There is an affliction among livestock called grass tetany, whereby cattle and sheep may exhibit such symptoms as irritability, muscle twitching, staring, incoordination, coma, and even death. The culprit? A magnesium deficiency due to low intake of the mineral.
While a magnesium deficiency, or hypomagnesemia, in humans may not be quite as dire, it likewise has some negative effects on human health. It may be linked to such conditions as diabetes, chronic diarrhea, and celiac disease, among others. One effect that is getting much interest is how low levels of magnesium are related to stress and anxiety.
Magnesium and Stress
According to Psychology Today, magnesium works as a sort of gatekeeper between neurons, regulating the passage of calcium and glutamate. When there is a lack of magnesium, calcium and glutamate can flow in excess and activate receptors, leading to damaged neurons and cell death in the long term, potentially affecting your brain. Magnesium is also believed to help reduce the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. Animal studies also suggest that magnesium may protect the brain from depression and anxiety.
How do you know if your magnesium levels are low? There is no easy, straightforward test to find out if you’re deficient in the mineral as magnesium is spread out in your bones, cells, and blood. But a U.S. study suggests that approximately 75% of people aren’t meeting their recommended intake, so there is a fair chance that you may not be getting enough of it. Some symptoms of magnesium deficiency are muscle cramping and twitching, osteoporosis, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, low energy, constipation, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and mental disorders, which encompass anxiety and stress.
Taking a Chill Pill
Stress is undoubtedly a part of many people’s lives, though not in the way it was in our ancestors’. While we don’t have to deal with the dangers of hunting and being hunted, the modern-day human has to deal with the stress that stems from work, relationships, and unpleasant day-to-day realities like traffic. Chronic stress may lead to more severe conditions like heart disease, so finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety is important.
There are many coping mechanisms but one of the emerging ways is by increasing magnesium intake. While studies aren’t definitive, they suggest that getting enough magnesium may help in stress and anxiety management. A 2017 review in the journal Nutrients culled together the results of numerous studies that studied magnesium alongside premenstrual symptoms, postpartum depression, and a number of other conditions. The review stated that there is “suggestive but inconclusive evidence for a beneficial effect of magnesium supplementation in mild anxiety.” It also found that in studies of anxiety in animals, the subjects also seemed to exhibit the benefits of magnesium to stress and anxiety.
More high-quality studies are needed but the review mentions that the “potential effect of magnesium in attenuating psychological response to stress merits further investigation since stress is a ubiquitous feature of modern lives.” Simply put: Magnesium may help alleviate stress, something that is ever-present these days.
Your first instinct might be to reach for supplements for stress and anxiety, but before going for supplements, you can try and increase your magnesium intake by adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet. These include leafy green vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and—you’ll be happy to hear—dark chocolate!
If you and your physician find that you need extra help from healthy supplements, those that have generally been used in studies are magnesium oxide and magnesium lactate. Magnesium supplements also come in other forms like magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium chloride, and magnesium sulfate, a.k.a. Epsom salt, which you can mix into a tub of water to make a relaxing bath.
Do take note that increased magnesium may have side effects like lethargy, low blood pressure, diarrhea, nausea, and muscle weakness. Also make sure you run it by your doctor if you have existing medical conditions or are taking medications—magnesium may have a negative effect on those with a kidney condition, and may get in the way of meds like chloropromazine, oral anticoagulants, and some antibiotics. Once you get clearance from your doctor, you can visit Healthy Options for healthy supplements that can help you reduce the stress from your life.