Much of this info comes from the book “The Magnesium Miracle” by Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, who feels compelled to share the latest on magnesium research and positive feedback she’s received about the power of this important mineral. The rest of it is anecdotal, from a stressed out mum in her 30s and 40s, who had no idea just what the stress was doing to her mind and body until she discovered magnesium oil. The stressed out mum is me!
So here goes:
I only started using magnesium because I’d heard it could help me reduce jetlag while travelling across time zones.
I really hadn’t researched into it any more than that.
So it was a wonderful surprise to discover the ‘side effects’ that I hadn’t anticipated, and that I probably became aware of a couple of weeks after using the magnesium oil every day –
I felt calmer, even when the kids were playing up.
Loud noises didn’t startle me as much and leave my heart racing.
The ever-present tightness in my chest eased and I was able to take fuller, deeper breaths.
My constantly chattering mind didn’t exactly become silent but let’s say the volume turned down to a whisper.
I felt more confident in social situations and therefore more able to say YES to trying new things I’d normally have run a mile from. We’re not talking miracles here – I wasn’t suddenly going to take up sky diving (I think that has more to do with insanity than anxiety!) but there were enough tangible differences here to be so, so grateful to magnesium!
I love this quote from Dr Dean's book:
“People do not get anxiety, panic attacks, or depression because they have a deficiency of Valium or Prozac.”
Of course these medicines can be necessary to help someone experiencing such issues. But Dr Dean’s point is that anxiety and depression are not caused by the lack of drugs, but rather, perhaps, by sensitivity to chemicals that our bodies don’t need, or the lack of certain nutrients that our bodies DO need.
Cox and Shealy studied almost 500 depressed people and discovered that the majority were deficient in magnesium.
Symptoms of chronic magnesium deficiency can include anxious behaviour, feeling very emotional, feelings of apprehension, poor memory, nervousness, fatigue, headaches, the sensation of a lump in your throat, impaired breathing, and palpitations.
I had ALL of these symptoms!
Was I low in magnesium? It can actually be hard to tell from the kind of blood tests we have available to us. But there were certainly reasons I probably was:
I tried to eat a healthy diet but … running around after young children, feeling tired and low, meant I’d try to perk myself up with quick, easy, not-so-healthy snacks. Or finish off what was on the kids’ plates. Then ‘treat’ myself to a glass of wine most evenings. So my food was low in magnesium content, and the sugary treats and alcohol used up even more of my stores (magnesium is used to process these toxins out of your body).
Then add this to the mix - every time you feel stressed and anxious (even low-level things like jumping at the sound of a door slamming in the wind), your body uses up heaps of magnesium to support your adrenal glands to cope with the drama. You need magnesium (an energy-provider) to get you ready to flee from the ravenous tiger it thinks is chasing you (if only our hormones could catch up to the fact that, for most of us anyway, there are no ravenous tigers anymore!). So your heart starts pumping faster, and energy stores are released from your liver to your heart, lungs and muscles to help you run for your life. Though obviously you don’t need to run from a closed door! Two young boys, a puppy, 3 jobs and a section to look after meant my body perceived there were tigers EVERYWHERE!
Now guess what? When your magnesium levels get tapped out like this, your body feels … stressed! When your body is stressed you release more adrenaline. To process the adrenaline you need magnesium. But you’ve just used it all up!! So now you feel irritable, nervous, and on edge, for no particular reason.
Does that sound familiar?
To break this vicious circle of stress and anxiety depleting our magnesium, we can look to supplement this important mineral. Alongside this, it could be worth trying to stop our magnesium-depleting habits such as eating sugary or processed foods, drinking too much caffeine, and regular alcohol consumption. Which sounds mean, I know – these are often our go-to coping strategies for dealing with feeling anxious and stressed! But as Dr Dean explained, they’re actually making your symptoms worse.
So how does some extra magnesium help to lower your feelings of stress and anxiety?
Magnesium helps regulate your neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, commonly known as your ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals. With enough magnesium, you’ll make sufficient serotonin, and experience emotional balance and calmness.
Magnesium helps regulate your HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, which is what releases stress hormones like cortisol.
Magnesium supports your nervous system, promoting the function of the parasympathetic arm, which is responsible for calming and relaxing you.
Magnesium can help you feel less physically tense, as it relaxes your muscles. When your muscles feel tight and tense, you’re bound to feel more mentally wound up too. Especially if you have tension in your head and neck muscles – tension headaches are not great for lowering stress!
Magnesium can also relax the muscles in your digestive system, so if bowel issues accompany your anxiety, Epsom salt baths might give you some relief here too.
You probably know that magnesium supports good sleep patterns. The better you sleep, the better you’re able to handle life’s stressors. I’m sure you’ve had that feeling of going to bed with a terrible weight on your mind and, after a good night’s sleep, the problem seems far less troublesome the next day.
Let magnesium take the load off you more often! Let it relax your muscles, support your sleep, and boost your feel-good hormones!
Of course you can take magnesium pills or other oral supplements. However, we find that to get enough magnesium this way, we need more than our digestive systems can comfortably handle - magnesium has a laxative affect that not everyone appreciates. Added to which, if the magnesium you’ve taken goes through you too fast, its chances of being absorbed to be of any use to you are greatly impaired. A benefit of topical magnesium is that, because it’s applied to your skin, it bypasses your digestive system while safely increasing the amount of magnesium in your body tissues.
So we’d like to recommend the non-internal methods of adding magnesium to a warm bath (for many people time in water is helpful for lowering stress and anxiety) – you can see our selection of natural magnesium-based bath soaks here, or applying magnesium oil to your skin – learn more here.
There are a few circumstances where people should be wary of supplementing with magnesium, and check in with their healthcare provider before doing so. You can find out more about this in our Magnesium Oil FAQs section.
If you'd like to try some of our topical magnesium products, it could be worth signing up to receive our Weekly Soak newsletter. Your welcome email comes with a code to receive $5 off your first order over $50, plus a free natural bath soak worth $14.50. We currently deliver within New Zealand only.