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.” It’s necessary in over 600 metabolic functions, yet it is the second most common nutritional deficiency in developed countries.
Over the past 50 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.
1. 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 puts the brakes on 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, and irritable bowel syndrome.
2. Magnesium Reduces Stress Hormones
Magnesium restricts the release of stress hormones and acts as a filter to prevent them entering the brain. Excess cortisol contributes to anxiety, depression, memory loss, brain fog, and mental disorders of all kinds. Dr. Carolyn Dean, 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 causing 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 releases the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. Taking magnesium can help your muscles relax and end this vicious cycle.
3. Magnesium Is Anti-Inflammatory
One of the most significant anti-anxiety properties of magnesium is that it is anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation can take hold anywhere in the body, even in your brain. Brain inflammation is linked to anxiety, depression, and memory loss.
Having a low level of magnesium more than doubles your risk for dangerously high levels of pro-inflammatory markers. Inflammatory immune system messengers called cytokines activate inflammation in the brain, destroy 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
4. Magnesium Removes Heavy Metals
Heavy metals like mercury, lead, and aluminum are linked to anxiety, as well as a long list of other neurological disorders. Unfortunately, they can cross your brain’s filter the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in the brain. Magnesium acts as a natural detoxifier by binding with and removing heavy metals from the body.
This is a good start, but it’s unsure whether magnesium can remove heavy metals from the brain.
5. 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 brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity. Magnesium is one of the few nutrients known to increase neuroplasticity. Increasing brain plasticity can help you rewire your anxious brain. Interestingly, there’s evidence that increasing magnesium intake can enhance the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy when used for treating anxiety disorders.
6. 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. 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.
7. Magnesium Keeps Blood Sugar Stable
Magnesium stabilizes blood sugar level 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 a panic 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 taking 340 mg per day can prevent blood sugar from dipping too low in people with hypoglycemia.
8. Magnesium Puts You in Control
Addressing a magnesium deficiency can have a profound impact on your life. Get your magnesium level into the healthy range and you can expect to experience better mood, more resilience to stress, improved focus and concentration, reduced cravings, increased energy, and better sleep.
It’s easy to see how making this one change could make you feel more in control of your life.
There are many forms of magnesium supplements, but not all of them will do you much good.