Soothing Stress

Magnesium plays a crucial role in helping the perpetually frazzled find tranquility.

November/December 2017

by Lisa James


Have you felt any stress yet today? If there is one thing just about everyone has in common nowadays, it is a constant sense of being under pressure. According to an American Psychological Association survey, 24% of adults reported extreme levels of stress and more than a third reported an increase in their stress levels over the previous year.

No wonder nearly one of every five Americans suffers from some type of anxiety disorder.
Learning how to handle pressure successfully requires a multifaceted approach. And while it’s easy to see how things like meditation, yoga and exercise could be helpful, you might be surprised at how big a role diet plays in stress relief.

Stress Physiology

Our ancestors had to contend with a dangerous world; the body’s stress response developed as a survival mechanism. But the hazards they faced didn’t last along and after a stressful episode was over, the body went back to normal.

Today, most of the stress we encounter is low level and chronic. The body never gets a chance to reset, which over time can lead to cardiovascular woes and other health problems.
There are dietary factors that can have a calming effect—and one of the most effective is magnesium. Found in beans, seeds and leafy greens, magnesium is best known for partnering with calcium to build strong bones. But that partnership can help alleviate stress-related symptoms as well.

For example, calcium causes muscles to tighten, a common effect of stress. Magnesium, on the other hand, relaxes muscles, helping to protect against cramping and spasms. That also holds true for the muscles within artery walls. When these muscles tighten, blood encounters greater resistance as it flows, causing pressure to rise. This explains why magnesium has been linked to reductions in blood pressure (Hypertension 5/16). Magnesium helps counter the insidious, harmful chronic inflammation that nonstop stress may lead to as well as the fatigue stress can create. In addition, this mineral supports proper operation of the nervous system and may help relieve depression.

Magnesium’s Many Benefits

Magnesium’s multiple uses within the body have led to increased research interest. Studies have linked it with reductions in the risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic disorders as well as lower chances of suffering from stroke or heart failure (Nutrients 3/17, BMC Medicine 12/16). Magnesium may even fight age-related muscle loss in women (Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 2/16).

Given that magnesium is present in a wide variety of foods, you would think deficiencies are not common. That assumption is wrong: Numerous investigations have found widespread less-than-ideal intakes of magnesium, particularly among people who consume a lot of processsed foods. Stress itself can also cause magnesium loss, as can digestive troubles and the use of some prescription medications.

Magnesium comes in several different forms. The most easily absorbed is magnesium citrate, especially when formulated into a drink powder.

Stress is an unavoidable part of our times. Fortunately, magnesium can make coping with life’s challenges a little easier.

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