One morning this week, I opened up the May calendar to add a couple more items to it and then flipped it over to show my husband and said, “Just wanted to give you a warning.” Does this sound similar to your life right now? This time of year is just plain nuts. So, I think this is a fine time to talk about what I call the “Stress-Less Mineral”.

Meet Magnesium.

Are you friends yet? You should be. She is incredibly dependable a hands-in-all pots kind of gal, an effective multi-tasker and always in short supply. (Clearly, she is female!) But seriously, here are a few of her jobs:

  • Magnesium is a cofactor in 325 chemical reactions in the body. (I told you, she is a multi-tasker)
  • Magnesium is necessary to activate ATP, also known as the energy storage molecule of the body.
  • Magnesium is needed to modify the food you eat into building blocks to create your body.
  • Magnesium allows electrical transmission along the nerves to and from the brain to happen. We need magnesium to think.
  • Magnesium relaxes your muscles; calcium contracts your muscles.

So what specifically does magnesium have to do with stress?

Let’s dive a little deeper into why you need magnesium when stressed:

When you are under stress, your body releases adrenaline, when adrenaline is released, you need more energy. When you need more energy, you need more ATP. When you need more ATP, you need more magnesium to activate it.

If you don’t have enough magnesium to support the stress response, you will feel fatigued, irritable, nervous and possibly ready to pound someone. Having enough magnesium in the body will actually buffer the stress response by dampening the nervous system and therefore make it more manageable, not to mention, you will have the energy to handle the situation.

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Now let’s talk about one other place where magnesium really makes a difference in how we feel. The connection between magnesium, serotonin and depression:

Most of us know serotonin is the body’s “feel-good” neurotransmitter in the brain. We also know when we either don’t make enough of it, or our receptors don’t receive it, then by nature, we don’t feel good. So, having an awareness of both how we make serotonin and how we receive it in the brain is vital.

Let’s briefly diverge from the magnesium part of this story and take a moment to remember where most of your body’s serotonin is produced: the gut. And to keep this really simple, the key component of producing enough serotonin is to ensure that your gut microbiome is healthy and balanced. So, just yet another plug to include sauerkraut, beet kvass or kefir in your daily diet and eat plenty of colorful veggies to ‘feed’ the good gut flora. (Not to mention to chew, chew, chew your food!)

But, once you make the appropriate amounts of serotonin, the second part is to ensure that your receptors in the brain are open to receiving the serotonin. And, guess what!

Magnesium is required to release and bind adequate amounts of serotonin in the brain to create a balanced mental environment.

Now, we are starting to understand just how vital magnesium is, but where do we find magnesium? Unfortunately, it is tough to get adequate amounts through food alone. You can find some magnesium in nuts and seeds, seaweed and leafy green vegetables and herbs (dandelion, chickweed and burdock root). This is one where I do highly recommend supplementation as it is just difficult to get enough magnesium through food to mitigate the stress in our lives.  I recommend a couple of different options.

Transdermal Magnesium – Try a lotion, spray or gel and apply this directly on your skin and directly to muscles that could use a little releasing. Your body is very effective at absorbing the magnesium through the skin and this is an excellent way to get your magnesium in each day.

Ionic Magnesium or Liquid Magnesium – Often people struggle to break down minerals in the gut and absorb them appropriately, so using liquid minerals can be a great starting place.

Natural Calm – Natural Calm is easy to acquire quickly as it is in most grocery stores and absorbed well. Most people tolerate it well, but it can give you loose bowels if you take too much too quickly. Go slow with dosing up for this one. (Best to drink with warm/hot water!)

Magnesium with Slow Release Technique – This magnesium is highly absorbable and the one that has made the biggest impact on my magnesium levels (shown through both blood and hair tests). This form gives a steady stream of magnesium to you over the course of 12 hours, enabling you to absorb and utilize more. Brilliant.

Some people will tell me they tried taking magnesium and didn’t really feel a difference. My first question then is, ‘are you taking enough’? If using the spray, some may need as many as 32 sprays a day. If using the liquid, consider doubling the dose, or even more when going through a high-stress period. If only taking once per day, take it at night to facilitate sleep, if taking a larger dose consider dividing the dose to take first thing in the morning and last at night.  Pay attention to how you respond and change the dose accordingly.

As you head into a stressful period, take a deep breath and ensure your stock of magnesium is adequate to get you through!

Now, I would love to hear from you! Do you use magnesium? Which type do you prefer and how has it helped you?

References:

Dean, C. (2007).  The Magnesium Miracle.  New York: Ballantine Books

Claire, A.  The Definitive Guide to Magnesium and Magnesium Supplements.  Retrieved April 22, 2015 from http://www.metabolics.com/blog