Magnesium – An Unexplored Method to Treat Depression

In today’s times when stress has become a second habit, a large number of people are wrestling with the problem of depression. Despite the fact that it is so common, the condition is not so well understood and any kind of sadness is merely perceived to be a case of mood swings. One can understand the magnitude of the problem with the fact that about 16.1 million American adults above the age of 18 years reportedly dealt with at least one major depressive episode in 2014, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), depression is defined as “a period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration and self-image.”

Though medications and incorporating certain lifestyle changes can help one in fighting depression, they may not prove effective in many cases. While many resort to the traditional treatment measures, there are certain unexplored ways that can prove comparatively more beneficial in fighting off depression. One such way is by overcoming the deficiency of magnesium.

Magnesium, an essential mineral in the human body, is crucial for various functions such as blood pressure regulation, bone development, heart rhythm normalization, muscle and nerve function, etc. If an individual is unable to meet the required minimum level of magnesium in the body, he or she is prone to develop several health issues such as anxiety disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.

How magnesium helps treat depression

While a lack of magnesium might cause an upsurge in depression one can reverse the harmful neurological changes that occur due to its deficiency by taking supplements. Magnesium supplements can help one recover from depression in myriad ways. A few of these mechanisms are as mentioned below:

  • NMDA receptor channel modulation: As an antidepressant, magnesium prevents the recurrent opening of the N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor channels in the brain, which protects against neuronal damages and assists in the recovery of neurons from the preexisting damage. By reducing the level of nitric oxide, magnesium helps improve mood.
  • HPA axis modulation: According to a number of studies, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is overactive among individuals going through depression. As magnesium lessens HPA axis overactivity, it is an effective way to treat depression by acting upon this axis.
  • Serotonergic modulation: Research has revealed a close relationship between magnesium and the level of serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone, in the human brain. Therefore, magnesium supplements are a great way to improve the serotonin levels in an individual and thus boost mood to recover from depression.

Apart from these magnesium supplements can improve depression by improving the following in the body: the synaptic density in the prefrontal cortex; hormonal imbalances (such as hypothyroidism and low testosterone); autonomic nervous system (ANS) function; dopaminergic dysfunction and the neurotransmission of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter associated with relaxation; and decreased arousal in the brain.

Maintaining the requisite level of nutrients is essential

While the lack of magnesium increases the risk of developing depression, an individual dealing with depression is also prone to developing a magnesium deficiency. Therefore, one should make sure that the requisite level of magnesium, and all other essential nutrients in the body, is maintained to avoid the development of any major health issues.