Anxiety Part 2: The Power of Magnesium
Posted by Heather Hamilton on February 22, 2014 7 Comments
I was really touched as I read your comments last week in response to Anxiety Part 1: The Power of Rituals + New Products. I'm really grateful to have a place to share from my heart and to learn from you through your comments and emails! I honestly can't WAIT to share our new Mama's Ritual product line with you next month and to get the feedback from our group of mama testers who will be receiving their samples this week.
Today, I am sharing what really turned my anxiety around. After struggling for the first two years of my daughter's life and seeing many of my mama friends go on medication, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to feel normal again, I would need to do the same. I was about to make an appointment with my midwife, but was intercepted by my dear friend and business partner from Mom & Doc Apothecary, Dr. Michael Shannon. When I told him my reluctant plan to go on meds, he, without hesitation, told me I was probably magnesium deficient and to give that a shot first. Honestly, I had never given magnesium a thought. How was my magnesium level low? I ate a vegetarian diet high in leafy greens, after all. However, desperate to try anything, I ordered the product he suggested that same day and began educating myself on magnesium - all with a new hope and lighter heart.
My magnesium supplement came within a few days and I dove right in. Well, almost. It tasted horrible. I ended up adding a few of my other favorite ingredients to create what I call affectionately, my "magnesium brew" or "magnesium tea".
The product I use is called "Magna-Calm" by Longevity Science. It is highly absorbable powder, providing 420mg of magnesium per scoop in the form of magnesium citrate. All I do is heat up my tea kettle and add approximately 1 cup of hot water to a scoop of Magna-Calm, juice of half a lemon and about a teaspoon of raw, local honey. Some people just add water to the powder, but I don't care for the taste.
There is another brand at Whole Foods called Natural Calm that is supposed to taste better - but I've really come to enjoy my little concoction and would miss my hot magnesium tea ritual.
So, turns out that Magnesium is a miracle mineral that is required by every single cell in the human body in order for it to function. So you can see how a deficiency can really wreak havoc. When I began my research as to why taking a magnesium supplement was having such a positive impact on my body and emotions, I couldn't believe what I was reading - and why this information isn't being preached!
Strong bones and teeth, balanced hormones, a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, well-functioning detoxification pathways, and much more depend on cellular magnesium sufficiency. Soft tissues containing the highest concentration of magnesium in the body include the brain and the heart - two organs that produce a large amount of electrical activity, and which can be especially vulnerable to magnesium insufficiency. (Magnificent Magnesium, Czapp).
There is SO much to study and understand about this mineral, but neither you nor I have the time for a novel here, so I'm going to summarize some of the juicy info I have discovered:
- It is nearly impossible to get enough magnesium from food. Over the years, our farming practices have depleted the soil of this critical nutrient and the average amount of magnesium in our diet is around 150mg/day, rather than in pre-industrial times, where it was around 500mg/day. To top it off, our American, highly processed diet and many of the additives actually deplete our magnesium stores.
- There are many different forms of magnesium, including; magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium chloride, magnesium chelates, plant based magnesium supplements, magnesium gel or oil and magnesium sulfate. The absorption level varies among them and many people use a combination to get enough.
- The RDA for magnesium is about 400mg per day, but many people need more. The trick is being able to take enough without unleashing its laxative effects. For example only about 4 % of magnesium oxide (the most common in capsule form) is actually absorbed and the rest goes right through the intestines, causing diarrhea. I balance how much magnesium citrate I can take by my stools. When I first began taking it, I could only take 1/2 scoop twice a day, and now I can take a full scoop twice a day. I know I am taking too much (an not absorbing the rest) when my stools become too soft.
- Magnesium Oil and Magnesium Sulfate are transdermal forms of magnesium that do not have laxative effects. These are applied and absorbed through the skin. Magnesium oil is actually magnesium chloride evaporated from sea water and then supersaturated in distilled water. The exact absorption rate is unknown, but experts say at least 10%. Magnesium sulfate is simply what we call Epsom salt, but really isn't salt at all. Can you guess what forms of magnesium are going to be showing up in some of our new products!?!?
- Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of the Magnesium Miracle (a must read!) has a list of 100 factors that help determine whether you are magnesium deficient. When it comes down to it - everyone could benefit from extra magnesium. Among this list are some that resonate with myself and the moms I've talked with: anxiety, constipation, fatigue, concentration difficulty, irritability, rapid heart rate, postpartum depression, restlessness, sexual energy diminished, stressful life or circumstances, headaches.
One of the things I found particularly interesting is how magnesium works in harmony with calcium.
Magnesium operates as a natural channel blocker and is responsible for relaxation - counter to calcium's contraction. Thus magnesium is pivotally important to the healthy functioning of our parasympathetic nervous system. It may be hard to believe, but our bodies were actually designed to operate for the most part in a calm, relaxed parasympathetic state, rather than in the heart-pounding stress and adrenaline driven mode of sympathetic nervous system dominance that is nearly constant for some of us today and uses up great quantities of magnesium. (Magnificant Magnesium, Czapp).
Stress depletes magnesium. In today's non-stop, over-the-top, painfully complex and overstimulated culture, it is no surprise at all that we are a bunch of anxious, magnesium deficient mamas?! Oh, and don't forget about serotonin, the "feel-good" hormone - it is dependent on adequate levels of magnesium too.
Last week I shared that I practice rituals to help manage stress and anxiety. My #1 ritual is my magnesium tea, morning and night. Not only is this a calming ritual, but the critical magnesium supplementation provides a wealth of benefits. Most notable for me are the ability to manage my emotions, anxiety attacks are now rare, regular BMs and better sleep.
I use transdermal magnesium supplementation for myself and kids as well - but…you'll have to wait for the next post to hear the details about these (hint: new products!)
Do you supplement with magnesium? Please share your experience!
The Magnesium Miracle, by Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., Ballantine Books, 2007
Magnificent Magnesium, Katherine Czapp, Weston A Price Foundation, 2007