Magnesium is essential to help our bodies function properly, but stress can deplete your vital stores. Magnesium plays a crucial role in maintaining our central nervous system, including helping our cells produce and use energy. Researchers refer to the mineral as a ‘neuroprotector’. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heart beat steady, and helps bones remain strong. It also helps regulate blood glucose levels and aid in the production of energy and protein. There is current ongoing research into the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Diets high in protein, calcium, or vitamin D will increase the need for magnesium.
Stress and Magnesium Levels
When you have low magnesium levels, the point at which your adrenal glands produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol is also lower. This means even small stresses, like the ear-jangling noise of a building site, can trigger a huge reaction, flooding your nervous system with hormones and further depleting your magnesium levels.
The trouble is stress can increase the amount of magnesium we lose from our body (in urine), leading to a magnesium deficiency. In turn, that deficiency enhances our response to stress – we can get stuck in a cycle of feeling stressed, losing magnesium, reacting even more to stress, losing more magnesium, and so on. When you have low magnesium levels, the point at which your adrenal glands produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol is also lower. This means even small stresses, like the ear-jangling noise of a building site, can trigger a huge reaction, flooding your nervous system with hormones and further depleting your magnesium levels.
According to the National Institute of Medicine, PubMed, research shows Magnesium counters stress is by binding to and stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. What is GABA?; GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, it puts the brakes on brain activity. When GABA is low, the brain gets fixed in the “on” position and it becomes impossible to relax. Resulting in feeling of being overwhelmed, disorganized, constantly worried, have racing thoughts and sleeping issues. Low GABA is associated with numerous stress-related disorders such as anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Magnesium fights anxiety and depression
Interestingly, research has found that magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia) has negative effects on feelings of well-being and can even induce anxiety (Sartori, 2012). Upping our magnesium to optimum levels means our nervous system is better able to resist feeling stressed. A wide-scale clinical review of all the studies on magnesium and stress in 2016 concluded that taking magnesium supplements could help relieve mild to moderate anxiety and reduce the body’s response to stress.
If you experience anxiety, you may also experience depression since these two disorders often go hand in hand. In fact, 90% of those with an anxiety disorder experience depression and 85% of those with major depressive disorder are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. One study found that magnesium was as effective as antidepressants in treating depression.
Magnesium and Cortisol
Magnesium restricts the release of stress hormones and acts as a filter to prevent them entering the brain. Magnesium restricts the release of stress hormones and acts as a filter to prevent them entering the brain. Excess cortisol contributes to anxiety, depression, memory loss, brain fog, and mental disorders of all kinds. Numerous studies have found that the frequent release of adrenaline and cortisol involved in an unresolved stress response is strongly correlated with decreased magnesium.
Indications of Low Magnesium
If your magnesium levels are low, you could be experiencing:
Long-term, deficiency could lead to severe headaches, weakened bones or even damage your heart. Side effects from increased magnesium intake are not common. The body generally removes excess amounts. Magnesium excess almost always occurs only when a person is taking in too much of the mineral in supplement form.
Deficiency of magnesium can occur in people who abuse alcohol or in those who absorb less magnesium including:
Severe deficiency can lead to low blood calcium level (hypocalcaemia) and low blood potassium level (hypokalaemia).
Sources of Magnesium
Research published in the Journal Of The American College Of Nutrition (1990),
examined many over-the-counter magnesium supplements which contained one form of Magnesium that was poorly absorbed by the body called magnesium oxide. Unfortunately, magnesium oxide has a bioavailability of roughly 4%, making it practically worthless for reducing anxiety.
Most dietary magnesium comes from vegetables, such as dark green, leafy vegetables. Other foods that are good sources of magnesium:
Fruits or vegetables (such as bananas, dried apricots, and avocados)
Nuts (such as almonds and cashews)
Peas and beans (legumes), seeds
Whole grains (such as brown rice and millet)
Sartori, S. B., Whittle, N., Hetzenauer, A., & Singewald, N. (2012). Magnesium Deficiency Induces Anxiety And HPA Axis Dysregulation: Modulation By Therapeutic Drug Treatment. Neuropharmacology, 62(1), 304-312.
Lindberg, J. S., Zobitz, M. M., Poindexter, J. R., & Pak, C. Y. (1990). Magnesium Bioavailability From Magnesium Citrate And Magnesium Oxide. Journal Of The American College Of Nutrition, 9(1), 48-55.
Eby. G, Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment, Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):362-70. Epub 2006 Mar 20.