Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral that provides several health benefits and may help with managing symptoms of anxiety.

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Anxiety is a natural response to stress. Everyone feels anxious sometimes. If you feel like you can’t shut your worries off, reducing your anxiety is key.

You can explore many options to ease your worries, including minerals found in food or supplements that might make a difference in your mood.

Magnesium is a mineral found in many food sources. It may have some promise in reducing the effects of anxiety with minimal risk of unwanted side effects.

Current studies suggest that magnesium may play a beneficial role in helping manage anxiety. Still, more evidence is needed, and some reviews suggest that existing studies are often of poorer quality.

The findings of the above 2017 review echo similar results of earlier research. In a 2010 review, researchers noted that natural remedies, such as extracts from passion fruit and kava, can help treat anxiety.

The researchers mentioned magnesium as a potential benefit for anxiety but stated that additional research is needed to prove its benefits.

Other studies have also shown some potential benefits associated with magnesium. In a 2012 study, researchers found that magnesium may help a part of your brain called the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus helps control the adrenal and pituitary glands. These glands play a role in helping you manage stress.

A more recent review of studies published in 2018 supports the earlier study’s findings. In the review, researchers noted that magnesium might play a role in controlling your brain’s neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters send messages throughout the body and brain. When the signals work correctly, your neurological health may improve, which can include helping reduce anxiety.

Despite these promising studies, you shouldn’t throw out your anxiety medications just yet. A lot more research is needed to prove magnesium’s effectiveness and safety.

In the meantime, you may want to consider speaking with your doctor about possibly adding magnesium supplements to your diet. Your doctor can help you determine if taking a magnesium supplement may help you.

If you have spent any time in a pharmacy or shopping online for supplements, you may have come across several forms of magnesium. The reason for the different types has to do with the bounding substance used.

Bounding substances can help your body absorb magnesium better. They can also alter or change what the magnesium may be most effective for. Some common types of magnesium include:

  • Magnesium oxide. This type absorbs well in liquid and is often used in medications as a laxative, though studies have used this form when testing the effects on anxiety.
  • Magnesium citrate. This is another easy to absorb form, which also can help treat constipation.
  • Magnesium chloride. This form of magnesium easily absorbs in the body.
  • Magnesium lactate. Typically a food additive, this type of magnesium has also shown promise for anxiety in studies.
  • Magnesium sulfate. More commonly known as epsom salt, your body does not typically absorb this type well.
  • Magnesium glycinate. This form is often used for pain in the muscles.

What type of magnesium works best for anxiety?

There are two standouts when it comes to magnesium that may help anxiety. A 2017 review pointed out that magnesium lactate and magnesium oxide appear in the most credible studies on anxiety.

Magnesium is a naturally occurring nutrient. This means you can find it in several different, often healthy foods and eat it as part of your regular diet.

Supplements and vitamins can also provide you with a source of magnesium.

While supplements can be a good source, you can take too much, so you should consider working closely with a doctor before starting a new supplement to determine the correct dosage and possible medication interactions or side effects.

Food sources

In general, studies looking at magnesium are looking at high values of magnesium. This means you will likely need to use supplements to get a high enough dose to impact your anxiety symptoms.

Still, adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet can provide additional health benefits as well. Some foods that contain a decent source of magnesium include:

  • chia seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • milk
  • soymilk
  • avocado
  • rice
  • apples
  • halibut
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • ground beef
  • chicken
  • peanut butter
  • potatoes
  • salmon

Supplements

Supplements can provide you with a larger dose of magnesium than you might be able to get through diet alone. While they may provide enough daily magnesium to make a difference with anxiety symptoms, they are not without potential drawbacks.

Though magnesium is generally safe, if you take too much, it can cause side effects. Also, magnesium may interact with certain medications, including:

  • antibiotics
  • proton pump inhibitors (used to reduce stomach acid production)
  • diuretics
  • bisphosphonates (used to treat osteoporosis)

Another thing you may want to keep in mind is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate vitamins and other supplements the same way they do medications.

Though a company cannot claim magnesium provides any specific health benefits, the FDA does not check or verify that a supplement contains the amount specified on the bottle or the overall quality. To choose the best magnesium supplements, it’s important to do a little research.

When shopping for supplements, you may want to consider looking at supplement brands that use independent quality testing agencies so you will get a better quality supplement. These agencies test the supplements of a manufacturer to see if the quality and quantity are the same as advertised.

Research still doesn’t fully support taking magnesium for treating anxiety. This means that no minimum or maximum dosage is recommended specifically for anxiety. However, according to a 2017 review, the average doses used in studies ranged between 75 to 360 milligrams (mg) each day.

Still, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium ranges between 310 to 420 mg. The exact amount that is safe for you can vary based on several factors, including:

  • age
  • overall health
  • gender

These recommendations are for adults only. Children and teens would need less.

Before taking magnesium supplements for any reason, you should strongly consider talking with your doctor. Magnesium can interact with your medications or cause unwanted side effects.

When you talk with your doctor about taking magnesium, you can ask them what time they recommend taking the supplement.

In general, you can take magnesium any time of day. You should just be consistent about the time you take the supplement.

When you consume magnesium as part of your diet, you will not experience side effects, but if you exceed your RDA, you may experience:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • abdominal cramping

If you take a very large dose, which is most likely when taking a laxative, you may experience magnesium overdose or toxicity. Signs of toxicity to watch for include:

  • low blood pressure
  • ileus (when the muscles in your intestines don’t contract normally)
  • nausea
  • flushing of the face
  • vomiting
  • urine retention
  • depression
  • lethargy

These symptoms can get even worse. Worsening symptoms of magnesium toxicity can include:

  • trouble breathing
  • muscle weakness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • extremely low blood pressure
  • cardiac arrest

Magnesium is an important mineral that can have other health benefits beyond potentially helping with anxiety symptoms. Some potential health benefits of magnesium through food or supplements include:

  • helping with constipation
  • reducing migraine symptoms
  • lowering blood pressure
  • reducing risk of type 2 diabetes
  • improving mood

If you’re interested in taking magnesium to help treat your anxiety symptoms, it’s ideal to start by talking with your doctor first. They can help identify any potential interactions with your current medications and help determine the best action plan to start taking magnesium supplements.

Once you have your doctor’s approval, you can ask them for recommendations on good brands to choose from. If they don’t know or don’t have any strong recommendations, consider looking for brands that offer independent testers for quality and quantity.

When and if you start taking supplements, try to be consistent about the time you take them. Some people find taking supplements in the morning helpful, while others might find taking them before bed works best. Try to figure out what works best for you and your needs.

With the right plan in place, you may find that adding magnesium supplements to your treatment routine may help with reducing your anxiety symptoms.