5 Ways Magnesium Can Help With Depression

Magnesium for Depression

Magnesium is a type of mineral that the body relies on for numerous functions. For over 300 enzyme systems, this mineral is a cofactor, so it helps multiple biochemical reactions, such as muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, protein synthesis and blood glucose control.

Magnesium for depression and other maladies associated with depression is another important role to make note of.

Magnesium is classified as a macromineral. In the body, it is the second most prevalent electrolyte. Deficiencies concerning this mineral are not uncommon in the developed world. Researchers have linked magnesium deficiency and depression in multiple studies.

Those suffering from depression may consider exploring their magnesium intake to determine if a deficiency in this essential mineral is possibly playing a role.

How Does Magnesium Impact Depression?

In 2016, the National Institute of Mental Health concluded that approximately 16.2 million adult Americans experienced at least one episode of major depression.

An episode is considered major depression when for at least two weeks, the individual has loss of interest or a depressed mood along with at least four other symptoms that alter their ability to function normally.

Other symptoms may include issues with sleep, energy, self-image, eating, concentration or thoughts of suicide or death.

Those with depression can also experience a multitude of physical symptoms that can complicate depression. These can include:

  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Migraines and general headaches
  • Back pain
  • Chest pain (particularly during an anxiety attack)
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue and exhaustion

Depression is complex, and experts believe that a combination of brain chemistry, inherited traits, biological differences and hormones play a role. Magnesium has an impact on brain chemistry and hormones.

Magnesium benefits for Depression

Magnesium for Hormones

Hormonal balance is imperative for your mood and overall well-being. The following describes how magnesium benefits hormones:

  • This mineral plays an important role in regulating cortisol levels. It prevents excess cortisol production due to its ability to calm the nervous system. Since stress occurs, this can trigger the body to release more cortisol. Keeping the nervous system calm can reduce the impact stress is able to have. Balancing this hormone also plays a role in balancing progesterone, testosterone, luteinizing hormone, estrogen and follicle stimulating hormone.


  • Your thyroid, when underactive, can also contribute to symptoms of depression, so keeping it healthy is a priority. This mineral assists in thyroid hormone production. It may also provide protective benefits to the thyroid with its anti-inflammatory properties.


  • Magnesium works to help in the creation of certain hormones in the body, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This is especially important when patients start getting older and their reproductive hormones start to naturally decline.


  • This mineral is integral for reducing sugar cravings and balancing blood sugar since it aids in controlling insulin production. While this is important for everyone, it is especially imperative for those who have conditions that can negatively impact insulin, such as diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome.


Magnesium for Sleep and Energy

Depression often contributes to difficulty sleeping and low energy levels. Magnesium is often recommended as a sleep aid for those who find it hard to fall asleep and rest throughout the night. Another way it benefits sleep is because it can reduce the occurrence of chronic nighttime urination so that people are not getting up frequently to use the bathroom.

This mineral helps to maintain healthy GABA levels to make it easier to get a deeper and more restorative sleep. GABA is a neurotransmitter that plays the role as the central nervous system’s (CNS) primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. Activating the GABA receptors is important to promote sleep. In order for the body to have sufficient GABA levels, it needs adequate magnesium.

A number of prescription sleep medications work on GABA to promote sleep. They make it easier for GABA to bind to the proper brain receptors. Magnesium promotes the same effect without the risk of significant side effects.

Restless leg syndrome is a condition that can significantly disrupt sleep because it is characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs. Patients feel they have to keep moving their legs to alleviate the sensations. In some cases, the arms may also be affected. It is estimated that restless leg syndrome may affect up to 15 percent of the adult population. It is often associated with anxiety and depression.

One study showed that magnesium may help to reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. The patients who participated in the study reported that their restless leg syndrome and insomnia improved with magnesium supplementation.

One of the biggest ways magnesium promotes energy is by helping people to get a restful sleep. It also calms the nervous system and helps to alleviate anxiety. However, it also directly affects energy at the cellular level.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) relies on magnesium for it to be produced. Also, for ATP to be biologically active, it has to essentially team up with magnesium. Once this partnership takes place, numerous body processes are powered. This includes almost all metabolic processes, some of which are necessary for the body to be able to take the food people to eat and convert it into energy.

magnesium for depression foods

Mood Stabilization and Stress Reduction

Magnesium’s positive effects on the GABA neurotransmitter come into play again with mood stabilization and stress reduction. Sufficient GABA means that people are more relaxed and less likely to have periods of anxiety.

This mineral is critical for regulating the stress response system of the body. This system often referred to as “fight or flight” is part of the autonomic nervous system which is divided into the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).

The “fight or flight” response is generated by the SNS during times of stress. At this time, the SNS tells the adrenal glands to reduce cortisol and adrenalin. This is what causes symptoms, such as increasing heart rate and breathing rate. Once the perceived threat is gone, the body goes back to normal. However, when someone is experiencing chronic stress, the effects of the “fight or flight” response can essentially result in wear and tear on the body.

When magnesium works to regulate this response, it makes it easier to handle. It can also help to reduce the risk of people experiencing chronic stress.

Research shows that supplemental magnesium can be helpful in stabilizing the mood. It may aid in reducing the symptoms people experience when they have mild-to-moderate depression or when they have mild-to-moderate anxiety.

Serotonin needs magnesium. Serotonin is a type of brain chemical that works to deliver messages between nerve cells. It is often associated with mood, emotions, cognitive function, appetite, motor functions and autonomic functions. Research shows that reduced serotonin transmission may contribute to depression.

Research suggests that supplementing with magnesium may help to increase serotonin levels. In fact, low serotonin levels have been observed in patients with a magnesium deficiency. The study that discussed raising serotonin with magnesium reported success. They also state that volunteers remarked that in addition to an improved mood, the magnesium supplementation also helped to reduce their muscle aches and headaches.

Pain Relief

One of the physical manifestations of depression is various types of pain throughout the body. In fact, magnesium has been indicated as part of a treatment regimen for a number of painful conditions.

One reason someone might take magnesium for depression is to alleviate headache pain. Research shows that those experiencing a deficiency in magnesium are more likely to experience headaches, including migraine headaches. So, if a deficiency in this mineral is contributing to a person’s depression, correcting the deficiency may benefit both the headaches and depressive symptoms a person is experiencing.

Back, joint and muscle pain may also be improved with magnesium. In fact, research shows that among patients with fibromyalgia, magnesium supplementation can reduce tender point pain and the symptoms of depression. Both of these tend to become worse in fibromyalgia patients who also have a magnesium deficiency.

magnesium foods on depression

Reduces Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Symptoms

Just before a woman’s menstrual period, the changes happening in her body may cause her to experience premenstrual syndrome. It is estimated that approximately 90 percent of women experience at least some symptoms of PMS around the start of their menstrual period. Magnesium has been shown to reduce certain symptoms of PMS to make them more tolerable, including mood swings, anxiety, bloating, irritability and tension.

Improved Cognitive Function

When depression is present, cognitive issues, such as poor memory, inability to concentrate and trouble focusing are all possible symptoms. Research has been conducted to determine how magnesium may benefit cognitive function. The findings indicate that increasing the magnesium content in the brain may have a positive effect on a person’s cognitive abilities.

An earlier study done by the same research team determined that magnesium promoted synaptic plasticity. Plasticity of the brain is best defined as the brain’s ability to essentially rewire itself by modifying its connections. This makes it possible for the brain to develop throughout life or recover when an injury to the brain occurs.

What Are the Signs of Low Magnesium?

Not long ago, magnesium deficiency was thought to be relatively rare in the western world. However, research into the prevalence of this deficiency is showing that it is actually very common.

In the United States, it is estimated that about half of the population does not get enough magnesium each day. However, many experts believe that the percentage is higher. The following is the recommended daily intake for adults:

  • Men 19-30: 400 milligrams
  • Women 19-30: 310 milligrams
  • Men 31-50: 420 milligrams
  • Women 31-50: 320 milligrams
  • Men 51+: 420 milligrams
  • Women 51+: 320 milligrams

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

The symptoms of a magnesium deficiency are generally divided between early symptoms and later symptoms. The early symptoms can include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Poor memory
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty learning new things
  • Depressed mood

magnesium aids in depression

As soon as the above symptoms manifest, it is important to visit a doctor to test magnesium levels. However, if the deficiency is left untreated, it can progress and cause symptoms that are more significant:

  • Reduced blood calcium levels
  • Extremity tingling and numbness
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Reduced blood potassium levels
  • Muscle contractions and cramps
  • Personality changes
  • Coronary spasms

When magnesium levels are low over the long-term, biochemical pathways experience changes and these changes may increase a person’s risk of illness. There are certain conditions someone may be at a higher risk for if they have a prolonged magnesium deficiency:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Migraine headaches

Magnesium Deficiency Causes

A number of factors may increase the risk of a magnesium deficiency. These can include:

  • Insufficient magnesium intake
  • Renal disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Being elderly
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Chronic stress
  • Diets high in sodium
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance
  • Certain medications, such as thiazide diuretics, proton pump inhibitors or antibiotics (when antibiotics are used long-term)

foods with magnesium

Dietary Magnesium vs. Magnesium Supplements

Numerous foods contain magnesium, but even eating sufficient amounts does not fully protect someone against a magnesium deficiency and there are several dietary reasons for this:

  • Taking supplemental zinc may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb magnesium
  • Too much protein may cause the body to absorb less magnesium
  • Significant fiber intake may reduce magnesium utilization in the body

Supplementing with magnesium is becoming widely recommended for those who have a deficiency. Using supplements to boost levels of this mineral in the body allows for quick results and few unanticipated side effects.

Concerning anxiety, sleep issues, and depression, case studies that explored magnesium supplementation for these issues reported improvements in all three within one week of starting supplementation. Because of these results, it is generally recommended that when using magnesium for depression that patients use the supplemental form of the mineral.

With this information, it is easy to see why using magnesium for depression may be a beneficial choice. If you’re interested in learning is magnesium is right for you, take the Vitagene Health + Ancestry Report for tailored supplement recommendations. 

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