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Valentina Quintana

Magnesium & Vitamin D3

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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, capable of dealing with the demands of the environment and the constant changes we face.

In addition to the contributions of nutrition to health and well-being, more and more is known about the relationship between our mental state and the integrity of the defense system: the immune system.

Next, 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 essential for the proper functioning of both. Read!

The Immune System

Your body has several mechanisms to defend itself against threats from the environment. 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 system.

The second line of defense, 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 cross the first barrier of protection, thus preventing them from spreading through the blood.

Thirdly, there is “acquired immunity”, that constituted by an army of much more specialized cells that are recruited throughout life, as contact is made with a certain agent of harm. It 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, it will never happen again!

The Nervous System

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

The brain, a large organ located inside the skull, integrates the information of what we perceive of the environment through the senses, and what we perceive internally, and accordingly, it 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 first acts quickly, releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline, and the second, 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 will be activated that will try to take 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 become dysregulated and depleted, causing various problems such as depression, anxiety, frequent infections, skin problems, gastrointestinal problems, among others.

The Importance of Magnesium

Magnesium for Stress Management

Magnesium is an essential mineral, which means we must obtain it through our diet. 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 stress that you read about above. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to be beneficial for improving sleep quality, muscle health, regulating digestion – everything that is altered when you are stressed, have you noticed? – and also improves mood and decreases anxiety symptoms, among other benefits.

Magnesium to boost the immune system

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

How much magnesium do we need?

Nutrition guidelines recommend a daily intake of 400 to 420 mg of magnesium per day 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.

Food Sources of Magnesium

  • Animal sources: salmon, chicken, raw egg, yogurt and milk.
  • Plant-based sources: grains 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.
  • Serving ideas: You can make yourself 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 ingested vitamin D in food, as well as the “ripening” of immature vitamin D formed in the skin. On the other hand, a vitamin D deficiency has been associated in people with anxiety, depression, attention 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 contributes to maintaining the integrity of physical barriers such as the skin, digestive tract and respiratory tract.

Difference Between Vitamin D and Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is made 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 be active, and it is the latter, the so-called Vitamin D3. This is important, because by choosing a supplement you will know that by consuming vitamin D3 you will be getting its active form, and you will not depend on the function of the other organs, which in many people is damaged. It should be borne in mind that with age the ability to produce this vitamin decreases, as well as in winter, and in large latitudes, so supplementation is more necessary.

How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?

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

Food Sources of Vitamin D

  • Sun: 15 minutes of sun exposure a day at midday on hands, arms and face provide approximately 1,000 IU.
  • Animal sources: mainly fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, poultry such as chicken, egg yolks, fortified yogurt and milk.
  • Plant sources: Portobello mushrooms and fortified products such as plant-based drinks, orange juice, and cereals.

By Valentina Quintana

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


  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.
  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.
  3. 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.
  4. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center – Vitamin D Sources (n. d.). Oregon State University. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from
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