The Role of Magnesium and Vitamin D3 in Stress and Immunity

In these times, more than ever, we need a strong body and a resilient mind, able to cope with the demands of the environment and the constant changes we face.

In addition to the contributions of nutrition to health and wellness, more is being learned every day about the relationship between our mental state and the integrity of our defense system: the immune system.

Below, you will be able to understand in greater detail the main functions of this wonderful system, as well as the nervous system, and you will learn about two micronutrients that are fundamental for the correct functioning of both. Keep reading!

 

The Immune System

Your body has several mechanisms to defend itself from environmental threats. The first of these is part of the so-called "innate immunity", the one you are born with and is made up of the physical barriers of protection, that is, the skin - including its secretions and hairs - and the mucous membranes of your digestive and respiratory systems.

The second line of defenses, also innate, is made up of numerous mobile cells that are formed in the bone marrow, but then inhabit different tissues to fight microorganisms and toxins that have managed to get past the first protective barrier, thus preventing them from spreading through the blood.

Thirdly, there is "acquired immunity", made up of an army of much more specialized cells that are recruited throughout life, as contact is made with a certain damaging agent. This is slower, but much more powerful than innate immunity, and is able to remember its functions in the future, which is why if you get chickenpox in childhood, you will never get it again!

 

The Nervous System

The nervous system is a network of extremely sensitive and complex "electrical wires" called "nerves" that communicate the different parts of the body. Behind the function of each tissue, there is always the influence of the nervous system.

The encephalon, a large organ located inside the skull, integrates information from what we perceive from the environment through the senses, and what we perceive internally, and accordingly, issues orders for the body to respond as necessary. Thus, it allows the movement of muscles, the secretion of hormones and the maintenance of basic vital parameters.

Adaptation to stress involves both the nervous system and the hormonal system.

The former acts quickly, releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline, and the latter, a little slower, releasing the famous cortisol. Both, in turn, directly influence the capacity of the immune system.

Every time our body suffers physical or psychological stress, these mechanisms are activated and try to bring the body to a new state that allows us to adapt and find a balance. However, when stress is maintained for a long time, these mechanisms are deregulated and become exhausted, causing various problems such as depression, anxiety, frequent infections, infections, skin problems, gastrointestinal problems, among others.

 

The Importance of Magnesium

 

Magnesium for stress management

Magnesium is an essential mineral, which means, that we must obtain it through food. It plays an important role throughout the body, participating in more than 300 chemical reactions to maintain internal balance.

In the nervous system, magnesium is crucial for communication between neurons and its deficiency has been associated with depression, anxiety, memory loss and also an altered response of the neurohormonal system that regulates the stress you read above.

Magnesium supplementation has been shown to be beneficial in improving sleep quality, muscle health, regulating digestion - all the things that are altered when you have stress, have you noticed? and also improves mood and decreases anxiety symptoms, among other benefits.

 

Magnesium to boost the immune system

Magnesium is involved in the protection and repair of DNA, which is damaged when there is a lot of inflammation in your body. It also helps macrophages (defense cells) to eliminate harmful agents, the mobility of defense cells, and participates in the formation and action of antibodies.

 

  How much Magnesium do we need?

Nutritional guidelines recommend a daily intake of 400 to 420 mg of magnesium for men and 310 to 320 mg for women. However, while magnesium is found in multiple food sources, given the high frequency of deficiency, daily supplementation with at least 100 mg per day is recommended.

 

  Dietary sources of magnesium

  • Animal sources: salmon, chicken, raw egg, yogurt and milk.
  • Plant sources: cereals such as oat bran and brown rice, nuts such as brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts. Some fruits such as avocado and banana, and other foods such as chickpeas, Swiss chard and cocoa.
  • Consumption ideas: you can prepare a delicious banana smoothie with cocoa and natural peanut butter for breakfast, and a colorful chard, avocado and mushroom salad with chickpeas and brown rice for your lunch or dinner.

 

Vitamin D: From the Sun to your cells

 

Vitamin D and stress

In states of stress, cortisol can decrease the assimilation of vitamin D ingested in food, as well as the "maturation" of the immature vitamin D formed in the skin.

On the other hand, a vitamin D deficit has been associated with anxiety, depression, attentional deficit, and other states of physical stress such as muscle-tendon injuries, cardiovascular disease, among others.

Vitamin D to boost the immune system

Vitamin D behaves as an important immune regulator. It strengthens antimicrobial activity and helps different cells of the immune system such as monocytes, macrophages and lymphocytes to multiply, move and defend better. It decreases your body's tendency to self-attack, also known as autoimmunity. On the other hand, vitamin D helps maintain the integrity of physical barriers such as the skin, digestive tract and respiratory tract. 

Difference between vitamin D and vitamin D3

Vitamin D is manufactured in the body by the contact of ultraviolet B rays with the skin. Then, this "pro" vitamin D must be processed in the liver and kidney to become active, and it is the latter, called Vitamin D3. This is important, because when choosing a supplement you will know that by consuming vitamin D3 you will be getting its active form, and you will not be depend on the function of other organs, which in many people is impaired.

It should be taken into account that with age the capacity to produce this vitamin decreases, as well as in winter, and in high latitudes, so its supplementation is more necessary.

How much Vitamin D do I need?

4,000 IU daily, or 100 ug. Vitamin D2 and D3 are not so different in efficacy, but vitamin D3 is better for maintaining blood levels during the winter, through supplementation.

Food Sources of Vitamin D

  • Sun: 15 minutes of sun exposure per day at midday on hands, arms and face provides approximately 1,000 IU.
  • Animal sources: mainly fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, poultry such as chicken, egg yolk, fortified yogurt and milk.
  • Vegetable sources: portobello mushrooms and fortified products such as vegetable drinks, orange juice and cereals.

 

 

   By Valentina Quintana
   Surgeon from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and specialist in Integrative Medicine.
I help people to improve their health through lifestyle changes, adopting a diet with therapeutic purposes, focusing on the mind-gut relationship, and stress management techniques. Additionally,
I teach Western Medicine in Acupuncture Schools and give educational workshops on Natural Medicine and healthy habits.

 

 

Sources

  1. Pickering, G., Mazur, A., Trousselard, M., Bienkowski, P., Yaltsewa, N., Amessou, M., Noah, L., & Pouteau, E. (2020). Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients, 12(12), 3672. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12123672
  2. Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium

Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9050429

  1. Gombart, A. F., Pierre, A., & Maggini, S. (2020). A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System-Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection. Nutrients, 12(1), 236. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010236
  2. Institute Linus Pauling, Micronutrient Information Center - Vitamin D Sources. (s. f.). Oregon State University. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-D#sources
  3. Institute Linus Pauling, Micronutrient Information Center - Vitamin D Sources. (s. f.). Oregon State University. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-D#sources

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