Did you know that anxiety already appeared as early as the classical antiquity period? Even then, physicians and philosophers alike already saw anxiety as a condition that needed treatment. Today, it’s one of the most common mental disorders affecting about 40 million adults in the U.S. alone. It’s so prevalent that close to 30% of adults will experience anxiety at some point in their lives.
Anxiety doesn’t just interfere with normal daily functioning—it can also lead to headaches, extreme fatigue, insomnia, and depression. Everyone may experience anxiety every so often, but when it persists, the condition can be debilitating. Chronic anxiety can result in heart disease, diabetes, bowel infections. It can also worsen existing respiratory diseases and weaken the immune system.
The good news is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable. From cognitive therapy to medications and relaxation techniques, science and technology are finding more and more ways to manage anxiety, such as taking magnesium. In this post, we’ll break down how this miracle mineral can help you or a loved one cope with anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety in itself can be a good thing. It’s part of your biological defense system against threats. When your brain perceives danger, it responds by sending out signals to the rest of your body, resulting in a fight-or-flight mode. Imagine yourself in a dark alley. There’s no one around, no residential buildings to escape to, and no policemen patrolling the area. Your mind processes these things and tells you to either run away or look for something to defend yourself with. Even if you don’t see any actual muggers, your anxiety puts you on high alert. So anxiety can actually help you focus and prepare yourself against danger.
However, your system can be stoked so often that you constantly perceive threats regardless of the situation. For instance, a law student may regularly feel anxious about having to prepare for daily oral exams. They can get so used to the stressful grind that regardless if it’s exam season or not, they can still get panic attacks.
So how do you know if your anxiety is tipping beyond normal levels? These symptoms can indicate a full-blown anxiety disorder.
- You have severe anxiety that isn’t proportional to the threat.
- Your anxiety persists regardless of the circumstance and for a significant period of time.
- You’re fearful of any situation that may trigger anxiety and will take extreme measures to avoid it.
- Your anxiety prevents you from functioning normally (like going to work).
- Your anxiety results in decreased performance in school or at the office.
- Your anxiety keeps you from living a full life.
If you think that you or anyone you know has an anxiety disorder, seek help as soon as possible.
Does magnesium help with anxiety?
Depending on your diagnosis, your mental health practitioner may recommend typical treatments like psychotherapy, medications, or breathing exercises. But human beings, relentless in the search for better ways of being and doing, are now biohacking their way to optimal health.
Biohacking is a biotechnological movement in which individuals or groups take control of their own health. Through science-backed research and experimentation, biohackers are discovering ways to boost vitality and enhance their quality of life. One popular biohack that’s gaining momentum is taking magnesium to relieve anxiety. Regardless of your level of anxiety, magnesium may be a significant adjunct to your anxiety management or therapy. So, how does magnesium help with anxiety?
Homeostasis is the state of balance that our physiological systems need to survive. But factors, such as anxiety and stress, can threaten it. Magnesium is crucial in maintaining the necessary internal environment not just for the body but also for the brain. Here are specific ways that magnesium may help reduce anxiety:
1. Magnesium helps regulate the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is the area of the brain that controls the pituitary and adrenal glands. These substance-producing organs direct how you respond to stress.
2. Magnesium inhibits the activity of excitable receptors.
Receptors are membranes in the brain that send signals to its control center (the medulla oblongata). The effectors (the cardiovascular system) then receive these messages and produce the corresponding response.
When the receptors become too hyper, they can overstimulate the nerve cells and damage them. This can also cause the effectors to respond excessively. Effects include high blood pressure, palpitations and other heart problems, and even cardiac arrest. Magnesium helps rein in the hyperactivity of such receptors.
3. Magnesium increases serotonin levels.
Magnesium binds to serotonin receptors to boost levels of the happy hormone, producing a relaxing effect.
4. Magnesium stimulates GABA receptors.
The body uses the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter to calm the brain and the nervous system when these get too excited. Thus, GABA helps improve the quality of sleep and reduces anxiety.
5. Magnesium lowers cortisol levels.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone, which acts like the body’s natural alarm system. When our bodies are in a constant state of anxiety, cortisol levels go up to control functions essential to fight-or-flight situations. However, chronic stress can make cortisol shoot up. This may lead to such health problems as muscle tension and pain, headaches, immune and respiratory disorders, and heart diseases. By reducing cortisol, magnesium helps to combat stress and anxiety and decreases these health risks.
How to take magnesium for anxiety
Magnesium is a naturally abundant mineral in our body. However magnesium deficiency can happen, whether from a poor diet or underlying health conditions. Thus, we may need to up our dose by taking magnesium orally. Fortunately, there are easy, even yummy, ways to do this.
1. Consume magnesium-rich foods.
Ramp up your magnesium levels with these stress-fighting edibles:
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale)
- Legumes (edamame, black beans, kidney beans)
- Seeds (pumpkin, chia)
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts (almonds, cashews)
- Fatty fish (salmon, halibut)
2. Level up with magnesium supplements.
Magnesium supplements can be handy if you don’t have access to or are allergic to foods rich in magnesium. Do note, though, that the National Academy of Medicine advises adults against downing more than 350g mg of magnesium supplements daily. To ensure the correct dose, check with your physician before taking any supplement.
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