits while you move throughout your day and while you rest. 

No irritating magnesium citrate 

Importantly, we left out magnesium citrate.

Magnesium citrate is a magnesium preparation in salt form using citric acid, and it's in many commercial magnesium supplements. Magnesium citrate can irritate the bowels. Long-term use of magnesium citrate can cause chronic health issues because it may erode the intestinal lining. It also throws minerals off balance by draining the enzyme function of ceruloplasmin protein (ferroxidase), and in turn, depleting the body's copper stores. (According to the Root Cause Protocol, the cause of inflammation and oxidative stress is cellular dysfunction caused by an imbalance of magnesium, copper and iron.*)

Why does magnesium citrate irritate sensitive digestive systems? Well, citric acid is used in cleaning agents and disinfectants to kill an array of microbes, including bacteria. It's also one of the most commonly used food additives, present in nearly all processed foods found in supermarkets today. Not exactly something we need to be putting in our gut or regularly ingesting if we want to protect the beneficial bacteria in our digestive system.

Not to worry, magnesium citrate is nowhere to be found in Smidge® magnesium supplements. 


  - This blog post was written by Smidge® co-founder Dan Corrigan. Dan is trained in several dietary protocols and natural health disciplines. Our blog was reviewed by Karen Myers, Smidge® co-founder and Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Learn more about Dan and Karen here! 

*Please note, natural remedies like magnesium aren't a replacement for medical diagnosis and treatment. Read our disclaimer for more information.