According to the World Health Organization’s Global Health Estimates, people in the world living with anxiety disorders in 2015 numbered around 264 million. This was an increase from estimates from previous years, and the Americas have the biggest percentage among all regions in the world.
There are many reasons for anxiety disorders, including prolonged exposure to stress, a history of anxiety in the family, and abuse of certain substances. But did you know that your diet may play a role in anxiety, too? A deficiency in our diet, in particular, can trigger imbalances that may translate to negative changes in our mood.
Numerous studies have pointed to the importance of magnesium homeostasis in our bodies to reduce risks for anxiety, as well as other mental disorders. This is because the mineral is critical to over 300 biochemical processes, some of which are neural.
A lack of magnesium renders the brain defenseless against certain mechanisms, which can lead to the development of anxiety. Additionally, external factors such as stress have been found to have a profound effect on the way the body utilizes magnesium, which further exacerbates symptoms of anxiety.
To correct magnesium deficiency and alleviate anxiety, magnesium supplements are available. The medical literature is rife with various research findings that support the use of supplementation to treat anxiety, and ten of the most celebrated are as follows.
Containing magnesium citrate, Mood Boost from LES Labs is considered by many to be effective in easing anxiety and its symptoms. This supplement features a blend of natural ingredients that offer relief from mood disorders, including depression. It is also associated with minimal side effects.
- Features 10 powerful natural ingredients, including ashwagandha, L-theanine and L-tyrosine, passion flower, chamomile, and lemon balm
- Does not contain chemical drugs
- Not recommended to be taken by people who are taking antidepressants
- Also gives rise to side effects for some people
This magnesium supplement from Doctor’s Best does not only feature chelated magnesium, it is specifically formulated with a patented technology to ensure maximum bioavailability. It is also vegan, gluten-free, and contains no GMO. And it is reported to be effective in other biochemical processes, such as the regulation of heartbeat and support of bone density.
- Features a formulation that is easy to digest
- Non-buffered, which means that it is not cut with cheap magnesium oxide
- Provides good value for its quality
- More expensive than other products of its kind
- Contains large tablets, which can be difficult to swallow
Like Mood Boost, Calm 2 from Reborn Labs also contains a nice blend of ingredients that ease stress and anxiety such as biotin, vitamin B6, and niacin. It is also ideal for those who want instant calmness in situations that may otherwise be stressful, such as when flying. And it is said to help with improving cognitive functions.
- Only contains natural ingredients
- Offers instant relief for anxiety
- Only available online
- Does not come with comprehensive information from the manufacturer
- May also cause allergic reactions to some patients
Another 100% natural product, this supplement contains magnesium, as well as other necessary minerals and vitamins, for stress relief and mood support. The brand purports to feature a research lab-tested formula that can improve mood, produce relaxation, and naturally manage the body’s responses to stress and panic.
- Considered effective by many people
- Also improves sleep
- May give rise to side effects for people with certain medical conditions
Pure Magnesium from Pure Micronutrients helps enhance energy while boosting muscle relaxation. It also contains a very absorbable form of magnesium, which can facilitate faster results. And this supplement helps generate a better quality of sleep.
- Easy to swallow, digest, and absorb
- Contains no artificial flavors or preservatives
- Features a GMO-free formula
- Can give a laxative effect to some patients
Like its name denotes, Triple Calm Magnesium from Natural Rhythm produces three times the calmness, because it contains three forms of magnesium. These are magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, and magnesium taurate. This triple action makes maximum absorption possible.
- Contains three forms of magnesium for maximum absorption
- Helps with anxiety, heart, and sleep issues
- Gluten-free and vegetarian
- Can provide a laxative effect to some people
The original 16-oz version of the Natural Calm Magnesium Anti Stress pill from Natural Vitality combines the power of calcium and magnesium to ease anxiety symptoms. The magnesium energizes cells, while the magnesium relaxes cells.
- Widely considered effective by many users
- Tastes and smells good
- May cause migraines and upset stomachs
This Magnesium Glycinate supplement from KAL contains a high amount of bioavailable magnesium that is considered to be helpful for producing calmness, as well as promoting healthy functioning for muscles. It also features ActivTab technology, which ensures that the tablet disintegrates and gets ready to be absorbed in 30 minutes. It is also vegan, as well as dairy and gluten-free.
- Disintegrates in 30 minutes for fast absorption
- Vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO
- Non-buffered, which means that it is not bonded to inexpensive and ineffective magnesium forms
- Can have a laxative effect on some stomachs
Touted to be all-natural, this Nature Made magnesium oxide contains no artificial flavors, preservatives, yeast, or starch. It is considered to be effective not only in easing anxiety, but also helping boost bone, heart, teeth, nerve, and muscle health.
- Good for nerve, heart, and muscle function
- Contains no artificial ingredients
- Some people may consider the dosage too high
- Has been known to cause diarrhea for some people
Another non-GMO supplement, this one from NOW is effective at alleviating anxiety, while also providing nervous system support. It also boosts energy production.
- Provides heart, nerve, and muscle support
- Provides good value
- Difficult to swallow, for some users
- Ideally not to be taken on an empty stomach
Who Needs Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety
Anybody who wants to mitigate symptoms and intensity of anxiety disorders can benefit from magnesium supplements, especially those who do not wish to go on prescription medication to manage panic attacks and other symptoms. Additionally, people who are constantly exposed to highly stressful situations may improve the way that their body utilizes magnesium.
People who suffer from magnesium deficiency due to various reasons should also look into supplementation. These reasons include:
- depleted soil quality that lowers the amount of magnesium in crops
- high prescription and antibiotic drug use that leads to digestive tract damages;
- and digestive disorders that affect the absorption of magnesium and other minerals by the body
Magnesium Deficiency and Anxiety
According to reports, it is estimated that up to 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. What makes this concerning is that lacking in the mineral can hardly be assessed through a blood test, as only about a percent of the mineral is distributed in the blood.
Additional research also says that only around 25 percent of Americans are getting the recommended amounts of magnesium in their diets. These are 310 to 320mg for women and 400 to 420mg for men.
This deficiency has been linked to the persistence of some symptoms of anxiety, as well as other affective mood disorders. In addition, it can trigger a host of other medical conditions, including:
- Blood clots
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- A migraine; and
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
Early signs of hypomagnesemia include weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness, and nausea. Persistent lack of magnesium, on the other hand, is characterized by muscle contractions and cramps, coronary spasms, numbness and tingling, arrhythmia, seizures, and personality changes.
Benefits of Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety
There are many advantages associated with using magnesium supplements for anxiety. Some of the most essential are as follows:
- Stability of Biochemical Functions
Studies have indicated that magnesium plays an important role in important biochemical processes in our bodies, such as the help that it provides in regulating GABA functions. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is responsible for the production of happy hormones such as serotonin. A 2012 report published in the Journal of Neuropharmacology showed that test mice which were made magnesium-deficient exhibited more anxiety-related behaviors, compared to test mice which were given magnesium supplements.
Additionally, the report asserted that magnesium impacts the stress response of the mice models. Insufficient blood plasma and brain Mg levels, for instance, were found to correlate to a spike in the production of cortisol in the brains of the test subjects through the activation of the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus, which is the part of the brain that manages the body’s response to stress and anxiety.
In human beings, the role of magnesium in moderating stress responses has also been studied. Numerous papers cite that magnesium has control over the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPAA), an important substrate of the body’s stress response system. When the HPAA is activated, the brain releases autonomic, neuroendocrine, and behavioral responses to stress, such as the production of the adrenal corticotropin hormone or ACTH. ACTH is responsible for the release of cortisol and adrenaline. Magnesium has been found to not only limit the release of ACTH, it can also control the way the adrenal glands respond to ACTH.
Magnesium also helps inhibits the activity of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which are associated with anxiety and panic disorders. These receptors can be activated by calcium and glutamate, but magnesium keeps the two in check. When there is not enough magnesium, the NMDA receptors are left to the excitatory mercy of calcium and glutamate, which – in the long run – can promote cell death.
- Mitigation of Other Affective Mood Disorders
In addition to anxiety, magnesium supplements can also help reduce the potential development of other affective disorders such as depression. This is because magnesium has been known to be instrumental to various psychoneuroendocrine systems, as well as biological and transduction pathways that are commonly associated with depression.
In previous studies involving test mice, experimentally-induced hypomagnesemia or magnesium deficiency has been found to result in depression-like behavior in the mouse models; in human beings, research has also shown that a diet lacking in magnesium is associated with depression. In fact, low levels of the mineral in serum and cerebrospinal fluids have been linked to the development of symptoms of depression, including suicidality.
Case studies for both test mice and human beings have discovered that magnesium supplementation can have a positive effect on the depressive symptoms of rodent models and patients. One study said that taking 450mg of elemental magnesium for 12 weeks was as effective as administering 50mg of tricyclic antidepressants in reducing symptoms of the disorder among elderly patients with type II diabetes.
- Improvement of Sleep
Magnesium supplements have also been known to have a positive effect on sleep. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Science asserted that of the 46 patients given either placebo or magnesium supplementation over eight weeks, those who were taking the supplements had longer hours of sleep and higher melatonin, and found it easier to fall asleep. Also, they had lower levels of cortisol.
- Promotion of Overall Health
In addition to easing anxiety and other affective mood disorders, magnesium supplementation can also:
- Promote healthy bones and teeth
- Relax muscles
- Prevent the formation of kidney stones
- Ease fatigue
- Provide help with detoxification, since magnesium is necessary for glutathione synthesis
- Improves insulin receptor sensitivity
- Mitigate metabolic syndrome, a set of conditions that increase risks for stroke, diabetes, and heart disease
Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety
There are many types of magnesium supplements that you will find on the market, which are commonly known as chelation or magnesium salts. These contain magnesium that is bonded to amino acids or other compounds that make it easier for the body to absorb magnesium. Chelation also ensures that magnesium, which is a reactive ion, cannot readily react to other reactive ions.
Of the various forms that you will see, some are considered better than others. Bioavailability, for instance, is a significant factor that should be considered when choosing your magnesium supplements. This is because bioavailability measures the absorption rate of the magnesium in the supplement by the body; the higher the bioavailability, the more effective the pill will be at producing the benefits associated with magnesium supplementation.
Another factor to consider in your selection is the amount of magnesium found in the supplement, which is referred to as “elemental magnesium”. During your search, you will see that some supplements will have high elemental magnesium, but this should not stand in the way of considering the bioavailability of the magnesium found in the product. There may be too much magnesium in a pill, but if the body cannot absorb most of the mineral, then it won’t be useful.
Now, let’s look at the different types of magnesium supplements.
Types of Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety
Magnesium oxide or Magnesium oxalate. Of all the forms of magnesium supplements for anxiety that you will find, magnesium oxide or magnesium oxalate contains the highest elemental magnesium. This is why it is popular among manufacturers of magnesium supplements. However, only about 4% of the magnesium that it contains can be absorbed by the body. In addition, it has been known to cause diarrhea. In fact, it is mostly used for laxative purposes.
Magnesium gluconate. In studies involving mice models, magnesium gluconate has been found to have the highest bioavailability among ten forms of magnesium in supplements. However, there are not enough studies done in humans to back up this claim. Experts say the findings could be extrapolated to humans, but using this form of magnesium should still warrant proper medical guidance.
Magnesium citrate. Magnesium citrate, the most common form of magnesium supplementation, has a reported bioavailability of about 25 to 30 percent. It also mixes well with liquids and does not cost as much as other forms of magnesium.
Magnesium chloride. Like magnesium oxide or oxalate, magnesium chloride may generate mild diarrhea. This is because it is poorly absorbed by the intestines, but it has a higher bioavailability than magnesium oxide.
Magnesium hydroxide. Also known as Milk of Magnesia, magnesium hydroxide is mostly found in many antacids. As with other forms of magnesium, it has laxative effects. It is also considered to be highly un-absorbable by the body.
Magnesium malate. Magnesium malate contains magnesium that is bound to malic acid. Malic acid is usually utilized as a substrate to produce cellular energy.
Magnesium Aspartate. In a study that compared the bioavailability of magnesium chelates, magnesium aspartate or magnesium L-aspartate has been found to be better at treating hypomagnesemia than other forms of magnesium. This particular type offers good bioavailability; in fact, magnesium monosaspartate reportedly has 42% bioavailability. One drawback, though, is that it is not as readily available for purchase as other magnesium supplements.
Magnesium glycinate. Magnesium glycinate or diglycinate is another good option, in terms of bioavailability. It is absorbed in different areas of the gut, which promises higher efficacy for delivering the ideal results.
Magnesium taurate. A combination of magnesium and taurine, this specific form of magnesium is said to produce a calming effect, which makes it popular for alleviating anxiety.
Magnesium Orotate. If used for intravenous ingestion, magnesium orotate (or orotic acid) has good bioavailability. Used in pill form, however, there is still a lot that needs to be known about this form of magnesium. At present, even, it is not recommended to be taken orally.
Magnesium L-threonate. One of the newest forms of magnesium chelates, magnesium L-threonate has been linked to enhancing learning and memory. However, it contains low elemental magnesium, which does not make it ideal for correcting a deficiency in magnesium enough to positively affect anxiety.
Other forms of magnesium include magnesium salicylate, magnesium borate, and magnesium sulfate. These are most commonly used as antiseptics. Magnesium sulfate, too, for its part, is better used in bath salts and laxatives, because it is not for safe oral use.
Safety Issues to Consider When Using Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety
Using magnesium supplements for anxiety is largely safe. The medical literature features numerous studies that provide some basis for the efficacy of supplementation in correcting hypomagnesemia, which can have a direct effect on mild anxiety disorders. These studies have also carefully assessed the right set of symptoms, so their findings can be reasonably adapted to provide recommendations for supplementation.
However, it is important to remember that these studies are not absolute in their findings. The design of most of these studies, in particular, leaves a lot of room for growth. Those that featured placebo conditions were found to be ineffective in assessing the results properly, while others did not include a reasonable number of samples, or otherwise employed weak statistical analyses.
This is why many experts are of the opinion that there is a need for more randomized controlled trials. These should particularly be angled at carefully screening samples and properly establishing anxiety levels so that there can be a clear evaluation of treatment results. Subjects with hypomagnesemia should be particularly studied better, because of the linked relationship between deficiency and affective disorders. Placebo options should also be included.
The specific effects of magnesium on stress responses also merits further and additional work. The pathways by which the mineral affect central and peripheral endocrine responses, in particular, should be better studied.
When it comes to side effects, an overdose of magnesium through supplementation has been known to result in diarrhea, cramping, and nausea. However, large unregulated doses can spell more serious consequences. These include urine retention, damage to the central nervous system, depression and lethargy, low blood pressure, kidney problems, and even cardiac arrest.
Product Use Limitations
To avoid negative side effects, it is important to be aware of specifications that do not work well with using magnesium supplements to treat anxiety. Foremost of these is kidney problems; normal kidney functioning is important to making the most out of magnesium supplements. In addition, you should not have a bowel obstruction, myasthenia gravis, and bradycardia.
Magnesium supplements can also lead to potential interactions with certain drugs. In fact, it has been known to reduce the efficacy of chlorpromazine and oral anticoagulants, as well as the quinolone and tetracycline classes of antibiotics. It can also interfere with the way the body absorbs pharmaceuticals such as bisphosphonates, anti-malaria medication, nitrofurantoin, and:
- mycophenolate mofetil
- mycophenolic acid
- quinine; and
Also, taking other mineral supplements influences the way your body utilizes magnesium. High doses of zinc, for instance, are said to interfere with magnesium absorption, so the two are usually not recommended to be taken at the same time. If you’re taking vitamin B6 supplements, you need to talk to your doctor; levels of vitamin B6 can affect magnesium absorption, as well.
Tips for the Safe Management of Using Magnesium Supplements for Anxiety
Now, to ensure that your use of magnesium supplements for anxiety remains safe, the most important thing to do is to seek the advice of a doctor before starting or continuing. Even if you do not have contraindications to magnesium supplements, your doctor will still need to administer the proper dosage so that you can make the most out of the products.
Experts recommend getting between 200 to 400 mg of magnesium for adults, but again, this is a general guideline. A proper assessment of your medical situation is necessary for hitting the right amount, and your doctor will be able to help with that. Additionally, if you are taking other medications or supplements, your doctor will be able to guide you as to the proper approach to magnesium supplementation.
Important Factors to Keep in Mind
When using magnesium supplements for anxiety, there are certain numbers to consider. Some of the most important of these are:
Recommended Daily Allowance
According to the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (which is formerly known as the National Academy of Sciences), the Recommended Daily Allowance of magnesium for different age groups and genders are as follows:
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
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
Factors to Consider in Choosing Magnesium Supplements
Now, when it comes to choosing your magnesium supplements, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. Some of the most essential are:
Amount of magnesium. The magnesium found in the product is significant to its resulting efficacy. If your doctor recommends starting small, supplements with at least 200mg of magnesium in their serving will be ideal.
Type of magnesium. As previously discussed, some forms of magnesium are more efficient in alleviating symptoms of anxiety than others. When choosing, make sure to assess the absorption rate of the magnesium in the supplement, as well as the ways by which it can affect you. Remember that some types of magnesium may contain high amounts of elemental magnesium, but they may also give rise to certain adverse side effects.
Other ingredients in the supplement. Magnesium supplements for anxiety also contain other minerals, including potassium and calcium. If you have other conditions that you need the pill to treat, choose accordingly.
Similarly, make sure that your chosen supplement ideally contains no artificial ingredients. Some supplements feature colors or dyes, but some are naturally-occurring. Always know as much information as you can so that you can be guided accordingly.
Finally, consider the value that the supplement can give you. A good rule of thumb to follow when calculating is to look at the cost-per-serving value of the supplement.
Other Sources of Magnesium
If you want to consider other sources of magnesium aside from supplements, the US National Institutes of Health recommends the following:
- black beans
- peanut butter
- soy milk
- spinach; and
- whole grain bread
Other nutritionists swear by sunflower, squash, and pumpkin seeds, as well as tempeh, black-eyed peas, and Brazil nuts.
There are also magnesium-rich mineral water options. These include popular brands such as Fuji, Evian, Gerolsteiner, and San Pellegrino.
Magnesium supplements are a natural way to help mitigate symptoms of anxiety, as illustrated by many studies. The fact that it is also readily used by the body to manage various biochemical processes also lends additional merit to the use of supplements to regulate moods.
However, it bears noting that your doctor should still be consulted before you decide to pop one of these pills every day. There are few associated side effects with magnesium supplements, but harnessing their full efficacy is still done best when you know your optimal safety is ensured.
Those who have contraindications should be particularly careful. Additionally, if you are taking other supplements, you will need to secure the express recommendation of your doctor, so that you can manage potential drug interactions.
Also, be careful about the dosage that you will take. Some magnesium supplements require a short period for the body to adjust, which may give rise to some side effects. Ensure the guidance of a doctor as you go through this initial phase for your safety.
Additionally, there are other sources of magnesium that you can use, aside from or in addition to supplements. The food sources listed above, in particular, are ideal alternatives to supplements that provide the same set of benefits.