CASE STUDY ON MAGNESIUM & ANXIETY
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.