A Magnificent, Mind-soothing Mineral: Why You Should Take Magnesium for Anxiety
No other mineral can relax a person the way magnesium can. In fact, when a hospital patient is experiencing irregular and potentially fatal heartbeats, a doctor might give him or her magnesium in order to calm the heart.
Of course, you can benefit from magnesium when you're in less dire circumstances. When you eat foods or take supplements that are rich in this mineral, the magnesium will loosen any parts of your body that are too stiff or tight. As a result, it can reduce cramping, ease headaches, improve mental concentration, and ensure regularity. Among the many conditions that magnesium can alleviate are
- kidney stones
- chronic fatigue syndrome
It can also reduce anxiety, stress, and depression in people who have experienced a major brain injury.
What Is Magnesium?
You could describe magnesium in a few different ways. First of all, it's an element. To be precise, it's atomic number 12 on the periodic table of elements, a chart that you probably remember from a high school chemistry class. Elements are the materials that, alone or in combination with one another, make up all matter. The number 12 denotes that the nucleus of a magnesium atom has 12 protons.
Magnesium is also:
- the ninth most plentiful element in the universe.
- the second most plentiful element inside the cells of the human body.
- a positive ion, which means that each atom has more protons than electrons and an electrical charge that's positive.
- part of many compounds that are easy to find in nature. Chlorophyll and magnesium chloride are two examples.
Magnesium is a mineral as well, one of six minerals that you absolutely must include in your diet. The body cannot make magnesium on its own. Like calcium and potassium, magnesium falls into the category of macrominerals; a trace mineral, by the way, is the opposite of a macromineral. To put it simply, a macromineral is a mineral that the body must have in large quantities. In fact, the average person has about 25 grams of magnesium inside his or her body at any given time.
In human life, magnesium plays hundreds of roles, many of which are vital. For starters, it protects and maintains strands of RNA and DNA, which are the blueprints that the cells use to reproduce.
Further, magnesium regulates enzymes so that they can perform all of their necessary functions. Because of this mineral, thousands of biochemical reactions can take place throughout the body every day. Especially important, enzymes can break down fat, sugar, and glucose molecules at the proper rate. Without magnesium, those activities might take place much too quickly. In turn, bodily damage could easily take place.
The Chemistry and Biology of Magnesium: A Closer Look
Magnesium often positions itself in the gaps between neurons. In many instances, it's joined there by the compound glutamate and by calcium, both of which can stimulate the NMDA receptor, which is a part of a neuron. If left unchecked, that stimulation often leads to anxious and unpleasant emotions. Over time, it can even cause the death of nerve cells. However, magnesium does not excite the NMDA receptor, and it can block glutamate and calcium from doing so. Therefore, maintaining proper levels of magnesium can greatly reduce feelings of anxiety and can lead to increased feelings of peace and relaxation.
Magnesium can lessen anxiety in another way. If you often feel stressed, your body is probably releasing too much of the hormone cortisol. After a while, all of that excess cortisol can harm the hippocampi, which are the two sections of the brain that change short-term memories into long-term memories. When the hippocampi are damaged, it can cause depression and anxiety that last for long periods of time.
However, when you ingest enough magnesium, that mineral can keep your body from releasing too much adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) when you feel stressed. ACTH is the hormone that induces the adrenal glands, which are located just above the kidneys, to release adrenaline and cortisol.
Also, magnesium often stays at the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a membrane that separates your blood from your brain extracellular fluid (BECF), which is the liquid that's just outside the cells of your brain. When you have enough magnesium blocking your BBB, it keeps cortisol and other stress-related hormones from entering your brain and doing harm over the long haul. It likewise keeps your mind from producing overly anxious feelings.
In addition, magnesium helps the body's cells to make lots of extra energy through aerobic and anaerobic processes. When you're more energetic and more relaxed all at once, your spirits are sure to be lifted.
Moreover, this mineral serves as a counterion for the potassium and calcium that are inside your cells. That is, potassium and calcium ions have negative charges whereas a magnesium ion is positive. Counterions help to regulate your muscle contractions and your nervous system's communications. By extension, they play an important role in all of your bodily systems. If you don't have enough magnesium, the potassium and calcium can lead to muscle cramps. In rare and severe cases, such an imbalance could even cause death due to arrhythmia.
Magnesium: We Need Plenty of It Every Day
For an adult, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 320 to 420 milligrams. However, people who have certain medical conditions need more than that, and the typical individual will enjoy health benefits by taking in between 420 and 1,000 milligrams every day. Even so, in the U.S., the average adult only consumes about 250 milligrams of magnesium each day, and many people take in less than 200 milligrams daily. Some people barely ingest any magnesium at all.
In fact, increasing cases of anxiety and depression in the U.S. and other nations may be directly linked to a decrease in magnesium levels. During the early years of the 20th century, the average adult's consumption of magnesium was about 400 milligrams per day. In part, that's because people ate considerably fewer processed foods and many more whole grains. At that time, depression in adults younger than 75 was much less prevalent. Only about 1 percent of the U.S. population suffered from this chronic disorder. Fast forward 50 years: By the mid-century, processed foods were much more common, and approximately six times as many people in the U.S. were clinically depressed.
Why Is It So Hard to Get Enough Magnesium?
Today, at least 15 percent of Americans are severely deficient in magnesium ― and in all likelihood, that percentage is significantly higher. Keep in mind that dairy products, most meats, processed foods, and foods that have white flour as a primary ingredient contain little or no magnesium. Of course, the diets of many people consist chiefly of those kinds of foods.
Making matters worse, many common human activities cause the body to expel magnesium before it can put the mineral to use. For example, when you take antibiotics or drink large amounts of coffee, soda, or alcohol, the amount of magnesium in your body will plummet. Likewise, when you sweat a good deal, which obviously happens after intense workouts, you tend to lose this mineral. Additionally, certain conditions can greatly reduce a person's magnesium level, including chronic stress and intestinal maladies. During times of stress, the body tends to flush away much of its magnesium supply in urine so it is critical for those that deal with anxiety to supplement their diet with magnesium.
When it comes to magnesium, society is often unhelpful. This mineral is usually stripped away whenever cities and towns treat their supplies of public drinking water. Plus, the soils in which our agricultural products grow often contain little magnesium these days.
Not only do many of us take in too little magnesium and lose too much of it, but the human body has a difficult time absorbing this mineral. Indeed, in order for the body to properly use its supply of magnesium, it needs lots of it on a regular basis. Furthermore, it needs plenty of the mineral selenium as well as vitamins D and B6; all three of those nutrients aid the complex process of magnesium absorption. Naturally, then, a deficiency in any or all of those nutrients can lead to a magnesium deficiency even if you're consuming plenty of the latter.
Increasing Your Magnesium Intake
The most effective way to get more magnesium is by altering your diet. The body can best absorb nutrients that are delivered through food. You could start by increasing your consumption of nuts, green vegetables, beans, brown rice, dates, shrimp, garlic, pumpkin seeds, and wheat bran. In particular, vegetables such as kelp that grow in the ocean tend to be high in magnesium. Those plants can be surprisingly tasty as well.
At the same time, try to drink less alcohol, soda, and coffee, and work hard to reduce your overall intake of sugar and salt. Similarly, if you're taking a prescription drug, ask your doctor if it might be lessening your magnesium levels. Some medications for high blood pressure, for example, sap patients' stores of magnesium. If you're on such a drug, you might be able to switch to a different kind of medicine.
A pleasant way to increase your quantities of magnesium is to bathe in warm water that has Epsom salts mixed in. These salts contain magnesium sulfate, which is a form of the mineral that's comparatively simple for the body to absorb. What's more, if you take time each day to practice some form of meditation or active relaxation, you can make it easier for your body to absorb magnesium.
Magnesium oils, which are often offered at spas, represent another topical option. While more scientific research into the effectiveness of these oils is needed, it's likely that very little magnesium will enter your bloodstream this way. Therefore, it's not a great product for boosting your total magnesium level. On the other hand, this kind of oil might be a good way to ease a muscle pain or a cramp.
Are Magnesium Supplements Right for You?
If you discover that you aren't eating or don't like enough magnesium-rich foods, you could turn to nutritional supplements. In some cases, magnesium supplements can be even more effective at getting rid of depression than prescription medications. In particular, if you're taking calcium pills and find that you've been feeling depressed, a regular magnesium capsule might be an antidote.
Just be aware that you shouldn't get more than 350 daily milligrams of this mineral from your supplement. It is possible to overdose on a dietary supplement ― especially if you're diabetic or have certain other health issues ― whereas magnesium overdoses through food are all but impossible.
In any event, it's always wise to have a conversation with your doctor before you increase your magnesium intake, and you should never take any kind of nutritional supplement without first consulting him or her. If you have heart disease, obstructed bowels, or kidney problems, you need to be especially careful with magnesium supplements as they could exacerbate your condition. If you've had part of your bowels surgically removed, you could discover that extra magnesium leads to recurring diarrhea. In that case, you'd probably find it useful to get your extra magnesium mainly through Epsom salts.
Even if you're in great health overall, if you start to take in more magnesium than your body can handle, you might find that you're frequently tired, confused, or weak. You might also experience low blood pressure, and your body might become less adept at absorbing zinc and calcium. Another factor to consider is that if you're currently taking antibiotics or certain prescription medications, a sudden increase in magnesium could make them less effective.
All of those warnings and caveats aside, a magnesium supplement can be a very effective means of improving your health and reducing your levels of anxiety. Magnesium supplements come in various forms, primarily oxide, amino acid chelate, citrate, and glycinate. Your doctor can help you to decide which type would be best for you. Among the factors that you'll consider are the following:
⇨ Magnesium oxide can function as a laxative as well as a muscle tranquilizer.
⇨ Magnesium citrate is especially easy for the body to absorb.
⇨ Magnesium glycinate is highly potent in terms of mental relaxation.
⇨ If you're lacking in one or more amino acids in addition to magnesium, your best bet might be a magnesium amino acid supplement.
Magnesium and Anxiety Studies Over the Years
Medical experts have known about the healing powers of magnesium for a long time. In 1968, Dr. Warren E.C. Wacker and Dr. Alfred F. Parisi published the results of their magnesium study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Wacker and Parisi concluded that magnesium deficiency is a common issue and that it can lead to such problems as headaches, depression, and even bad moods. To cite a more recent example, an overview of seven medical studies that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February 2012 revealed that you can lower your risk of stroke by about 8 percent simply by taking in 100 more magnesium milligrams each day.
Even so, medical research on the effects of magnesium on anxiety is lacking; there's much more to be done in this exciting, intriguing area. In fact, there have been comparatively few studies on magnesium and mental disorders of any kind.
Nevertheless, the investigations that have been done on this topic have been fascinating. For example, a study that was released in January 2012 found an "inverse relationship" between magnesium deficiency and anxiety; it was conducted by researchers at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Also, in 2011, scientists at the University of Texas, University of Toronto, and Beijing's Tsinghua University put out the findings of a joint study in the Journal of Neuroscience. This study concluded that Magtein, which is a magnesium supplement brand, is capable of improving a person's cognitive functioning. As a result, the brain is able to tamper feelings of anxiety and panic. This compound also reduced in participants the memory-based fears that cause long-term anxiety disorders.
These and other magnesium studies have reinforced one main idea: You should load as much magnesium as you can into your diet. If you find that reaching the magnesium RDA is difficult through food alone, consider high-quality nutritional supplements. Either way, you're sure to soon appreciate magnesium for what it is: a truly miraculous mineral.