by Dr. Leo Galland
This year, discover the benefits of magnesium and take a stress holiday. Learning what happens when holiday stress meets symptoms of magnesium deficiency could make you reach for foods and supplements rich in this mineral.
When shopping till you drop is the only option, you need some way to cope with holiday stress.
Our Department of Holiday Stress Relief has been busy coming up with something easy and painless.
What? Not ready for any changes until Jan 2nd?
I get it. So here’s a little something that can help you beat the stress of holidays.
Nature’s Stress-Buster: Magnesium
I’d like to introduce you to magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in your body.
Magnesium is the most critical mineral for coping with stress.
That’s right. The good news is that sources of magnesium are readily available.
Taking a little magnesium (or eating magnesium-rich foods) could help bring holiday stress down to a manageable level, and even let you enjoy the holidays more.
Magnesium helps muscles relax, and calms excited cells. A major benefit of magnesium is that it goes to work right away to ease stress and can help you fall asleep at night.
In a moment I will explain how magnesium functions in the body.
But first, let’s look at common magnesium deficiency symptoms, and what you can do about them.
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Do you experience:
- Leg or foot cramps,
- Sensitivity to loud noises,
- Muscle twitches, spasms, or tension,
- Trouble falling asleep,
- Restless legs,
- Or Irritability?
If you have any of these magnesium deficiency symptoms, you may be lacking in magnesium.
Unfortunately, surveys suggest that many Americans fail to get the Recommended Dietary Allowance(RDA) for magnesium, making a deficiency likely.
If you have any of the magnesium deficiency symptoms listed above, or if you’re being treated for heart disease or high blood pressure, you may need a magnesium supplement.
Sources of Magnesium: Magnesium Supplements
Dietary supplements of magnesium come in several typical forms such as like magnesium chloride or magnesium citrate. Another is magnesium glycinate.
I take a powdered magnesium called “Natural Calm.”
The dose needed to get the benefits of magnesium varies from 100 milligrams to about 500 milligrams per day of magnesium. While magnesium can help alleviate constipation, it can also cause diarrhea.
Note: People who suffer from kidney disease or are severely dehydrated may develop levels of magnesium in blood which are too high. People with kidney disease or are dehydrated should only take magnesium supplements under strict medical supervision.
Just as magnesium taken at bedtime can induce sleep, so high blood levels of magnesium may cause drowsiness and lethargy.
Stress-related diseases, including heart attacks and high blood pressure, are often accompanied by a magnesium deficiency.
Sources of Magnesium: Foods High in Magnesium
Magnesium can also be found in many foods.
The best food sources of magnesium are:
- Swiss chard
- whole barley
- dried figs
- Brazil nuts
- hazel nuts
- buckwheat (kasha)
- navy beans
- kidney beans
- green beans
- soybeans (including tofu)
- black-eyed peas
Among magnesium-rich foods, broccoli has the highest magnesium concentration per calorie. Even when you eat these foods high in magnesium regularly, you could encounter magnesium deficiency symptoms if you’re chronically stressed.
The complex relationship between stress and magnesium deficiency explains why many people require magnesium supplements, because even a nutritious diet does not correct their magnesium deficiency symptoms.
More on Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
For example, most people, when exposed to the stress of continuous loud noise, become irritable, easily fatigued, and lose concentration. Your blood pressure may increase as the level of adrenaline (a stress hormone) increases in the blood.
Under conditions of mental or physical stress, magnesium is released from your blood cells and goes into the blood plasma. From there, it’s excreted into the urine.
Chronic stress depletes your body of magnesium, leading to magnesium deficiency symptoms. The greater your level of stress, the greater the loss of magnesium.
The lower your initial magnesium level is, the more reactive to stress you become, and the higher your level of adrenaline in stressful situations. Higher adrenaline causes greater loss of magnesium from cells, creating a vicious cycle.
Reversing Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Taking magnesium as a nutritional supplement breaks this cycle by raising blood magnesium levels and buffering the response to stress, which builds your resistance.
Personality has a marked effect on the stress-magnesium cycle. A study done in Paris found that stress-induced depletion of magnesium is much greater in people who show the "Type A," competitive, heart-disease-prone behavior pattern than their less competitive colleagues.
Physiologists at the State University of New York have proposed that depletion of magnesium among Type A individuals is the main reason they are at increased risk for heart attacks.
Sources of Magnesium Conclusion
Depending on how stressed you are, you could try eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as the nuts, vegetables or fruits listed above. Another source of magnesium is to take a magnesium supplement.
Magnesium: it might just be nature’s best “chill pill” to beat holiday stress, and help you take a stress holiday all year round.
The information here is based upon principles in my article "Magnesium, stress and neuropsychiatric disorders,”
which contains a list of references regarding magnesium.
Magnes Trace Elem. 1991-1992;10(2-4):287-301."Magnesium, stress and neuropsychiatric disorders."
For more information about magnesium:
Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health(NIH) Magnesium Fact Sheet
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