Healthy Options for a Calm and Smooth Transition
Anxiety is one of the most common mood disorders present in the global population – over 15% of people worldwide will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. And in the United States, over 30% of the population will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.1
According to Dr. Michael Kisicki, a psychiatrist at the University of Connecticut, students of all ages and their parents can experience an increase in feelings of stress, anxiety, and worry when it’s time to go back to school. Dr. Kisicki notes an uptick in the number of students and parents who seek out counseling during the few weeks before and after school begins every year due to social and academic concerns.2
As general guidance, Dr. Kisicki advises his patients to focus on consuming a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular exercise.2 And, Rachel Busman, PsyD recommends parents be especially mindful of managing their own emotions, including anxiety, during the back-to-school transition to prevent transference to their children.3
In addition to these preventive guidelines, research shows supplementation with magnesium and probiotics could be beneficial for reducing anxiety.
According to data from the 2009–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, a whopping 44% of individuals in the United States do not consume enough magnesium. And, even if you are consuming an adequate amount of magnesium in your diet, you might be optimally digesting and absorbing it!4 Magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, is required for more than 600 enzymatic reactions that regulate critical cellular processes throughout the body.5
Magnesium plays a role in the regulation of cortisol release, muscle and brain cell activity, cellular energy production, bone metabolism, calcium absorption, parathyroid hormone secretion, osteoblast (bone cell) adhesion, neurotransmitter synthesis (including serotonin), carbohydrate metabolism, blood sugar balance, insulin secretion, lymphocyte (immune cell) production, fat metabolism, protein synthesis, and nucleic acid synthesis.4-6
Several studies have investigated the relationship between magnesium status and health conditions, and many demonstrate significant variation in the magnesium concentration between the unhealthy and healthy participants. Conditions that could be related to low magnesium levels include several psychiatric concerns, such as anxiety, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, depression, and others.5,6 Therefore, magnesium deficiency increases the risk of mental health concerns, and common symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and nervousness.
It is interesting to note that since anxiety increases the amount of magnesium used by the body, anxiety can be an underlying cause of a magnesium deficiency, but a magnesium deficiency can also induce anxiety. This vicious cycle could lead to worsening symptoms over time if the magnesium deficiency is not adequately corrected.6
Clinical studies on university students confirm anxiety and stress lead to the loss of magnesium. One study demonstrated the amount of magnesium excreted in the urine significantly increased in anxious university students during an exam period. Another study confirmed the amount of magnesium present in the red blood cells of students significantly decreased during the four weeks following an examination period.6
Evidence that a low magnesium level increases anxiety in animal models and that subsequent magnesium supplementation reduces the expression of anxiety-related behaviors is clear. Surprisingly, there are only a handful of clinical trials that assess the effects of magnesium on anxiety in humans, and many of them combine magnesium with other nutrients and botanicals.7,8
A thorough systematic review published in 2017 that looked at 18 different clinical studies found that magnesium reduced anxiety based on the subjective reports of the participants in the 18 studies.7 So, overall, the review demonstrated magnesium alleviates the symptoms of anxiety in mildly anxious people.8
In practice, physicians routinely see that magnesium supplementation reduces anxiety in their patients. For example, Dr. Sylvi Martin, ND, a licensed naturopathic physician, states she finds magnesium to be very helpful in treating patients who are experiencing anxiety.9 And, Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, highly recommends magnesium for her patients with anxiety and other health concerns, especially when a magnesium deficiency is the underlying cause of the anxiety.10
Probiotics and the Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis (MGBA)
There is a growing body of research that illuminates the communication between the gut microbiome – the ecosystem of trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms in the gut – and the brain. This pathway is known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis (MGBA), and it is thought to influence mental processes and mood status via neural, metabolic, hormonal, and other mechanisms.11
The gut microbiome contributes to the regulation of the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and their precursors. The MGBA also secretes postbiotics, including short-chain fatty acids, and upregulates essential proteins and metabolites involved in brain and gut hormone release.11
Believe it or not, up to 95% (!!) of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has a well-known link to anxiety and depression, is produced in the gut, and the secretion of serotonin in the gut is profoundly influenced by the organisms in the microbiome and their metabolites. Serotonin is also directly produced by the organisms in the microbiome, along with several other neurotransmitters that play a role in anxiety disorders, including GABA and norepinephrine.12
The amount of evidence that demonstrates a protective effect of probiotics on mental health concerns is accumulating so rapidly that some probiotics are now called psychobiotics.13 The benefits of psychobiotics for anxiety are increasingly studied in clinical trials. Three out of four recent studies, which included a total of 335 people, reported supplementation with probiotics improved anxiety.14
Another clinical study found that medical school students under academic stress who ingested Lactobacillus spp. had a lower plasma cortisol level compared to the placebo group, which can be interpreted as a reduction in anxiety.15,16 Overall, the results of several clinical studies indicate that treatment with lactobacilli and bifidobacteria probiotic strains, in particular, may significantly improve the psychological symptoms associated with anxiety.14,15
Anxiety disorders plague millions of people around the world, and the back to school transition each year tends to increase the risk and severity of anxiety in students, parents, and even those who have to navigate the surge in school traffic during their daily commute! Fortunately, there are nourishing options available that could support a healthy stress response and minimize anxiety.*
Evidence from research and daily clinical practice continues to accrue and point to a supportive role for both magnesium and probiotics. When you consider the potential health benefits of probiotics and magnesium along with the fact that they tend to be well-tolerated, it is clear many of us could easily incorporate them into a daily back to school routine. But, always check with your personal doctor before beginning a new supplement, to be on the safe side.
Continued interest in safe and effective treatments for anxiety disorders will likely lead to additional insights into the many benefits of magnesium and probiotic supplements to support those with mood concerns.*
Magnesium plus probiotics, including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria strains, are available as a synergistic blend in the popular FortéfyTM supplement from Interplexus.
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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- Kessler RC, Aguilar-Gaxiola S, Alonso J, et al. The global burden of mental disorders: an update from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) surveys. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc. 2009;18(1):23-33. doi:10.1017/s1121189x00001421
- Woods L. Summer's most stressful three words: 'back to school'. UConn Today. https://today.uconn.edu/2017/08/summers-stressful-three-words-back-school/. Published August 14, 2017. Accessed June 1, 2022.
- Miller C. Back to school anxiety. Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/back-school-anxiety/. Published September 26, 2021. Accessed June 1, 2022.
- Upgrade your Energy this Summer! InterPlexus. https://interplexus.com/blogs/news/upgrade-your-energy-this-summer. Published July 8, 2022. Accessed July 8, 2022.
- Magnesium for Migraine Prevention. InterPlexus. https://interplexus.com/blogs/news/magnesium-for-migraine-prevention. Published June 3, 2022. Accessed June 3, 2022.
- Pickering G, Mazur A, Trousselard M, et al. Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients. 2020;12(12):3672. doi:10.3390/nu12123672
- Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429. doi:10.3390/nu9050429
- Boyle NB, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety. Magnes Res. 2016;29(3):120-125. English. doi:10.1684/mrh.2016.0411
- Martin S. Magnesium for Mental Health: Is your child getting enough? Naturopathic Pediatrics. https://naturopathicpediatrics.com/2016/11/24/magnesium-mental-health-child-getting-enough/. Published November 24, 2016. Accessed June 3, 2022.
- Slayer A. 545: Magnesium deficient anxiety with Dr. Carolyn Dean. Anxiety Slayer™. https://www.anxietyslayer.com/journal/545-magnesium-deficient-anxiety-with-dr-carolyn-dean. Published June 18, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2022.
- Simpson CA, Diaz-Arteche C, Eliby D, et al. The gut microbiota in anxiety and depression - A systematic review. Clin Psychol Rev. 2021;83:101943. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2020.101943
- Bear T, Dalziel J, Coad J, et al. The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis and Resilience to Developing Anxiety or Depression under Stress. Microorganisms. 2021;9(4):723. doi:10.3390/microorganisms9040723
- Tremblay A, Lingrand L, Maillard M, et al. The effects of psychobiotics on the microbiota-gut-brain axis in early-life stress and neuropsychiatric disorders. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2021;105:110142. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2020.110142
- Vitellio P, Chira A, De Angelis M, et al. Probiotics in Psychosocial Stress and Anxiety. A Systematic Review. J Gastrointestin Liver Dis. 2020;29(1):77-83. doi:10.15403/jgld-352
- Lach G, Schellekens H, Dinan TG, et al. Anxiety, Depression, and the Microbiome: A Role for Gut Peptides. Neurotherapeutics. 2018;15(1):36-59. doi:10.1007/s13311-017-0585-0
- Kato-Kataoka A, Nishida K, Takada M, et al. Fermented Milk Containing Lactobacillus casei Strain Shirota Preserves the Diversity of the Gut Microbiota and Relieves Abdominal Dysfunction in Healthy Medical Students Exposed to Academic Stress. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016;82(12):3649-3658. doi:10.1128/AEM.04134-15
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