Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium

Too Much Magnesium Can Cause Adrenal Fatigue! How to Properly Balance Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium

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Too Much Magnesium Can Cause Adrenal Fatigue! How to Properly Balance 3 of the Main Minerals: Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium

Hair tissue mineral analysis is an amazing tool to use to determine how your body is handling stress, how well your adrenals are working, and where your mineral levels are. Minerals such as magnesium, sodium, and potassium are needed for millions of enzymes as co-factors, inhibitors or even as the enzyme themselves. Enzymes are what keeps our bodies running. When we are low on minerals or if they are imbalanced, our bodies cannot physically function correctly. We look at the whole picture with HTMA- levels, ratios, and the person’s individual symptoms.

In this post though, we are going to go over 3 of the main minerals in HTMA which include: Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium.  Our goal with HTMA is to BALANCE these minerals. These 3 have a very delicate balance, but they are all incredibly important.  Calcium makes up the 4th main mineral but it doesn’t seem to be as hard to balance as the other 3 for most people.

Magnesium is a very big trend in the natural health world, and it has been for several years already. However, it’s yet another example of allopathic natural health. That means that we’re looking at nutrients like drugs and hoping to solve our symptoms by supplementing with nutrients instead of respecting that every body is different and requires different things.  Because of this craze of magnesium supplementation we are seeing a huge increase in adrenal burnout!


How Magnesium Can Cause Adrenal Fatigue

In the mineral balancing world, magnesium lowers sodium, which in turn can mess with the sodium/potassium ratio. From ARL Labs: “Sodium and magnesium tend to be antagonistic. As one goes up the other goes down. The ratio of the two minerals often gives a better picture of adrenal activity than the sodium level alone.”

If both sodium and potassium are low and one takes their dose of mag (whether it be the RDA of 400mg or their body-weight dose of about 800+mg which some people recommend), one can experience both low sodium and low potassium signs. Also, while potassium might not directly be affected by mag, it is very closely related to cortisol on its own and magnesium can lower cortisol. So a very low potassium reading on the HTMA can indicate low cortisol output (roughly), which would indicate an issue with tolerating magnesium.

With HTMA, there are clear indications if someone truly can handle mag or not. About 80% of people in general are slow oxidizers, which means that adrenals are sluggish. Magnesium *decreases* adrenal function, while sodium supports it. Mag *lowers* sodium and further decreases adrenal activity. For some, it can take months and other it takes years to see the negative effect. HTMA is about balancing in the long run, not taking massive doses of any one nutrient. For some reason, overdoing magnesium has been a huge trend in the mineral balancing world for decades.  I truly don’t understand why considering that the HTMA lab clearly states how minerals antagonize each other.

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Balancing Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium: A Delicate Mineral Dance!

Adrenal crashes, severe insomnia, anxiety, low blood pressure, dizziness- these are all of the side effects of too much mag and not enough sodium and potassium. I know it can be frustrating, as there are oodles of articles out there coming out about how magnesium can be a cure-all mineral for so many illnesses. Magnesium is crucial but when we have low sodium and potassium, it can be hard to tolerate any amount of magnesium. This is why the HTMA is important so we can determine your sodium and potassium, as well as the state of your adrenals. The whole point is to get a personalized plan. Healing happens in stages: we cannot fix everything all at once!

The Sodium/Magnesium ratio is the MOST important ratio to look at for adrenal health. In short: Those with OVER-active adrenals need more magnesium, and those with UNDER-active need more sodium (and often cannot tolerate any magnesium!).  Usually with over-active adrenals, one will have high cortisol and high sodium levels- taking magnesium can help balance this. Those with under-active adrenals are more complicated, as they tend to have mixed cortisol and very low sodium- so magnesium *might* help someone if they deal with high nighttime cortisol, but overall they need to focus more on sodium through the day to support the adrenals.

So how much Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium do we need?

Looking at the minerals separately: Magnesium recommended daily amount is about 400mg. Potassium RDA is about 4700mg. Sodium RDA is about 2300mg. These are obviously approximates as the RDA doesn’t always cut it when it comes to info- just using these as a reference. That is a pretty big difference here: 400-4700-2300. So if you are using more than that amount of mag, imagine how much more sodium and potassium you would need to properly balance it. Many are doing 800+mg of magnesium per certain recommendations, and doing maybe 2-3 adrenal cocktails (which have about 500g of potassium and about 500mg of sodium).

Needs for each mineral will vary person to person depending on HTMA results and symptoms, as well as what a person tolerates. A majority of people are not getting nearly enough potassium in their diet. Unless you are focusing on potassium intake, it is extremely hard to get to that almost 5000mg amount!  Usually I suggest going for about 3000 a day just to get used to getting more potassium and that way we slowly introduce it instead of flooding the body with it (especially as potassium can cause copper dumping!). Read my post on potassium here for more info and my giant list of favorite potassium rich foods.

Sodium intake seems to vary person to person. Many people with adrenal fatigue crave salt like crazy. We have the potential to waste up to 30,000mg of sodium a day when adrenals are stressed (and I cannot find the source I had for this as I read it several years ago now- but it is an alarming amount, and mineral balancing agrees at least that sodium is the first mineral that we start burning through like crazy in adrenal fatigue.) I usually have people listen to their body on this: if it tastes good to you, go for it! Eventually your body shouldn’t crave it as much as levels are replenished. Adrenal cocktails, salt water sole, doing sea salt baths, making your own salt capsules, and obviously just salting food are all helpful.

When sodium, potassium, and magnesium are all low it is VERY hard for someone to raise all 3 at once. They all have to be in balance because too much of one can bump another around. It can be easy to determine which one is the lowest when looking at an HTMA though, and that is usually the main one that people need to focus on. I try to tell people to take note of their symptoms: low sodium signs include dizziness, low blood pressure, muscle weakness or a very rapid heartbeat. Low potassium signs include a hard, thumping heartbeat; thirst; insomnia; or muscle cramps. Low magnesium signs include muscle pain/stiffness, headaches, and skipped heartbeats.

My favorite way to use magnesium is topically. It seems to have less of a chance to mess with sodium this way, and I’m seeing people raise levels well with it. There was a study that showed that in only 12 weeks of use, most of the people rose their magnesium levels by almost 60%! Compare that to oral supplementation which can take 9-24 months to raise mag levels. (Source)

You can try mag oil baths or foot baths: try 1-2 ounces mag oil (or ½ cup to 1 cup of flakes), 1 cup of baking soda (for increased mag absorption and to neutralize chlorine in the water); add ½ cup of pink salt if desired so you can get the balance between sodium and magnesium. Soak for 20-40 minutes at least twice a week.

Or you can use magnesium lotion! I love the mag lotion that Earthley offers, but you can also see this recipe to make your own.

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Common Questions I get about Magnesium

“But don’t we burn through magnesium like crazy under stress?” Yes we do. We can also burn through sodium, potassium, zinc, and even copper (technically, stored copper can get pushed out under stress, along with other toxins). Magnesium is not the *only* mineral that has to do with stress!

“Our soils are so depleted of mag, don’t we need high doses?” Yes, our soils are depleted. A Standard American diet is also very devoid of most nutrients. Switching to a whole foods diet can help increase nutrients in your diet (plus healing your gut– we need stomach acid to utilize many nutrients). If you look in nature, you will *never* find any food right now with the whole RDA of magnesium in it. The most you will find is about 150mg in a cup of cooked spinach or an ounce of pumpkin/squash seeds- plus you will be getting SO much more from the food: enzymes, co-factors, more minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, protein, etc.  You can check a list of high magnesium foods here. Also, nettle and oatstraw infusions are very magnesium rich. More is not always better. We need to look at nutrients in a complex, not in isolation, especially when you are trying to heal your body and not just treat symptoms.

“I NEED magnesium for xyz reason. I can’t live without it.” Yes, I believe that. Magnesium supplementation acts like a crutch (sort of like any other isolated nutrient). I’m coming across many people that supplement with magnesium or any other nutrient in isolation for years and their symptoms are managed, but their levels never rise much, or they even drop. Isolated oral magnesium is not the kind that your body utilizes so while you might find symptom relief, it isn’t solving the actual deficiency. As soon as one stops supplementation for a day or 2, their symptoms come right back.



I preach caution with high doses of anything in general, but magnesium is the most common one right now that is creating so many issues for people. In our quest for better health, we see to believe the “more is better” lie. We became ill because our diet was imbalanced to begin with- flooding your body with the full RDA of each nutrient (or more) is not the way to get yourself back in balance. There is a huge difference between treating an illness and healing your body. The more that time goes on, the more I am an advocate for whole food nutrition, nutrient dense foods, and focusing on the body as a whole.

If you want more of an idea on how I do approach healing, you can check out my posts: The Beginner’s Guide to Natural Healing and my ultimate collection of favorite remedies for specific conditions.

Order HTMA for yourself here to get started on your own plan for better health and wellness.


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Welcome to Sassy Holistics! My name is Kristin, and I'm a Holistic Health Coach. I've been on the path to help people achieve better health using whole food nutrition, mineral balancing, and holistic healing principles for almost 7 years now.

The body is a whole and we must treat it as such! I have my Bachelor of Science in Natural Health Sciences, certificates in Herbal Studies from Herbal Academy, and I am constantly learning more about health to help my clients and followers.

My goal is to help you unleash your own inner healer! You already hold the power to heal inside you. My role is as a guide to help you realize this potential.

33 thoughts on “Too Much Magnesium Can Cause Adrenal Fatigue! How to Properly Balance Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium”

  1. I was a hormone positive (ER&PR) breast cancer patient and had a double mastectomy in 2019. My oncologist recommended I take Magnesium Glycinate. Starting with 400 mg at night for 2 weeks and then increasing to 800mg. I have never had blood pressure issues before. Should I stick with 400mg?

  2. Hey Darlene! I don’t personally recommend any isolated, synthetic magnesium. What you need definitely depends on what your personal imbalances are. But you can get 400mg of magnesium easily in food sources like nettle infusions, pumpkin seeds, etc and you’ll get the co-factors needed for absorption.

  3. Are all magnesiums created equal? What is the difference between mag glycinate, mag carbonate, mag biglycinate chealate, and mag oxide?

  4. Those are all synthetic and isolated mags, so I would not recommend ever using them. Magnesium from food is just magnesium (not oxide, glycinate, etc).

  5. I was making kidney stones. I had a kidney full of them. Dr. Recommended magnesium oxide to dissolve stones. I took the magnesium. Stones dissolved. No more lithotripsy. Accidentally, I noticed that the magnesium also helped with my migraines. How do I balance the magnesium now with the sodium and potassium?

  6. Salt is great for sodium, but not for many other nutrients (just trace amounts). You need mag, sodium, and potassium from various sources.

  7. How do I get tested for minerals? No way would my doctor be interested in this!
    I take prescription potassium because I take a diuretic for blood pressure.
    Thank you!!!!

  8. Hi Kristen, I have had my cortisol levels done (by saliva) I have low cortisol all four with a bit of a rise in the am, my aldosterone is low too,I’m on Florinef which led to low k+( 3.7 range 3.5-5.0) I’m on K+ 7,200/day my sodium was low (141 range 135-145) my mag was low (0.81 range 0.64-0.98) I tried Mg many ways over the years (adrenal fatigue with hypothyroidism) in diff. forms ie: Ancient Minerals creme, Bisglycinate capsule always resulting in crashes and recently taking liquid form Cyto-Matrix which resulted in a crash. my main question is if I take supplemental Na by filling capsules with Himalayan Pink salt and take Epsom salts bath (with magnesium flakes) I currently am taking baths with Epsom Salts. I have cramps in my feet calves and straining in my eye( which went away when I was on Mg liquid recently, but came back rapidly when I went off. I do have a Naturopathic Dr. He’s away on vacation till the 23rd of September which I’ve booked an appt. with him but just thought I’d see what you thought. This was a great article and I would love to get more info on balancing minerals. I do not e spect you to give me any medical advice just a question on which type of Mg might work for me that won’t result in me crashing. I hope this is ok to message you sorry about the length but just thought it would be better if you had a big picture. Thank you, Katherine Powers 🙂 I don’t mind how you respond email or this post thank you! 💕

  9. Hey Katherine! Mag in any synthetic form can be an issue, especially for those with struggling adrenals. The best course of action is an HTMA to see where all of your minerals are together. We only recommend food and herbal sources for mag, and for many of our clients they can’t even tolerate much mag even in food if they’ve been supplementing for a long time. It takes time to rebuild the adrenals from using too much mag. The key with minerals is balance and HTMA is the best way to determine this (blood and saliva tests only show you that exact moment in time, whereas HTMA shows about 3 months of time- so it gives a better idea on how your body is actually using the minerals). I hope that helps a bit! You can read more about HTMA here:

  10. Kristin, thank you!! I have an appointment on September 23rd with my Naturopathic Doctor I’ll mention see what he thinks.

  11. Hi Kristin, you didn’t mention Epsom salts, is it something wrong with using Epsom salt instead of flakes?

  12. Thank you — I had worked some of it out already, as the pressure points of the adrenals are very tender and I have pain under the ribcage on the left side — so was desperate when I entered the following search: “low sodium affected by cortisol and potassium balance?” (I have low sodium levels). But I did not think mag was the culprit, which it is! Thank you for your e-book — with immense gratitude from an old gal in South Africa, living up in the hills on my own. God bless you always!

  13. Wow, Marlene! So glad you found the post to help confirm what you suspected. That is SO common. I hope you start feeling better soon 🙂

  14. Your info on sodium-potassium-magnesium ratio is so important! After starting a magnesium heavy protocol in late 2020, I experienced adrenal fatigue by fall 2021 (had been teetering on the edge for a while I think). Horrific anxiety and insomnia emerged. I found your blog in Jan 2022 and realized I was low in the other two and stopped mag entirely. A year (!) later, I finally started climbing out of the depths. I have been tolerating occasional mag spray and Epsom baths, so I tested 15mg of internal mag for 4 days and wowww, it’s as if I was swept right back to the anxiety hell I was in before! Needless to say, not ready for mag. It’s reconfirmed for me what I learned back then and reminded me of the importance of sodium and potassium in adrenal healing lol. I am hoping that my body will rebalance with some more sodium and potassium over the next several days (the anxiety is telling me I’ve damned myself back to adrenal fatigue, of course lol). I am just so thankful that I know better than to blindly mess with mineral ratios now. I’m curious if, after a failed mag attempt, it would be prudent to focus more on both sodium and potassium or one over the other? What have you seen in your clinical experience? Thanks again SO MUCH for this important info.

  15. Hey Sammi! I’m so glad that you found the article and you were able to figure things out then. I hear this story way too often unfortunately. For most, sodium is usually the bigger one to focus on after mag overload as it lowers sodium directly. Definitely test out more sodium first, and then more potassium and see what your body responds better to.

  16. Is this the same as homeopathic cell salt, mag phos? Curious if that’s also considered synthetic?

  17. No, homeopathy is completely different. Cell salts help the body to absorb minerals better but they aren’t adding them in with significant amounts.

  18. Lindsay Rechnitz

    I started taking Magnesium Threonate to help with sleep last July (2022) by January 2023 I felt terrible. My doctor thought it was my thyroid medication, my TSH number did in fact rise, but even after an adjustment and my TSH got better, I still felt terrible. My brain felt as if it was a big black hole, my memory was terrible, had zero drive, I felt like I lost the ability to do tasks. Recently, I started an Adrenal supplement and I felt as if I were back to my old self. My endocrinologist told me that I couldn’t take it and ran a cortisol and acth test. I was low on both, but still within normal range. From this article, I’m guessing that Magnesium has a negative effect on me with lower functioning adrenals. I stopped taking it in May. I tried taking it back in September just to see and the next day the black hole in my brain felt even worse. I’m glad I found this article!

  19. I am so sorry to hear about your experience! Thank you for sharing though- it’s so important to let people know that this is NOT something that should be taken with no real need. Synthetics create so much stress for so many people.

  20. I’m in menopause, I tried hrt but I got a lot of side effects from it ( swelling, water retention, muscles pain, stiffness, anxiety, dry eyes etc… I stopped hrt after being on it for 3.5 months. Now I’m 11 weeks of hrt, and my body is completely mess. Water retention is painful, muscles spasm and pain, stomach issues, bloating, reflux, anxiety, tinnitus etc . I never was in such a bad shape. I’m 46 I was very active, healthy lifestyle. I know I’m not getting enough nutritions, but I can’t eat a lot because of the stomach. My anxiety is running for 6 months now. I hope the body will get better. Doc just wanted to prescribe medications I don’t want to take it.its not solving anything just covering symptoms.

  21. Hi There!
    This is so interesting I was recently diagnosed with bilateral adrenal adenomas, high cortisol and high aldosterone. I also have slightly above magnesium levels. I have struggled with insomnia and notice the days or few days after starting magnesium bisglycinate my insomnia becomes untouchable even with medication for sleep. Do you think it’s possible I can’t tolerate it as my levels are slightly above normal already? Any info would help my life has been horrible for 5 mths and I am getting nowhere in the healthcare system in Canada. I’m a total loss and feeling hopeless my symptoms are debilitating. I go on and off the magnesium but wondering if it could be making things worse sometimes.

  22. Hey Maggie! I’m sorry to hear about what you’re dealing with. That is unfortunately common with magnesium- it can really be an issue for many people. Synthetic, isolated supplements tend to cause more problems than they solve. The mag blood test may or may not be the issue- if it’s only magnesium serum being tested then it’s not an accurate view on things (RBC can be more accurate, but honestly I trust HTMA the most for a full look at mineral levels). Have you tried increasing sodium and/or potassium at all?

  23. That’s interesting so would you say people with adrenal masses and insomnia should steer clear as it could make your sleep worse? Have you ever heard of that happening? I’m not sure what to do my blood levels of sodium and potassium seemed normal? I’ve had so many tests. The RBC explain that to me more? They have run that quite a bit on me but I don’t know how to interpret it. And HTMA what is that? I might have had that done I’m not sure!

  24. Yes I do see that often because isolated nutrients bump other nutrients around. Magnesium lowers sodium, which can stress the adrenals, which can lead to poor sleep. Blood work is not the best way to determine mineral levels because it’s usually looking at the serum, not the cell. You can get magnesium and potassium RBC blood testing done for better views. HTMA is hair mineral analysis, which is also looking at the cellular levels of minerals. Since minerals don’t work alone, HTMA is often the most accurate and least invasive way to test for mineral levels.

  25. Very interesting so how would you naturally say through diet get more sodium and potassium? Thanks so much for this info it’s incredibly helpful.

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