In depression studies of mice, researchers literally throw them into a water tank and observe them swimming. Healthy mice meet the challenge and swim. Depressed mice may swim at first but they will soon wear out and the only movements they will make in that tank of water are the minimal movements necessary to keep their heads above water. A 2004 study of the magnesium-depression link used the swim test to test the effect of magnesium depletion on depression and anxiety. They fed one group of mice a magnesium-depleted diet for a few weeks and fed control mice a regular diet. At the end of the study period, the poor magnesium deficient mice were prone to anxiety and to depression.
A bad depressive cycle is all about keeping your head above water. On bad days it is often all you can do to survive the day doing only the minimal activity required. Forget about outings, forget about shopping, forget about moving the garden hose. Survive the day. Keep your head above water. When the day is over and you have not drowned, it was a “win.” You survived.
Mice and rats must be a lot like humans. Their ability to fit in the smallest crack in my kitchen cabinets aside, when mice are depressed, all they can do is keep their heads above water on those bad days.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
A key sign of magnesium deficiency is muscle spasms and twitching. A rapid heartbeat, confusion, and nausea are signs of low magnesium.
Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
Two common lifestyle trends have made magnesium deficiencies very common: stress and a poor diet. Researchers have shown that stress causes our bodies to need more magnesium. The problem is that many of us eat a poorer diet when we are depressed.
Think about your busiest and most stressful times — they are likely filled with coffee and fast food. Magnesium comes rather from fresh vegetables and whole grains; processed foods as a group are low in magnesium. In your busiest times, you need more magnesium and you are likely getting less from your diet.
Dr. Osborne of Gluten Free Society describes causes of magnesium deficiency and a testing protocol.
Improve Your Magnesium Levels
To decrease the number of your bad days and increase the time between those down cycles, make sure you have plenty of magnesium in your diet. You can do this two ways (and taking both approaches is not a bad idea):
- Take a daily magnesium supplement of 3-4.5 mg for every pound of your body weight (6-8 mg/kg) if you do not have a high-magnesium diet. Most of us, by the way, do not consume the RDA/DRI of magnesium. Consider a highly absorbed form of magnesium like magnesium taurate.
- Eat more magnesium-rich foods. The USDA calculates that the food in the figure above are your best bets for magnesium. Lots of vegetables, ideally heirloom varieties, are a very good bet for improving your magnesium levels and for getting all of the other benefits from the world of vegetables.
Improving your magnesium levels will likely alleviate your depression if you are deficient in magnesium. It will certainly help your overall health.