Have you ever lit a candle and watched it burn the string ever so slowly? Then, at times you'd blow it out and then re light it, the fire would seem to burn the string a bit faster? The candle eventually caving it as it melts from the heat losing its shape losing its function, despite still standing?
That is how your body reacts when it's under chronic stress. You're still functional, because it's not acute, but eventually it will get to you.
When our bodies are under this amount of stress it requires not just more energy (calories) but also nutrients (like vitamins and minerals). Which is pretty ironic if you think about it because when we're stressed we tend to feel really tired and not move around as much, having many people think that with less movement we require less energy to come in, but people forget we burn calories through more than just movement but just living! Imagine thinking extra to study for an exam or for fighting off a virus because you're sick. The body doesn't do it from thin air, it needs energy. This goes the same with nutrients.
Chronic stress is no stranger to anyone's life nowadays. We wake up and we're already being bombarded with stressors such as:
- Physical: Intense exercise, lack of sleep, accidents we may experience, gut disturbances, viruses, bacterial infections, pathogens
- Chemical: Pesticides on our food, air fresheners, makeup, bodywash products, detergents, hair dye, paint, furniture scents
- Mental: The pressure to be a certain way in society, work related stress, anxieties you in your life
- Emotional: Relationships, family problems, loneliness, guilt, anger
- Nutritional: Food doesn't hold the same nutritional value as it used to, packaged food, excess sugar, excess vegetable oils, lack of food grown from the land
- Environmental: EMFs, pollution, water contamination
The list can go on, and at some point the body starts to try and adapt to its surroundings because that's what it does best. We are exceptional adaptors. Problem here is that when we adapt we also sacrifice certain functions, and one thing in particular that the body does when its stressed is that increases the usage of a very special mineral: magnesium.
I know that today there is so much emphasis put on magnesium and you might be thinking "Can this mineral really be all that amazing for so many things? Sounds too good to be true".
I get it, I would feel the same way too and be skeptical if I was being conned into something. That being said, let's try and break things down so you can understand just how important magnesium is and why you do not want to feed this burn rate until your own little body-of-a-candle is no more.
Right from the get-go most people are aware that magnesium is important for approximately over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body. Just with that, we can all agree that if you're stressed and the body starts to prioritize certain functions over another, one of those enzymatic reactions will most likely struggle.
Our first line of defense when we're stressed is our nervous system. The nervous system uses our 5 senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing) but I would also argue another one is memory. When our nervous system downloads the message and decides if something is dangerous, phosphorus rises in our tissues as a means to trigger our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). From there our adrenal glands then come forth and say "Okay, let's send a signal to the body that it needs to protect itself" which will then mean our stress hormones will increase as sodium, a stimulatory mineral, increases as well. This is why when people are stressed their blood pressure goes up too. Potassium rises too as a means to help with cortisol levels and the utilization of glucose for energy.
Just with this initial stress response the body is already throwing out the fireworks, ringing the alarm and trying to do the best it can to make sure that both the brain and body know it's not time to take a nap or leisurely flip through Instagram.
Magnesium starts to be used up, for it's a vital nutrients to help calm the central nervous system down but it also plays a role in adrenal function in regulating our stress hormone production. This is important for without magnesium, the body cannot absorb potassium which one would need to help tap into energy stores, like our glucose reserves, to have the energy to protect oneself from a stress.
But let's say your adrenals tap out and say "I can't do this anymore", the thyroid then steps up. Now your thyroid is trying to pump out adequate T4 and T3 hormone, in hopes of of all T4 it's making converts to T3 to provide energy for all your cells. The kicker here is that magnesium is required for part of this conversion, particularly in the liver. Without magnesium, the body cannot produce 60% of the T4 to T3 in the liver.
Conversely, when we're stressed, the body chooses to either slow down or stop certain functions like digestion, steroid hormone production for fertility and even hair growth. Why? Because they are not important in helping you survive from a stressor. Running away and fighting off the stressor is what the body is programmed to do. Funnily enough, magnesium helps with all three of these things. When individuals are constipated they opt for magnesium. When they can't produce certain hormones, like progesterone or testosterone, they grab some magnesium. When they're losing hair and seeing bald patches, they pop a magnesium. It's not a coincidence that it's so useful.
Now picture your body experiencing stress day in and day out without any magnesium being taken- eventually symptoms will start popping up like anxiety, insomnia, infertility, digestive issues, liver problems, brain fog, and so forth.
Magnesium continues to be used, and eventually we have no more magnesium left in our stores and the body begins to tap into organ systems, such as our bones and soft tissues, which can lead to further degenerative issues. Once this starts happening the "burn rate" has gotten too far and our body (or I should say candle) has burned out a long time ago.
So what's the answer here? Take massive doses of magnesium? Does any supplement count? Ditch life and never get stressed again?
No, not exactly.
First of all, yes, learning to cope with everyday stressors and review what is affecting you the most would be the best approach. We can't avoid life per say, but we can definitely learn to create boundaries around what we want to allow into our space. Whether that be changing jobs, setting rules in how people treat you, changing beauty products or changing how you eat, do what is best for you.
Second, take a magnesium supplement, but not any. When the body is particularly stressed, it struggles to absorb nutrients for the very reasons we mentioned above. Digestion isn't as vital as running away from danger, right? Our supplement, Upgraded Magnesium, is different due to the particle size of the mineral making it easier to absorb even when the digestive system isn't optimal.
Third, dose up slowly. More isn't always better, and the reason for this is because everything affects everything, meaning every mineral can either antagonize or synergize another. There is no single function, nutrient, hormone or process in the body that work independently, hence starting off slow and increasing accordingly is the safest method.
Lastly, run an HTMA on yourself to see what other imbalances you may be lacking, for as mentioned right at the beginning, stress doesn't just affect magnesium but other nutrients as well. Yes, magnesium most likely being the most affected, but once one goes down others go as well. You can order one by clicking here!
Keep your candles lit!
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach