Magnesium is one of the most vital nutrients for us humans. Despite this fact, up to 70 percent of us don't have enough. This lack is problematic, since magnesium interacts in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. In addition, many of them occur in vital organs, such as the brain.
In this article, we will focus on the role of magnesium in relieving anxiety, the number one mental health problem of our time. Anxiety disorders in more than 40 million Americans and many others around the world. Despite its prevalence, a small minority of people seek treatment.
MAGNESIUM IN THE BODY
Magnesium is one of the five main minerals in the body, along with calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Fortunately, we find this essential mineral in many of our foods, dietary supplements, and even some medications.
This essential mineral interacts with 300 other enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions in the body. Many of these are crucial body functions, such as blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, muscle and nerve function, and protein synthesis.
Our bodies also require magnesium for the conversion of food into energy and the production of energy. "Mg" contributes to the development of bone and the construction of DNA and RNA. Magnesium also enables calcium and potassium transport across cell membranes, which is critical for muscle contraction, nerve impulse conduction, and normalized heart rate.
The majority of magnesium stores in bones, and serves as a kind of intermediary for the interaction of calcium and potassium, a process known as ion regulation. The heart is a place where this interaction occurs. As such, it is common for people with magnesium deficiency to experience heart-related problems, such as arrhythmia, muscle cramps, and even sudden death due to heart abnormalities or defects.
The vast majority of research on magnesium discusses its effect on the body. However, the mineral also affects the brain. In fact, scientific evidence shows that magnesium intake is essential for proper brain function.
Magnesium actively enters the brain through a process of blood transport of cellular energy (ATP). Once in the brain, magnesium acts in the regulation of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, which in turn regulates the entry of calcium into synapses in the brain.
Excitatory neurotransmitters, as their name implies, keep the brain active. Inhibitory neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), counteract the excitatory action. The body needs this balance for both proper cognitive function and a stable mood.
Where does magnesium come in? Well, it turns out that magnesium is an agonist of GABA activity (a type of neuroprotective agent that can help protect the brain in the treatment of acute stroke. According to a 2017 study, "these mechanisms of action suggest the anxiolytic activity of magnesium, which it has been confirmed in preclinical models. ”Evidence suggests that magnesium also regulates the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Low GABA activity is associated with numerous disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), panic attacks / phobias, and even dementia (for example, Parkinson's disease).
The mineral also suppressed anxiety by reducing the concentration of stress hormones in the brain, such as cortisol. The body produces cortisol when we feel stressed. And magnesium restricts cortisol release by acting as a kind of filter on the brain-body barrier.
HOW MAGNESIUM WORKS
Magnesium is also a natural muscle relaxant, reducing the tension that so often occurs and exacerbating anxiety symptoms. Tight muscles trigger our fight or flight response, also known as the “acute stress response” or hyperarousal.
Furthermore, the entry of calcium and glutamate into brain cells is related to both neuronal degeneration and cell death. Magnesium also works to relax smooth muscles with blood vessels, increasing cerebral blood flow.
Magnesium can also reduce anxiety and decrease inflammation. Research shows that low magnesium levels may be linked to higher counts of inflammation in the body. The reason for this is that cytokines, chemical messengers that initiate the immune response, can contribute to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Surprisingly, elevated inflammation is even connected to suicidal ideation in some people.
Not only are there multiple studies that demonstrate the anxiolytic properties of magnesium, we also found some anecdotal accounts on the networks.
In a piece called "Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Cooling Pill," psychiatrist Emily Deans, M.D., discusses her and her colleagues' experiences with patients who were instructed to take magnesium. Among the cases cited:
23-YEAR-OLD WOMAN WITH TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI).
After the injury, the patient developed depressive symptoms from a combination of factors, including a stressful work environment, poor diet, and poor academic performance. After only one week of magnesium treatment, the patient's depression resided and both her IQ and short-term memory improved.
A 35-YEAR-OLD WOMAN WITH A HISTORY OF POSPARTUM DEPRESSION.
Upon discovering that she was pregnant with her fourth child, the patient took 200 mg of magnesium glycinate before each meal. She reported no adverse effects throughout the pregnancy and after that.
A 40 YEAR OLD MAN WITH A HISTORY OF ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE.
After taking just 125 mg of magnesium taurinate four times a day, the man reported that he had no alcohol, drug or tobacco cravings. He also ate healthier and lost excess weight.
A 59-YEAR-OLD MAN WITH A HISTORY OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY AND INSOMNIA.
After prescription drugs such as lithium and antidepressants were of no benefit, the patient took 300 mg of magnesium glycinate with each meal. The insomnia subsequently disappeared, and she reported a reduction in her anxiety and depressive symptoms.
RECOMMENDED DOSES OF MAGNESIUM AND FOOD SOURCES
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is between 320 and 420 milligrams ('mg') for adults. As mentioned, most adults are mineral deficient. (It is estimated that most adults get around 250mg per day.)
Foods that are high in magnesium include avocado, dark chocolate (yes!), Leafy greens, greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
You can find quality supplements available at reasonable prices in the market. If you are taking magnesium for anxiety, you may want to take magnesium salts with higher bioavailability. The typical magnesium supplement often uses magnesium oxide (MgO) as the main ingredient, probably due to its relatively inexpensive cost. However, multiple studies show that the body absorbs little MgO.
Similarly, in a study comparing commercial magnesium supplement preparations, patients who used magnesium chloride, magnesium lactate, and magnesium aspartate tested higher urinary magnesium concentrations (9 to 11 percent) than those who took magnesium oxide. (4 percent).
HOLISTIC TREATMENTS FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
It is pretty clear from the evidence, and numerous personal accounts, that magnesium is at least promising as a possible natural treatment for anxiety.
And if there is a condition in which some type of alternative treatment is needed, it is for anxiety. Because as it is now, doctors seem too eager to get a prescription for Xanax, Valium, Ativan, or another highly addictive and frequently abused substance. In fact, in addition to opioids (eg Percocet, Oxycontin, etc.), anti-anxiety medications and sedatives are the most abused prescription medications.
According to the Mayo Clinic, anti-anxiety medications can cause serious side effects, such as low blood pressure, memory problems and interrupted breathing. Stopping medication is associated with severe withdrawal symptoms, including overactive nervous system and even seizures.
CAUTION: OVERDOSE OFTEN LEADS TO COMA OR DEATH.
Doctors also often prescribe antidepressants for anxiety. While antidepressants certainly serve a purpose, patients find it difficult to stop using these medications. Many people who have tried to stop taking antidepressants say, in essence, that it is "not worth it." The side effects are so bad.
All of this begs the question: is it better to take some mind-altering drug? Especially now, when many countries still see record numbers of people killed by prescription drug overdoses?
Most of this article explores the mineral's effects on anxiety and its disorders. However, evidence suggests that magnesium may also be an effective treatment for depressive disorders. That includes the one that doctors diagnose most often, major depressive disorder, or MDD.
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT MAGNESIUM
Well, the science is crystal clear: there are natural, holistic alternatives that at least deserve a good look. Many natural substances have shown incredible promise in treating and relieving anxiety and depression.
A short list of such alternatives: magnesium, valerian root, ginseng, chamomile, lavender, kava, St. John's wort, and passionflower, to name a few. Finally, let's not forget to mention demonstrably effective and natural treatments such as aromatherapy, meditation, massage therapy, and yoga.
We need holistic options for the things that plague us now more than ever. Fortunately, we have many options.