Stress is no stranger to human existence. It’s a normal part of living and functioning in a gravitational state on this planet. But, as Buddha said, “be moderate in all things.” Too much of anything, on a chronic basis, can eventually be deleterious to one’s health.
Hungarian born Hans Selye MD, Ph.D, the “so-called” father of stress research, developed and implemented his famous concept, “General Adaptive Syndrome (GAS),” a response of the body based on the demands placed on it. The body’s three stage response – alarm, resistance, exhaustion – manifest, as follows, notes Medicalnewstoday.com.
“At the alarm reaction stage, a distress signal is sent to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus enables the release of hormones called glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which is a stress hormone. The adrenaline gives a person a boost of energy” – at cost of raising the heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
The control mechanism is the autonomic nervous system (ANS) – sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – fight or flight system – and the parasympathetic nervous (PNS) – relaxation or recovery response – all affecting heart rate variability (HRV), what happens between heart beats (R-R interval), resulting from an elevation in the hormone cortisol.
During the resistance stage, which is controlled by the PNS, “the body tries to counteract the physiological changes that happened during the alarm reaction stage,” notes the website.
If the stress gets under control, then the heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal. However, if the stressor remains, the body will stay in a state of alert, and stress hormones continue to be produced.
Should the stressor or situation become protracted, then the body goes into the final stage of GAS – exhaustion – depleting its energy resources by continually trying, but failing to recover from the initial alarm reaction stage.
Symptoms may manifest in the form of fatigue, depression, anxiety, and a feeling of the inability to cope. That’s when long-term stress may trigger the start of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colitis, and other such stress-inflammatory conditions.
According to research – Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited – which appeared in the January 2021 issue of the online, peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, “magnesium is a naturally occurring calcium channel blocker, is involved in the maintenance of electrolyte balance (e.g., regulation of sodium–potassium ATPase activity), and plays a key role in membrane excitability.”
Magnesium, the second most abundant intracellular essential mineral, is a cofactor in hundreds of enzyme processes – specifically protein and nucleic acid synthesis, regulation of metabolic pathways, neuronal transmission, neuromuscular function, and normalization of cardiac rhythm.
The adult human body contains roughly from 21 to 28 grams of magnesium – with 50–60% being stored in the bones, while the remainder is distributed in soft tissues such as muscles.
The study authors, from various medical facilities and universities in France, comment that, “magnesium is also an essential component of the extracellular fluid (ECF) and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the central nervous system,” with, “only 1% of the total magnesium is extracellular and 0.3% of this circulates in serum in three different forms: Free (unbound; 60%), which represents the biologically active form; albumin-bound (30%); or in a complex with other ions (10%).”
Magnesium is regulated though the actions of intestinal absorption, kidney excretion – which is why people with kidney dysfunction needs medical guidance before supplementing – and storage in the bones.
A high sodium intake, calcium, and excess protein intake, along with caffeine and alcohol consumption, diuretics, proton-pump and inhibitors of antibiotics, even conditions such as, pregnancy, aging, and menopause, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, kidney failure, and gastrointestinal disorders, may all interfere with the absorption of magnesium.
Magnesium is sourced in foods like, nuts, whole cereals, fruits, coffee and cocoa-based products, fish, meats, and milk. As for its requirements, the current recommended dietary allowance for males is 400-420 milligrams (mg) per day, while females require 310-320 mg/day.
The French study authors comment that, “magnesium supplementation has proven benefits for the treatment of symptoms of psychological daily stress (fatigue, irritability, sleep). It has been shown that subjects with mental and physical stress can benefit from a daily intake of magnesium.”
They further document that, “magnesium supplementation of 400 mg/day was associated with a clear improvement of the heart rate variability, measured as an indicator of the parasympathetic and vagal systems’ response to stress, in subjects who were asked to complete moderate muscle endurance training once weekly.”
In addition, “the daily supplementation with 300 mg (combined or not with vitamin B6, 30 mg) provided positive results on stress relief, particularly on subjects who reported severe stress levels at baseline, with a reduction in Depression Anxiety Stress Scale scores of up to 45% from baseline,” note the French.
It was concluded that, “while there is good evidence from animal and human studies of the bi-directional link between magnesium and stress, further research is needed to better understand the impact of this correlation and the benefit of magnesium supplementation on general health.”
That means, before you embark on magnesium supplementation, you should first check with your primary care physician.
Interested in reading more? Check out Our Top Five Tips to Control Stress