Stress can wreak havoc on a human body. It causes insomnia, headaches, digestive issues and muscle pain to begin with, but should not be underestimated for its ability to cause much more serious damage in the long-term. To relieve symptoms of stress and unwind your nervous system, there are many things you can do. Going for a calming walk in nature, meditating for a few minutes or taking a hot bath while watching your favourite movie are all valid ways to decompress. However, when stress has become a chronic issue in your life, you will have to find more structural solutions to dissolve the stress. I know from personal experience that when we are juggling too many balls at once, dropping a few of them in order to tend our essential needs is a crucial step in the healing process. We simply cannot do it all and are wise to learn this sooner rather than later to avoid lasting damage to the body. Yet even when the underlying causes of stress are dealt with and removed, symptoms can persist. One reason for this is a lack of one of the most vital nutrients for the human body in our 21st century diet, namely magnesium.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral, and chemical element, which unlike trace elements, is needed in the body in large amounts. This mineral is important for keeping the body healthy and helps it perform many of its functions. A few of the healing properties of magnesium are:
- calming the nerve function
- harmonising the mind
- relaxing muscles
- strengthening the bone skeletal structure
- creating a flow in the digestive system
- containing anti-inflammatory properties
What is the connection between magnesium and stress?
As mentioned above, one of the beneficial properties of magnesium is that is calms the nervous system. In fact, magnesium supplements have been hailed as the ‘original chill pill’. There is so much fascinating research on the power of magnesium, but what I want to focus on in this post is the effect of magnesium on stress. To understand how stress works in the body, it is time for a little biology. Stress sends a message to the hippocampus in your brain telling it to produce stress hormones (CHR), which in turn tell the pituitary glands to make another hormone (ACTH), which tell the adrenal glands to make cortisol. Unfortunately, too much cortisol can damage the hippocampus. This way you enter a negative feedback loop, as a broken hippocampus will continuously produce CHR, making you more stressed, anxious and depressed.
The role that magnesium plays in this is its ability to end the release or receptivity of all the hormone productions mentioned above. It thus puts a holt to the negative feedback loop of stress and depression that is caused by an initial stressful situation. If you are not getting enough magnesium through your day-to-day diet, you will quickly become depleted in this mineral and the ‘stress reaction system’ has free rein to take over your body. Ensuring your body receives adequate amounts of this nutrient is thus vital during stressful periods.
Should you supplement?
Magnesium can be found in many whole foods, including green vegetables, whole grains and legumes, sea vegetables, Aloe Vera gel and barley grass. However, our modern agricultural practices have greatly depleted soils from magnesium, meaning that many people have become severely magnesium deficient, even when eating healthy diets. One researcher even went as far as to say the massive rise in depression in our modern-day society is due to insufficient magnesium in our diet. Luckily, supplementation of magnesium is an easy way to ensure you are getting enough of this mineral, particularly during a stressful period. Unless you suffer from abnormal kidney function, it is also completely safe to supplement magnesium on a daily basis to keep your levels up.
I know for myself that whenever I forget to take my magnesium supplements for a few days during a stressful period, my mood gets negatively affected and stress symptoms flare up. It is almost eerie how much of an effect this nutrient has on my body. It thus goes without saying that I try to ensure I have my daily dose of magnesium every morning. Particularly in stressful times, magnesium can truly feel like a lifesaver to me and is the number one thing I recommend adding to your supplement regime when you are struggling with stress-related symptoms*.
*Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or nutritionist, so please consult an appropriate professional before making any changes to your diet or supplement routine.