One of the most common nutrient deficiencies I see in client's diets is that of magnesium. This crucial mineral is needed for hundreds of bodily functions, particularly those related to energy production, mood balance and muscle health.

If you are experiencing insomnia, cramps, constipation, high blood pressure, heart problems, migraine, depression, anxiety, fatigue – to name but a few of the conditions linked with magnesium deficiency – then it’s time to look at your diet and start increasing magnesium-rich foods.

There are two main reasons why people are so often low in this nutrient: firstly, the average Western diet does not include plentiful daily intakes of dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds: the main food sources of magnesium. Dark green vegetables are particularly high in magnesium because it forms part of the structure of chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green colour.

Secondly, many people suffer with poor digestion and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Digestive problems can be a sign of poor magnesium levels, but equally, they can make it harder for the body to absorb it from foods. Magnesium is quite a demanding nutrient and needs a healthy gut environment with lots of beneficial bacteria present in order to be absorbed and utilised properly by the body.

If you studied chemistry at school, you may remember a simple experiment involving magnesium oxide that produces a sudden bright spark of light. This spark of light is akin to how magnesium behaves in cells: it is a key factor in energy production, giving you sparks of life!

It also regulates smooth muscle function, which is why it is so important for heart health, digestive function and recovery from exercise. The heart and the digestive tract are both made up of muscle tissue and in order for the heart to beat and the digestive tract to squeeze food along there needs to be plenty of magnesium available to the muscle fibres.

Twitching muscles and regular muscle cramps can be signs of magnesium deficiency as the muscle fibres are in spasm, unable to relax properly.

Including magnesium-rich foods each day is a simple way to support your magnesium levels: however, you may need an additional boost if you are experiencing digestive problems. Fortunately, this powerful nutrient is also absorbed well via the skin. Magnesium oil sprays offer an easy way to get more increase levels and are especially useful for muscle cramps as the spray can be used directly on the affected area. Another option is to enjoy an Epsom salts bath; the salts are made of magnesium sulphate which again, is absorbed through the skin. Add two cups of salts to hot bath water (alongside any essential oils or bath foam), then lie back and soak for at least 20 minutes for maximum benefit. Magnesium does have a relaxing effect and it is normal to feel sleepy after the bath so it’s best to enjoy this in the evening rather than before a busy day.

- Sally Duffin is a nutritional therapist and writer based in Holgate, York.