Let’s face it, our lives aren’t slowing down anytime soon and learning to navigate everyday stressors requires a heck of a lot more attention than we once thought. Though more recently we are learning to become aware of our bodies and realise when it’s time to take a breath on a regular basis. However, sometimes listening to our bodies just won’t cut it and a bigger push is required when it comes to winding down and switching into relax mode.
If there’s one nutrient we could choose to help put the brakes on when it comes to stress magnesium is the pick of the bunch. Magnesium is one mineral that has so many functions within the body but has one of the biggest impacts on relaxation and muscle health.
How can this little mineral impact us in such a significant way? Well funnily enough, when the levels of magnesium within the body are low this can ramp up our stress levels, and when we are physically or mentally stressed this can lower our magnesium levels. It’s a vicious cycle! The loss of this mineral can be due to the high requirement for magnesium in times of stress or over excretion through urine, sweat, high alcohol and caffeine intakes.
Navigating stress is tough. But don’t stress! Read on to learn about the powerful effects of magnesium and how you can optimise your bodies levels of this powerful mineral.
Our bodies hold around 20-30 grams of magnesium at one time, where about 40% of this is contained within the soft tissues like our muscles. So it’s no wonder magnesium is the main assistant for the maintenance of normal muscle function that involves contraction and relaxation.
Ever noticed a random eye or muscle twitch at the end of the day? Or experienced a spontaneous muscle cramp? These are two signs that can indicate a mild magnesium deficiency. Within the muscles, magnesium works alongside other minerals – calcium, potassium and sodium – to facilitate strong muscle contraction and normal relaxation. However, an imbalance in levels of these minerals can lead to muscle spasms or cramps.
One benefit of magnesium when it comes to women’s health is for relieving pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. Studies have revealed that underlying magnesium deficiencies are a driving factor in aggravating PMS symptoms such as pelvic cramps, where magnesium levels are found to be lower in those women with PMS. This is due to the major effect magnesium has on relaxing muscles and regulating the stimulation of muscles.
As stated previously, low levels of magnesium can increase the bodies sensitivity to stress. In those with balanced magnesium levels, magnesium normally works to inhibit the excitatory or stimulating activity of our nerves or neurotransmitters – our bodies chemical communicators – to promote a calming effect on our nervous system. Though in times of chronic stress magnesium stores are progressively lost leading to an over-activation of our sympathetic nervous system or fight-or-flight response.
A major stress hormone that gets a lot of hype for its role in chronic stress is cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal glands during a fight-or-flight response that essentially used to help us run away from predators in centuries past. Though nowadays, cortisol may be abnormally released on a daily basis due to high levels of everyday stressors – work, gym, caffeine, to-do lists. Magnesium has been shown effective in modulating the release of cortisol through reducing excessive crosstalk between the brain and adrenal glands.
Sleep disturbance or deprivation is a common sign of elevated stress and indirectly low magnesium levels. Again, sleep disturbance can be due to an overstimulated nervous system where reduction of excitatory hormones – such as cortisol or glutamate – is impaired, or promotion of muscle relaxation is reduced due to a deficiency in magnesium.
Another factor magnesium plays in sleep is promoting levels of melatonin, our sleep activating hormone. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the following step after the happiness hormone serotonin is made. Magnesium works within this pathway to convert amino acids into serotonin. So without enough magnesium melatonin production can also become impaired.
Getting Enough Magnesium
Due to the heightened levels of stress within our busy society it is now more than ever that we need to be optimizing our magnesium intakes. Getting magnesium through a food first approach before supplementation is key and may be better absorbed. Magnesium rich food sources include nuts - especially pumpkin seeds – legumes, leafy green vegetables, wholegrains, cacao, as well as animal sources like fish, meat and dairy products.
Active Cycle, our nutrient rich hot chocolate formula, contains magnesium in the form of magnesium amino acid chelate. Unlike other forms of magnesium, the amino acid chelate form is highly absorbed within the digestive tract due to the reduced number of steps needed for magnesium absorption. And the best part? Just one serving of Active Cycle provides you with 94% of the daily requirements of magnesium. So, if you’re in need of a boost in the PMS, cramping or sleep department this may just be the formula for you.
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Fathizadeh, N., Ebrahimi, E., Valiani, M., Tavakoli, N., & Yar, M. H. (2010). Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 15(Suppl 1), 401–405.
Pickering, G., Mazur, A., Trousselard, M., Bienkowski, P., Yaltsewa, N., Amessou, M., Noah, L., & Pouteau, E. (2020). Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients, 12(12), 3672. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12123672
Zhang, Y., Chen, C., Lu, L., Knutson, K. L., Carnethon, M. R., Fly, A. D., Luo, J., Haas, D. M., Shikany, J. M., & Kahe, K. (2022). Association of magnesium intake with sleep duration and sleep quality: findings from the CARDIA study. Sleep, 45(4), zsab276. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsab276