Itchy Crawly Skin

Post image for Food as Medicine: Magnesium for Anxiety & Panic Attacks in Perimenopause

In researching Vitamin D and magnesium benefits for my first post in the “Food as Medicine series, I was very intrigued by a statement I had read about magnesium at

“Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body……..A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient”

How is it, I wondered, that in Western society where we likely waste more food than most countries can grow in a year, we could be so deficient in such a vital mineral? Yet, according to Dr. Mark Sirkus at, we are.

Magnesium is Called the Relaxation Mineral

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, “anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff – whether it is a body part or even a mood – is a sign of magnesium deficiency.”  Magnesium is the critical mineral which enables our cells to make energy, stabilize membranes, and for our muscles to relax.

Magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found throughout our body, but primarily in our bones, muscles, and brain.  Without adequate magnesium in our bodies, we can suffer not only from the long list of symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency, but in extreme cases, we could also suffer from life threatening seizures in the body and even heart failure.

What are Some Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency?

I listed some of the symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency in my first post.  However, for reference I will list them again here:

  • Leg cramp
  • Twitches
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • PMS
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches (Migraines)
  • Mental Fog
  • Confusion
  • Itchy Skin
  • Fibromyalgia
  • IBS

I should point out, this is not an exhaustive list.  However, I chose several which I thought were significant and important for women in perimenopause. That is because every last one of these symptoms of magnesium deficiency are also symptoms of perimenopause!

I am not suggesting that all of these symptoms are now solely due to a magnesium deficiency. I have written abundantly here at the Perimenopause Blog on the subject of estrogen dominance, and how it is the culprit for many symptoms of perimenopause. Including many of these listed here.

What I am suggesting is that for women in perimenopause who are seeking non-hormonal solutions for symptoms of perimenopause, knowing that a magnesium deficiency could be a very real part of the problem is a significant revelation.

Anxiety-wordsTwo symptoms, anxiety and panic attacks in perimenopause, are very serious and distressing symptoms for many women suffering from hormone imbalance.  Myself included.

And while I’m a strong proponent of seeking to balance one’s hormones during perimenopause to help treat and manage the symptoms.  I’m an equally strong proponent of understanding necessary and important dietary changes which can help as well.

If a magnesium deficiency is a contributing factor to anxiety and panic attacks in perimenopause, then improving and changing our diet is a significant and easy change we can make to treat and manage the symptoms as well!

What are the Causes of Magnesium Deficiency?

It shouldn’t be surprising to know that the basic cause of magnesium deficiency in Western society is a crappy diet, which depletes and drains our bodies of much needed minerals and nutrients. I love America as much as the next patriot, but generally speaking, the average American doesn’t eat well.

Consider this:

  • A diet high in saturated fat (think fast food and processed foods) reduces magnesium absorption in the intestines
  • High sugar in-take (again, fast food, processed foods) increases excretion of magnesium by the kidneys
  • Phosphates found in carbonated beverages bind magnesium and render it unusable by our body

I also read an excellent article written in 2013, by Dr. Ronald Hoffman, at his site called “Intelligent Medicine” on the subject of panic attacks and anxiety (you can also read and download the PDF Here), where he states that people who suffer with panic and anxiety attacks often have high levels of cortisol and adrenaline in their bodies.

Real exhausted businesswoman in her office

This is significant for women in perimenopause who also often suffer from adrenal fatigue.  Adrenal fatigue causes high levels of cortisol and adrenaline to be present in the body, and both cortisol and adrenaline deplete the body of magnesium.

Another interesting fact which I ran across is that the popular Gluten-free diet which many of us swear by, can be a source of magnesium defieiciency as well.  That is because wheat bran is one of the highest forms of magnesium available to us.  If we are not eating any wheat at all, we could be magnesium deficient as a result.

I am very aware that many people simply cannot eat wheat under any circumstances because of a very real health condition called Celiac disease.  So, I’m not suggesting that we all run out and start eating wheat now.  I’m merely pointing out that those who follow a strict gluten-free diet will need to be deliberate in seeking other sources of magnesium.

And I hate to say this, because nobody loves their coffee and red wine more than me.  But, both caffeine and alcohol can rob and deplete the body of magnesium as well.  Which is not to say you should give it up entirely – God knows, I won’t be doing that.  But, it’s certainly a good case for moderation, especially if you are already struggling with adrenal fatigue issues.  Excessive caffeine and alcohol exacerbate adrenal fatigue in the worst way.

Foods Rich in Magnesium

I think most of us agree that the best way to increase magnesium in our bodies is to eat foods which are rich and high in the mineral, and there are many, many foods which can be adequate sources of magnesium.

  • Dark, leafy greens such as Kale, Collard Greens, and Spinach.  If you are a green smoothie lover like I am, there is nothing easier than throwing a handful of any of these greens into a smoothie in the morning or at anytime during the day.
  • Nuts & Seeds – I stated in my first post that 1/2 cup of raw pumpkin seeds can provide 100% of your daily requirements of magnesium.  And what’s easier? You can throw them on pretty much anything you eat, or simply grab a handful as a snack any time during the day and you’re good to go!
  • Fish – Fortunately for me I simply love fish.  So, here is another easy and tasty way to incorporate magnesium into your diet.  Salmon, Halibut and Mackerel are excellent sources.  But, good old fashioned canned tuna will do as well!
  • Legumes – Again, some of my favorite comfort foods are beans.  If you love beans as well, black beans, red beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils are excellent sources of magnesium
  • Avocado – Seriously?  Does it get any better than this?  AVOCADO FOR MAGNESIUM???  15% of the recommended daily needs of magnesium can be found in this luscious, mouth watering fruit.
  • Fruit – Here’s one that just can’t get any easier.  Bananas, strawberries, grapefruit, and even figs.  Figs might be considered a little exotic for some.  But, as one who grew up in the South where fig trees were abundant everywhere, I simply love them.  And now I have even more reason to love them – magnesium.
  • Brown Rice – I’m from Louisiana.  Red beans & Rice is a staple among the locals.  It is also extraordinarily delicious, EASY to fix, and well, now, brown rice coupled with another good source of magnesium – legumes – gives you a complete meal that is high in magnesium.  What’s not to love here?
  • Dark Chocolate – Enough said.  Really.  Except make sure that your dark chocolate has at least 75% dark cocoa and you’re in magnesium heaven.

Do you have any other sources of magnesium you would like to share with The Perimenopause Blog?  Please do! And remember to join us at Facebook!


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