Stress and magnesium: real or placebo effect?

Ingredient Spotlight 9 May 2017

Magnesium is officially indicated to ‘reduce fatigue’ and ‘promote the proper functioning of the psychological and muscular systems’. In popular imagination, magnesium is viewed as harmless and it is often said that “even if it doesn’t help, at least it won’t hurt”.

Yet, when we closely examine the role that magnesium plays in our body, we can only be amazed. Magnesium is involved in over 200 biochemical reactions, while it seems that new functions are discovered daily.

However, its main role is the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contraction. In particular, it works to maintain electrical balance in cell membranes and helps with recovery after muscle contraction and transmission of nerve impulses.

 A focus on nerve impulses

Nerve impulses are a type of electric current that circulate through the nerves, transmitting messages from the brain to the muscles and organs.

The transmission of nerve impulses is linked to the distribution of different ions (Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Chloride) on each side of the cell membrane. The carrier that allows ions to pass through the cell membrane is controlled by magnesium.

If the amount of magnesium is insufficient, the different ions are not properly transported which may lead to chain reactions such as:

  • stress vulnerability
  • water retention
  • accelerated cellular aging

What is “stress vulnerability”?

A magnesium deficiency in cells increases stress vulnerability and reactivity. So when confronted with the same level of stress, an individual who has a magnesium deficiency will have a stronger reaction: they are more easily startled, experiencing a  faster heart rate and abundant perspiration.

The effects of magnesium deficiency

Selye, the ‘inventor’ of the stress concept, said that magnesium plays a major role in preventing the negative effects of stress. The insufficiency or deficiency in magnesium causes an exaggerated reaction in which minor stress (a slamming door) has the same consequences as severe stress (a gunshot).

Moreover, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are exactly the same as that of stress:

  • trembling
  • cramps
  • nervous exhaustion
  • palpitations
  • tingling sensations
  • over-sensitivity to noise
  • anxiety

A vicious circle?

This deficiency becomes more complicated as stress causes urinary magnesium leakage. What happens here is:

  1. Stress triggers the production of adrenalin.
  2. Adrenalin pushes magnesium out of our cells.
  3. The concentration of magnesium in the blood increases.
  4. The kidneys eliminate what is considered ‘excess’ magnesium, while the amount of magnesium in the cells diminishes!

This occurs in all types of stressful situation including physical effort, aggression or simply loud noises.

Magnesium, a natural anxiolytic

How is it possible to remedy magnesium deficiency disorders? By taking magnesium!

Magnesium deficiency is highly common, with 7 out of 10 people failing to consume the daily recommended amount of magnesium, while 75% of the population suffers from a deficiency in the storage proteins required for magnesium.

Therefore, when we show clear signs of nervousness and excessive anxiety, it is logical to take magnesium in dietary supplements before using sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication, which can have side effects.