Magnesium: the super supplement for anxiety
Most of us have experienced bouts of anxiety before. But it seems like it’s becoming more and more common to be suffering from constant anxiety day in and day out. There are countless doctors and influencers out there who claim to have the answer or “magic pill” to cure anxiety. Unfortunately many of these ideas come loaded with addictive substances, toxic chemicals, and who knows what else. What if there was a simpler, more natural way? A way that doesn’t seem like a bandaid leading us to addiction but rather helps relieve anxiety while also helping the rest of our body function better? We’ve all heard how wonderful certain supplements, like CBD for example, can be for anxiety, but is there a better supplement out there? A more well rounded natural supplement? Magnesium may be the answer you’re looking for.
Magnesium is an essential macro-mineral that’s involved in hundreds of functions and enzymatic reactions in the body. It is considered the “anti-stress” mineral as it’s needed to allow the body to relax muscles, blood vessels and the gastrointestinal tract. It helps your brain clearly communicate with the rest of your body, regulates electrical communication between cells and helps create energy by allowing nutrients to pass back and forth between cells. As you can tell, it’s crucial that we have balanced levels of magnesium in the body so we can operate optimally. However, most Americans are deficient in magnesium. The standard western diet full of sugar, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol all deplete our magnesium stores, as does all the chronic stress we are under. Deficiencies are linked to muscle cramps, fibromyalgia, kidney stones, cardiac issues, PMS, chronic fatigue syndrome and yep, you guessed it, anxiety!
There are different kinds of magnesium though, each doing it’s own necessary thing to keep our bodies running smoothly- no pun intended. Most people are familiar with magnesium in the laxative forms like citrate and oxide, or with sulfate, also known as epsom salt. While magnesium sulfate is great for use externally to help relax muscles, it is not easily absorbed into the body nor is it absorbable in large forms. When looking to reduce anxiety, there are better forms of magnesium that we want to focus on. These include magnesium malate which is the most bioavailable form, meaning it’s actually absorbed and used in the body properly. Malate is also one of the most potent forms for fighting against migraines, chronic pain, and depression and anxiety. Magnesium L-threonate is great for the brain and helps with short and long term memory. This form is also the only version of magnesium shown to cross the blood-brain barrier. Magnesium chelate is used for muscle building and recovery from those hard workouts. And magnesium glycinate is best known for its help with deeper and more rejuvenating sleep.
So where do we find sources of magnesium? Obviously getting what we can through whole, unprocessed foods is always best. The vegetable kingdom is the go to source for our magnesium supplies. Magnesium is a component of chlorophyll which is important for plant photosynthesis (what does magnesium not do??) so dark leafy greens are our best bet for magnesium. It’s also found in decent amounts in seafood, some fruits like avocados, whole grains like millet and brown rice, and most nuts and seeds, especially almonds, pecans, cashews and Brazil nuts. However, we need to be aware of what factors affect the absorption of magnesium and unfortunately, with the way most industrialized food is grown these days, our foods contain less minerals than ever before. Much of this issue stems from lack of magnesium present in the soil, the processing and refining of foods, like grains for example, and even cooking foods can deplete magnesium. When you boil vegetables, for example, much of the magnesium and other minerals end up in the water. Ever notice how green boiled broccoli water is? There’s your magnesium! As you can see, it’s not just about not getting enough magnesium in our diets, it’s also about where our food is coming from and how it’s prepared. On top of that, there are also a few other factors that affect how your body can absorb magnesium. Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) being one of the biggest factors. If we can’t break down our food properly because we’re lacking enough stomach acid, then the magnesium supplies found in our food are not going to be properly accessed and used. Other GI issues and chronic inflammation of the digestive tract can also affect proper magnesium uptake. Lack of exercise, vitamin D deficiency, and stress are all factors that inhibit proper magnesium absorption in the body. Oxalic acid, found in greens like spinach, chard, and rhubarb, contain salts that bind to magnesium, making it harder for the body to absorb and more likely to simply excrete in the urine.
Knowing all of this, the next question is how do we get enough magnesium to actually help relieve anxiety? Making sure we’re eating plenty of dark, leafy vegetables while reducing intake of processed, sugary foods is definitely step number one. Aim to source your vegetables as locally and as seasonally as possible. If you can, reach out to a local farmer or sign up for your neighborhood CSA. You’ll not only be supporting small farms, but your food is more likely to contain higher amounts of nutrients and minerals. That’s a win-win! But if these options aren’t easily available for you, finding a good magnesium supplement is a great option. Empirica’s Tri-Mag not only has the highest quality sourcing of ingredients but it also includes those bio-available forms of magnesium so what you’re actually taking gets absorbed and used! Tri-Mag also contains the necessary cofactors for proper absorption. These include The supplement industry is, unfortunately, widely unregulated. Not all supplements are created equal though, so be cautious when purchasing supplements, especially from drug stores or certain online stores that may be named after a large South American jungle. The recommended amount of daily magnesium intake is around 200mg, with tolerable upper limits being closer to 1000mg. Most people do well supplementing between 200-300mg a day. There is also evidence that shows positive effects on anxiety relief when magnesium supplementation is combined with Vitamin B6, found in cage-free poultry, grass fed pork, wild caught fish, and starchy vegetables.
Next, it’s important to try and reduce daily stress. Even if you’re eating the perfect diet and getting in perfect amounts of magnesium needed for the body to run well, chronic stress and elevated cortisol can undo all of this. Focusing on proper amounts of sleep (get those 8 hours in!), drinking enough water (minimum half your body weight in ounces), scheduling some time each day to unwind and relax (hello, bath time!), and meditation are all great ways to combat extra daily stress.
Anxiety can play that all-too-familiar story of overwhelm. When this happens, take a deep breath, and check in with yourself and your needs. And then rather than going for that extra glass of wine in the evening, grab a magnesium supplement instead knowing all the wonders it can do for your body, brain, and anxiety management!