The benefits of magnesium for anxiety and stress are substantial, yet up to 75% of us are deficient. Learn how to boost your magnesium level naturally.
Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral that is so good for anxiety and stress that it’s been called “nature’s Valium” and “the original chill pill.” Magnesium is necessary for over 600 metabolic functions, yet it is the second most common nutritional deficiency in developed countries. Over the past 70 years, magnesium intake has plummeted while rates of anxiety have skyrocketed. This may not be a coincidence. The correlation between magnesium and anxiety is so strong that researchers can intentionally induce anxiety in lab animals by depriving them of magnesium.
There are many ways magnesium alleviates anxiety. Magnesium is a near miracle for stress and anxiety. This mineral works by a surprising number of mechanisms to induce a state of relaxation, calm anxiety, and keep your brain healthy.
Magnesium Increases Relaxing GABA
One way magnesium counters stress is by binding to and stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, one that slows brain activity. When GABA is low, your brain gets stuck in the “on” position and it becomes impossible to relax.
If you are easily overwhelmed, disorganized, always find something new to worry about, or lay awake with racing thoughts, you likely have low GABA levels. Low GABA is associated with numerous stress-related disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, and involuntary movement syndromes such as Parkinson’s.
Magnesium Reduces Stress Hormones
Excess cortisol contributes to anxiety, brain fog, depression, mood swings, memory loss, dementia, concentration problems, insomnia, and mental disorders of all kinds. Magnesium restricts the release of stress hormones and acts as a filter to prevent them from entering the brain.
Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of the perennial bestseller The Magnesium Miracle, has found magnesium deficiency to be a major contributor to anxiety and panic attacks. She explains that when you are under stress, your body creates stress hormones that cause a cascade of physical effects, all of which consume magnesium.
After studying the effects of magnesium for decades, she has found the link between anxiety and magnesium to be so strong that she emphatically states that to put an end to anxiety, you must boost your magnesium level.
One of the most common signs of magnesium deficiency is muscle tightness and cramping. Tight muscles don’t just make you feel tense, they actually trigger the flight-or-fight response which, in turn, releases the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. Taking magnesium can help your muscles relax and end this downward cycle.
Magnesium Is Anti-Inflammatory
Another way magnesium addresses anxiety is via its anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation can take hold anywhere in the body, even in your brain.
Brain inflammation has been linked to numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Low magnesium is linked to high levels of pro-inflammatory markers. Inflammatory immune system messengers called cytokines activate inflammation in the brain, destroy brain tissue, and alter brain function. Cytokines play a role in anxiety, depression, memory loss, apathy, slowed responses, irritability, inability to focus, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and increased risk of suicide.
Magnesium Increases Brain Plasticity
Your brain’s ability to heal itself, create new brain cells, and make new neural connections throughout life is known as neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity. Magnesium is one of the few nutrients known to increase brain plasticity. Interestingly, there’s evidence that increasing magnesium intake can enhance the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy when it’s used for treating anxiety disorders. This may be due to an increased level of brain plasticity, enabling your brain to rewire itself to not be so anxious.
Magnesium Lifts Depression
If you experience anxiety, you may also experience depression since these two disorders often go hand in hand. In fact, 90% of those with an anxiety disorder experience depression and 85% of those with major depressive disorder are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Magnesium can help with both.
One study found that magnesium was as effective as antidepressants in treating depression. Another study found that supplemental magnesium provided significant relief from general depression and major depressive disorder fast, often within a week. Magnesium helps depression by raising levels of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin.
Additionally, magnesium supplementation has proven beneficial for ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia which can also occur along with anxiety.
Magnesium Keeps Blood Sugar Stable
Magnesium stabilizes blood sugar levels and that is good news for your brain. Your brain’s main fuel source is glucose and it needs a steady supply.
When your brain doesn’t get the fuel it needs and your blood sugar drops too low, your adrenal glands kick in to release epinephrine and cortisol. This causes stored sugar to be released to bring your blood level back to normal. If you’ve ever experienced a low blood sugar attack, you know how anxious it can make you feel.
The symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack feel amazingly like an anxiety attack — nervousness, shaking, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. If you suspect your anxiety is related to hypoglycemia, it’s critical that you watch your diet. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates and eat protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates instead.
And take a magnesium supplement. Research shows that taking 340 mg per day can prevent blood sugar from dipping too low in people with hypoglycemia.
Magnesium Enhances Overall Mental Well-Being
Addressing a magnesium deficiency can have a profound impact on your life.
You can expect to experience better overall mental well-being — feeling happier, more relaxed, and more resilient to stress, and having improved focus and concentration, increased energy, and better sleep — once you’ve optimized your magnesium intake.
It’s easy to see how making this one change could make you feel less anxious and more in control of your life.