Stress can come at you in many forms—both physical and mental. Our bodies respond to both types by increasing the use of and need for magnesium to manage the stress.
Here are 10 things you need to know about magnesium nutrition that will help you manage stress.
Stress expert Andrea Rosanoff, PhD, talks about how you can protect yourself from stress and/or alleviate it and live a healthier life.
1. Stress increases the secretion of the stress hormones adrenaline and adrenal cortisone, which are often called the fright, flight or fight hormones because they help people survive during threatening situations.
2. Stress can cause magnesium depletion and a lack of magnesium magnifies stress. When stress becomes constant in our lives—be it mental, emotional, environmental or physical—the continual state of hypervigilence of our bodies and cells can make our health suffer. This is especially true when one is low in magnesium—often the case in today’s diet of highly processed foods. Going through a stressful period without sufficient magnesium can set up a deficit that, if not corrected, can linger, causing more stress and further health problems.
3. Magnesium supports our adrenals, which can be overworked by stress. A magnesium deficiency is significant because of the many vital enzyme systems that require magnesium, some being responsible for energy production and storage. A strain on the adrenal glands puts a strain on the magnesium-dependent energy system of the body. A low magnesium level during stress can cause energy depletion that leads to listlessness and fatigue, weakening your ability to manage stress.
4. Under prolonged stressful conditions the body loses more magnesium than usual through one's urine and sweat, adding to magnesium depletion and lowering your stress defenses.
5. Magnesium is the anti-stress mineral. Without sufficient magnesium, the nerve cells become excitable and over-reactive. This can cause a person to become highly sensitive and nervous even when away from the stressful environment.
6. Feelings of nervousness, irritability, and being unable to relax may be signs of needing magnesium. The stress response involves the influx of calcium into cells, resulting in a temporary, drastic change in the cells’ internal magnesium-to-calcium ratio. Normal cells at rest contain 10,000 times more magnesium than calcium. If the amount of cellular magnesium falls however, calcium flows into the cell when NOT required. Such an imbalance puts the cell into a hyperactive state. This can cause unwanted muscle contraction and lead to painful cramping. The muscles need a proper magnesium-calcium balance in order to relax.
7. Stress affects heart health. Since stress depletes magnesium, low magnesium/high calcium levels can cause cells to physically change. High calcium makes bones stiff and hard, which is good, but when improperly assimilated in soft tissues it becomes a problem of calcification. This stiffness in artery and heart cells can hamper proper function and can be a factor in heart disease. Excess calcium on top of low magnesium status is a widespread problem. Calcium supplements can be good for bones in a healthy body, but cannot be properly assimilated in a low-magnesium body. Excess calcium in an unbalanced body can deplete magnesium from the body and make a low-magnesium body worse.
Noted author and researcher, Mildred S. Seelig, MD, explains “Calcium is an important essential nutrient, but it must be guarded and controlled, and balanced by adequate magnesium if it is not to cause damage to the cells and the body as a whole.” For these exact reasons excess calcium can become a problem, while excess ingested magnesium, on the other hand, is not a concern. Unlike calcium, magnesium does not build up in the body—excess amounts are flushed out.
8. When stress depletes magnesium stores to an abnormally low level, arterial spasms can result. Since adequate magnesium levels in arterial muscle cells cause the arteries to relax, or dilate, arteries constrict when magnesium levels are low. If this occurs in the coronary arteries, chest pain or angina can ensue.
9. U.S. Department of Agriculture research shows that over half of Americans do not get enough daily magnesium in their foods. To preserve your magnesium status, avoid processed foods, educate yourself on nutrition, eliminate stress from your life as much as possible and supplement your diet with the natural anti-stress mineral - magnesium.
10. One of the most absorbable forms of magnesium is magnesium citrate. It is available at most health food stores or vitamin shops in a powder form that can be mixed with hot or cold water. In general, oral magnesium supplements are quite safe, especially when ingested by people with healthy kidney function. Always consult with your doctor.
Stress expert, Andrea Rosanoff, Ph.D. is the Directing Scholar of the Center for Magnesium Education & Research, and an Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association (www.nutritionalmagnesium.org). She is also the co-author of "The Magnesium Factor" (Avery, 2003). Dr. Rosanoff invites you to get more information that will help you handle stress and its health consequences through magnesium nutrition. Go to www.centerformaged.org
The ideas, procedures and suggestions contained in this article are not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician. All matters regarding your physical health require medical supervision. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be liable or responsible for any loss, injury or damage allegedly arising from any information or suggestion in this article. The opinions expressed in this article represent the personal views of the author and not the publisher.