Magnesium for Anxiety: Can Supplements Help?

Anxiety and depression affect millions of people every year. However, treatment options are limited. Antidepressants take weeks to start working, and some people do not respond to them at all. Furthermore, they can cause numerous unpleasant side effects.

Therefore, many people are seeking natural alternatives such as herbal remedies and supplements. Among the most popular choices is magnesium. It is an essential mineral that occurs naturally in certain foods. However, it is not always easy to get enough magnesium from one’s diet.

So, is it helpful to take magnesium for anxiety and other mood disorders? Read on to find out.

Why Take Magnesium for Depression and Anxiety?

Magnesium has a range of vital functions within the body. It is involved in over 300 different enzymatic reactions, affecting the nervous system, muscles, blood sugar, blood pressure, and more.

Because of its role in the nervous system, magnesium could help to regulate our moods and emotions. It acts upon receptors in the brain known as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors.

These receptors bind with the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate to increase nerve cell activity.

why-take-magnesium-for-depression-and-anxiety

NMDA receptors and glutamate have an essential function in the nervous system. However, if they become overactive, they can cause a phenomenon called excitotoxicity, which damages nerve cells.

Researchers have linked excitotoxicity to a broad range of neurological conditions, including anxiety and depression. Magnesium appears to offer some protection by reducing glutamate’s activity at NMDA receptors.

Some experts have hypothesized that the prevalence of depression has increased due to insufficient magnesium in modern diets. For example, one of the best food sources of magnesium is whole grain cereals. However, refined flour contains only 16% of whole wheat’s original magnesium content. Furthermore, other sources such as nuts, seeds, and legumes do not feature prominently in many people’s diets.

Research has indicated that there is a link between magnesium deficiency and stress-related health conditions.

The suggestion is that magnesium supplementation could counter these issues. There is also some research to support this idea. A 2011 study on rats demonstrated that administering magnesium L-threonate elevated levels of this nutrient in the animals’ brains.

Research on humans has also indicated that there is a link between magnesium deficiency and stress-related health conditions. A 2017 review of 18 studies suggested that supplementation could be beneficial for mild-moderate anxiety and premenstrual syndrome. However, the evidence was of poor quality overall.

Choosing a Magnesium Supplement

Magnesium is available in many different forms, known as salts. These salts have varying bioavailability rates, meaning the body can absorb some more easily than others. Therefore, choosing the best magnesium supplement for anxiety is not straightforward.

We will discuss some of the most suitable options below.

What Is the Best Magnesium for Anxiety?

According to the National Institutes of Health, the most bioavailable forms of magnesium are:

  • Magnesium aspartate
  • Magnesium citrate
  • Magnesium lactate
  • Magnesium chloride

The source suggests that magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate are less readily absorbed.

However, a 2019 study assessing the bioavailability of different magnesium supplements found magnesium oxide had high absorption when mixed with magnesium glycerophosphate. The research ranked the combination product as number one for bioavailability. Products containing magnesium citrate ranked second and third, while magnesium glycinate came in fourth.

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Prospective customers should also note that the amount of magnesium salt listed on a product label is not the same as the actual magnesium content. For instance, in a 2017 study on magnesium for depression, the participants took 4 x 500mg magnesium chloride tablets daily. This dose was equivalent to 248mg of elemental magnesium.

Therefore, consumers should look for products that are transparent about their total magnesium content. Reliable brands should provide evidence of this via lab reports. These reports will also confirm the absence of harmful additives and contaminants.

How to Take Magnesium for Anxiety

The recommended daily magnesium intake for healthy adults is 400–420mg for males and 310–320mg for females. This figure includes magnesium from dietary sources, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens.

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There are no official guidelines on how often or how much magnesium to take for anxiety or depression, specifically. The amount necessary will depend upon the product type and the individual taking it.

Therefore, it is advisable to seek medical advice before beginning supplementation to determine a suitable dosage. 

Can You Take Magnesium With Antidepressants?

Some antidepressants and antipsychotics can interfere with magnesium-transporting proteins within the body. Therefore, people taking antidepressants should have their magnesium levels monitored regularly.

Magnesium can also interact with several other types of medication, including:

  • Osteoporosis drugs called bisphosphonates
  • Some antibiotics
  • Diuretics
  • Medication for gastric ulcers and excess acid (proton pump inhibitors)
  • High dose zinc supplements
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Therefore, it is essential to consult a physician before taking magnesium and antidepressants or any other medicine.

Magnesium Side Effects

High doses of magnesium may cause adverse reactions in some people. The most common magnesium side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping

Bottom Line on Magnesium for Anxiety

Magnesium is crucial for healthy nervous system function and could assist in the treatment of certain mood disorders. However, more research into the subject is necessary due to the poor quality of existing studies.

Increasing the amount of magnesium in one’s everyday diet is a sensible first step toward better mental health.

Increasing the amount of magnesium in one’s everyday diet is a sensible first step toward better mental health. Various supplements are also available, although they carry the risk of side effects and drug interactions.

Therefore, anyone interested in taking a magnesium supplement for anxiety or depression should seek advice from a knowledgeable healthcare provider. They will be able to provide personalized guidance on safety and dosage.

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