Does Taking Magnesium for Anxiety Work?

12/22/2021 | 7 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Managing anxiety can be frustrating at times. It can affect your sleep, ability to work, and much more, reducing the quality of life. However, many nutrients promote mental health, including the mineral magnesium.

While treatment is available, they are not always necessary or suitable for everyone. But how can it help?

What Is Anxiety

Anxiety is a widespread condition that results in excessive feeling nervous, restless, tense, or constant worry.

Everyone worries about various situations from time to time. But with anxiety, this worry and fear can impact your daily life.

Does this sound like you?

You are not alone. In fact, anxiety affects one in 13 people worldwide and about 40 million adults in the United States.

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral with numerous essential functions in your body. It is essential to produce energy and release certain hormones that keep your bones and soft tissues healthy.

Besides, its deficiency may be a contributing factor for mental health, including feelings of stress and tension.

Low magnesium levels may also have physical effects on your body, including an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart health.

For the same reason, many people with magnesium deficiency may also experience anxiety along with headaches, sleep issues, and discomfort.

Can Magnesium Help Relieve Feelings of Restlessness?

Magnesium is the body’s natural relaxation mineral. There are about 4000 magnesium-binding sites in your body, and its deficiency may affect you in many ways.

But the good news is that taking magnesium may reverse the symptoms of inadequacy. This mineral may help induce a state of calmness and relaxation through various mechanisms.

Magnesium for Stress

Magnesium plays a vital role in regulating this system. It influences the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the heart of your stress response.

Its deficiency triggers the sympathetic nervous system, which is a fight-or-flight response to stress. This may result in restlessness, palpitations, sweating, and tension.

Taking magnesium may help you manage stress, promoting a sense of calmness and contentment.

Magnesium for Mood

Magnesium maintains the levels of chemicals responsible for mood and relaxation — dopamine and serotonin.

It can also convert tryptophan, an amino acid, to serotonin, enhancing its level in your brain.

Higher levels of serotonin and dopamine improve your mood.

Magnesium for Restlessness

This mineral also influences the working of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory chemical that slows down and relaxes your mind.

High cortisol levels, a stress hormone, are responsible for feelings of restlessness, mood swings, and sleep problems.

Magnesium combats the release of the stress hormone, promoting calmness.

Magnesium for Inflammatory Damage

Magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties that protect your brain against swelling, which is responsible for neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Overall, magnesium promotes your mental health--supporting overall wellness, eases the feeling of stress, and better sleep quality.

Increasing magnesium intake can make you feel less overwhelmed and improve the quality of your life.

What Does Research Say?

A 2017 review suggests a link between anxiety and low magnesium levels. However, the evidence is limited as the result of the studies were self-reported. Researchers believe in the need for control trials to confirm the findings.

Another research from the PLoS journal suggests that taking magnesium chloride for six weeks may significantly improve anxiety and depression symptoms.

More research also indicates that magnesium may be necessary for brain functioning and to reduce stress and anxiety.

Experts believe in the role of magnesium to influence the hypothalamus, which regulates adrenal and pituitary glands that manage the stress response.

While these studies do not offer substantial evidence, they hint at magnesium’s potential to promote calmness and relieve restlessness.

As this mineral is vital for various brain functions, adequate intake may help keep negative emotions at bay.

So, if you are looking to relieve feelings of restless and calm emotions, increasing your magnesium intake may help you.

Foods Rich in Magnesium 

Magnesium offers various benefits, but certain lifestyle factors may reduce its effects. For instance, fizzy and caffeinated drinks can prevent your body from absorbing magnesium.

In addition, certain life phases may also increase your magnesium demands, such as menopause. Adding magnesium-rich foods is the best way to boost your magnesium levels naturally.

Some great sources include:

  • Dark greens, such as swiss chard and spinach
  • Nuts, such as cashews and almonds
  • Fruits, such as avocado and dried apricots
  • Seeds, such as sesame and pumpkin
  • Legumes, such as black beans and peas
  • Tofu and soybeans
  • Low-fat milk and yogurt
  • Whole grains, such as wheat bran and brown rice

Your body can absorb only 30% to 40% of magnesium from food sources, and thus it is an excellent idea to add these food items to your diet.

How Much Magnesium Should You Take?

Almost 50% of the U.S. population does not consume enough magnesium in their daily diet. The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is:

  • For adult males (19-50 years): 400 mg
  • For senior adult males (above 50 years): 420 mg
  • For adult females (19-30 years): 310 mg
  • For senior adult females (above 30 years): 320 mg
  • Pregnant females: 350-360 mg
  • Lactating females: 310-320 mg

Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety

If you cannot take an adequate amount of this mood-boosting mineral through diet, you can take the aid of supplements.

A variety of magnesium supplements are available for you to choose from.

Magnesium Glycinate

In this form, magnesium is bound to glycinate, an amino acid well-known for its calming effect on your brain. In addition, it is easy on the stomach and an excellent bioavailable form of magnesium.

Magnesium Oxide

It is a vital ingredient of the milk of magnesia that also aids in relieving indigestion, antacid, or constipation.

Magnesium Citrate

Your body can absorb this form of magnesium better than other forms. Magnesium citrate may have a calming effect and can also boost digestive health.

Magnesium Chloride

Your body can also absorb this form of magnesium well and is mainly taken as a capsule or tablet to manage digestive disorders. It is also available as a topical application to relax muscles.

Magnesium Lactate

It is comparatively a less popular magnesium supplement, and its primary usage is as a food additive. However, it is gentle on the stomach and a preferable option for people having difficulty digesting other forms.

Magnesium Sulfate

It is also known as Epsom salts, which can be added to water to soothe muscles. However, magnesium sulfate may not help improve magnesium levels.

Which is the best option for you?

The kind of magnesium supplement you select matters a lot.

Selecting the wrong one may have detrimental effects. For instance, magnesium sulfate may cause severe diarrhea that may cause electrolyte imbalance.

Magnesium oxide is prevalent for its laxative property and may not help aid with anxiety.

Magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate are the least recommended forms for boosting your mental health as they are also the least bioavailable forms.

Magnesium Side Effects

Magnesium is usually safe when taken at an appropriate dose. However, it is essential to take extra precautions as magnesium toxicity can occur.

Signs for magnesium toxicity include:

  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

As a general rule, it is best to consult a doctor before taking magnesium supplements. This especially for people living with kidney disorders.

Always ask your physician about the safety of these supplements if you are taking other medicines or suffer from any health condition.

Other Health Benefits of Magnesium

Apart from its mood-elevating and relaxing properties, magnesium also has other health benefits, such as:

  • Better digestive health
  • Soothing certain headaches
  • Promoting sleep
  • Improving the health of blood vessels
  • Better management of blood sugar levels

Final Thoughts

Magnesium is a relaxation mineral and a natural way to manage stress and restlessness. Eating magnesium-rich foods and following a healthy lifestyle can help improve its level in your body.

You can also benefit from taking magnesium supplements. Many supplements are available, but not all can calm your emotions.

If you plan to take magnesium supplements, always check with your doctor.

Sources:

Magnesium - Health Professional Fact Sheet | NIH

The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review | NCBI

Dietary magnesium deficiency affects gut microbiota and anxiety-like behaviour in C57BL/6N mice | Acta Neuropsychiatrica | Cambridge Core

Healthy Directions Staff Editor