Can Magnesium Help With Anxiety? 3 Psychiatrists Weigh In


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If you deal with anxiety, you know the symptoms are no joke. Between the restlessness, irritability, insomnia, heart palpitations, and general “on edge” feeling, you likely want some form of relief ASAP. But whether you experience daily or sporadic anxiety, word on the street is that magnesium supplements could have a positive effect on calming you down.

Magnesium is a mineral found in the body that’s essential for muscle and nerve functioning, bone health, mood regulation, blood pressure control, and heart health, says Chris Pagnani, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and medical director of Rittenhouse Psychiatric Associates. It’s naturally found in leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains, but also comes as a dietary supplement in capsule or powder form, he explains.

But the reason tapped in the experts is because magnesium has been touted for its ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety since it promotes the functioning of your body’s stress response system and minimizes anxiety-provoking hormones in the brain, says Mirela Loftus, MD, PhD, a board-certified psychiatrist and medical director for Newport Healthcare.

So when should you take magnesium supplements for anxiety? And what type of magnesium is best for squashing your stressful symptoms? Ahead, psychiatrists break down everything you need to know about magnesium supplements for anxiety.

Experts Featured in This Article:

Chris Pagnani, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and medical director of Rittenhouse Psychiatric Associates.

Mirela Loftus, MD, PhD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and medical director for Newport Healthcare.

Drew Ramsey, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and founder of Brain Food Clinic.

Does Magnesium Help With Anxiety?

Yes, magnesium can potentially help with anxiety and can be an MVP at keeping your stress levels in check. Keep scrolling to understand how the mineral works to quell anxiety.

Balancing Neurotransmitters

Magnesium helps balance neurotransmitters in the body, like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which are known to be involved in mood and anxiety regulation, Dr. Pagnani says. The mineral also helps ease feelings of anxiety since it increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, he explains. GABA is a chemical messenger in your brain that helps control nerve cell hyperactivity associated with anxiety, stress, and fear — and by increasing receptors for it, magnesium can have a relaxing effect.

Reducing Stress Hormones

When you’re stressed, cortisol (your stress hormone) is often to blame, and anxiety disorders are typically associated with high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, says Dr. Loftus. Luckily, magnesium can help limit the release of cortisol and prevent it from reaching the brain, in turn, potentially lessening anxious feelings, she explains.

Relieving Muscle Tension

Whether you realize it or not, muscle tension and muscle soreness is often an accompanying symptom of anxiety, says Dr. Pagnani. However, research has shown that magnesium can minimize said muscle tension, triggering a calming, relaxed effect on the body.

Lowering Blood Pressure

Thanks to magnesium’s involvement in the release of chemicals which enlarge blood vessels (such as nitric oxide), the mineral can also play a role in lowering your blood pressure, Dr. Pagnani says — and maintaining a healthy blood pressure is key for improving anxiety and calming stress.

How to Take Magnesium For Anxiety

As a general rule of thumb, magnesium supplements are best for temporarily reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety and stress, says Drew Ramsey, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and founder of The Brain Food Clinic. “For severe or chronic cases of anxiety, while magnesium can be supportive, it should not replace professional medical treatments but rather complement them under the guidance of a healthcare provider,” he explains.

You should also always clear any new supplements with your doctor before implementing them into your routine, especially if you already take prescription medication, Dr. Pagnani says. Magnesium supps may negatively interact with various antibiotics, heart medications, and diuretics, so Dr. Pagnani says it’s especially important for a pro to give you the all-clear.

With that in mind, magnesium supplements can be taken any time of day, though they can make you sleepy, so it may be best to take them at night, Dr. Pagnani adds. They can also be taken with or without food, but if you experience nausea, diarrhea, or an upset stomach post-supplement, be sure to take them a meal, he adds.

When it comes to dosing, the recommended daily amount of magnesium is between 320 and 420 milligrams, says Dr. Loftus. The exact dose of a magnesium supplement depends on your age, gender, medical history, and symptoms, so a consult with your doctor is the first step, however it’s best to get most of your daily amount from magnesium-rich foods like cooked spinach, black beans, almonds, nuts, dark chocolate, and avocados, Dr. Loftus explains.

Best Magnesium For Anxiety

Magnesium-rich foods, rather than supplements, should be your number one priority, Dr. Ramsey says. Beans and greens are great sources of magnesium. A diet full of spinach, kale, black beans, edamame, brown rice, almonds, and cashews will help you naturally hit your daily magnesium needs, Dr. Ramsey says.

That said, if your doctor gives you the green light and you opt for a magnesium supplement, keep in mind that not all supplements are created equal. Magnesium glycinate is known for its soothing properties, superior absorption, and gentle effects on the stomach making it a great option, while magnesium citrate is another go-to that is generally well-tolerated and a powerhouse for its anti-anxiety properties, Dr. Pagnani says. Some research also suggests that magnesium lactate or magnesium oxide supplementation can lower levels of stress and reduce anxious thoughts.

You also want to remember that supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so you should only buy from high-quality, reputable brands that are third-party tested and free from added fillers, Dr. Ramsey says. Your doctor can give brand specific suggestions, but Dr. Pagnani typically recommends Nature Made Magnesium Glycinate ($10) or Nature’s Way Magnesium Complex ($16).

Additional Ways to Manage Anxiety

Managing anxiety requires a multi-faceted approach, and magnesium supplements don’t work for everyone, so all three experts agree it’s important to implement the following lifestyle tips to keep your anxiety at bay:

  • Exercise at least 30 to 40 minutes three to four times a week.
  • Eat a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fat.
  • Sleep seven to nine hours a night.
  • Avoid caffeine after 1 p.m. and limit yourself to one cup a day.
  • Practice mindfulness and breathwork.
  • Work with a mental health professional.

Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based freelance writer and graduate from Emory University and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in PS, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

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