We have a lot to stress out about these days. To no surprise, in 2019, “reduce stress” ranked as a top New Year’s resolution. Everyone is looking for ways to sleep better, feel calmer, and happier, and there’s no shortage of companies promoting formulas that claim to decrease anxiety and improve mental health.
But before you go shelling out hundreds of dollars on new products, first consider the impact of supplementing with one commonly overlooked mineral, magnesium.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an electrolyte - one of 7 vital minerals our body needs to function everyday. As the 4th most abundant mineral in the body, magnesium is required for over 600 metabolic functions. The body relies on it for virtually every process from blood sugar control, to energy production, and metabolism. What many don’t know is, magnesium is also a powerhouse for mental health.
Stress and Magnesium Levels
Magnesium plays a key role in stress resistance and mood regulation. Our bodies need more of this vital mineral, especially in times of stress.
Magnesium helps to support the activity of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for your body’s response to stress. When you have low magnesium levels, the threshold at which the adrenal glands produce hormones adrenaline and cortisol, is also lower. This means that even the smallest triggers, like sitting in traffic, or missing a work deadline, can cause the adrenals to flood the nervous system with stress hormones. Excessive amounts overwhelm the brain and trigger the fight or flight response - resulting in muscle tightness, poor sleep, low energy, memory loss, brain fog, and other conditions.
Chronic stress is a magnesium thief. Dr Carolyn Dean MD, ND, author of the bestseller, The Magnesium Miracle, has found that when the body is under stress, the physical effects that follow deplete our magnesium stores. Stress increases the amount of magnesium we lose from the body (via urine), leading to a deficiency. As a result, that deficiency enhances our response to stress. If magnesium isn’t replaced, we can get stuck in a cycle of feeling stressed, losing magnesium, reacting to even more stress, and so on.
Magnesium for Mood & Mental Health
Let’s explore a few ways magnesium can boost your resilience to stress.
Magnesium improves brain plasticity
Brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to adapt to experiences, generate new brain cells, and make new neural pathways. Even as you’re reading this, your brain is forming and reforming new neural connections. It plays a fundamental role in how our brains age, affecting everything from stress levels, learning, and behavior. Studies show that upping magnesium intake can enhance plasticity in certain brain regions, restore cognitive function, and improve the body’s stress response. Overall, increasing brain plasticity can help you rewire your overactive brain.
Magnesium may help increase GABA
When faced with stressful events without the calming effects from magnesium, adrenaline may continue to elevate the heart rate, raise blood pressure, and tense the muscles as it carries out the fight-or-flight response - quickly turning into a dangerous cycle.
GABA is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it helps pump the brakes and slow down scattered brain activity. When levels are low, you may feel burdened by racing thoughts, making it seem impossible to fully relax. Magnesium can help counter stress by binding to and activating GABA receptors in the brain. Magnesium also triggers the release of serotonin, the mood-boosting neurotransmitter.
Magnesium supports other nutrients vital for mental health
Magnesium is such a key player for health, that it helps the body absorb other nutrients, such as vitamin D. Due to its major role in brain development and function, vitamin D is just as vital to mental health.
Without magnesium, vitamin D synthesis shuts down and remains stored and inactive in the body. So, you can load up on lots of vitamin D - but it provides little value without its main companion. Both depend on one another for proper absorption into the body.
Choosing a Quality Magnesium
It’s important to choose a highly absorbed magnesium solution that includes stabilized magnesium ions. Pico-ionic magnesium is smaller in diameter than the body’s mineral ion channels. This means it can easily enter cells for direct and complete absorption.
Addressing a Deficiency
As magnesium intake has continued to plummet over the years, rates of stress and anxiety have reached new highs. While correlation doesn't equal causation, the link between magnesium levels and stress is hard to ignore.
Long-term, deficiency can also result in severe headaches, weakened bones, or even heart and nerve damage. Stress-related conditions are not only expensive, but also debilitating. Addressing a magnesium deficiency can make a huge difference in overall quality of life. Many report feeling calmer, with improved focus, increased energy, and better sleep.
Wondering if your levels are low? Take the Magnesium-Deficiency Quiz and get your results now.