Work, money, kids – there could be many reasons you feel more anxious than usual. But it turns out, reducing your anxiety could be as simple as increasing your magnesium intake. Olivia Hartland-Robbins reports
Whether it’s a mild nervous feeling, a sense of increasing worry or all out panic attacks, feeling anxious is not a pleasant feeling. And, if it happens to you, one thing is certain, you’re not alone.
Whether you are facing money troubles, a job loss or just general worries and woes, a growing number of us feel anxious on a daily basis.
In fact, anxiety is among one of the most common mental health problems in the UK – with more than one in ten people experiencing disabling anxiety at some point in their lives, according to Anxiety UK.
There are many known reasons people suffer from anxiety, including stress, medication and illness. But while most of us are aware that there are effective treatments such as anti-anxiety medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – both available on the NHS – what most people don’t know is about the clear link between anxiety and magnesium deficiency.
Indeed, a recent study concluded that daily supplementation with magnesium can lead to a significant decrease in symptoms of anxiety, which suggests a definite link between the two.
The randomised cross-over trial was carried out on adults with mild to moderate depression symptoms. Six-wekk supplementation with magnesium chloride saw improvements in symptoms of depression regardless of age, gender or the use of antidepressants.
Most patients experienced improvements in just two weeks of starting supplementation.
Plus, researchers in 2017 published a study in the journal PLoS One, and found that adults who received 248 mg magnesium a day for six weeks saw a significant improvement in their levels of depression and anxiety. Could you be magnesium deficient?
Despite the fact that magnesium is found in every day foods such as brown rice, leafy green vegetables, beans, avocados, almonds and even dark chocolate, it turns out, a staggering 70 per cent of us have low levels.
That’s according to one study that tested 8000 participants’ hair samples between August 2014 and January 2016 carried out by the testing company Mineral Check.
A natural relaxant, for both muscles and mind, magnesium is one of the body’s most important essential minerals. It plays a crucial role in more than 300 different enzymatic reactions in the body each day including helping the muscles to relax for a restful night’s sleep, regulating the nervous system and reducing tiredness and mood swings.
Indeed, one in five women aged 19 to 34 have magnesium intakes below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI), according to the British Nutrition Foundation.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium for adults is 375 milligrams (mg), daily although requirements are increased during pregnancy because of how your body absorbs vitamins and minerals whilst pregnant. You would have to eat 130 grams of cashew nuts to reach the RDA of magnesium – 375 milligrams So how much do you have to eat to get your daily magnesium allowance? According to nutritional expert Keeley Berry, here’s how: 160 grams of dark chocolate – roughly four small bars (Green & Blacks) or one and a half large bars of Lindt 70% but think of the sugar and fat…
130 grams of cashew nuts – and 100 grams of cashew alone have 550 grams!
470 grams of cooked spinach – a giant bowl wouldn’t be enough
870 grams of brown rice – it’s impossible to eat that!
Why are so many of us magnesium deficient?
‘Magnesium deficiency could be down to our western diets which contain processed foods and refined grains, often with minimal consumption of leafy green vegetables,’ says Berry.
But we don’t only have the western diet to blame, it seems that the amount of magnesium found in common foods has also declined over the years.
‘Decreasing nutrient levels in western diets have long been reported. This may be due to over-farming and increased pollution,’ adds Berry. ‘The amount of magnesium in most common foods has declined by 20 per cent since the 1950s. Signs of magnesium deficiency include:
Poor quality sleep
Joint discomfort Muscle tension and pain Muscle or eye twitching Weak bones Low mood Headaches Migraines Poor concentration One symptom of magnesium deficiency is muscle and eye twitching. So how does magnesium deficiency affect anxiety? Among many others, poor sleep, exhaustion, feeling low and a weak immune system are all well-known symptoms of magnesium deficiency.Often when experiencing such symptoms though, it’s unlikely that our first thought would be magnesium deficiency. Instead, we tend to blame lifestyle factors such as, family, hectic social lives and work pressures.But actually, these common symptoms of magnesium deficiency could be the reason you feel so anxious.Let’s have a look at which of these symptoms could be making your anxiety worse. Symptom #1 You can’t sleep (or sleep badly) Poor sleep is probably one of the main reasons you’re feeling so anxious.When it comes to getting a restful night’s sleep, magnesium is instrumental in helping the body to relax, unwind, and in helping our brains switch off before bed.The reason magnesium is beneficial for sleep is through its interaction with a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is an amino acid responsible for reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation and preparing our body for sleep.Magnesium helps the body relax by ensuring these GABA receptors in our brain and nervous system are working as efficiently as possible.Plus, the GABA receptors are necessary to help our brains switch off, so that our minds don’t continue to race when trying to fall asleep. Think of them as hushing out those noisy late night thoughts that so many of us seem to experience.It seems that sleep deprivation and anxiety create a vicious cycle, says Berry. ‘ Research suggests that sleep deprivation can cause anxiety, yet experiencing anxiety can also cause sleeping problems – either one can come first,’ says Berry.‘Some form of sleep disruption is present in nearly all psychiatric disorders and studies […]