Does Magnesium Make You Happy?
Posted by Adam Meads
You may have heard all about its role when it comes to soothing sore muscles, but did you know that magnesium plays an important role in our mood too? Read on to discover the myriad benefits found in this wonder mineral…
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and has a number of vital functions in the health of your body and brain. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, with the other 40% found muscles, soft tissues and fluids. Every cell in the body contains magnesium and every cell requires it to function optimally. “Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions,” says Mike Wakeman, a clinical pharmacist and author from VitMedics. “It is important in the maintenance of normal nerve and muscle function, strong bones, a steady heart rhythm and a healthy immune system”.
Although most of our magnesium intake comes from plants via the food we eat, modern agricultural methods and a diet that’s high in processed foods, caffeine and alcohol mean the amount of magnesium we get and the rate at which we can absorb it is reduced. “We understand from our National Diet and Nutrition Surveys that only around 27% of the population are eating even the minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables daily, hence we’re going to be low in magnesium” says Suzie Sawyer, clinical nutritionist for Alive! “Plus, magnesium is found in wholegrains, again deficient in the typical highly refined western diet”. As a result, experts estimate that up to 80% the UK population is magnesium deficient, and in particular young women.
How does magnesium impact our brain health?
While there’s no disputing how important magnesium is for our overall health, it is especially vital when it comes to the wellbeing of our brain too, thanks to the role it plays in regulating our mood and managing stress. That’s because it regulates the HPA axis (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal), the body’s central stress response system which controls levels of cortisol and other important hormones that are triggered by stressful events. “Magnesium plays a critical role in regulating our stress response,” says Dr Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and author of The Source. “Magnesium is essential for brain function and acts on NMDA receptors in the brain which help brain development, learning and memory. It also helps with fatigue, tension, anxiety, mood, sleep and healthy functioning of the entire nervous system”.
When we’re under stress our magnesium levels deplete, causing a deficiency which experts believe can contribute towards low mood and depression. A lack of this mighty mineral can also lower serotonin levels, the neurotransmitter known as a ‘feel-good’ chemical, which sends signals from the brain to the body and is linked to everything from appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. As well as exacerbating depressive tendencies, low serotonin levels can also impact other conditions such as migraines and insomnia, so it’s particularly vital to keep your magnesium levels topped up if you’re going through a particularly stressful time or are prone to stress in general. “The modern world is stressful and when we have higher circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol, magnesium is leached from our system at a rate that it’s impossible to replenish through diet alone,” adds Swart.
What’s the best way to take it?
When it comes to how much magnesium we should be getting each day, the RDA varies (according to factors including gender and age) but between 310mg and 420mg per day for an adult is about right. To make sure you’re getting as much as you need, ensure your diet is full of magnesium-rich foods that include leafy greens, legumes, dark chocolate and nuts. If you want to top up beyond what’s in your diet, then supplements are a good idea. According to Wakeman you should look out for supplements that contain at least 15% of elemental magnesium (around 57mg), which are usually sufficient to keep your magnesium levels where they should be and support dietary intake.
You can also boost your magnesium intake topically or transdermally, says Swart, “Body lotions, gels and sprays or bath salts are optimal… The act of self-care such as soaking in a magnesium salt bath or self-massage with a good quality body product also contributes to stress reduction and even helps combat loneliness through stimulating touch receptors on the skin”. And finally, if you’re stuck on when to take it, the good news is that there is no wrong answer: “It’s best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation,” says Swart, “but it can be taken at any time”.
The best products to elevate your mood
Alongside those featuring mood-boosting magnesium, discover more of our uplifting, feel-good products…
Blended with nourishing ingredients to cosset dry skin, this rich body cream allows for effective absorption of magnesium through the skin. Formulated with the signature Great Day fragrance that includes spearmint, peppermint and mandarin, it’s a refreshing and zesty cream that’s ideal for energising sluggish skin and putting a spring in your step.
Blended with the purpose of providing a much-needed energy boost, this fresh and enlivening candle contains 24 bright and fresh essential oils including Sicilian lemon and basil to revive and restore.