The top mineral for your mind
Posted on August 05 2019
If you’re fed up of feeling frazzled, it’s time to consider how best to relax from the inside out. One way to do this is by getting enough magnesium, which is essential for hundreds of biochemical reactions in your body. Here's a look at how this powerful mineral can benefit your brain:
It maintains levels of GABA
GABA is a major neurotransmitter, one of the chemicals that your brain cells use to communicate with each other. When all these chemicals are balanced, they work towards making you feel appropriately calm, depending on the circumstances. However, if there’s an imbalance, such as low GABA levels, it can be difficult to relax, leaving you restless or overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are ways to remedy a deficiency.
One way magnesium helps with relaxation is by supporting GABA function naturally. It binds to and stimulates GABA receptors in your brain, supporting the calming actions of this neurotransmitter.1 It also interacts with other neurotransmitters, which isn’t surprising considering the high levels of magnesium found in the CNS (central nervous system). For example, magnesium keeps glutamate, the most abundant neurotransmitter in your brain, and your CNS at healthy levels.2 To sum it up, your body needs magnesium to create and actually transmit these chemicals, ensuring a balanced, healthy brain.
It reduces stress hormones
Cortisol is a major steroid hormone that is found in nearly every cell of your body. Elevated levels can lead to brain fog, restless sleep and more, but there are (thankfully) paths to manage cortisol naturally. One way to do this is by ensuring your intake of magnesium.
This essential mineral helps to lower over-reactivity in your HPA (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis. It reduces the responsiveness of the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol in your adrenal cortex.3 The result? Managing your production of cortisol, and staying relaxed. It’s like a sequence that needs to be maintained in order to stay calm and collected. Because magnesium is so important for nerve conduction and electrolyte balance, your levels can affect how you feel.4 So, it’s key to stay on top of your intake, if you want to stay on top of your health.
It increases brain plasticity
Like the ability to learn a new skill, your brain can form new connections or neural paths to communicate. This is often referred to as brain plasticity and is a key foundation for learning and memory. So, changes in your brain, like learning new concepts and creating new memories, need changes in your synaptic connections. As you get older, your brain will tend to lose this plasticity, which can result in slower cognitive function.
Magnesium is critical for maintaining healthy brain plasticity, because it regulates how your brain forms those new connections we just touched upon. Raising levels of magnesium in the brain has been seen to improve and even recondition brain plasticity.5 There’s also some evidence that upping your magnesium intake can enhance the success of cognitive behavioral therapy when it’s used for treating anxiety disorders.6 If you’re after a natural way to manage your brain health, magnesium could be a good place to start.
What to remember
Magnesium has a significant effect on your body, both inside and out. If you’re suffering from a lack of this essential mineral, then upping your levels might help you optimise your mental and physical health. Sufficient stores of magnesium will help you on your way to maintaining your overall well-being; Supporting sleep, calming your body and leaving you feeling your best self.
1 Möykkynen T, Uusi-Oukari M, Heikkilä J, Lovinger DM, Lüddens H, Korpi ER. (2001). Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABA(A) receptors. Neuroreport. 12(10):2175-2179.
2 Greenblatt, J. (2016). Magnesium: The Missing Link in Mental Health? Integrative Medicine for Mental Health. Accessed online at http://www.immh.org/article-source/2016/11/17/magnesium-the-missing-link-in-mental-health.
3 Sartori, S. B., Whittle, N., Hetzenauer, A., & Singewald, N. (2012). Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology, 62(1), 304–312.
4 Jacka FN, Overland S, Stewart R, Tell GS, Bjelland I, Mykletun A. (2009). Association between magnesium intake and depression and anxiety in community-dwelling adults: the Hordaland Health Study. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2009 Jan;43(1):45-52.
5 Hoane MR. (2011). The role of magnesium therapy in learning and memory. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press.
6 Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD, Kennedy AG, Daley C (2017) Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLoS ONE 12(6): e0180067.