Stress can come at you in many forms—both physical and mental. Our bodies respond to both types by increasing the use of and need for magnesium and calcium to manage the stress.
If you’re like most people, when you’re exposed to stress, you become irritable, easily fatigued and lose concentration. Your blood pressure may increase as the levels of adrenalin and cortisol, stress hormones, increase in your blood. Under conditions of mental or physical stress, magnesium is released from your blood cells and goes into the blood plasma, where it is then excreted into the urine. Chronic stress depletes your body of magnesium. The more stressed you are, the greater the loss of magnesium. The lower your magnesium level to begin with, the more reactive to stress you become and the higher your level of stress hormones becomes in stressful situations. Higher adrenalin causes greater loss of magnesium from cells. It is a vicious cycle.
Personality has a marked effect on the stress-magnesium cycle. A study in Paris found that stress-induced depletion of magnesium was much greater for people who show the “Type A,” competitive, heart-disease prone behavior pattern than for their less competitive colleagues. Dr. Bella Altura, a physiologist at the State University of New York, has proposed that depletion of magnesium among Type A individuals is the main reason they are at increased risk of heart attacks.
You experience the tensing (calcium) and relaxing (magnesium) interaction of these two elements each time your heart beats, when you feel your pulse, and every time you breathe. They are incongruous to one another.
- Calcium excites nerves and magnesium calms them down.
- Calcium makes muscles contract, but magnesium is necessary for muscles to relax.
- Calcium is necessary to the clotting reaction—so needed for wound healing—but magnesium keeps the blood flowing freely and prevents abnormal thickening when clotting reactions would be dangerous.
The key is proper balance between the two. Magnesium is responsible for the body’s proper assimilation and use of calcium, as well as other important nutrients. If we consume too much calcium, without sufficient magnesium, the excess calcium is not utilized correctly and may actually become toxic, causing painful conditions in the body.