For people under stress and/or suffering from depression, increasing the amount of magnesium in their systems may be helpful. In numerous studies over the last few decades, it has been shown that many people suffering from depression exhibited lower levels of the mineral magnesium and that these same people experienced an improvement when these levels were raised.
During normal periods of a person's life; when the body is not under stress, magnesium levels are higher than calcium levels. (Note: Magnesium and calcium are two minerals that tend to go hand-in-hand.) When a person is under stress, calcium levels rise while magnesium levels decrease. Calcium causes the blood vessels to constrict, muscles to tighten, nerves to excite, and adrenalin to increase. (This physical symptoms are part of the "fight or flight" syndrome that manifests itself during times of stress.) Magnesium, on the other hand, relaxes the nerves and muscles plus causes a decrease in adrenalin, thus calming the person.
All of this means that during periods of high stress, the body is depleted of magnesium. (By the way, as if this were not enough, the body can also begin to feel stress when magnesium levels are low.) This results in even more feelings of stress. This vicious circle can manifest itself in feelings of depression, panic attacks, irritability, anxiety, and sensitivity to loud noises. For example, in a study published in the December 1977 Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, depressed individuals were shown to have lower magnesium levels. A 1974 study published in Lancet showed that individuals on lithium and who did not show any improvement had lower levels of magnesium, while those who did show improvement while on lithium exhibited an increase of magnesium levels.
Magnesium can be found in many foods; i.e., leafy green vegetables such as spinach, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. (Refined foods contain very little magnesium.) Because magnesium is absorbed through the intestines to be dispersed throughout the system, intestinal disorders can affect the levels of magnesium in the body, as well. For instance, people suffering from Crohn's disease can have markedly lower levels of magnesium. In addition, excessive vomiting and diarrhea can deplete magnesium. Furthermore, some medications, such as antibiotics and diuretics, can strip the body of magnesium. Age can also play a factor in lower levels of magnesium, since the mineral becomes depleted as one ages.
What does all of this mean for the individual who may be experiencing high levels of stress and/or symptoms of depression? It means that while increasing one's intake of magnesium may not be a cure, it can help in an overall strategy for an all-natural means of dealing with stress. Generally, a healthy diet can provide a person with the recommended daily requirements (RDA) of magnesium; however, environmental and lifestyle factors can counteract that healthy diet. (Alcohol consumption, for example, can deplete magnesium. A person should also remember that stress itself can deplete magnesium, as well.) To insure that an individual is receiving enough magnesium, it is helpful to take supplements that include magnesium. A good, high-quality vitamin supplement that includes minerals have been shown by research to be beneficial. Fighting stress and any resulting depression can be done through natural means. It is advised that individuals do consult and work closely with a qualified healthcare/mental care professional when developing such a strategy to deal with stress and depression.