Published on December 15, 2020
Studies show magnesium deficiency can induce symptoms and increase susceptibility to stress, and acute and chronic stress can precipitate magnesium deficiency
The holidays can be a joyous yet stressful time. With the COVID-19 pandemic at its height this holiday season, stress levels are certain to be at record levels for many of us. While stress itself may be unavoidable, there are ways to help your body and mind cope with and recover from the added pressures stress puts on your system.
Could Nutrients Help Improve Your Response to Stress?
The body relies on nutrients for thousands of biological reactions within the body, including those involved in the response to stress. Zinc and copper have been shown to play a role, as have omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
Magnesium is another nutrient that seems to have a major effect on stress, in part due to its role in the operation of over 300 enzymes. A previous post reviewed the results from a clinical trial assessing whether magnesium supplementation could improve depression and anxiety symptoms. Within two weeks, participants supplementing with magnesium demonstrated a significant improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms, whereas no improvement was seen in those without magnesium supplementation. Another study looked at individuals with moderate to severe stress to see how treatment with magnesium or magnesium plus vitamin B6 affected perceived stress levels – rapid and significant reductions in stress were found for all those taking magnesium. There was a 24% greater improvement in stress in the magnesium with vitamin B6 group for those who had severe or extremely severe stress.
Magnesium Plays a Key Role in Stress Regulation
Studies have shown that magnesium concentrations within the central nervous system are prioritized over other areas of the body, indicating that magnesium is essential for brain function. Serotonin, or 5-HT, is a hormone that helps stabilize mood and produces feelings of well-being. It impacts the entire body, with effects on sleep and digestion, as well as stress. Magnesium enhances the interaction between serotonin and its membrane receptors, therefore promoting the transmission of serotonin signaling. Magnesium is also involved in the synthesis of serotonin and the inhibition of stress-inducing molecules such as glutamate and cortisol.
Magnesium helps protect from the negative effects of oxidative stress that may occur due to chronic stress. In fact, a previously reviewed study showed that magnesium supplementation helped to protect DNA from damage due to oxidative stress and inflammation resulting from extreme physical stress.
The Magnesium and Stress “Vicious Circle”
Studies such as those mentioned above support the fact that magnesium plays a protective and regulatory role during the stress response. During times of acute and chronic stress, a decrease of magnesium levels within the body along with an increase in excretion of magnesium in the urine has been observed. In cases of repeated or long-term stress, magnesium may be used-up and levels depleted, leading to a state of magnesium deficiency, and therefore, a compromised stress response.
This observation, as described by Pickering et al., is known as the magnesium and stress vicious circle – the concept that stress increases magnesium loss and can lead to deficiency, while magnesium deficiency in turn enhances the body’s susceptibility to stress. The recommendation that magnesium intake should be increased during increased times of stress is based on this bidirectional relationship between stress and magnesium.
Unfortunately Over Half of Americans Do Not Get Adequate Magnesium
There has been an estimated decline of magnesium intake in the United States over the last 100 years, from approximately 500 mg/day to 175-225 mg/day. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006 (the most recent for which this set of information is available), based on dietary recall and did not include nutrient intake from supplements, was conducted to determine the intake of specific nutrients through the diet. The chart below illustrates the findings from this survey, based on the comparison of magnesium intake from food and water to the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of magnesium. The EAR is the estimated amount of a nutrient’s daily intake needed for half of the healthy population to meet their daily requirements, broken down by age and gender – similar to the RDA, although the amounts referred to are lower. Nearly half of all individuals 1 year and older and more than two thirds of teenagers (ages 14-18) and elderly adults (ages 71 and over) had inadequate magnesium intakes when compared to the EAR.
Similarities between Symptoms of Stress and Magnesium Deficiency
With the above taken into consideration, it makes sense that magnesium deficiency and stress exhibit similar symptoms. The table below outlines some of the top symptoms of stress and magnesium deficiency, with the most common being fatigue, irritability, and mild anxiety.
Ensure Healthy Magnesium Levels to Help Combat the Effects of Stress
Stress is only one of several factors affecting magnesium balance in the body, making it important to test your magnesium levels. Co-factors, especially vitamin D, are also important to measure. Do you know what your status of vitamin D, magnesium, and other essential nutrients is? Could your levels be improved? Test now to find out!
What does the Research Say about Vitamin D & COVID-19?
It’s TIME to start saving lives! If you can help PREVENT the majority of the death, it’s time! What’s it costing you/us not to take action NOW?
There is much published research that supports a clear link between vitamin D and COVID-19 showing that higher vitamin D levels are related to:
Be sure to educate yourself on the benefits and importance of vitamin D for immune health, and take steps to ensure you and your loved ones are getting enough.
You can review all of the COVID-19 and immune health information we have shared on this page.
How Can You Use this Information for YOUR Health?
Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Measuring is the only way to make sure you are getting enough!
STEP 1 Order your at-home blood spot test kit to measure vitamin D and other nutrients of concern to you, such as omega-3s, magnesium, essential and toxic elements (zinc, copper, selenium, lead, cadmium, mercury); include hsCRP as a marker of inflammation or HbA1c for blood sugar health
STEP 2 Answer the online questionnaire as part of the GrassrootsHealth study
STEP 3 Using our educational materials and tools (such as our dose calculators), assess your results to determine if you are in your desired target range or if actions should be taken to get there
STEP 4 After 3-6 months of implementing your changes, re-test to see if you have achieved your target level(s)