I am going to put up a post in a couple of days that speaks deeply and truthfully about the lack of trust I have in my body. In that post, I talk about anxiety, and being tired, and how so very hard getting through every day has been for me some times.
I want to preempt that post with a caveat, however. I wrote it yesterday afternoon, when I was in one of those desperately tired states. Yesterday evening, I took action that turned my mental state around by 180 degrees. Hell, 1800. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about how important this action is — I couldn’t believe how long I had gone without it.
I took a magnesium supplement.
I went from being an exhausted, frayed, sad sack of a hot mess to a serene, joyous, social, and fliratious woman (in that order, as the evening wore on. *wink.)
These are symptoms that I was exhibiting with increasing severity over the last several weeks: muscle stiffness, joint pain, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and extreme sensitivity to sound. This last bit is particularly troubling for a woman who lives between a highway with construction on it and a house being built. Color me out of my wits — I was nothing but a panic in all of this. These are all symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and somewhere along the line I just forgot that that might be a part of my problem.
The skinny on magnesium, calcium, hormones, nerves, stress, and more
Magnesium is one of the most important nutrients in our whole bodies. It’s crucial for more than 300 enzyme reactions, and it’s involved in a wide variety of systems, particularly adrenal health, cardiovascular health, brain health, muscle health, bone health, and hormone health. Personally, I think it does great things for my skin, too, possibly because it helps my adrenals calm down.
The primary job that magnesium is responsible for is monitoring the flux of calcium in and out of cells. In a healthy cell, magnesium resides within the cell while calcium remains outside. Calcium is necessary for certain functions such as firing a nerve, contracting a muscle or secreting a hormone. When cells need calcium, magnesium opens up channels in the cell membrane which allows calcium to rush into the cell. Once the cell gets enough calcium in it, it will perform the function that it needed the calcium for. This partly accounts for why calcium has been efficacious for curing PCOS and other hormone imbalances in studies, I have always hypothesized. The calcium gets hormone production up to regular levels in women who are deficient in calcium.
However, the calcium has to be removed from the cell in order to stop contracting a muscle, firing if it’s a nerve, or secreting a hormone if it’s a gland. Magnesium now has two important jobs to do: it has to help the cell synthesize the energy it needs in order to perform this function, and it also has to open the channel and pump the calcium out of the cell. If the calcium can’t get out of the cell, the cell cannot relax. At all. Period. Game over. Magnesium prevents cells from being overloaded with calcium.
What has stress got to do with it?
Stress is any sort of reaction by a cell to stimuli. It’s a rapid change within the body for the purpose of mitigating anxiety or responding to this need. When life is stressed, it needs to move, act, think, worry, decide, tense, choose. This can come from emotional, physical, or chemical stresses of any form. In order to act, calcium comes into cells and facilitates the “fight or flight” part of the stress response. Magnesium opens and closes the channels, and calcium puts the body into action. Nerve cells begin firing, for example. Muscles tense up. Adrenal moves into the bloodstream. Blood vessels contract. Blood pressure rises and heart palpitations (can) ensue.
Remaining in this high-calcium, “keyed up” state isn’t good for anybody. Under normal or ideal circumstances, once the stress has ceased, magnesium helps to push the calcium back outside the cell, allowing the cell to calm down. Adrenaline drops off. Nerves calm down and soften. Muscles become loose again. With plenty of magnesium, you can go undergo stress and come out of it on the other side without batting so much as an eyelash. Without magnesium — and without magneisum properly balancing calcium consistently in your bloodstream — however, you undergo stress and never come out of it. Or, as in my own personal experience, you undergo stress and recover a little bit, but never enough, and then you undergo stress again, and again, and again, each time having less and less magnesium at your service to help you get through the episode. As such, stress gets harder and harder and harder for your cells to bear.
What happens if the cell is chronically deficient in magnesium?
The cell is unable to keep calcium outside, as that operation takes considerable energy. Calcium “leaks” into the cell and causes action as it is designed to do, and the result is one commonly found in stressed individuals. Nerve cells become frayed, chronically firing, tired, high strung.
People who experience magnesium deficiency coupled with stress manifest a variety of symptoms. The one’s I experience are the foremost symptoms: insomnia, anxiety, sensitivity to sound, irritability, sensitivity to all stimuli. Others include ringing in your ears, backaches, muscle tension, joint pain, hypertension, kidney stones, ADHD, depression, heart palpitations, angina, constipation, migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, autism, and asthma. Diabetes and insulin resistance are also associated with magnesium deficiency. Most pressing from my perspective is the mental stress. Depression and anxiety are big factors in this and in all of our lives. We are so sensitive to all of it. Dr Carolyn Dean is the woman who wrote “The Magnesium Miracle” and she says: “I’ve seen it happen that all of a sudden someone is worrying about something when there’s nothing to worry about. That’s why, when someone is living a stressful lifestyle, magnesium is such an extremely important component. Every time they go through stress, the magnesium in the body is depleted more and more.”
The bottom line
Sometimes, a magnesium deficiency will cause these problems. Many other times, stress will cause a magnesium deficiency. Then the two beget each other in a vicious cycle — lower magnesium leads to more stressed states which leads to more stress. It’s nasty business, and one of the only ways out is a magnesium supplement.
It can help boost and regulate hormone production, put you to sleep at night, relax your nerves, and calm the racing thoughts in your brain.
Magnesium doesn’t fix everything, obviously. But it can certainly help. Medical professionals estimate that nearly no one is eating enough magnesium naturally. Paleo dieters might. Lots of leafy greens is the best source of magnesium. Almonds and other nuts and black beans are also on the list. Limited amounts in avocadoes. But there’s no magnesium in meat, hardly any in fruit, not in most vegetables. It’s a difficult nutrient to get, there’s no doubt about it.
I highly recommend taking an “organic” — meaning, in a carbon-based form — supplement for magneisum if you are going to supplement. I take Natural Calm and it works like a charm. High doses when your body isn’t used to it can cause diarrhea, so ease into it slowly. If you are magneisum deficient, just a little bit can help.