Magnesium is one of the most abundantly available minerals in our body, earning various titles like: “nature’s relaxation mineral,” “the original chill pill,” “the spark of life,” and “nature’s Valium.” This essential nutrient plays an essential part in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from energy production to protein synthesis, muscle function to nerve function.
In the old days, Magnesium was the most sought home remedy for all kinds of ailments like headaches, insomnia, anxiety, bowel movements, etc. Studies have shown that the role of Magnesium goes beyond general ailments and can help regulate heartbeat, blood glucose levels, support the structural development of bone, help in nerve and muscle function, and maintain a healthy immune system.
There is around 25 g magnesium in an adult body, 50-60% of which is contained in the bones and the remaining in soft tissue, while there is less than 1% present in blood serum. The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), USA, recommends an average daily intake of 400-420 mg for men and 310-320 mg for women to keep the magnesium homeostasis and avail all the benefits from this miracle mineral.
Health experts and nutritionists believe that a healthy everyday diet should be enough to get the required dose of Magnesium. However, if you have the habit of consuming excess refined/processed foods and snacks for everyday meals, you may not be getting enough Magnesium. Continuous lower intake of Magnesium coupled with health conditions that cause loss of Magnesium can lead to Magnesium deficiency.
Low Magnesium, also known as Hypomagnesemia and Magnesium deficiency, can have serious risks on not only your physical health but mental health as well. Scientists have studied the relationship between Magnesium and mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression. They have found that lower levels of Magnesium could aggravate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
What does Magnesium do?
As the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and engaging in more than 300 biochemical reactions, it is apparent that it does more than 300 things in your body to your body that are beneficial not only for your physical health but your mental health as well.
Here are just a few things Magnesium does:
- Magnesium helps in creating energy by converting food into energy.
- It is also important in maintaining your genes as it helps create and repair DNA and RNA
- It supports bone development as well as muscle movements
- It helps in the formation of new proteins using amino acids
- It maintains the nervous system by regulating neurotransmitters, the messenger neurons that send messages throughout the body
- It regulates brain function and mood and helps fight depression symptoms
- It controls pituitary and adrenal glands responsible for stress response and helps fight anxiety symptoms
Falling low on magnesium intake for a lengthy period of time can have a serious impact on your overall health. Since this mineral plays an active role in so many bodily functions, a consistently low magnesium level in your body will affect and alter the bodily functions and biological reactions.
Anxiety and depression
According to Our World in Data, around 284 million people around the world experienced an anxiety disorder in the year 2017. Another recent data from World Health Organization (WHO) shows an alarming number of people experiencing depression, more than 264 million worldwide. The staggering statistics on both anxiety and depression are an impelling reason for everyone to consider bringing the number down.
On that note, there have been a few intensive studies on the effect of Magnesium on anxiety and depression with a few positive outcomes. Although there is still a lack of clear and conclusive evidence on how effective Magnesium can be, the study results have been encouraging enough to explore the use of Magnesium to fight the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Magnesium to fight anxiety and depression
A literature review concluded the beneficial effects of administering Magnesium supplementation on animal models, which resulted in a decrease of severity in animals presenting mild to moderate anxiety. More research needs to be carried out with human beings to have conclusive data. Few case studies and research had shown positive results for self-reported anxiety when people divided into two groups where one group was given Mg supplementation and another group a placebo.
Magnesium is shown to improve brain function by regulating neurotransmitters responsible for sending messages all over the body. Magnesium also reduces stress as it helps control the hypothalamus, which is responsible for managing the pituitary gland and adrenal glands that produce cortisol which is the stress hormone. When stress is controlled, the ensuing anxiety can also be controlled, resulting in a reduction of anxiety.
Many researchers have also shown the direct effect of Magnesium in controlling serotonin and dopamine levels in the nervous system. This ability of Magnesium not only helps relax and calm the mind as a result. Further, Magnesium plays a key role in regulating melatonin which is responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. Needless to say, a good sleep-wake cycle is beneficial for overall health and is a major precursor for fighting depression.
Similarly, studies show that Magnesium has an active role in regulating psycho neuroendocrine activities, which has a direct association with depression. A study carried out in men and women with low magnesium levels showed improvement in their depressive symptoms when they were given Magnesium supplementation every day for two weeks.
Another case report looking at the effect of magnesium supplementation, like glycinate and taurine, on people with major depression showed rapid recovery within 7 days of administering Magnesium. The subjects were given 125-300 mg of Magnesium along with their meals and also at bedtime, and their depressive symptoms showed signs of improvement in less than a week. The report also concluded the effectiveness of using Magnesium in treating depression in general.
Best Magnesium for anxiety
Studies have shown strong evidence of the relationship between Magnesium and anxiety and the positive effects of magnesium consumption in reducing symptoms of anxiety disorders. Another reason for scientists to get excited about this association is related to lesser or insignificant side effects from taking Magnesium compared to pharmaceutical medications to treat anxiety, like benzodiazepines which have multiple negative side effects.
With a variety of magnesium supplementation to choose from, it can be challenging to pick the one best suited for your present condition. Needless to say, you must consult with your doctor before taking any supplements; when it comes to fighting anxiety, magnesium glycinate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium lactate have shown better results compared to other magnesium supplementations.
How does it work?
A study carried out on people with test anxiety showed that the subjects lost more Magnesium through urinate excretion when they were exposed to stressful exam conduction. This proved the inversely proportional relationship of anxiety to Magnesium, which further corroborates the fact that increasing Magnesium can reduce anxiety symptoms.
An experiment carried out in rodents also showed an increase in their anxiety states when the Magnesium was naturally and experimentally reduced. Their anxiety related behaviour was reduced to a significant level when the mice were given magnesium supplements.
Magnesium regulates the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis (HIPAA), which is mainly responsible for the stress response system. When HIPAA gets activated, anxiety increases as a result of increased behavioural responses to adapt to the demanding stressors. Magnesium supplementation reduces the HIPAA activity and subsequently aids in managing and controlling stress response, which consequently reduces anxiety levels as well.
Best Magnesium for depression
In relation to those with anxiety disorders, scientists have found lowered levels of Magnesium in the human body could result in aggravated symptoms of depressive disorder. Researchers Wacker and Parisi concluded in one of their 1968 reports that one of the factors causing depression, headaches, irritability, behavioural disturbance, etc., could be directly related to a deficiency in Magnesium as the cases were reversed when Magnesium was replenished.
According to nutrition researchers duo George and KarenEby, the strong rise in cases of depression are due to magnesium deficiency, and their statement has been confirmed by epidemiological studies and some controlled trials that most people show a moderate magnesium deficiency.
The strong correlation between Magnesium and depression can also be found in a few of their case studies done by the Eby’s. The 59 years old male patient with hypo manic-depressive disorder took Lithium and other antidepressants, yet he had continued to struggle with insomnia, depression, and anxiety. However, the subject who had a long history of mild depression reported a noticeable reduction in depression after taking 300 mg of Magnesium glycinate with every meal within a short period of time.
Besides, Researcher Guosong Liu in his recent presentation, mentioned that Magnesium showed similar effects to that of antidepressants. His lab studies on rodents displaying depression like behaviours show a decrease in such behaviours after being given magnesium threonate, which in turn increased the magnesium levels in their brain. The experiment needs to be carried out in humans; however, looking at the result of his studies, Magnesium Threonate could be used to alleviate depressive symptoms.
How does it work?
Magnesium, along with calcium and glutamate residue in the synapse between neurotrans. While calcium and glutamate activate the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which can damage neurons and cell health, Magnesium stands like a guard. It blocks the glutamate from causing overexcitement in the NMDA receptors and ensures that they are not activated.
Magnesium also acts as a blood-brain barrier and stops the stress hormones from entering the brain. It also can restrict the hippocampus from releasing stress hormones. Another interesting fact is that both depression and Magnesium deficiency can cause systemic inflammation and cell-mediated immune response, which can be reversed by taking magnesium supplementations.
How to take Magnesium
Since Magnesium plays an active role in more than 300 biological reactions, there can be no doubt on its obvious contribution to your overall health in general.
On the contrary, if your body does not get enough Magnesium and is also losing Magnesium due to some health conditions, it could result in low magnesium levels called hypomagnesemia and severe magnesium deficiency called hypermagnesemia severely detrimental to your health.
Lower levels of Magnesium mean that over 300 biological reactions could be affected, leading to serious health problems in the long run if left unaddressed. The best way to get your dose of Magnesium is by incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your everyday diet. This should not be difficult as most vegetables and whole grains contain Magnesium.
Some readily available foods that are rich in Magnesium are:
- green leafy vegetables
- whole grains
- black-eyed peas
- peanut butter
- pumpkin seeds
- chia seeds
- fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, halibut, etc
- soy milk
- dark chocolate
If you can include the above foods in your daily meals, you will be getting enough Magnesium for the smooth functioning of your body. However, if you are unable to include the above food because of unavoidable reasons like food allergies, health conditions, and life circumstances, in such cases, it would be advisable to discuss with your health care provider to take appropriate magnesium supplementation.
Types of Magnesium Supplementation
Low Magnesium in the body can have negative effects on your body and hinder the many biochemical reactions that require Magnesium. Therefore, it is important to keep the Magnesium in check for the overall functioning of your system, which you can do by taking suitable supplementation. At present, there are many different types of magnesium supplementation, and depending on your health goals and consultation with your doctor, you can make an informed decision.
Below, we are going to discuss some of the popular magnesium supplementations:
- Magnesium glycinate is a compound composed of Magnesium and amino acid glycine. Research shows that this form is easily absorbed by the body and has minimal side effects.
- Magnesium lactate is yet another easily absorbable supplementation. It is a compound with Magnesium and lactic acid.
- Magnesium oxide is one of the most commonly used supplementations to treat indigestion, migraines and constipation. This form is, however, not as readily absorbable as other magnesium supplements.
- Magnesium citrate is one of the most popular forms, and it is also the most easily absorbable form by the body.
- Magnesium chloride is a major ingredient for topical magnesium products. Although there are limited studies for the efficacy of topical application of magnesium supplementation to increase the magnesium level, people have reported that the skin absorbs topical magnesium products with magnesium chloride better.
- Magnesium sulphate is popularly known as the Epsom salt. It is commonly used as bath salts for relaxation and may help in absorbing via the skin.
How much can be too much?
The FDA approved daily intake for Magnesium is 400-420 mg for men and 310-320 mg for women. However, if you are getting your Magnesium from food, there have been no reported health risk due to excessive magnesium consumption.
However, suppose you rely solely on dietary supplements and happen to take too much magnesium supplementation (over the recommended daily amount) for a long time. In that case, chances are you might experience nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
Healthy living requires both a healthy mind and a healthy body. Whether it’s physical or mental, when one side suffers a problem, it becomes an overall health problem. Neither can be neglected. The best way to keep your overall health in check is to eat nutritious food, work out regularly, and maintain a good social and personal life. Apart from that, a regular visit to the doctor for a thorough health check-up can help you lead a healthy life.
However, at times, life can be unpredictable and can cause some major distress. With a hectic schedule, you may opt out of eating healthy, reach out to the most accessible food options, and miss out on your exercise regime. At dire times like this, you may need to use dietary supplements, and Magnesium supplementation can be one of them. If and when you decide to use these supplements because you have exhausted other options, make sure you check with your doctor first, always.
Which Magnesium is best for anxiety?
Magnesium Oxide and Magnesium Lactate were seen to have better results on anxiety compared to other Magnesium supplementations. A 2017 systematic review of 18 studies on the effect of Magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress identified the two forms of Magnesium having positive outcomes and subjects reporting reduced anxiety and stress symptoms.
How much Magnesium should I take for anxiety?
For adults (19-51+ years olds), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Magnesium according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for men is 400-420mg, and for women, it is 310-320mg.
According to the University of Michigan Health Center, a general dose of 200-400 mg of Magnesium supplementation can be beneficial to attenuate mild anxiety symptoms.
However, there is no concrete evidence on the exact amount for daily intake of magnesium supplementation and its effect on anxiety. If you’re taking magnesium alongside other medications, always consult your physician first.
When is the best time to take Magnesium for anxiety?
The best time to take Magnesium for anxiety would be near your morning mealtime, which would help you to cope with stress and anxiety throughout the day. Also, no matter what time you decide to take the supplements, to get the best result, you must stick to take them around the same time every day.
When should you not take Magnesium?
You should not take magnesium supplements if you are taking any other medicines. Also, if you have other medical conditions like kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, etc., you should not take Magnesium unless prescribed by your doctor.
Most importantly, whether you have any health issues or not, it is always best to speak to your health care provider before taking Magnesium or any additional supplements.
Is anxiety caused by lack of Magnesium?
To a certain extent, yes. Research has shown that Magnesium deficiency and life stress, and increased calcium intake can have a considerable impact in causing mental health problems like anxiety, hallucinations, delirium, irritability, etc.
How to take Magnesium for anxiety?
The ideal way to take Magnesium is by including magnesium rich food in your everyday diet. Studies have shown that Magnesium oxide, Magnesium lactate, Magnesium citrate, and Magnesium Glycinate are more effective as they are easily absorbed and can be taken in either powder or tablet form.
Depending on the severity of Magnesium deficiency, Magnesium can be given intravenously or even topically.
What are the symptoms of low Magnesium in the body?
According to health experts, low Magnesium or Hypomagnesemia can manifest both physical and mental symptoms, like fatigue, nausea, numbness, weakness, loss of appetite.
If overlooked, the symptoms may worsen and result in seizures, coronary spasms, personality changes, muscle spasticity, abnormal heartbeat, etc.
Magnesium deficiency for a longer period could also increase the risk of developing chronic health issues like high blood pressure, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes.
How long does it take Magnesium to start working?
It can take anywhere between one day to a few weeks for Magnesium to start working. Factors like your dose, age, sex, present health condition, and lifestyle also play an important part in defining the timeline. Therefore, it depends on an individual how sooner or later the Magnesium starts to show effect. However, if you do not experience any result after a few weeks, you may need to speak to your doctor about the dose or any changes if required.
Is magnesium powder better than tablets?
Research shows that Magnesium in powder form is better as the body easily absorbs it. As for tablets, they have to be broken down, which could delay immediate absorption.
Why does Magnesium calm you down?
Numerous studies demonstrate that Magnesium calms you down due to its ability to interact with the neurotransmitters that regulate nerve activities. In addition, Magnesium also helps in regulating the hormone melatonin that keeps your circadian rhythm in check.