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The benefits of magnesium for anxiety and stress are substantial, yet up to 75% of us are deficient. Learn how to boost your magnesium level naturally.


The Many Ways Magnesium Alleviates Anxiety

How Modern Life Robs Us of Magnesium

The Top Food Sources of Magnesium

The Best Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety

Magnesium Dosage, Side Effects, and Interactions

Should You Get Tested for Magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral that is so good for anxiety

and stress that it’s been called “nature’s Valium” and “the original chill pill.”

Magnesium is necessary in over 600 metabolic functions,

yet it is the second most common nutritional deficiency in developed countries.

Over the past 50 years, magnesium intake has plummeted

while rates of anxiety have skyrocketed.

This may not be a coincidence.
The correlation between magnesium and anxiety is so strong

that researchers can intentionally induce anxiety in lab animals

by depriving them of magnesium.

The Many Ways Magnesium Alleviates Anxiety

Magnesium is a near miracle for stress and anxiety.

This mineral works by a surprising number of mechanisms

to induce a state of relaxation, quell anxiety, and keep your brain healthy.

1. Magnesium Increases Relaxing GABA

One way magnesium counters stress is by binding to

and stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. (5)

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter,

one that puts the brakes on brain activity.

When GABA is low, your brain gets stuck in the “on” position

and it becomes impossible to relax.

If you are easily overwhelmed, disorganized, always find something new to worry about,

or lay awake with racing thoughts, you likely have low GABA levels.

Low GABA is associated with numerous stress-related disorders

including generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Magnesium restricts the release of stress hormones

and acts as a filter to prevent them entering the brain.

Excess cortisol contributes to anxiety, depression,

memory loss, brain fog, and mental disorders of all kinds.

Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of the perennial bestseller The Magnesium Miracle, has found magnesium deficiency to be a major contributor to anxiety and panic attacks.

She explains that when you are under stress, your body creates stress hormones

causing a cascade of physical effects, all of which consume magnesium.

After studying the effects of magnesium for decades, she has found the link between anxiety and magnesium to be so strong that she emphatically states that to put an end to anxiety,

you must boost your magnesium level.

One of the most common signs of magnesium deficiency is muscle tightness and cramping.

Tight muscles don’t just make you feel tense, they actually trigger

the “flight or fight” response which releases the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol.

Taking magnesium can help your muscles relax and end this vicious cycle.

3. Magnesium Is Anti-Inflammatory

One of the most significant anti-anxiety properties

of magnesium is that it is anti-inflammatory.

Chronic inflammation can take hold anywhere in the body, even in your brain.

Brain inflammation is linked to anxiety, depression, and memory loss.

Having a low level of magnesium more than doubles your risk

for dangerously high levels of pro-inflammatory markers.

Inflammatory immune system messengers called cytokines

activate inflammation in the brain, destroy tissue and alter brain function.

Cytokines play a role in anxiety, depression, memory loss, apathy, slowed responses, irritability, inability to focus, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and increased risk of suicide.

4. Magnesium Removes Heavy Metals

Heavy metals like mercury, lead, and aluminum

are linked to anxiety, as well as a long list of other neurological disorders.

Unfortunately, they can cross your brain’s filter — the blood-brain barrier —

and accumulate in the brain.

Magnesium acts a natural detoxifier by binding with

and removing heavy metals from the body.

5. Magnesium Increases Brain Plasticity

Your brain’s ability to heal itself, create new brain cells, and make new neural connections throughout life is known as brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity.

Magnesium is one of the few nutrients known to increase neuroplasticity. (26)

Increasing brain plasticity can help you rewire your anxious brain.

Interestingly, there’s evidence that increasing magnesium intake can enhance

the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy when used for treating anxiety disorders.

6. Magnesium Lifts Depression

If you experience anxiety, you may also experience depression

since these two disorders often go hand in hand.

In fact, 90% of those with an anxiety disorder experience depression and 85% of those with major depressive disorder are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Magnesium can help with both.

One study found that magnesium was

as effective as antidepressants in treating depression.

Supplemental magnesium provided significant relief from general depression and major depressive disorder fast, often within a week.

Magnesium helps depression by raising

levels of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin.

7. Magnesium Keeps Blood Sugar Stable

Magnesium stabilizes blood sugar level and that is good news for your brain.

Your brain’s main fuel source is glucose and it needs a steady supply.

When your brain doesn’t get the fuel it needs and your blood sugar drops too low,

your adrenal glands kick in to release epinephrine and cortisol.

This causes stored sugar to be released to bring your blood level back to normal.

If you’ve ever experienced a low blood sugar attack,

you know how anxious it can make you feel.

The symptoms of a hypoglycemic attack feel amazingly like a panic attack

— nervousness, shaking, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness.

If you suspect your anxiety is related to hypoglycemia, it’s critical that you watch your diet.

Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates and eat protein,

healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates instead.

And take a magnesium supplement.

Research shows taking 340 mg per day can prevent blood sugar

from dipping too low in people with hypoglycemia. (37)

8. Magnesium Puts You in Control

Addressing a magnesium deficiency can have a profound impact on your life.

Get your magnesium level into the healthy range and you can expect to experience better mood, more resilience to stress, improved focus and concentration,

reduced cravings, increased energy, and better sleep.

It’s easy to see how making this one change

could make you feel more in control of your life.

Being in the driver’s seat of your life is a key to feeling less anxious.

How Modern Life Robs Us of Magnesium

So now you know how magnesium affects your mental well-being.

But you might be wondering why deficiency has become so common,

and whether you get enough.

The dietary intake of magnesium has plummeted over the past 100 years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the average American consumed 500 mg daily.

Now the average daily intake is around 200 mg.

The result is that upwards of 75% of north Americans have sub par levels of magnesium.

Here are the main reasons magnesium deficiency has become so prevalent.

We’re eating more refined foods, which contain very little magnesium, than ever.

And even the healthiest foods can be low in magnesium

since most are grown in mineral-depleted soil.

Many of us live where fluoride is added to our water.

Fluoride binds to magnesium, making it less bio available.

Chronic stress is a big magnesium thief.

It causes magnesium to be excreted during urination.

Alcoholics, diabetics, and seniors are at particular risk for low magnesium.

Gastrointestinal problems such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, IBS, and intestinal flora imbalance prevent magnesium absorption.

Pharmacist Suzy Cohen reveals in her book Drug Muggers:

Which Medications Are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients–

and Natural Ways to Restore Them that over 200 medications block magnesium absorption.

It’s clear that almost everyone could benefit from more magnesium.

The Top Food Sources of Magnesium

According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH),

the top food sources of magnesium per average serving size are:




shredded wheat cereal

soy milk

black beans


peanut butter

whole grain bread


Nutritionists in Canada find sunflower, squash and pumpkin seeds,

black-eyed peas, tempeh, and Brazil nuts to be the richest sources of magnesium per serving.

Note that chocolate — often touted as a top source of magnesium — did not make either list.

This is a big disappointment for us chocoholics who claim to eat it for the magnesium. :)

Paradoxically, eating legumes, seeds, and grains won’t help as much

as you’d expect since they also contain naturally occurring compounds called phytates

that inhibit the absorption of minerals including magnesium.

Drink Magnesium-Rich Mineral Water

Another way to get more magnesium is to drink mineral water from natural springs.

Minerals waters have a long history of promoting health.

People around the world have been soaking in hot springs

and drinking these waters for thousands of years.

Popular bottled brands include San Pellegrino, Perrier, Fuji, and Evian.

Gerolsteiner sparkling water from Germany is particularly high in magnesium.

A one-liter bottle contains 348 mg, roughly the United States RDA

(Recommended Dietary Allowance).

You can compare the magnesium content of hundreds

of brands of mineral water using this mineral water calculator.

Drinking these health-promoting waters might seem like an extravagance,

but they actually cost less per ounce than many drinks

Americans already spend billions on — coffee lattes, soda, bottled teas, and energy drinks.

When looking for a magnesium supplement,

the kind of magnesium in the supplement matters a lot.

The wrong magnesium can actually make you sick.

Choosing a good magnesium supplement can be very confusing since there are so many forms, such as magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate,

magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium sulfate.

Here are some guidelines for picking the best magnesium supplement for you.

Stay Away From These Forms of Magnesium

First, let me steer you away from the worst forms of magnesium.

Inexpensive magnesium supplements use magnesium oxide

and magnesium sulfate which are well known for their laxative effect.

Magnesium oxide is not good for increasing overall magnesium levels

and won’t do a thing for your anxiety.

Only 4% of it is absorbed, the rest simply passes on through

and may have you running to the bathroom.

Magnesium sulfate, the kind found in Epsom salts, makes a great soak for sore muscles in a warm bath, but is too harsh to take internally.

It can cause dramatic diarrhea and disrupt your electrolyte balance,

leading to a potentially serious condition known as hypermagnesemia.

There are currently 32 official FDA reports of magnesium sulfate triggering brain fog,

short-term memory loss, amnesia, blackouts, and other kinds of mental distress.

Magnesium Dosage, Side Effects, and Interactions

Besides anxiety, magnesium supplementation has proven beneficial for depression,

ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

The RDA for magnesium depends somewhat on one’s age,

but is generally 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women.

However, many people benefit from more.

Dr. Carolyn Dean states emphatically, “Hands down, bar none and without a doubt, the top supplement for anxiety is magnesium and in my experience

it doesn’t work that means you haven’t taken enough.”

She recommends starting with 700 mg to

kickstart your magnesium into the normal range.

Magnesium Side Effects and Interactions

We’ve already covered the most common side effect of magnesium — loose stools.

This is a particular problem when taking poorly absorbed

forms like magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.

If you take antibiotics, high blood pressure medications, osteoporosis medications,

or muscle relaxants discuss taking magnesium supplements with your health care provider.

Magnesium can alter the effectiveness of these medications

by affecting how much of them gets absorbed.

Should You Get Tested for Magnesium?

Unfortunately, standard blood tests for magnesium aren’t of much help

since only 1% of the body’s magnesium stores are in the blood.

According to the NIH Magnesium Fact Sheet for Professionals, blood levels have little correlation with total body magnesium levels

or concentrations in specific tissues like the brain.

They recommend having a clinical assessment based on symptoms

along with laboratory tests.

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Typical signs of low grade magnesium deficiency to look for include:

brain fog

lack of focus and concentration


never feeling rested even after a good night’s sleep

feeling “tired but wired”

restless leg syndrome

frequent muscle cramps

dark circles under the eyes

inability to handle stress

salt cravings


addiction to caffeine

easily startled

anxiety or panic attacks

feeling weak and tired after exercise

low blood pressure

low blood sugar

frequent headaches, including migraines

heart palpitations

dizziness upon standing up suddenly

Magnesium for Anxiety and Stress:

The Bottom Line If you are looking for a natural way to alleviate anxiety and stress,

magnesium may be the answer.

Magnesium can help anxiety by normalizing neurotransmitters and stress hormones,

reducing brain inflammation, increasing neuroplasticity, balancing blood sugar levels,

and removing heavy metals.

Eating magnesium-rich foods and drinking mineral water are important,

but almost everyone can benefit from supplementation.

There are many forms of magnesium supplements, but not all of them will do you much good.

Choose a available form that matches your specific set of symptoms.

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