A new option was recently launched in the world of medicine. A natural medicine that can help treat depression too, perhaps even better than previous depression medicines. It’s about magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that the body naturally craves and recent studies have shown that treating depression with 248 mg of magnesium per day can lead to a surprising reversal of the symptoms of this disease.

Currently in the world there are 350 million people who suffer from some form of depression. That is 5% of the world’s population. As this condition becomes a more popular diagnosis, there should be alternatives to the common prescription of antidepressants.

Antidepressants can work wonders and perform miracles, but they can still filter toxins into the body that can cause addiction, worse health problems, and other mental health conditions.

Depression is often caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Medications for depression can cure these imbalances, but they generally leave behind some side effects, such as nausea, weight gain, insomnia, dry mouth, and blurred vision.

For some people, the side effects are minimal and almost non-existent, but for others the side effects can be as horrible as depression. Many of these people are looking for a new type of treatment, one that can cure them without causing other harm.

Magnesium and its role in biochemical reactions

Magnesium is a vital nutrient that is often deficient in modern diets. Our ancient ancestors would have had a full supply of this mineral from organ meats, shellfish, mineral water, and even swimming in the ocean, but modern soils may lack minerals and magnesium is removed from the water during routine municipal treatment.

Does it matter if we’re a little deficient? Well, magnesium plays an important role in biochemical reactions throughout the body. It is involved in many cellular transport activities, in addition to helping cells generate energy aerobically or anaerobically. Your bones are an important reservoir of magnesium, and magnesium is the counterion of calcium and potassium in muscle cells, including the heart.

If your magnesium is too low, you can experience muscle cramps, arrhythmias, and even sudden death. Ion regulation is all about how muscles contract and nerves send signals. In the brain, potassium and sodium balance each other. In the heart and other muscles, magnesium absorbs part of the load.

Magnesium is important for the brain

That does not mean that magnesium is not important in the brain. Unlike! Magnesium is an old home remedy for everything that ails you, including anxiety, listlessness, depression, headaches, insecurity, irritability, restlessness, talkativeness, and grumpiness.

In 1968, Wacker and Parisi reported that magnesium deficiency could cause depression , behavioral disorders, headaches, muscle cramps, seizures, ataxia, psychosis, and irritability, all reversible with magnesium replacement.

Stress is the bad guy here, in addition to our woeful magnesium-deficient diets. As in the case of other minerals like zinc, stress causes us to waste our magnesium.

Increased stress increases magnesium loss, and the environment may not easily replace it. Since magnesium is such an important mineral for the brain as part of almost every part of the stress response, recovery and repair, it seems obvious to study how magnesium is related to brain function and related common ailments with stress, such as clinical depression.

Magnesium has even been found to be helpful in some studies for people with fibromyalgia and major depression and type II diabetes .

The study

In one study, researchers used a crossover design as a control. In the first weeks of the study, half of the patients took magnesium chloride (12% elemental magnesium and almost 100% bioavailability), and then, in the second phase of the study, the first half were disconnected from magnesium, while the other half withdrew.

The patients took the supplement. The study wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t small either, with 126 depressed participants. The scale used to measure depression was the PHQ9, and the average score was a little over 10, which corresponds to moderate depression. Some patients were taking medication, others in therapy, some not, but the main clue is that other treatments for depression did not change in the course of the study, only magnesium chloride was added.

Participants received 2000mg (248mg elemental magnesium) daily for 6 weeks on an immediate or delayed schedule (until week 7, the crossover). Average depression scores during the trial were reduced by 6 points, bringing the mean from moderate to mild or minimal depression, a clinically important change.

Anxiety scores also improved. Participants reported reduced muscle cramps, aches and pains, constipation, and decreased headaches during the magnesium trial (these are all known to improve with magnesium supplementation and are signs of magnesium depletion).

When asked after the trial if they would continue magnesium, more than 60% said yes. Those who did not complain that magnesium did not help or caused diarrhea.

The positive effect of magnesium supplementation disappeared within 2 weeks of discontinuation of the supplement, indicating relatively rapid clearance.

Important notes

1. Although the association between magnesium and depression is well documented, the mechanism is unknown. However, magnesium plays a role in many of the pathways, enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood.

2. It is a calcium antagonist and a voltage-dependent blocker of the N-methyl-D-aspartate channel that regulates calcium flux in the neuron. In low magnesium states, high levels of calcium and glutamate can dysregulate synaptic function, resulting in depression.

3. Depression and magnesium are also associated with systemic inflammation. The finding that participants who took an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) experienced an even greater positive effect, points to the possible role of magnesium in increasing the effect of antidepressants.

4. Magnesium supplementation is cheap and quite safe. The amount of magnesium in this trial was below the recommended daily allowance for elemental magnesium, and as long as you have normal kidneys, it is difficult to take too much.

5. For depression, constipation, headaches, restless legs, or fibromyalgia, it makes sense to at least try magnesium for a few weeks. Those who prefer not to supplement can be encouraged to add nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate to their daily diet if you were not consuming them.

6. Magnesium can interfere with some medications and vice versa, so before taking it check very well if the magnesium goes with your medication that you are currently taking. Always consult your doctor.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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