Magnesium’s beneficial effects on mood and stress are so well-known that the mineral has nicknames like “the original chill pill” and “nature’s valium.”
However, many people are on low doses of magnesium or take forms of magnesium that are not well-absorbed by the body. It’s no surprise that they don’t notice any benefit in their anxiety, stress, mood, or sleep.
Magnesium plays two important roles in the brain, which may contribute to these symptoms:
It blocks the activity of more stimulating neurotransmitters and binds to calming receptors, resulting in a more peaceful, resting state.
It helps to regulate the release of stress hormones like cortisol, acting like a brake on your body’s nervous system.
It is already known that magnesium plays an important role in the brain, most notably creating strong neurological pathways that ensure good communications between the brain and the body.
But perhaps even more interesting, especially in terms of the potential magnesium-anxiety link , is the understanding that magnesium also controls the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, which is the hub of the body’s stress response system. Could one of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency be anxiety?
Research suggests that taking magnesium for anxiety can work well. Studies have found that feelings of fear and panic can be significantly reduced with greater magnesium intake, and the good news is that the results aren’t limited to generalized anxiety disorder.
In fact, the magnesium-anxiety association also appears to be strong in terms of both post-traumatic anxiety and premenstrual anxiety , too.
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 very hard to relax.
If you are easily overwhelmed, disorganized, always finding something new to worry about, or lying awake at night with racing thoughts, you likely have low GABA levels.
A low GABA level is associated with numerous stress-related disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, and involuntary movement syndromes such as Parkinson’s disease, tardive dyskinesia, and Huntington’s chorea.
While diet is the starting point for increasing mineral intake in general, it may not be enough for some people with mental health conditions, because of:
Modern day food cultivation. Farming processes have depleted magnesium and other minerals from the soil, and the techniques used in food processing can deplete magnesium levels by up to 80%.
Biochemical individuality. Factors such as genetics, metabolism, health conditions, and more can influence how much magnesium an individual person needs for healthy functioning. Those with anxiety, depression and insomnia may need more magnesium than they can feasibly get from their food.
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