- Taylor Leahy - Dietitian
Dysautonomia and Magnesium
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and is involved in many cellular processes. It’s involved in biochemical reactions including protein synthesis, blood glucose control, blood pressure, and it’s also involved in energy production. Magnesium is also needed for calcium and potassium transport across cell and nerve membranes, and this process is needed for the proper functioning of nerves, muscles, and the heart1.
Since magnesium plays such a large role in heart muscle health, it is no surprise that a magnesium deficiency can cause heart issues, muscle weakness, cramps, seizures and coronary spasms. Mitral valve prolapse, a symptom of magnesium deficiency has also been associated with dysautonomia. It has been suggested that a magnesium deficiency (as well as other vitamin deficiencies) can cause dysautonomia and associated symptoms due to the crucial roles vitamins play in the functioning of the autonomic nervous system2.
There are many food sources of magnesium, including green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, whole grains, and nuts. Some foods are fortified in magnesium such as breakfast cereals however, refined grains tend to have lower levels of magnesium due to the refining process. Tap water and bottled water also contain small amounts of magnesium1.
Another way to get your daily dose of magnesium is through supplements -- some daily multivitamins contain magnesium and there are many types of magnesium supplements on the market. Be cautious though, there are different varieties of magnesium which each play a unique role in our body, so make sure you are picking the right one for you. For instance, some magnesium supplements are primarily used to treat constipation such as magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate, while magnesium chloride and magnesium lactate are used to replenish low levels of magnesium4. When choosing a supplement, check the label to make sure you are taking the right dose. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for magnesium is around 320 mg for women, and 420 mg for men1.
Magnesium toxicity is rare although if you have kidney disease or ingest large amounts of the mineral, toxicity may be possible. Symptoms of a magnesium toxicity include muscle weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and irregular breathing4.
Magnesium status is difficult to assess since much of our bodily magnesium is located in our cells and bones. Blood tests for magnesium concentrations are often inaccurate as blood magnesium is not associated with total body magnesium. It is possible to measure magnesium in saliva, erythrocytes or urine. Conducting a “magnesium loading” test is another option although unfortunately none of these methods are 100% accurate1.
Recipes with Magnesium:
Almond Crusted Chicken
Recipe from MyRecipes
Almonds have the highest amount of magnesium compared to any other food (they contain 80 mg/1 oz1). Not only are almonds high in magnesium but they are also high in beneficial fatty acids. Almonds can be used in a variety of dishes, or can be a great snack for busy individuals. This recipe uses almonds in a unique way -- as a crust for fried chicken. If you’d like a healthier alternative to frying, you can also bake the chicken in this recipe after it’s been breaded or put it in your air fryer.
2 boned, skinless chicken breast halves
½ tsp salt
2 tsp soy sauce
5 tbsp cornstarch, divided
2 tbsp water
½ tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
Canola oil for frying
2 ½ cups sliced almonds
1. Trim fat from chicken breasts and cut each into strips. Pound chicken strips with mallet between 2 sheets of plastic wrap until they are ¼ to ½ inch thick.
2. In a bowl, combine salt, soy sauce, 2 tbsp cornstarch, and 2 tbsp water. Add chicken to mixture and stir to coat. Remove chicken, add eggs and remaining cornstarch to bowl. Add chicken again, stir to coat.
3. In a large frying pan, heat ½ inch canola oil over medium high heat. While oil is heating, press breaded chicken into sliced almonds until evenly coated.
4. Fry chicken in oil until browned, around 4-8 minutes total. Drain on paper towel and serve.
Spinach Kale Pesto
Recipe by Bon Appetit
Leafy greens are considered to be high in magnesium, specifically spinach, which has the highest magnesium content of any vegetable (78 mg/ ½ cup1). Spinach can be a sneaky way to get in your magnesium content for the day due to its mild flavor. Add spinach to your daily smoothie or boil it down and toss it in with your pasta dishes. In this case, we’re using it as a sauce in this colorful spinach kale pesto.
1 bunch of kale, ribs and stems removed
1 cup spinach
1/3 cup raw pistachios
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more if needed
1 clove garlic
1 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1. Bring large pot of salt water to a boil. Add kale and boil until bright green and wilted, around 30 seconds.
2. In food processor or blender, blend together nuts, oil, garlic, and 1/3 cup water. Add boiled kale and Parmesan, blend until smooth.
3. Transfer pesto to bowl, use as a sauce for noodles, salad, or as a dip for bread.
Crunchy Cashew Sesame Bars
Recipe by Epicurious
Cashews contain the second highest levels of magnesium (74 mg/1 oz1) in the nut family. Cashews make a great topping for smoothie bowls or even chicken curry. For this dish they are incorporated into crunchy breakfast bars that can be eaten as a snack or even as a quick breakfast.
1 ½ cup cashews
8 tbsp raw sesame seeds, divided
6 tbsp flaxseed, divided
¼ cup wheat bran
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil
1. Toast the cashews, sesame seeds and flaxseeds on a baking sheet in a 350 oven for around 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Stir frequently but do not mix ingredients together.
2. In a food processor or blender, blend together cashews, 6 tbsp sesame seeds, flaxseeds, wheat bran, salt, and cardamom. Set aside remaining sesame seeds. Dump mixture in medium bowl.
3. Bring maple syrup and coconut oil to a boil in a medium saucepan, cooking for 1 minute.
4. Pour maple syrup mixture over nut mixture and stir until evenly coated
5. Press combined mixture into 8x8 pre-greased pan, use wet hands to do this because mixture will be sticky.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, let cool and then cut into bars.
Recipe from basically
This recipe packs a magnesium powered punch – combining lentils (1 mg/1 cup3), kale, and almonds (80 mg/1oz1) into one flavor filled recipe. This salad is not only magnesium dense but also nutritiously dense in general, as kale provides folate, vitamin K, and many other vitamins. Lentils are also a good source of folate!
1 large bunch kale
½ cup raw almonds
4 garlic cloves
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cup black beluga or French green lentils
1 tbsp cumin seeds
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
5 oz feta cheese
1 cup Caselvetrano olives
1. Strip leaves off of kale stems and chop into 1/4” width strips. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt. Massage kale until it is soft and dark, around 1-2 minutes.
2. Prepare a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.
3. Coarsely chop ½ cup raw almonds, set aside. Trim 3 scallions and separate white and green parts (save the green parts for later) transfer the white part of the scallion to a small skillet. Add peeled and chopped garlic to the skillet, and add a 3” strip of lemon peel, saving the rest for the dressing. Add ½ cup virgin olive oil to the skillet.
4. Add your lentils to the boiling water. Simmer lentils on medium heat until al dente, around 25-30 minutes.
5. While lentils cook, heat the skillet with the scallion mixture over medium heat. Once garlic starts to brown, add almonds, stirring frequently until almonds are almost browned, around 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 tbsp cumin seeds and ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes.
6. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl. Reserve oil for dressing and spread almond mixture onto paper towel to dry.
7. Crumble 5 oz feta into a bowl with kale. Add chopped olives, reserved green scallions, juice from lemon and ½ tsp salt.
8. Drain lentils and add to kale mixture. Add infused oil and nuts, toss to combine. Serve, garnish with extra feta and any remaining scallions.
Crispy Parmesan Garlic Edamame
Recipe from Homemade Hooplah
You may have heard of edamame, or may have enjoyed it at your favorite Japanese restaurant, but edamame makes a great at home snack too! Edamame is very magnesium dense (50 mg/ ½ cup) and is a good source of protein. Enjoy these Parmesan garlic edamame as a snack, use as a side with a larger meal, or add them to a salad.
2 cups raw edamame
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
1. Pre-heat oven to 400.
2. In a medium bowl, add Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix together.
3. In another bowl, add edamame and toss with olive oil.
4. Add spice mixture to edamame and toss to coat.
5. Spread evenly across a baking sheet (to help with nonstick use parchment paper over cookie sheet if desired)
6. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until cheese is golden brown. Let cool and serve.
Office of Dietary Supplements—Magnesium. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
Lonsdale, D. (2009). Dysautonomia, A Heuristic Approach to a Revised Model for Etiology of Disease. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, 6(1), 3–10. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nem064
Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt Nutrition Facts & Calories. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4338/2
10 Interesting Types of Magnesium (and What to Use Each For). (2019, November 21). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-types