Could magnesium be your secret weapon against stress?Jan 17, 2022
Could increasing magnesium intake help you manage your response to stress?
There is, as far as I know, no magic pill or supplement that will magic stress away.
Of course there are various things we can take that will help us to manage our response or relieve symptoms. Most of these work by re-balancing our mental or physical chemical balance – adaptogens (plants that help the body respond to stress by regulating hormone responses – Ashwaganda, Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola rosea,…); CBD (that’s a whole other essay!); and Magnesium are some of the most popular.
Understanding a little bit about how these treatments work, and whether they may be beneficial for you (or at least something you want to try) can be a hugely valuable tool to add to the “stress toolkit”.
Magnesium can be surprisingly effective in my experience, and for most of us should be readily available through the food we eat, a little bit of self-care, or supplementation.
How Magnesium Supports us
Magnesium is one of the first nutrients lost or depleted during stress … and yet it is vital to help us navigate stress successfully.
Under acute stress, magnesium is shifted from cells into the blood. In short bursts this is a protective reaction … but longer periods or too-frequent repetition of stressors can deprive our cells of sufficient magnesium to perform their key roles effectively. Where these functions (see below) are linked to moderating our response to stress we can end up in a vicious cycle where we become more sensitive to stressors thus triggering more magnesium transfer from cell to blood.
Of all nutrients, magnesium is one of the most widely used by the body. It is involved in over 300 processes, many of which help to regulate
- energy production
- nervous system (a key element in our ability to activate our parasympathetic nervous system or relaxation network)
- immune system
- cardiovascular function
- inflammatory response
- mood stability (in particular the dopamine, prolactin, serotonin & oxytocin systems, all of which are both stress hormones but also positive mood generators or stabilisers)
- sleep cycle (melatonin production)
- hormone production & balance
… I could go on but you get the idea…
Signs Your Magnesium Levels Might Be Running Low
Because magnesium is involved in so many biological processes, it should be no surprise that there are a lot of symptoms of deficiency.
- Muscle cramps, tension and twitching (incl twitchy eyelids… my tell-tale sign!)
- Trouble sleeping
- Brain fog / confusion
- Increased feelings of stress/anxiety
- Dizziness, numbness, tingling
- Digestive issues / constipation
The clue to treatment is in the symptoms. Before you look to increase your magnesium intake, take note of your symptoms and try to address them directly. There are several types of magnesium, each supports different functions.
Easy Ways to Increase Magnesium
Research shows that, even though magnesium is available in a wide variety of foods, up to ¾ of the Western population are at least mildly magnesium deficient… which is enough to alter cellular function. This could be particularly important in a world where stress levels are rising (2020 research by Pickering and Mazur).
1 - Diet.
In theory we should be able to absorb sufficient magnesium as part of a healthy, balanced diet including nuts (almonds), seeds (pumpkin), beans (black), vegetables (green), avocado & banana, whole grains (brown rice, oats), chocolate (dark)!
However, there are other ways to boost magnesium levels through supplementation or combined with other self-care methods which also bring relief of specific symptoms
2 - Through the skin.
Although the science on how this works is mixed, I find this really effective.
Epsom salt bath – very simple. It’s thought that the magnesium is absorbed through the skin into cells and eases tense muscles directly. Additional benefits are the warm water and support provided ease muscles & re-balance our internal/external body temperature promoting sleep & relaxation.
Similarly, massaging with magnesium rich creams, oils, or sprays or swimming / floating in the sea or mineral rich float tanks.
3 - Supplementation.
Adding large doses of anything via supplementation can have toxic or dangerous effects, but in small doses and not taken for a prolonged period, magnesium supplementation has been found to be beneficial.
Once again, try to pick a blend of magnesium designed for your specific symptoms (a good health shop or nutritionist will be able to give you guidance on products).
I personally use NutriAdvanced because they have different formulations for each need e.g. muscle tension, calming, sleep, lack of energy… and be careful to stick to the recommended dose!
Will Magnesium Eliminate Your Stress Completely? Probably Not.
But my experience is echoed by feedback from many people I have recommended it to, and in research. Carefully increasing magnesium may reduce your sensitivity to stressors and ease some of the incremental and avoidable stressors. e.g. physical stress – muscle tension or aches can trigger a stress response as well as being a symptom, migraines, poor sleep,… all of which contribute to your overall level of stress. And bring you back to a place where you can better deal with other things.
Right, I'm off for a bath to make sure I start the week ahead with a boost to my magnesium levels and resilience!
I hope you found this helpful... I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback or things you would like to learn more about... send me an email here
(I am not sponsored or given gifts by any of these, they are simply products I use.
I am also not a doctor or nutritionist so this is not medical advice … please speak to a health professional if you have health issues, are on medication, have persistent symptoms etc)
Do you recognise any of the symptoms listed above .. maybe more than one! Could you benefit from trying magnesium as a way to support your body through stress?
Which strategy best suits your symptoms or lifestyle?
for example... I have upped my gym routine especially weights so I get more shoulder tension. I find a bath, massage or a supplement targeting muscle aches most effective.
The Stress Reset is designed to help guide you through the process or identifying your stress symptoms, stressors (big and small), and strategies across a variety of methods (lifestyle, cognitive, physical, community,..) that will really work for you.
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