If you are like me you are constantly faced with doing more with less time. Juggling a big job, kids, and all the other pressures of life can create significant stress.
Tight work deadlines and running kids around for activities, particularly during rush hour is the norm these days. In my 40s I started to feel like I wasn’t handling stress the way I used to. Limited time to work out and decompress, coupled with increasing work travel and an overbooked schedule with busy teenagers didn’t help.
I was working out at least four days a week, eating well, meditating, and trying to get enough sleep, but I still felt stressed. The stress impacted my ability to focus well at work and I started to find it hard to sleep well at night. Soon I turned to my doctor and began my own research about what could improve my anxiety without taking prescription medication.
At this time I was just starting to research magnesium for headaches and I wondered – will magnesium help reduce anxiety too? What I learned from firsthand experience was eye-opening, particularly how fast it helped!
How exactly does magnesium help with anxiety?
We have so much tension in our bodies due to stress. A significant amount of that tension is held in our muscles. That includes your back and neck, which can lead to tension headaches and anxiety. I often feel as if I’m constantly in fight or flight mode, and it’s hard to relax and decompress.
I really wanted to avoid prescription medication which can have a long tail negative effect including potential addiction. I was hoping to find something natural that could help me relax, and that is how my research led me to magnesium for stress and anxiety.
One of the keys to decreasing anxiety is to ensure you are relaxed! Magnesium has a relaxing effect which quickly has a positive impact on reducing anxiety. Since magnesium is often deficient in our diets, due to depletion in our soil as well as an increase in processed food consumption, it makes sense that even a small increase in magnesium can improve anxiety quickly.
There are many positive impacts related to the reduction of anxiety that magnesium can help with including:
- Reduced muscle tension
- Eliminate or reduce headaches
- Decrease irritability/mood stabilizer
- Improve ability to focus
- Create calmness
- Improve ability to sleep faster and longer
Is it possible to take too much?
Different magnesium types have different absorption levels, my article on absorption talks about this in some detail. To play it safe the RDA guidelines suggest 320 mg daily for women and 420 mg daily for men. Currently the daily average intake is under 250 mg so everyone could benefit from moderate supplementation.
If you are even mildly deficient, upping your intake could have a major effect not only on your stress and anxiety level but on improving overall body function. Bear in mind that magnesium plays a big role firing the chemical reactions of the body and is key in creating cellular energy.
Its overall importance to brain function can’t be overstated, as published medical research attributes supplementation to improved outcomes in the battle for depression recovery (Medical Hypothesis, 2006, Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment).
Other research suggests that magnesium deficiency can cause brain and emotional disturbances similar to anxiety including psychosis. It is also cited as a supplement to help improve behavioral outcomes related to ADHD and Autism particularly in children.
All to say there is a lot of research going on around the positive impacts of magnesium supplementation on brain and mental function. It has received positive marks for helping to improve overall feelings of well being in a broad population, young and old.
Anxiety during menstrual cycle, increase magnesium, reduce calcium
You often hear the calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth, but did you know that without magnesium it wouldn’t matter how much calcium you consume? Without enough magnesium your calcium intake will not be productive. Also note that too much calcium will offset magnesium and create a magnesium deficiency.
So what does this have to does all of this have to do with the menstrual cycle and anxiety. Clearly the menstrual cycle causes a great deal of irritability and muscle tension which causes stress and anxiety. Calcium causes muscles to contract and magnesium helps them relax.
I mention this because the intake of too much milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream could be causing or intensifying menstrual cramps. As noted magnesium reduces muscle tension, so as tip to reduce anxiety, muscle tension and overall stress during your menstrual cycle, try decreasing your calcium intake and upping your magnesium.
Chocolate cravings may signal deficiency
To get a jump on improving irritability, stress and anxiety on a longer term basis continue a daily program of magnesium supplementation. Women often report as soon as three months into supplementation, overall menstrual cramps and tension decreases.
Ever had a chocolate craving during your menstrual cycle? You might be surprised to learn that chocolate is one of the foods richest in magnesium.
If you are craving it during your period it may be a sign you are deficient in magnesium. This is not your body telling you to eat more chocolate but to eat more magnesium rich healthy foods that are low in sugar such as green leafy vegetables, salmon and shellfish, avocados, nuts, and whole grains which are healthy sources of magnesium.
Eat more of these foods, reduce or eliminate sugar and alcohol, and seek out a good magnesium supplement at least in the short term to help reduce menstrual related anxiety.
What types of magnesium help reduce anxiety?
The best advice for magnesium type for anxiety is to find one that has high absorption and has a low laxative effect. Those criteria in mind some of the best recommendation for anxiety include:
- Magnesium Citrate – relaxing effect and easy to absorb, but may have mild laxative effect, best taken at night
- Chelated Magnesium – high bioavailability, easy to digest, high quality
- Magnesium Glycinate – focuses on delivering relaxation and calmness, also no laxative effect and easy to absorb
Any one of these types produce a nice calming effect, have good absorption and do not cause a laxative effects that will cause problems for your day to day activities. The list above will work well for most. I prefer citrate at night and glycinate alone or in combination with other magnesium types like malate and taurate in the morning.
This combo daily had me quickly facing even the most stressful days with less anxiety and better mental focus. I haven’t reached perfection yet, but I also don’t feel like I can’t think and the brain fog has disappeared.