It is common to treat anxiety with prescription medications, and in many cases, rightfully so. Unfortunately, many of the the effective medications come with unpleasant side-effects, which can be worse than the anxiety itself. Medication is often a band-aid to mask symptoms, rather than treating the root problem.
Natural herbs can be a great alternative for fighting anxiety, but sometimes it comes down to vitamin and mineral imbalances. Magnesium is a miracle worker mineral for fighting sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and more.
Learn how to benefit from magnesium rich foods and effective magnesium supplements to increase daily intake. Here’s everything you need to know about boosting your magnesium to reduce anxiety (including the best magnesium supplement to take).
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body that is vital for human function. Around 60% of your body’s magnesium is in the bones. The rest is in muscles, soft tissues, and in blood.
Magnesium helps with energy creation, protein formation, gene matentaince, muscle movements, and nervous system regulation. It supports over 300 metabolic reactions! Needless to say, having enough magnesium is critical for the body.
This essential mineral has been dubbed the “nature’s valium” and the “original chill-pill.” Dr. Carolyn Dean wrote an entire book named The Magnesium Miracle that highlights the amazing magnesium benefits. She sheds light on the common magnesium deficiencies that arise from the western diet.
Do I have a Magnesium Deficiency?
One survey found that the majority of people are not getting enough magnesium in their diet. Many factors that can lead to magnesium deficiency. Here are the most common reasons:
- Low magnesium diet
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Conditions such as diabetes
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Low magnesium levels can lead to negative effects to bone density, brain function, nerve and muscle function, and the digestive system. The symptoms of a magnesium deficiency can lead to the following:
- Numbness and tingling in extremities
- Cramps and tight muscles
- Personality changes
- Abnormal heart rate
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above or think that you may have a magnesium deficiency, call your doctor for the appropriate testing and examination.
There isn’t a sure-fire test to determine if you have a magnesium deficiency since the majority of the body’s magnesium is in our bones. Blood, urine, and saliva tests can be indicators of low magnesium levels, but they may not tell the entire story. The best place to start is by looking at the amount of magnesium you consume in your diet each day.
According to the National Institutes of Health 1, the recommended daily amount of magnesium is as follows:
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg*||30 mg*|
|7–12 months||75 mg*||75 mg*|
|1–3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4–8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9–13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14–18 years||410 mg||360 mg||400 mg||360 mg|
|19–30 years||400 mg||310 mg||350 mg||310 mg|
|31–50 years||420 mg||320 mg||360 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
Top Foods to Eat for Magnesium
The best way to reach adequate magnesium levels is through a balanced, healthy diet. Levels of magnesium in common foods have decreased over time with the increase of processed and less natural food sources.
But don’t worry! There are plenty of yummy foods rich in magnesium that can help boost daily intake.
- Whole Wheat
- Swiss Chard
- Black Beans
- Figs (dried)
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin and sesame seeds
Does Magnesium Work for Anxiety?
Well, maybe… as with most natural options, the research is slim. While small in numbers, there are a handful of promising studies suggesting magnesium can help anxiety and stress.
For those struggling with a magnesium deficiency, various side-effects are common that can intensify anxiety and stress. The impact of magnesium for anxiety relief isn’t entirely known, but studies suggest a link between magnesium deficiency and anxiety related symptoms.2
There have even been case studies of individuals who suffered with depression and severe anxiety who tried common pharmaceuticals (such as Lithium) without success, who then had major improvements by taking a magnesium glycinate supplement. Who would have thought?
Magnesium may counter stress by binding to and stimulating GABA receptors 3. GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that helps send messages between the brain and the nervous system. Its main function is to limit the activity of cells in the nervous system. In other words, it helps keep the brain from getting overexcited. Low GABA levels are commonly associated with the “tired but wired” feeling.
Magnesium can lead to better, higher quality sleep 4. Getting poor sleep is a known contributor to anxiety, so if you are having trouble getting to sleep each night, magnesium just may provide the help you need.
Magnesium plays a major role in calming the nervous system due to its ability to block brain N-methyl D-aspartate receptors (NMDA), thereby inhibiting excitatory neurotransmission.5 Again this helps keep the brain from getting overstimulated.
Another interesting study found that magnesium increased neuroplasticity in rats, leading to eliminating fear related memories without impacting the original memory.6
Magnesium for Anxiety Dosage
The daily recommended magnesium values for adults range from 310mg-400mg, per the National Institutes of Health. A good place to start is to take a hard look at the magnesium consumed through daily diet and increase from there. When in doubt, stick to the recommended values. Most magnesium supplements have recommended doses around 350mg per day, although prescribed doses for migraines and anxiety are generally a bit higher.
Taking too much magnesium can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, and respiratory distress. The following table represents the upper intake levels for supplemental magnesium, per the National Institutes of Health.
|Birth to 12 months||None established||None established|
|1–3 years||65 mg||65 mg|
|4–8 years||110 mg||110 mg|
|9–18 years||350 mg||350 mg||350 mg||350 mg|
|19+ years||350 mg||350 mg||350 mg||350 mg|
Adults cap out at a daily (supplement) intake of 350mg, regardless of age or gender.
Types of Magnesium Supplements
When delving into the world of magnesium supplements, its easy to get confused. Prices vary widely and there a many different types such as magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium sulfate (to name a few). So which type of magnesium is best for anxiety? Here’s what you need to know before choosing a supplement.
Magnesium as a molecule is not stable by itself. To be stable, it needs to be bound to something else, which is where the different names come from. The magnesium part is always the same, it’s the other molecule that the magnesium is bonded to, which makes the difference. Each type absorbs differently which lead to varying levels of efficacy.
Also known as magnesite, this type of magnesium is thought to be harder to be absorbed by the body. It’s an over-the-counter remedy for heartburn and upset stomach due to overproduction of acid in the stomach.7
Chelated magnesium uses a process to bind magnesium to a negatively charged group, or anion to make it easier for the body to absorb. Common types of magnesium chelates include citrate, lactate, gluconate.
Chelate easy to for the body to absorb. This is the kind of magnesium that is found in foods naturally. It is bound to multiple amino acids (proteins) which can be great to correcting magnesium deficiencies.
This type contains only 12% magnesium, although is is better absorbed than others, such as magnesium oxide. The next time you jump in the ocean, you’ll be absorbing this type of magnesium.
This is magnesium combined with citric acid. While safe to use, this option may cause a laxative effect, according to Dr. Axe.8
Magnesium glycinate is one of the more popular (and effective) chelated magnesiums. It is highly absorbable, so it can be a good option for upping magnesium intake. Also, this form is the least likely to cause the laxative effect that many magnesium supplements can cause.
This is a non-chelated type of magnesium is a laxative and it’s good for acid reflux. It is less effective for correctly magnesium imbalances as it is poorly absorbed in the gut.9 While this type of magnesium is cheap, it’s not a good option for anxiety. Since it is low cost, this form of magnesium is commonly found in daily multi-vitamins (either this or Magnesium sulfate).
Sulfate is another cheaper magnesium option that isn’t a good option to ingest (unless you’re looking for a laxative). However, Epson Salts, which are made from magnesium sulfate can be great to use in a bath for relaxation. Next time you take a bath, try lavender scented Epsom salt, this can be a great way to absorb additional magnesium.
This type of magnesium is a little harder find, but it is thought to have high absorbability and even the ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane. While research is limited on this form, some believe this is the best magnesium supplement available on the market.10
Best Magnesium Supplement for Anxiety
So with all the magnesium types out there, which one is best for anxiety? Go with a chelated magnesium supplement. This will avoid many of the laxative side-effects and lead to better absorption.
Magnesium Glycinate is the the best option for anxiety. Glycine is a larger molecule so you’ll have less magnesium by weight, but it absorbs well. On top of that, glycine itself is a relaxing neurotransmitter so it enhances the calming effects of magnesium.
Here’s what some of the experts have to say about magnesium glycinate
- Dr. Mercola – “It tends to provide the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency.”10
- Healthline – “It can help relieve anxiety and promote better sleep.”11
- Dr. Axe – “Tends to provide high levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency.”8
- Medical News Today – “It is also one of the gentlest supplements on the stomach.”12
Magnesium Glycinate is easy to find and it’s affordable. Learn about the best Magnesium Glycinate options here.