Why Magnesium is Good for Your Mental Health
Magnesium has been used in home remedies for a long time to treat just about everything. Ok, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration but it has been backed by science to be effective in the treatment of muscle aches and pains, issues with fatigue, migraines, anxiety, irritability, and apathy. Magnesium is a key mineral that aids in the health of our bones, nerves, and muscle functioning. It’s kind of a big deal in the body!
Have you noticed that more and more people are suffering from anxiety and depression these days? Ever wonder why? Well, I certainly ponder this often and while there are several plausible explanations, one that I frequently consider is vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Magnesium is found in soil and plants; it’s an essential player in the structure of the chlorophyll molecule within plants that’s responsible for photosynthesis -- the plant’s process for producing its fuel. Over the last 50-60 years, scientists have reported a significant reduction in the amount of magnesium in our soil, fruits, and veggies, between a 25-80% decrease depending on the crop (Unknown, 2020). This is the result of industrial farming.
The quality of the soil has been tampered with as well as the crops themselves to produce larger fruits and vegetables and higher yields of crops. In doing this, we are getting produce that does not have the same vitamin and mineral potency that it once had. And if that wasn’t enough, the process of refining many of the foods we eat, especially here in America, strips away pretty much all of the magnesium that’s left behind.
According to the National Institutes of Health (2021), the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium for adult males ranges from 410-420mg daily and the RDA for adult females ranges from 310-360mg daily. Pregnant females are recommended to intake between 320-400mg during pregnancy and lactation.
A study in 2003 analyzed the intake of magnesium in the American diet and found that the average male was consuming 237-326mg of magnesium per day and the average non-pregnant female was consuming 177-237mg of magnesium per day (Ford, E. & Mokdad, A., 2003). Yikes!! That’s considerably lower than the RDA! With that in mind, it’s not surprising we’re experiencing problems in our bodies. We may not be giving it what it needs to function properly.
The Relationship Between Magnesium Deficiency and Mental Health
Let’s start by looking at how magnesium deficiency presents in the body. Some signs of low magnesium include “loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, tingling or numbness, muscle cramps or spasms, personality changes, and abnormal heart rhythms” (National Institutes of Health, 2021). Notice any similarities between these symptoms and those associated with anxiety and depression?
As you already learned, magnesium aids in many of the processes occurring within the body, but specifically with our parasympathetic nervous system -- the system responsible for calming and relaxing us. The body uses magnesium to regulate neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA that are necessary for combatting the effects of stress.
Magnesium has become known as a “natural tranquilizer.” If you are a person that lives in a persistent state of stress, your body is running through its stock of magnesium at a rapid rate. When the stress response is stuck on overdrive we see a number of challenges in the body. One of which is an increase in inflammation which has been directly linked to increases in anxiety and depression.
So is magnesium deficiency the primary cause of problems with mental health? Not necessarily. It’s only one of the essential nutrients we need to thrive. But is it worth considering as a potential contributor? I think so. Often we look at external factors that may be responsible for increases in anxiety and depression, but sometimes we need to look internally and learn to listen to the messages our bodies are sending us.
Where To Go From Here
I know it’s not fun dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, or depression. It sucks to put it lightly and can interfere tremendously with your life. But before you reach for the Xanax or Prozac, dive a little deeper into your health. What kinds of foods are you putting into your body? Are you getting proper nutrients? How frequently are you exercising?
There may be other strategies to reduce certain symptoms that don’t require a pharmaceutical medication. My approach as a therapist is to treat mental health holistically. I’m not saying that there isn’t a necessary place for pharmaceutical intervention as this can be highly beneficial for some, but I think it’s imperative to consider the context of symptoms in relation to the whole person to avoid a one-size-fits-all procedure.
I focus on the linkages between the mind, body, and spirit to support and achieve overall wellness. By seeking to understand the problem from different perspectives, we can implement more comprehensive interventions that allow you to live your life well. I’d love the opportunity to team up with you as you embark on your healing journey. Give me a call at 954-391-5305 for a complimentary consultation today!
Ford, E., & Mokdad, A. (2003, September). Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of US adults. The Journal of nutrition.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, March 29). Office of Dietary Supplements - Magnesium. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.
Unknown. (2020, November 12). Magnesium and Diet: Magnesium Food Sources. Ancient Minerals.