The relationship between stress, magnesium deficiency and obesity is quite complex. To understand it, we need to look at the nature of 3 different types of stress, and how they affect us.
In simple terms, stress is the body-mind response to real or perceived events and situations in its surroundings. It can be caused both by what is perceived as “good” or “bad”. The “good” factors include what we find exciting, stimulating, highly pleasurable. For example, a jump from a plane with a parachute – it is a stressful activity, but in most cases exciting at the same time. The “bad” stressors are the ones which cause distress to the mind and body – for example, an attack from somebody, real or perceived.
This is a short-lived type of stress. The body responds to it with a “fight or flight” strategy. This kind of response causes fast changes in the body, to ensure its survival. The release of adrenaline and other related hormones mobilises the body resources within a short period of time. The limb muscles contract, the heart starts pumping the blood a lot faster, blood flow to the limbs and major organs increases, to make sure that the body can either fight or flee.
This is a biological response which in dangerous situations saves lives. However, in many cases danger is perceived, rather than present, and a lot of people get acutely stressed over things which are non-life-threatening (e.g. road rage). Acute stress is accountable for most cases of cardiac arrest (heart attack) and can be very dangerous if there are long-term chronic problems present in the body.
The other type of acute stress involves pleasant activities and events – a birth of a child, moving home, doing something for fun and excitement (e.g. a ski jump). This stress is short-lived, but can still disrupt the body processes.
Symptoms of acute stress
- A sudden rise in blood pressure
- Muscle tension, cramps
- Disruption of digestive processes
- Increased risk of cardiac arrest
- Increased risk of stroke
- Disruption of the endocrine system
- Flaring up of chronic conditions
- Long-term physical and psychological problems.
Repeated acute stress
This kind of stress involves repetition of stressful situations and events on a recurring basis. It also describes the mind’s perception of the environment as threatening and hostile, with the corresponding reaction. Like with acute stress, it can be real (e.g. a soldier or a civilian in a war zone), or perceived (a teenager seeing the world as a deeply hostile environment, with no way out). This is a more dangerous kind of stress since the body and mind balance get repeatedly disrupted, with hormones wrecking havoc with the body systems.
Common symptoms and consequences
- Wearing down of all body systems
- Build up of toxins in the body
- Heart problems
- Cardiac arrest
This is the most dangerous type of stress, since it destroys the body and nervous system consistently, over a long period of time. The most possible causes are financial hardship, relationship problems, a feeling of being stuck in the rut due to entrenched beliefs and inflexible mindset, long-term illness – of yourself or a family member, lack of help, loneliness, bullying, uninspiring environment – at home or at work.
The damage which long-term stress causes to the body is often devastating. People who are continually exposed to chronic stress are much more likely to suffer from poor health, which leads to a low life span.
Common symptoms and consequences of chronic stress
- High cholesterol level in the blood, leading to clogged up and rigid arteries (atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis)
- Over-eating, leading to obesity
- Obesity caused by accumulation of toxins in the body
- Type 2 diabetes due to insulin resistance from the cells
- Inflammation of the joints (arthritis, rheumatism)
- Blood pressure abnormalities
- Chronic anxiety
- Passive aggression
- Sudden seemingly unexplained episodes of panic attack and acute anxiety
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Kidney disease
- Psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema
- Acne and other skin problems
- Poor immunity
- Disturbed sleep
- Headaches, migraine
- Drug abuse
- Other addictions
A relationship between stress & obesity
The relationship between stress and obesity has been established not only by observing human but animal behaviour as well. It is a well-known fact that while for most of us acute stress doesn’t invoke comfort eating, chronic stress does. Why is it happening, and what are the long-term consequences of chronic stress?
Here are conclusions of 2 scientific studies which explain what happens in the body as a result of chronic stress, and how it leads to obesity:
1. “The effects of adrenal corticosteroids on subsequent adrenocorticotropin secretion are complex. Acutely (within hours), glucocorticoids (GCs) directly inhibit further activity in the hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal axis, but the chronic actions (across days) of these steroids on the brain are directly excitatory. Chronically high concentrations of GCs act in three ways that are functionally congruent. (i) GCs increase the expression of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) mRNA in the central nucleus of the amygdala, a critical node in the emotional brain.
CRF enables recruitment of a chronic stress-response network. (ii) GCs increase the salience of pleasurable or compulsive activities (ingesting sucrose, fat, and drugs, or wheel-running). This motivates ingestion of “comfort food.” (iii) GCs act systemically to increase abdominal fat depots. This allows an increased signal of abdominal energy stores to inhibit catecholamines in the brainstem and CRF expression in hypothalamic neurons regulating adrenocorticotropin.
Chronic stress, together with high GC concentrations, usually decreases body weight gain in rats; by contrast, in stressed or depressed humans chronic stress induces either increased comfort food intake and body weight gain or decreased intake and body weight loss. Comfort food ingestion that produces abdominal obesity, decreases CRF mRNA in the hypothalamus of rats.
Depressed people who overeat have decreased cerebrospinal CRF, catecholamine concentrations, and hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal activity. We propose that people eat comfort food in an attempt to reduce the activity in the chronic stress-response network with its attendant anxiety. These mechanisms, determined in rats, may explain some of the epidemic of obesity occurring in our society.” Source
2. “Although stressors generally reduce the intake of boring but healthy foods (chow for rats), both acute and repeated restraint stress increase the intake of highly palatable calories (32% sucrose, lard), when they are available. This behavioural effect is mediated by elevated glucocorticoids, and depends on the accompanying increase in circulating insulin concentrations. In the periphery, whereas glucocorticoids mobilize stored calories and greatly increase the rate of gluconeogenesis, insulin counteracts the effects of glucocorticoids, abetting caloric storage. Together, increasing concentrations of both hormones increase adipose storage, at the expense of peripheral protein stores when there is not an overall gain in body weight. ” Source
3. “In population studies adrenal hormones show strong statistical associations to centralization of body fat as well as to obesity. There is considerable evidence from clinical to cellular and molecular studies that elevated cortisol, particularly when combined with secondary inhibition of sex steroids and growth hormone secretions, is causing accumulation of fat in visceral adipose tissues as well as metabolic abnormalities (The Metabolic Syndrome). Hypertension is probably due to a parallel activation of the central sympathetic nervous system…
Glucocorticoid exposure is also followed by increased food intake and ‘leptin resistant’ obesity, perhaps disrupting the balance between leptin and neuropeptide Y to the advantage of the latter. The consequence might be ‘stress-eating’, which, however, is a poorly defined entity. Factors activating the stress centres in humans include psychosocial and socioeconomic handicaps, depressive and anxiety traits, alcohol and smoking, with some differences in profile between personalities and genders. Polymorphisms have been defined in several genes associated with the cascade of events along the stress axes.” Source
4. “Stress is experienced by animals and humans on a daily basis and many individuals experience cycles of stress and recovery throughout the day. If, following stress, we consume larger and less frequent meals, the conditions are favorable for weight gain–especially in the abdomen. We know that belly fat, as well as stress, contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease, immune dysfunction and other metabolic disorders.” Source
Link between stress, magnesium deficiency & obesity
Magnesium deficiency is both a consequence and a reason for stress and weight gain. When in the state of either acute or chronic stress, magnesium levels get severely depleted, since it takes part in so many processes associated with stress response – production of multiple hormones and neurotransmitters being just some of them. So the body really needs a large amount of magnesium to be able to cope with challenging situations efficiently. If the body resources are depleted already before it is required, then the need becomes even more acute, since the stressful situation depletes it even more. Unless the problem of magnesium deficiency is addressed urgently, the body systems become stressed as a result of magnesium deficiency.
Results of some studies:
1. “…Low magnesium status has been associated with numerous pathological conditions characterized as having a chronic inflammatory stress component. In humans, deficient magnesium intakes are mostly marginal to moderate (approximately 50% to <100% of the recommended dietary allowance)… This suggestion may have significance in obesity, which is characterized as having a chronic low-grade inflammation component and an increased incidence of a low magnesium status. ” Source
2. A study conducted on obese children with insulin resistance concluded: ” The association between magnesium deficiency and IR is present during childhood. Serum magnesium deficiency in obese children may be secondary to decreased dietary magnesium intake. Magnesium supplementation or increased intake of magnesium-rich foods may be an important tool in the prevention of type 2 diabetes in obese children. ” Source
Ways of dealing with acute and chronic stress and resultant obesity
- Identify repeated stressors in your life.
- Identify their nature – are they acute-occasional, acute-regular, or chronic?
- Develop a long-term strategy for dealing with the causes of stress where required.
- Up your magnesium intake – both orally and transdermally (transdermal being the most effective method).
- Include vitamin B complex into your diet.
- Include antioxidants and immune system boosters in your diet (selenium, vitamin C, chromium, zinc).
- Exercise – not necessarily in a gum, but do it consistently. Walking 1 hour a day is a great way to deal with stress.
- Take regular breaks from work to do activities which you enjoy.
- Sleep enough, but not too long.
- Healthy frequent eating cannot be over-emphasised. Little and often should be the rule.
- Identify when you eat for pleasure, as a way of dealing with stress and anxiety, rather than because you are hungry. Keep a diary. What can you do instead which will satisfy you, instead of reaching for food?
- Drink water – remember that stress, acute and chronic, create a lot of metabolites and other toxins in the body, and they need to be flushed out.
- Detoxification is important. It can be achieved by eating lots of detoxifying foods (rich in phyto-nutrients), exercising, detoxifying procedures (Far Infrared wraps, for example, are possibly the quickest ways to induce profound deep detoxification through stimulation of the body tissues, and sweating).
- Far Infrared Mineral Weight Loss Wrap – developed by ourselves, this luxurious treatment aims to address weight management issues holistically, through relaxation, quick transdermal supplementation of magnesium, and detoxification.
- Take care of your social life. Spend time in good company, with people you enjoy being with.
- Have regular treatments – Aromatherapy massage and Reflexology are wonderful ways of dealing with stress.
- Take care of your environment. Deal with toxic relationships – often the best way is out. Are you happy with your physical surroundings? With what you do for a living?
- If you have low self-esteem, what is causing it? Outdated beliefs? Past events? See someone who can help you develop a strategy to change it.
- What is “nagging” you every day? What is your most common response to stress? You need to deal with this by being honest with yourself. Write it down. See a life coach in order to help you make positive changes in your life.
- Do you have a goal in life? Where are you heading? Do you have something big to aspire to? It is up to you to identify what you want and develop your plan of how to get there, but you may need help with it.
Most of the problems which cause psychological stress are of psychological nature. However, the consequences of it can and often are very physical. So be your own best friend – don’t ignore the signs. Deal with what is making you ill.
Here I have tried to show how stress, magnesium deficiency and obesity are interconnected. Stress is the result and consequence of magnesium deficiency, and so is obesity. In turn, magnesium deficiency increases the probability of stress-related disorders and reduces the body defence response. This can lead to devastating consequences – physically, psychologically, socially. Topping up magnesium levels daily – by applying magnesium oil all over the body is one of the most effective ways to deal with many stress-related conditions. Combining such applications with far infrared should be used preferably on a weekly basis. to facilitate not only fast magnesium supplementation but also detoxification.
All of these measures are effective at managing weight on a long-term basis. However, remember that a combined approach is needed to address long-term stress-related physical and psychological issues.