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hy­potha­la­mic– pi­tu­itary– adrenal ( HPA) axis, which is con­sid­ered to be the main stress re­sponse sys­tem.

In The Mag­ne­sium Mir­a­cle, au­thor Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, ex­plains that when you are un­der stress, your body cre­ates stress hor­mones, caus­ing a cas­cade of phys­i­cal eff ects, all of which con­sume mag­ne­sium. If the stress con­tin­ues and you don’t rest or re­place your mag­ne­sium be­tween stress­ful episodes, your mag­ne­sium stores be­come de­pleted. Then when you are faced with the next stres­sor, your stress hor­mones— adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol— can­not ac­ti­vate your mag­ne­sium re­serves, which calm those hor­mones’ eff ects. With­out the calm­ing eff ects pro­vided by suffi cient mag­ne­sium, adren­a­line revs up your heart rate, el­e­vates your blood pres­sure, and tenses your mus­cles in a fi ght- or- fl ight re­ac­tion.

Mag­ne­sium & Anx­i­ety and Stress

The cor­re­la­tion be­tween mag­ne­sium and anx­i­ety is so strong that re­searchers can ac­tu­ally in­ten­tion­ally in­duce anx­i­ety in lab an­i­mals by de­priv­ing them of mag­ne­sium. Af­ter study­ing the eff ects of mag­ne­sium for decades, Dean be­lieves that to put an end to anx­i­ety, you must boost your mag­ne­sium level.

One of the most com­mon signs of mag­ne­sium defi ciency is mus­cle tight­ness and cramp­ing. Tight mus­cles make you feel tense, and mag­ne­sium is a nat­u­ral mus­cle re­lax­ant. It’s also es­sen­tial for ner­vous sys­tem reg­u­la­tion, and it is one of the few nu­tri­ents known to in­crease brain plas­tic­ity. Your brain’s abil­ity to heal it­self, cre­ate new brain cells, and make new neu­ral con­nec­tions through­out life is known as brain plas­tic­ity, or neu­ro­plas­tic­ity. In­creas­ing brain plas­tic­ity can help you re­wire your anx­ious brain.

Mag­ne­sium & De­pres­sion

One of the most com­mon signs of mag­ne­sium de­fi­ciency is mus­cle tight­ness and cramp­ing. De­pres­sion of­ten goes hand in hand with anx­i­ety, and mag­ne­sium is a safe, eff ec­tive, and low- cost op­tion for treat­ing de­pres­sion. I’ve per­son­ally seen mag­ne­sium make dra­matic im­prove­ments in peo­ple’s lives. Take, for ex­am­ple, a 58- year- old client of mine named Hugh. With a phys­i­cally de­mand­ing and psy­cho­log­i­cally stress­ful job, Hugh was of­ten very anx­ious, and his neck and shoul­der mus­cles were ex­tremely tight. Both of th­ese con­di­tions made it dif­fi­cult for him to fall asleep at night. ( It’s worth not­ing that all of th­ese are com­mon symp­toms of mag­ne­sium de­fi­ciency.) I rec­om­mended that he take mag­ne­sium sup­ple­ments— and the re­sults were amaz­ing. Within 10 min­utes of tak­ing his first sup­ple­ment, he felt calmer, and he ex­pe­ri­enced dra­mat­i­cally looser neck and shoul­der mus­cles. He’d pre­vi­ously been very ner­vous go­ing out in so­cial situations, but once he started tak­ing mag­ne­sium, he found him­self more re­laxed and able to loosen up and have fun when go­ing out. He told me he found it eas­ier to cope with many dif­fer­ent kinds of stress. And with the bet­ter re­sis­tance to stress and more re­laxed mus­cles, he was fi­nally able to get a good night’s sleep. Sero­tonin, the “feel- good,” mood- boost­ing brain chem­i­cal, de­pends on mag­ne­sium for its pro­duc­tion and func­tion. One study found that sup­ple­men­tal mag­ne­sium pro­vided sig­nifi cant relief from gen­eral de­pres­sion and ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der quickly, of­ten within one week. In an­other, sub­jects who took sup­ple­men­tal mag­ne­sium ex­pe­ri­enced an im­prove­ment in symp­toms of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety af­ter just two weeks.

You’re Prob­a­bly Not Get­ting Enough from Food

Since the body can’t make mag­ne­sium, we need to get the min­eral from food and/ or sup­ple­ments. Good food sources in­clude dark leafy greens such as Swiss chard and spinach; sea­weeds; seeds such as pump­kin, sesame, and fl ax; legumes; and nuts such as al­monds and cashews. But med­i­cal re­search has shown that Amer­i­cans con­sis­tently strug­gle to get the rec­om­mended amounts of 310– 420 mg per day. In ad­di­tion to di­etary short­ages and over­ac­tive stress hor­mones, tak­ing too much cal­cium can also cause mag­ne­sium defi cien­cies. Peo­ple who are par­tic­u­larly at risk for low mag­ne­sium lev­els in­clude the el­derly, those who reg­u­larly drink al­co­hol, and those with gas­troin­testi­nal is­sues.

How Much to Take, Which Forms to Use

Most mul­tivi­ta­mins con­tain less than 100 mg of mag­ne­sium, so adding a sep­a­rate mag­ne­sium sup­ple­ment is the best way to en­sure ad­e­quate in­take of this vi­tal min­eral. Start slowly, with 150– 300 mg a day. But if you ex­er­cise heav­ily, are un­der a lot of stress, or have health con­di­tions as­so­ci­ated with mag­ne­sium defi ciency ( rang­ing from high blood pres­sure to metabolic syn­drome to de­pres­sion), you may need con­sid­er­ably more.

You can take cap­sules, tablets, or pow­ders ( that you can mix into bev­er­ages). Pay at­ten­tion to the type of mag­ne­sium used in a for­mula— some brands are buff ered with a cheap form of the min­eral such as ox­ide. Mag­ne­sium cit­rate is the most com­monly used form in sup­ple­ments. Ad­di­tional bioavail­able forms in­clude gly­ci­nate or bis­g­ly­ci­nate, malate, tau­rate, oro­tate, and thre­onate. “Chelated” mag­ne­sium means the min­eral has been com­bined with an amino acid, ren­der­ing it eas­ier to ab­sorb.

Mag­ne­sium sup­ple­men­ta­tion is in­cred­i­bly safe. If you end up tak­ing too much, the main side eff ect is loose stools. You can eas­ily solve that prob­lem by tak­ing less of the sup­ple­ment or some­times by switch­ing to a diff er­ent form of mag­ne­sium.

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