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Magnesium for Stress: How It Works, Best Options, Dosage, and More

In today’s fast-paced world, stress seems to always find a way to creep in. While it may seem like an inevitable part of your life, finding ways to manage it for overall well-being is also important. One promising avenue is magnesium supplementation.  In this article, we explore how magnesium helps balance stress and the best…


In today’s fast-paced world, stress seems to always find a way to creep in. While it may seem like an inevitable part of your life, finding ways to manage it for overall well-being is also important. One promising avenue is magnesium supplementation. 

In this article, we explore how magnesium helps balance stress and the best options for supplementation. Understanding the role of magnesium in stress management can empower you to make informed decisions about your health and explore natural solutions for a healthy stress response.

How Does Magnesium Help With Stress?

Magnesium is a powerhouse within our bodies, essential for numerous crucial functions. It’s abundant, ranking as the fourth most common element in our bodies overall and the second most common within our cells. Its roles include:

  • Supporting energy production
  • Regulating cell behavior
  • Transmitting signals throughout our bodies
  • Maintaining cell structure

When it comes to your nervous system—the control center for your thoughts, feelings, and movements—magnesium is indispensable. 

An eight-week study of 264 stressed but otherwise healthy participants explored the relationship between magnesium and stress levels.  At the beginning of the study, all participants had similar stress levels and low serum and red blood cell magnesium levels.

Researchers divided participants into two groups: one took 300mg of magnesium lactate dihydrate daily; the other took the same amount and 30mg of vitamin B6.  

After four weeks, both groups reported a 30% reduction in stress levels, which improved to 45% after eight weeks. Participants with initially low magnesium levels also saw increased intracellular magnesium. 

Improves Sympathetic vs Parasympathetic Balance

A properly functioning sympathetic nervous system is critical to managing stress. A clinical trial explored the relationship between magnesium intake and sympathetic nervous system response. Over 90 days, participants took 400 mg of magnesium oxide daily.  

Researchers used heart rate variability (HRV) to track changes in heart rhythm. The low frequency/high frequency (LF/HF) ratio in HRV reveals the balance between stress (sympathetic) and relaxation (parasympathetic) systems. It helps researchers determine if the body feels more stressed or relaxed.

Researchers monitored stress using Baevsky’s stress index, a measure of stress on the cardiovascular system. They also assessed vagal activity, which is controlled by the vagus nerve and is crucial for regulating heart rate, lung function, digestion, and rest.

Compared to those who did not take magnesium, those taking magnesium experienced :

  • Lower LF/HF ratio indicating increased parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” activity, which promotes relaxation
  • Lower stress index
  • Increased vagus nerve activity, which helps the body adapt and heal

While more placebo-controlled studies are needed to fully understand the precise effects of magnesium on stress levels, the studies we’ve discussed provide compelling evidence of the relationship between magnesium and stress levels. They also suggest that increasing magnesium levels may indeed support a healthier stress response. 

May Support Mood and Hormones

A shorter yet placebo-controlled study explored the relationship between magnesium supplementation and balancing the nervousness and mood changes associated with premenstrual symptoms.  Forty-four women took either:

  • 200 mg magnesium oxide
  • 50 mg vitamin B6
  • 200 mg magnesium oxide + 50 mg vitamin B6
  • Placebo

Those taking the magnesium and vitamin B6 combination experienced an improvement in nervousness and moodiness.

The connection between magnesium and a healthy stress response is clear from research, but what’s going on? How does magnesium actually work behind the scenes? Let’s take a look at a few roles it plays.

Supporting GABA Production

GABA, a neurotransmitter, is an essential part of your nervous system involved in:

  • Helping control feelings of stress
  • Affecting your mood
  • Pain perception
  • Helping you sleep

When GABA levels are low or imbalanced, you might feel more stressed, have trouble sleeping, or face other mood issues.

GABA plays a critical role in how the brain deals with stress by influencing networks in the hippocampus, which can struggle to function effectively under stress, making it harder to cope. During sudden stress, the levels of GABA in the prefrontal cortex change, showing that GABA is directly involved in the brain’s immediate response to stressful situations.

However, longer-lasting stress can have more lasting effects. It can decrease the number of neurons producing GABA in key brain areas, which suggests that ongoing stress can permanently change the brain’s ability to use GABA to regulate stress.

This is where magnesium comes in. It indirectly supports GABA production by controlling neuron activity through its effects on the NMDA and GABAA receptors.

Magnesium ions play a crucial role in managing the excitement levels of neurons by collaborating with neurotransmitters like glutamate. Usually, magnesium acts as a regulator by inhibiting the NMDA receptor, which prevents neurons from becoming excessively excited.

However, low magnesium levels weaken this regulatory function, potentially resulting in hyperactive neurons and greater feelings of stress.

Magnesium ions also affect GABAA receptors, helping calm brain activity. When GABAA is activated, chloride ions enter neurons, making them less likely to fire. Magnesium ions allow more chloride ions to enter, further calming brain activity.

Lowers HPA Axis Response and Supports Cortisol Breakdown

Cortisol, commonly called the “stress hormone,” plays a critical role in your stress response. It helps your body respond to stress by increasing energy and alertness. This is part of the “fight-or-flight” response, which is beneficial for short-term survival during acute stress situations.

Your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis regulates both the production and secretion of cortisol and tries to maintain cortisol homeostasis or balance. This is how the HPA axis works :

  • First, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin‐releasing hormone (CRH).
  • Next, CRH tells the pituitary gland to make adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
  • Finally, ACTH tells the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

While the HPA axis strives to maintain cortisol balance, it’s difficult when constantly faced with stress, which we often are. Stress comes in the form of traffic, family, work, finances, and many others. Unmanaged stress can cause your HPA axis to become overstimulated, and your cortisol levels to remain high. 

Magnesium may help lower cortisol levels by adjusting how messages are sent in the brain. When magnesium levels are optimal, subtle adjustments occur in the transmission of messages within the brain. 

This modulation can reduce ACTH release. This hormone usually triggers the production of cortisol, so when there’s less of it, cortisol levels decrease in the body. 

Another way is through magnesium’s role in the metabolism, or breakdown, of glucocorticoid cortisol and cortisone. Your body can change cortisone into cortisol and vice versa. Two proteins called 11b hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (11b HSDs) handle this process. 

There are two types of these proteins: 

  • Type 1 helps turn cortisone into the more active cortisol, mainly in your liver and fat tissue. 
  • Type 2 does the opposite, turning cortisol into cortisone, mainly in your kidneys and colon. 

This process is important because it helps regulate how much active cortisol is available in your body. 

Researchers study urine to learn about glucocorticoid metabolism. They measure the amounts of cortisol, cortisone, and their breakdown products (called metabolites) to understand how the body processes these hormones.

A 24-week study of 49 healthy adults explored the relationship between magnesium supplementation and glucocorticoid metabolism. Participants took 350 mg of magnesium citrate daily and provided urine samples for testing. 

Participants who took 350 mg of magnesium daily had lower cortisol levels in their urine compared to those who didn’t. Their bodies also showed a shift in the ratio of Type 1 and Type 2 HSDs, with higher levels of Type 2—the form known to decrease cortisol levels. This suggests the kidneys were working more efficiently to break down cortisol. 

Replenish Lost Magnesium Excreted During Stress

Stress is often associated with low magnesium levels. When stressed, the body may use up magnesium faster or eliminate it more easily, leading to insufficient levels. 

This deficiency can increase sensitivity to stress. In simple terms, stress makes your body lose magnesium faster, which then makes your response to stress even worse. This creates a cycle where low magnesium levels keep making stress worse, causing more magnesium loss. It’s a vicious cycle.

To illustrate this relationship let’s look at some studies. A study of 25 healthy volunteers explored the relationship between noise stress and magnesium excretion. Researchers measured urine and blood magnesium levels before and for three days after noise exposure (average 98 decibels) in an industrial plant. 

After exposure to loud noise, the amount of magnesium in the blood went up quickly. This might have happened because magnesium moved from inside cells to the bloodstream in response to the stress from the noise. Additionally, magnesium urine excretion also increased and stayed high for two days after the noise exposure. 

Similarly, another study explored the relationship between exam stress and magnesium levels. Researchers monitored the stress levels and urinary magnesium excretion of 35 university students. As reported anxious feelings increased during the exam period, urinary magnesium excretion also increased.  

These studies highlighted how stress affects magnesium levels, showing the importance of keeping magnesium levels up, especially during stressful times. Taking magnesium supplements helps replenish what’s lost and may help keep you healthy in today’s busy world.

Best Magnesium for Stress

When incorporating magnesium supplements for stress relief or daily support, it’s important to select one that fulfills all your body’s needs.

Magnesium used in the previously mentioned studies supporting a healthy stress response included:

  • Magnesium oxide
  • Magnesium lactate  
  • Magnesium citrate  

 However, taking just a couple of types of magnesium isn’t likely enough. 

To enhance your overall magnesium status, consider incorporating a full-spectrum magnesium supplement with multiple forms of magnesium.

Because different types of magnesium are absorbed differently into various tissues, it’s beneficial to take many forms. By combining forms, you can ensure you absorb enough magnesium and make the most of its benefits.

For example, Magnesium Breakthrough contains seven forms of magnesium, each preferentially absorbed by different tissues. It also includes vitamin B6 to support mental health and promote a healthy stress response.

Magnesium Dosage for Stress

Research has yet to determine a precise magnesium dosage to support a healthy stress response. Studies utilized doses ranging from 200 mg  to 400 mg

The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for magnesium are 400-420 mg for men and 310-320 mg for women. However, that’s actually the bare minimum of magnesium required by approximately 97% of healthy individuals.

If you’re experiencing stress and losing more magnesium through urinary excretion, you’ll likely need a higher dose of magnesium. Some hormonal changes, like menopause, also mean less magnesium absorption. Therefore, it’s beneficial to opt for magnesium supplements that are easily tolerated even at higher doses to support your daily magnesium needs and address magnesium loss.

Magnesium Breakthrough contains 500mg of magnesium, cofactors, and monatomic minerals to maximize absorption. We also ensure it’s gentle on the gut to help avoid uncomfortable side effects like loose stools. 

A good place to start is by testing your magnesium levels and working with your healthcare provider to find the right dosage for correcting any deficiency and maintaining optimal levels.


In today’s hectic world, stress is a constant companion, but managing it is vital for overall well-being. Magnesium supplementation offers a promising solution for a healthy stress response. Opting for a full-spectrum formula like Magnesium Breakthrough ensures comprehensive support for a balanced stress response and overall health.

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