The body’s stress reactions were meant to protect us, but a perpetual state of stress can take an enormous toll on human health. When the body is in a state of alarm, the adrenal glands release hormone surges, such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol affects the digestive system, reproductive system, and too much cortisol can affect normal growth processes. Long-term activation of stressors in the body will disrupt almost all the body’s usual functions, including metabolism, which is why stress can promote weight gain.
Symptoms of Stress
There are no shortages of symptoms that can suggest stress. The American Institute of Stress publishes 50 Common signs and symptoms of stress and the Top 10 are:
- Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
- Gritting, grinding teeth
- Stuttering or Stammering
- Tremors, trembling of lips and hands
- Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
- Lightheadedness, faintness, dizziness
- Ringing, buzzing or popping sounds
- Frequent blushing, sweating
- Cold, sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth, problems swallowing
Interestingly, all of these symptoms of stress are also symptoms of magnesium deficiency, which will make more sense as you read on.
The Risks of Magnesium Deficiency Under Stress
Under stress, our body takes action:
- Heart rate and blood pressure soar, increasing the flow of blood to the brain to improve decision-making
- Blood sugar rises to furnish more fuel for energy as the result of the breakdown of glycogen, fat, and protein stores caused by adrenalin surging
- Blood is shunted away from the gut, where it is not immediately needed for digestion, to the large muscles of the arms and legs to provide more strength in combat, or greater speed in fleeing a scene of potential peril
- Clotting occurs more quickly to prevent blood loss from lacerations or internal hemorrhage
Without enough magnesium, our body can’t cope with stress:
- When blood pressure soars, the smooth muscles in the walls of your blood vessels can go into spasm if you are magnesium deficient. This can cause chronic hypertension
- When blood sugar rises, magnesium is responsible for insulin opening up cell membranes to allow sugar into the cells. If you are magnesium-deficient, blood sugar continues to rise and cells do not receive glucose
- If the large muscles of the arms and legs are magnesium-deficient, increased circulation can cause muscle cramping, irritability, and restless leg syndrome
- Without enough magnesium, blood clotting can become enhanced leading to leg, lung, and brain clots.
The Two-Way Relationship Between Magnesium and Stress
Any stress, whether mental or physical, will deplete magnesium from the body. The body uses up magnesium stores in reacting to stress. And a body without enough magnesium will exhibit more of the symptoms of stress.
In addition to the functions listed above, the body needs magnesium to:
- downgrade the cortisol response and cleanse cortisol from the cells
- keep calcium outside the cells where it belongs. Excess calcium in the cells has been shown to cause rigidity and tension in the cell
- balance the nervous system gets and relax muscles, to prevent mental stress associated with physical tension
So, magnesium is essential for two facets of stress management: it helps to prevent the physical tension that leads to stress, and magnesium downgrades our physical response to stressful situations.
But magnesium can only do its job as the ‘anti-stress mineral’ if we have an adequate intake.