Can Magnesium Help Manage Stress & Anxiousness? Here's Where The Science Stands
If you're one of the nearly 40 million Americans who struggle with stress and anxiousness, you know how debilitating it can be. And while there are tons of wonderful stress management tools out there, sometimes a little bit of extra support is needed. That's where magnesium supplementation could come in.*
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions1 in the body. It regulates processes ranging from blood pressure and energy production to muscle relaxation and blood sugar balance—just to name a few. We already know that taking a magnesium supplement can promote better, deeper sleep2, and emerging research is finding that it could be helpful for easing stress and anxiousness too.*
The link between magnesium and stress.
The connection between magnesium, also known as "nature's relaxation mineral," and anxiousness is complex. The best way to start understanding it is by first thinking about magnesium deficiency.
"Magnesium deficiency is not uncommon in the U.S.—and neither is anxiety," says Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D. And seeing that there are over 3,700 magnesium-binding sites3 in your body, a magnesium deficiency can affect your health in numerous ways.
When it comes to anxiousness, magnesium's role in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is of particular interest. The PNS is known as our "rest and digest" system and it works to bring our body back to calm state. Magnesium plays a pivotal role in the health and activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and the nervous system in general, with studies showing that a deficiency in magnesium can kickstart the sympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of our fight-or-flight response.*
With this in mind, it's natural to wonder if upping your daily magnesium intake could potentially help you better manage stress.* According to top integrative and functional medicine doctors, the signs point to yes: "Several4 studies5 have shown magnesium to be beneficial for anxiousness with improvements in sense of calm, contentment, and resilience," says Ruhoy. Integrative medicine doctor Marvin Singh, M.D. agrees, saying that magnesium is one of his favorite natural supplements for easing stress.
Magnesium's calming effect might have to do with its ability to maintain serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain—two neurotransmitters that play a very important role in mood and relaxation.* Magnesium also influences the activity of GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that is intricately involved in anxiety.* (GABA receptors are actually the target of popular benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax).
Not all studies on the magnesium-stress connection have been conclusive6, though, so more research still needs to be done before the mineral becomes a bonafide treatment for anxiety disorder.
The best type of magnesium supplement for stress relief.*
Magnesium supplements have relatively few side effects, so there isn't much risk in trying them out for stress relief.* You can take magnesium in the form of a powder, capsule, or liquid supplement.
Beware, though, that certain forms of magnesium, like magnesium sulfate and citrate, can give you diarrhea if you take too much at once. Magnesium glycinate (the most effective form of magnesium for sleep), on the other hand, doesn't seem to cause digestive upset—and has the added bonus of promoting deeper, more restorative rest too.*
Are there any other safety concerns to worry about when taking magnesium glycinate? According to Singh, "Those with kidney disease, heart disease, arrhythmias, and certain other conditions should, seek the advice and guidance of their medical doctors before taking a magnesium supplement to ensure that it is the right thing for them."
And as a general rule, you should always inform your doctor if you're going to be experimenting with any new supplements, herbs, or drastic lifestyle or dietary changes.
The bottom line.
Magnesium supplements are well known for their ability to promote better sleep. And though we don't yet understand exactly how or why magnesium eases anxiousness, the existing research does show that it can be a beneficial part of any stress management routine too.*
Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.