Social Media Says Magnesium Supplements Can Treat Anxiety: What Do Experts Say?

Can taking magnesium help tackle anxiety, insomnia, and depression: Yes, but there's more to it.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Social media is rife with all sorts of health advice, and the latest to join the mix is testimonials of people talking about how taking magnesium supplements has completely turned their anxiety, and in some cases depression, around.

One such video posted on the Instragram handle hope_zuckerbrow, has over five million views.

According to the account's handler, all it took was taking one magnesium supplement every night to undo 'crippling social anxiety', and improve her sleep quality.

But, but, but, is it really as simple as they make it out to be? We spoke to a psychiatrist to break it down.


Magnesium for Mental Health: Do Doctors Recommend It?

First, let's look at if magnesium does have any therapeutic benefits for mental health.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that, along with other nutrients and vitamins, makes up the cornucopia of good health. In fact, many multivitamins include a small dose of magnesium to begin with.

Does it specifically help treat issues like anxiety, depression, and insomnia? Some studies say they do help to some extent.

Speaking to FIT, Mumbai-based psychiatrist, Dr Ruksheda Syeda says, "We do prescribe it for several reasons, including as an adjuvant therapy for anxiety and even depression. And maybe even for some other psychiatric illnesses."

"Sometimes we recognise that the condition may not really require a pharmaceutical intervention and that a nutraceutical intervention could either just take care of the few symptoms here or there or help enhance the existing treatment."
Dr Ruksheda Syeda

However she adds, "To say that if you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, and that gets cured by a supplement or just a lifestyle change, is very misleading."


There’s More to It...

Dr Syeda says, "When a professional recommends it, we see what the symptoms are like and what the impact of those symptoms on the distress level and functionality level and based on that we create a treatment plan. And then figuring out the best combination of medication and nutraceuticals that might be the most beneficial for the patient."

Although magnesium supplements are available over the counter, experts caution against taking them arbitrarily based on personal testimonials alone.

There is such a thing as overdoing it.

"People don't always take it because they have a deficiency, rather to enhance their health. It's important to make sure that we are not overdoing it," says Dr Syeda.

While a little extra doesn't do any harm — in most cases they are filtered by the kidneys and pass through urine — excess micronutrients and minerals can lead to toxicities.

According to experts at Harvard University's School of Public Health, "very large doses of magnesium-containing laxatives and antacids (typically providing more than 5,000 mg/day magnesium) have been associated with magnesium toxicity.

Magnesium toxicity typically causes an electrolyte imbalance that can lead to a wide range of symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, and cramping, but also more permanent issues such as hypothyroidism and Addison disease, according to the US NIH (National Institutes of Health).

Moreover, according to Dr Syeda, people sometimes take so many nutritional supplements before even come to a specialist that they get fed up.

"And then when the time comes to actually take pharmaceutical medicines that they do require, they feel fatigued, and say I dont want to do it anymore. This is true for even physical ailments like diabetes."
Dr Ruksheda Syeda

If You Must, Here’s How to Take It Safely

"Over-the-counter use of anything beyond a certain level can be harmful, so its always better to seek advice from a professional," says Dr Syeda.

As far as magnesium deficiency is concerned, she says, "it isn’t very common because magnesium is sourced from so many wide sources that if you have relatively balanced diet, its likely you're getting enough magnesium," she adds.

If you're worried you're not getting enough magnesium, these are some everyday dietary sources:

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Almonds, Peanuts

  • Banana

  • Oatmeal

  • Milk, Yogurt

  • Dark chocolate

But if you do decide to reach for the supplements, it's important to note,

  • Check the label carefully: Know the type you're taking, and what other additional ingredients are in it.

  • Be mindful of the dosage: The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adult men is 400-420 mg; and for women is 310-320 mg (including dietary sources).

  • Stop if you experience any side effects, particularly nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach.

  • When in doubt, consult a specialist.

"It's best to consult a professional and they will tell you how much milligram of it is okay, and which type you should be taking," says Dr Syeda.

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Topics:  Depression   Mental Health   Anxiety 

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