Magnesium is essential for our overall physical health and well-being. In fact, it is responsible for more than 600 metabolic functions in the body.
However, it also plays a critical role in our mental health, as well. It is an essential mineral that we typically ingest through foods such as almonds, spinach, black beans, peanut butter, soy, whole grains, and avocados, to name just a few.
However, magnesium intake has dropped significantly over the last half-century. It is listed as the second most common nutritional deficiency in people living in developed countries, meaning the problem is quite a severe one.
There are a plethora of reasons to explain why magnesium deficiency has become so prevalent in modern times. For starters, we consume so many refined foods, which contain very little magnesium.
The gradual switch to unhealthy dietary habits has also increased the number of people who are affected by diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders, which further puts them at risk of low magnesium levels.
The change to factory-style farming and the overuse of pesticides and other harmful chemicals also plays a huge role, as once-healthy fruits and vegetables are regularly being grown in mineral-depleted soil. Furthermore, many people live in areas where the water is treated by fluoride, which binds to magnesium and prevents the body from getting its benefits.
Interestingly, rates of anxiety have soared over the last few decades. Coincidence? Maybe not.
Researchers have identified a strong correlation between magnesium deficiency and anxiety.
They are able to induce anxiety in animals by depriving their diets of magnesium, alone. Many aspects of the modern way of living have also caused people to experience higher rates of stress.
Chronic stress has been shown to cause magnesium to be excreted during urination, furthering the problem of deficiency. Clearly, people could benefit from consuming more magnesium, especially those of us who experience chronic stress and anxiety.
How Does Magnesium Impact Anxiety
Magnesium is critical for managing stress and anxiety. Taking a holistic approach to managing your health and well-being is always more beneficial for the body than taking prescription medications, particularly ones designed to treat anxiety. Magnesium is involved in a number of physiological mechanisms that induce relaxation, fight off anxiety, and maintain overall health in the brain.
- Stimulating Inhibitory Neurotransmitters
One way that magnesium counterattacks stress is by stimulating the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it slows down brain activity. Anxiety is often experienced through the feeling of an overactive brain, so calling upon inhibitory GABA makes it possible for the brain to calm down and relax.
Low levels of GABA are associated with many stress-related conditions, including panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder. If you find yourself becoming easily overwhelmed or worried, lying awake at night with racing thoughts, it’s possible that you have low GABA levels. Taking magnesium for anxiety will up your levels of GABA, allowing you to have a more peaceful night’s rest.
- Restrict and Filter Hormones
Magnesium has also been shown to filter stress hormones and restrict their release in the brain. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, is the chemical cause of anxiety and other mental disorders. Having excessive amounts floods the brain, overwhelming it and causing panic, jitteriness, and general feelings of mental discomfort.
Furthermore, high levels of cortisol trigger the fight or flight response, causing tightness and tension in the muscles. Anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, so if you’re experiencing one, it’s likely that you will experience the other. Magnesium triggers the release of serotonin, the mood-boosting neurotransmitter.
Stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine consume magnesium stocks in your body, so doubling down on the mineral is essential for balancing yourself out and fighting your depression and anxiety. This mineral has also been shown to increase neuroplasticity in the brain, allowing it to create new cells, make new connections, and heal itself. Basically, upping the amount of magnesium that you take in can actually “rewire” your brain, providing relief from anxiety. If you’re in therapy for anxiety, your therapist might also suggest that you take magnesium supplements, as some evidence points to higher success rates when the two are utilized together.
- Addressing Stress
In addition to neurological mechanisms, physiological conditions also play a role in the experience of stress. Using magnesium to address physiological issues is also an important way to manage your health. Chronic inflammation, for example, affects the entire body in many different ways. In the brain, inflammation has been linked to memory loss, depression, and, yes, anxiety.
Having low levels of magnesium greatly increases your risk of developing inflammatory markers in the brain. Messengers called cytokines can activate inflammation in different areas of the brain, destroying the tissues and altering functioning while contributing to depression and anxiety. These cytokines are also linked to irritability, memory loss, and inability to focus, all symptoms of anxiety.
One of the most significant and beneficial properties of magnesium is that it is an anti-inflammatory. Reducing inflammation is yet another simple way in which taking magnesium for anxiety can be highly effective.
Benefits of Magnesium Supplementation for Anxiety
As you can see, there are many ways in which taking magnesium for anxiety can improve your quality of life. Supplements are an easy and effective way to manage your health if taken regularly. For example, magnesium supplements act as natural detoxifiers, removing harmful metals like mercury, aluminum, and lead from the brain.
These heavy metals, though important for some elements of health, are linked to anxiety when they cross the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in the brain.
A good magnesium supplement washes them out and removes them from the body. Supplements are also great for maintaining stable blood sugar, the brain’s major fuel source. When the brain doesn’t get this fuel, the adrenal glands kick up the release of the stress hormones mentioned before: cortisol and epinephrine. Having low blood sugar mimics symptoms of a panic attack, causing you to shake, sweat, feel nervous and dizzy, and have a rapid heartbeat. Regularly taking magnesium supplements (at least 340 mg per day) is just one part of treating low blood sugar, though. Eating a healthy diet low in refined carbohydrates is also very necessary.
So now that you’re convinced of the benefits of magnesium for anxiety, it’s time to think about exactly which supplements to take. When comparing brands, it’s important to look into the kind of magnesium that’s in them. The wrong type of magnesium can actually have adverse effects and make you feel sick, so choosing a good supplement is important.
Cheap supplements that use magnesium oxide and sulfate are known for having laxative effects, which certainly won’t make your life more enjoyable. Additionally, magnesium oxide has been shown to be inefficient for increasing your overall levels of magnesium. Only about four percent of it is actually absorbed, with the rest simply passing through your body. As such, it won’t change a thing about your anxiety.
Magnesium sulfate, like the kind found in Epsom salts, is amazing when it works externally. Having a soak in a bath of these salts will certainly be relaxing, but they are far too harsh to ingest internally.
When choosing supplemental magnesium for anxiety, look for supplements that are best suited to your specific symptoms. Magnesium glycinate is meant to be one of the most effective for correcting a deficiency and producing calming effects. Magnesium taurate also has calming properties and works to correct high blood pressure and heart arrhythmias.
Another supplement, magnesium malate, has been identified as effective in calming the mind and reducing insomnia.
There is also a lesser-known form of magnesium supplement that has been shown to be particularly helpful in correcting brain issues and balancing out the events happening in there. It is the only form of magnesium that is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, entering the brain and permeating cell membranes.
This supplement elevates magnesium concentrations significantly and makes it particularly successful for treating depression and anxiety and improving cognitive functioning overall. Of all the types of supplements, though, magnesium citrate is the most common.
Though it also produces moderate laxative effects, it is considered to be the most efficient all-around, addressing both a deficiency and contributing to general mental and physical health and well-being. Always look for Grade A verification on bottles when choosing a supplement, as this guarantees a high rating for nutritional value, label accuracy, purity, safety, and the projected efficacy of the supplement.
When in doubt, discuss your options with your physician.
Addressing your magnesium deficiency allows you to take control of your life. It has been shown to have profoundly positive impacts on general life and brain functioning, but it is even more crucial for those suffering from depression and anxiety. Taking magnesium for anxiety allows those levels to enter a healthy range, which will greatly improve your mood and ability to focus.
It increases your energy levels, allows you to relax and sleep better, and, possibly most importantly, boosts your resilience to stress. One small change can make such a difference in your life, so take control now and start living your best life, anxiety-free.