The Ultimate Guide To Magnesium For Anxiety and Depression

Written by Erik Levi, FNTP — Updated on July 24, 2021

Magnesium is important.

It is one of the most utilized nutrients in your body, and most people don’t have enough of it.

In times of stress, your body turns to magnesium to maintain homeostasis and not completely meltdown.

Your body has evolved to use magnesium to power its most important metabolic processes.

Until recently, this was not a problem because magnesium was readily available in food.

But nowadays, our food is deficient in magnesium, along with most essential minerals.

And with the rampant physical and emotional toxicity present in our modern world, magnesium demands have never been higher.

You see this scenario playing out in the skyrocketing numbers of mental health disorders.  Especially in cases of anxiety and depression.

In this article, I lay out everything you need to know about using magnesium, including how to use it for anxiety and depression specifically.

What Does Magnesium Do

Magnesium is an essential mineral used in the body to maintain homeostasis.

  • 7 All-Natural Forms of Magnesium
  • Stress Reduction
  • Improves Sleep
  • Mood Enhancement
  • Sharper Cognition
  • Cardiovascular Benefits

 

Magnesium

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It ensures the correct functioning of all human cells used in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body.1R Swaminathan. Magnesium metabolism and its disorders, Clin Biochem Rev. 2003

These reactions include metabolism, enzymatic activity, ATP production, and making sure other minerals like calcium function properly.2Joel Michels Topf, Patrick T Murray. Hypomagnesemia and hypermagnesemia, Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2003

Magnesium is required for optimal nerve transmission. It is involved in the formation of membrane phospholipids, which ultimately gives this powerful mineral a fundamental role in your central nervous system’s correct functioning.3 M F Ryan. The role of magnesium in clinical biochemistry: an overview
,
Ann Clin Bioche. 1991

In short, you need adequate magnesium for your body to function optimally throughout the day.

This is especially true for mental health, as it plays a critical role in brain function and mood.

What Is Magnesium Good For

Because magnesium is necessary for so many biochemical reactions, getting adequate amounts can be helpful for the following conditions:

  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Leg cramps
  • Migraines
  • Constipation
  • Heart health

While we can discuss the full spectrum of metabolic processes that use magnesium, we will stick to its brain benefits for the sake of this article.

Magnesium and The Brain

Adequate magnesium levels are necessary for a well-working brain.

Along with being essential for hundreds of metabolic processes in the body, we also know that magnesium plays a critical role in brain-specific processes like myelination4Takahiro Seyama, et al. Pretreatment with magnesium sulfate attenuates white matter damage by preventing cell death of developing oligodendrocytes, J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2018 , synaptic formation and maintenance5Qifeng Sun, et al. Regulation of structural and functional synapse density by L-threonate through modulation of intraneuronal magnesium concentration, Neuropharmacology. 2016 , and regulation of serotoninergic, dopaminergic, and cholinergic transmission.6A A Spasov, et al. Features of central neurotransmission in animals in conditions of dietary magnesium deficiency and after its correction, Neurosci Behav Physiol. 2009

There is a lot of evidence that shows magnesium’s effectiveness in enhancing many different aspects of overall cognitive performance.

It’s been shown to increase synaptic plasticity by enhancing neurogenesis and the maturation of newly generated neural cells while increasing neural stem cells’ proliferation.7Chao Wu, et al. Magnesium promotes the viability and induces differentiation of neural stem cells both in vitro and in vivo, Neurol Res. 2019

These geeky, big worded features of magnesium translate into:8Inna Slutsky, et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium
,
Neuron
. 2010

  • Enhanced learning abilities,
  • Better Working memory
  • More Short- and Long-term memory
  • Better focus and concentration
  • Mood boost

Magnesium For Depression

Magnesium’s mood-boosting effects have been studied extensively in both animals and humans.9Andrea Botturi, et al. The Role and the Effect of Magnesium in Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review, Nutrients. 2020

Studies have shown that a diet low in Magnesium is associated with increased depression10Marie-Laure Derom, Carmen Sayón-Orea, José María Martínez-Ortega, Miguel A Martínez-González. Magnesium and depression: a systematic review, Nutr Neurosci. 2013 and suicide.11Magdalena Sowa-Kućma, Bernadeta Szewczyk, Krystyna Sadlik, Wojciech Piekoszewski, Franciszek Trela, Włodzimierz Opoka, Ewa Poleszak, Andrzej Pilc, Gabriel Nowak. Zinc, magnesium and NMDA receptor alterations in the hippocampus of suicide victims, J Affect Disord. 2013

Magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve cases of major depression12George A Eby, et al. Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment, Med Hypotheses. 2006 , mania13D Pavlinac, R Langer, L Lenhard, L Deftos. Magnesium in affective disorders, Biol Psychiatry. 1979 , bipolar disorder14G Chouinard, L Beauclair, R Geiser, P Etienne. A pilot study of magnesium aspartate hydrochloride (Magnesiocard) as a mood stabilizer for rapid cycling bipolar affective disorder patients, Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 1990 , and affective symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome15I M Cox, M J Campbell, D Dowson. Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome, Lancet. 1991 .

One of magnesium’s most interesting anti-depressant features is its ability to work synergistically with other anti-depressant therapies.16Daan H H M Viering, et al. Genetic causes of hypomagnesemia, a clinical overview, Pediatr Nephrol. 2017

In fact, magnesium has shown to have a strong, synergistic effect with ketamine.17Harald Murck. Ketamine, magnesium and major depression–from pharmacology to pathophysiology and back, J Psychiatr Res. 2013

While there is quite a bit of evidence for magnesium’s ability to improve humans’ mood disorders, many conflicting data also exist. The relationship between Mg levels and depression is yet to be fully elucidated.18J F CADE. A SIGNIFICANT ELEVATION OF PLASMA MAGNESIUM LEVELS IN SCHIZOPHRENIA AND DEPRESSIVE STATES, Med J Aust. 1964

This is mostly due to poor study design.19Neil Bernard Boyle,* Clare Lawton, and Louise Dye. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review, Nutrients. 2017

The bottom line is that magnesium has many anti-depressant benefits; it hasn’t been expressed well enough in the scientific literature.

Magnesium For Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are often found as a comorbidity with depression.20Zhiguo WU and Yiru FANG. Comorbidity of depressive and anxiety disorders: challenges in diagnosis and assessment, Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2014

And like depression, magnesium shows promise as a potent therapy for anxiety.

According to the WHO, anxiety-related conditions are the most common affective disorders present in the general population.21Ronald C Kessler, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, Jordi Alonso, Somnath Chatterji, Sing Lee, Johan Ormel, T Bedirhan Ustün, Philip S Wang. The global burden of mental disorders: an update from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) surveys, Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc. Jan-Mar 2009

Several clinical studies have shown low serum levels of magnesium in people who experience anxiety.22Felice N Jacka, Simon Overland, Robert Stewart, Grethe S Tell, Ingvar Bjelland, Arnstein Mykletun. Association between magnesium intake and depression and anxiety in community-dwelling adults: the Hordaland Health Study, Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2009

Social Anxiety

These nerve-calming attributes can also improve instances of social anxiety.23Victoria Papadopol and Mihai Nechifor. Magnesium in neuroses and neuroticism, Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011.

Magnesium’s ability to modulate glutamate activity and raise GABA makes it akin to a social lubricant.

This is because GABA is the primary neurotransmitter that is raised when consuming alcohol.24Niladri Banerjee. Neurotransmitters in alcoholism: A review of neurobiological and genetic studies, Indian J Hum Genet. 2014

Skip the booze at your next party and opt for a hit of magnesium!

Magnesium and Stress

Stress reduction is magnesium’s most prized attribute.

This is important since stress is the basis of most mental and physical health problems.25Loren Toussaint, Grant S Shields, Gabriel Dorn, and George M Slavich. Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health, J Health Psychol. 2016

Magnesium modulates the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.26Bonpei Takase, Takashi Akima, Akimi Uehata, Fumitaka Ohsuzu, Akira Kurita. Effect of chronic stress and sleep deprivation on both flow-mediated dilation in the brachial artery and the intracellular magnesium level in humans, Clin Cardiol. 2004

The HPA axis is the body’s inherent stress-response system and is responsible for producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.27Katja Held, et al. Oral Mg(2+) supplementation reverses age-related neuroendocrine and sleep EEG changes in humans, Pharmacopsychiatry. 2002
This doesn’t mean that magnesium will take away your stress, but it will reign in your body’s response to stress.

Which means more emotional stability and resilience.27H Murck, A Steiger. Mg2+ reduces ACTH secretion and enhances spindle power without changing delta power during sleep in men — possible therapeutic implications, Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1998

How Magnesium Works In The Brain

There are several magnesium-dependant pathways in the brain that may be responsible for its effectiveness.

Along with modulating the HPA axis, magnesium also antagonizes glutamate and NMDA receptor activity, leading to neuronal hyperexcitability.28Author Name. Magnesium ions block an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated component of synaptic transmission in rat hippocampus, Journal or Publication name here. YEAR

Reducing glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter can effectively calm the mind and many anxiety-related symptoms at the NMDA receptor.29E J Coan, G L Collingridge. Magnesium ions block an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated component of synaptic transmission in rat hippocampus, Neurosci Lett. 1985

This action at the NMDA receptor may also raise GABA levels in the brain, which can induce a calming effect.30R Bruce Lydiard. The role of GABA in anxiety disorders, J Clin Psychiatry. 2003

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

Being magnesium deficient has many health consequences.

The most accurate way to check your status is through blood testing or hair mineral testing.31Dilip Gude. ‘Tracing Elements’ in Hair, Int J Trichology. 2011 Jul-Dec

Some tell-tale symptoms may indicate magnesium deficiency including:32Abdullah M. Al Alawi, et al. Magnesium and Human Health: Perspectives and Research Directions
,
Int J Endocrinol. 2018
33Alin Gragossian; Khalid Bashir; Rotem Friede. Hypomagnesemia
,
StatPearls Publishing; 2020
,

  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Asthma
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Apathy or general malaise
  • Heart problems
  • Low calcium and potassium
  • Low parathyroid

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency

Many causes lead to magnesium deficiency.

Some of the most common include:

  • Diet
  • Pharmaceutical Drugs
  • Genetics
  • Metabolic Disorders

Diet

As stated above, the modern, Western food supply is incredibly magnesium deficient.

This is mostly due to processed foods, demineralized water, and agricultural practices using soil deficient in magnesium for growing food.34Jeroen H F de Baaij, et al. Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease
,
Physiol Rev
. 2015

Pharmaceutical Drugs

Many popular pharmaceutical drugs have been found to cause hypomagnesia.  These include:35. Table 7: Medications associated with hypomagnesemia., Int J Endocrinol. 2018

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungals
  • Cancer drugs
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Diuretics
  • Pneumonia Drugs
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors

According to the CDC, almost half of all Americans use at least one prescription drug.36CDC. Therapeutic Drug Use
,
Center For Disease Control

One-quarter of Americans use 3 or more.

In short, that means a lot of magnesium deficiencies.

Genetics

Genetics also plays a major role in one’s ability to absorb and utilize magnesium.

Mutations in specific genes can greatly influence your magnesium status.

This is because different genes affect the function of magnesium transport and utilization in the body.

Some gene mutations that correlate to magnesium deficiency disorders include:37Daan H H M Viering, et al. Genetic causes of hypomagnesemia, a clinical overview
,
Pediatr Nephrol
. 2017

  • Hypercalciuric hypomagnesemia (Genes: CLDN16, CLDN19, CASR, CLCNKB)
  • Gitelman syndrome (CLCNKB, SLC12A3, BSND, KCNJ10, FYXD2, HNF1B, PCBD1)
  • Mitochondrial hypomagnesemias (SARS2, MT-TI, Kearns-Sayre syndrome)
  • Other hypomagnesemias (TRPM6, CNMM2, EGF, EGFR, KCNA1, FAM111A)

You can always check to see if you have any of these genes with a genetics test.

Different Forms Of Magnesium

If you’ve ever shopped for a magnesium supplement, you’ve probably noticed the different forms of magnesium that are readily available.

It’s important to understand the different effects that each form gives.

Different magnesium preparations have different intestinal absorption ability.

Studies have claimed that Organic magnesium supplements (aspartate, citrate, lactate, chloride) have been more bioavailable than inorganic magnesium (oxide, sulfate).38Mohammed S. Razzaque. Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?
,
Nutrients. 2018

Here is a quick rundown of some of the more popular forms for supplementation and what they do:

  • Magnesium L-threonate – Relatively new compound consists of a magnesium ion and threonate, which exists physiologically in the brain. Shown to increase Magnesium in the CSF significantly.  Also a favorite for nootropic purposes.39Young-Sung Kim, et al. Neuroprotective effects of magnesium l-threonate in a hypoxic zebrafish model
    ,
    BMC Neurosci. 2020
    /
  • Magnesium Oxide – an inorganic compound that occurs in nature typically used as a laxative and is the least bioavailable form of Magnesium.40Jan Philipp Schuchardt. Intestinal Absorption and Factors Influencing Bioavailability of Magnesium-An Update
    ,
    Curr Nutr Food Sci
    . 2017
  • Magnesium Glycinate– Magnesium Glycinate is an orally available magnesium salt of glycine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, and a fundamental metabolite neurotransmitter.41PubChem. Magnesium glycinate
    ,
    National Library of Medicine
    National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • Magnesium Citrate – The citrate salt of the element magnesium with cathartic activity stimulates peristalsis, stimulates the activity of nitric oxide (NO) synthase, and increases the biosynthesis of the phospholipid proinflammatory mediator platelet-activating factor (PAF) in the gut.42PubChem. Magnesium citrate
    ,
    National Library of Medicine
    National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • Magnesium Gluconate – Magnesium gluconate is a magnesium salt of gluconate. It demonstrates the highest oral bioavailability of the magnesium salts.43PubChem. Magnesium gluconate
    ,
    National Library of Medicine
    National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • Magnesium Taurate – 2:1 combination of taurine and magnesium. Taurine is found throughout most human tissues and is used by the body in bile formation and metabolism.44PubChem. Magnesium taurate and other mineral taurates
    ,
    National Library of Medicine
    National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • Magnesium Chloride – An inorganic compound consisting of one magnesium and two chloride ions. The compound is used in medicine as a source of magnesium ions.45PubChem. Magnesium chloride, National Library of Medicine
    National Center for Biotechnology Information

My Top Magnesium Supplement Recommendation

These days magnesium is not as bioavailable in food as it once was, which is why supplementation is necessary.

Traditionally, people obtained magnesium through foods like leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and some animal foods.46. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, Agricultural Research Service

The problem is that there are many magnesium supplements to choose from, and these supplements are not created equal.

Many magnesium supplements are formulated poorly and contain many added fillers, excipients, and added ingredients toxic to the body.

And because there are so many different magnesium forms, it can be hard to pinpoint the one that works best for you.

This is why my number one choice for Magnesium is Magnesium Breakthrough from BioOptimizers.

Magnesium Breakthrough

Magnesium Breakthrough is the most advanced, comprehensive Magnesium formula on the market.

It contains SEVEN forms of magnesium, including:

  • Magnesium Threonate
  • Magnesium Glycinate
  • Magnesium Taurate
  • Magnesium Citrate

These magnesium forms’ synergistic effect offers more support to the over 300 magnesium-dependent, metabolic processes in your body and brain.

This is essential for optimizing the mind-body connection.

Most importantly, Magnesium Breakthrough is created from high-quality ingredients and contains no added fillers and toxic ingredients found in most commercially available magnesium supplements.

Learn more about Magnesium Breakthrough and get a discount HERE.

 

 

 

 

About the author:

Erik Levi, FNTP

Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.

As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.

Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.

Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.

You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.

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