An Antidote to Stress

Improve Your Sleep, Mood, And Energy Level

An Antidote to Stress

Stressed? Anxious? Depressed? These are big problems, often with complicated solutions that involve a lot of lifestyle change. Which can be daunting, and tends to make a person feel rather...um, stressed.

Well, here's at least one easy thing you can do.

Get some magnesium into your system, girl.

It sounds too easy to be true, but surprisingly, this may be a remedy for a lot of what ails our modern lives.

Magnesium is a very powerful mineral. In conventional medicine it's used as during cardiac arrest emergencies, pre-eclampsia & seizures in pregnancy, and to entirely clean out bowels prior to colonoscopy. So, really, although magnesium sounds like something you'd pick up at a health food store, it's a pretty conventional (and highly effective) medicine.

Still, that said, there is woefully little research and attention paid to the issue of magnesium deficiency in the general population. One problem? It's very tricky to measure. 

Blood tests for magnesium levels are not terribly sensitive (most of our magnesium is stored in our bones, the rest is inside our cells, and a very small amount circulates in our blood). But it's pretty clear that we get less magnesium in our modern diet than we should. Municipal water treatment removes magnesium from water sources and most processed foods are rather deplete in the magnesium department (not to mention other nutrients!). We also know that stress causes our bodies to eliminate extra magnesium, through urine or sweat.

There's a long list of symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency: muscle cramps or twitches, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, constipation, headaches, to name a few. (But bear in mind: those symptoms are common to a large number of issues and conditions, and are far from diagnostic for magnesium deficiency.)

Research has recently begun to examine the use of magnesium as a therapy for depression, anxiety and other chronic illnesses. Mark Hyman, MD, makes a very compelling case in his HuffPo blog post on magnesium, and goes as far as calling it one of his secret weapons against illness.

So let's say you want to increase your magnesium intake. Here's where you start: with your diet.

There are plenty of good (and yummy) food sources of magnesium. In general, rich sources are: leafy greens, nuts, and beans. The National Institutes of Health has a list of food sources.

But what of supplements? Many experts say it's difficult to get sufficient amounts of magnesium through diet alone, so they advocate supplements. Real Age (the website of Dr. Oz & Dr. Roizen) recommends a multivite with at least 100 mg of magnesium. Other MDs (like Dr. Mark Sircus) are a little more aggressive than that, even outspoken about the widespread problem of magnesium deficiency. My take? I think many of us could benefit from supplements, especially when we're super-stressed, because this is when magnesium need increases. And motherhood definitely fits the criteria for a stressful phase of life. Plus, let's be honest, our eating habits are not always the best (as it turns out, discarded sandwich crusts from our kids' lunches are not a rich source of magnesium).

If you're considering the supplement route, you should talk to your doctor first. Also, be aware that you can overdo it. Side effects include diarrhea and abdominal cramping. If you have kidney disease or heart disease, you should be especially careful with magnesium supplementation.

Magnesium comes in a confusing array of formulations. Dr. Mark Hyman describes the optimal supplements to look for, at the end of his blog post here.

Or...how about this: take a bath, with Epsom salts. Believe it or not, magnesium can be absorbed through the skin. And, although it's possible to buy magnesium oil and other transdermal formulations...Epsom salt is, in fact, magnesium sulfate.

So. A hot bath as a stress antidote. What will they think of next?



Vitamin Coffee?

Why that cup of joe is actually good for you

Vitamin Coffee?

Coffee has long been one of my favourite indulgences. Actually, let's be honest. I can't get through my day without visiting Starbucks. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say: I'm not alone in this. Even so...my sipping usually comes with a teeny bit of guilt.

Reasonable? Turns out, probably not. In fact, it looks like I just might be doing myself some good with my daily java.

There's a growing body of research connecting coffee with a multitude of health benefits. See, coffee is bursting with phytonutrients (in other words: natural plant compounds), including all kinds of lovely antioxidants and anticarcinogenics.

Here are some of the ways coffee is good for you:

Coffee could save your brain.

Research has linked coffee to a decreased risk of Parkinson’s and other forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s. And by research, here, we’re talking several studies, worldwide.

Coffee may prevent skin cancer.

A recent study of more than 100,000 people showed a 20% reduction in the risk of basal cell skin cancer in women who drank 3 cups of coffee a day. What’s more, there’s early evidence that coffee helps prevent other types of cancer, too: breast, liver, prostate…to name a few.

Coffee can improve cognitive function.

And helps you unleash your inner editor. A study published last year showed that caffeine improved subjects’ ability to proofread and spot errors in their grammar. (I knew there had to be a reason I do my best writing in a cafe.)

Coffee can ward off depression.

Researchers at Harvard found that women who drink a few cups of coffee a day have a lower risk of depression than women who don’t drink any coffee. (To my husband who thought I sounded like an addict when I said I like myself better on coffee…ha!)

Coffee may prevent diabetes.

In a 2009 study, for every additional cup of coffee a person drank, their risk of Type 2 Diabetes was reduced by 7%.

All this, while savouring my morning latte? Yes please.

But…maybe you’re more of a tea girl? Well there’s lots of health benefit there, too. Here’s why...