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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.
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.
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.
Need more reading?
- Adrenaladvice.com: “If you are unfortunate enough to get to the exhaustion stage ……too much magnesium can cause you to crash since it lowers sodium.”
- ARL Labs: Sodium and the Adrenals
- ARL other mineral articles
- Nutrient interactions: what happens when you take one nutrient on its own and the other nutrients it can lower/raise
- Get my FREE guide on how to balance the 4 main minerals here!
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?
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.
Are all magnesiums created equal? What is the difference between mag glycinate, mag carbonate, mag biglycinate chealate, and mag oxide?
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).
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?
Hey Kerry! I’m glad you found something to help with the kidney stones so well. Some nutrients can definitely be helpful in isolation when used like a drug (for a specific purpose) but it’s definitely the long term use that can create even more imbalances. I have my main post on potassium rich foods here, and you can check out info on sodium here.
Is something like celtic or redmonds salt enough to keep these minerals in balance?
Salt is great for sodium, but not for many other nutrients (just trace amounts). You need mag, sodium, and potassium from various sources.
Is cream of tartar an acceptable source of potassium?
It’s ok but it’s not ideal. Real food and herb sources are best.
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.
Hey Lynn! We offer the HTMA test which tests for minerals. This page shows everything that is tested with HTMA and what we offer: https://www.sassyholistics.com/all-services/
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! 💕
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: https://www.sassyholistics.com/all-services/
Kristin, thank you!! I have an appointment on September 23rd with my Naturopathic Doctor I’ll mention see what he thinks.
Hi Kristin, you didn’t mention Epsom salts, is it something wrong with using Epsom salt instead of flakes?
In our experience with clients, Epsom salts are good for detox and symptom relief but they aren’t great for raising mag levels.