Very few people can say they have never experienced feelings of anxiety. For some people, it is a result of temporary short term stressful situations but for others it can be a debilitating condition that leads to serious mental and physical health problems. Regardless of how you experience and respond to stress, there are nutritional approaches that can help your body respond to stress and anxiety in a healthy way.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) reports that anxiety disorders represent the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting almost 1 in 5 adults over the age of 18 – or roughly 40 million people annually.1,2 Rates are even higher amongst teenagers, with 1 in 4 children between 13 – 18 exhibiting symptoms.1,2
It’s not hard to imagine why so many people have feelings of anxiety. Poor health, financial problems, debt, unemployment, relationship problems, trauma, violence, stress – sometimes just reading those words starts creating feelings of anxiety. In the past decade we have also added technology and social media that is clearly impacting mental health and anxiety on levels we do not fully understand yet - especially amongst children.
As much as we want to reduce or eliminate these sources of anxiety, we know it’s impossible. That fact, in and of itself, can add even more anxiety. That is why so many people are looking for healthy solutions to help them cope with the situations that are out of their control.
When people are exposed to stressful situations, there is complex brain chemistry that takes place to initiate a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones as a response. At the center of the stress and anxiety response is the limbic system, hypothalamus, pituitary, and the adrenaline-releasing adrenal glands.3 This system stimulates the fight-or-flight response that causes elevations in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and tunnel vision – all symptoms commonly experienced during anxiety and panic attacks.
The fight-or-flight response to perceived threats is intended as a short-term solution for a temporary threat - like an animal trying to escape a predator. However, many of the anxiety-inducing societal and personal stresses people experience are not short-lived, but last for weeks, months, and even years, keeping your body in a constant state of fight-or-flight that is not good for long-term health.3,4
Magnesium plays a central role in the regulation of the stress responses discussed above.3 It is involved in over 300 biochemical processes including those related to the production and activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, plus hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH), testosterone, and estrogen.3,5,6
Magnesium deficiency is becoming increasingly common around the world for several reasons including:
Low levels of magnesium cause disruptions in these response systems and are linked to mood disorders including depression and anxiety.3,7–9 While there is still a call for more research, magnesium supplementation has shown to be beneficial in a variety of mood and anxiety disorders leading many healthcare practitioners to recommend it as an alternative or addition to standard treatments.3,10–12
As with most health issues, there are actions we can take that can help to reduce symptoms or negative effects without the use of pills or medication. Those include things like following a healthy diet, being physically active, practicing relaxation techniques, prayer/meditation, talking to a therapist, and things of that nature. It is always important to incorporate these methods in your daily routine and not solely rely on medications.
Nutritional supplements sort of bridge the gap between a healthy diet and using a medication. You can try incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your diet – but if those foods are not easily accessible, affordable, or palatable for you then magnesium-boosting supplements like Olivamine® D3+Magnesium, Mood Support, Sleep Support, and Brain Health may be an important part of your regimen.
Sometimes prescription medications are necessary to address anxiety, but they should not always be the first thing you turn to. Many of the medications used for anxiety have potentially dangerous and lasting side effects especially with long-term use. Benzodiazepine medications are frequently used for treating anxiety but they are known to cause drowsiness and confusion and have potential for abuse and addiction.13 Benzodiazepine use is even associated with an increased risk of dementia and neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, though a causative relationship has not yet been established.14,15
It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider that you trust to discuss your personal situation and find what works best for you. In the case of stress, anxiety, mood disorders, and depression it is vital to talk regularly with your friends, family and incorporate mental health professionals and spiritual/religious advisors if necessary.
Kyle Hilsabeck, PharmD., is the Vice President of Pharmaceutical Affairs at McCord Holdings and licensed by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy. He completed bachelors degrees in biology and biochemistry at Wartburg College before earning his Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. Upon graduation, he completed a community pharmacy practice residency through the University of Iowa where he focused primarily on nutritional aspects of care including the use of vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements. He has taught courses for the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy on vitamins, minerals, herbs, and nutritional supplements and given many presentations on the subject as well. He has a passion for improving patient care specifically with regards to the safety and quality of the nutritional supplements and health information people use.
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