Magnesium is Essential for Preventing Substance P Overload

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
By: Byron J. Richards,
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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Substance P is a neuropeptide that is typically ”over-heated” in situations of anxiety, depression, digestive bloating, insomnia, fibromyalgia, PTSD, and cardiovascular deterioration. New research shows that one of the first signs of magnesium deficiency1 is that it enables the over-production of substance P.

Because magnesium affects several hundred enzyme systems in your body involved with energy production, nerve function, muscle function, digestive function, cardiovascular function, etc. it is somewhat difficult to know specific symptoms indicating deficiency. On the other hand, you can assume deficiency is associated with almost any metabolic problem you are having especially if stress is an aggravating factor (you are stress sensitive, you are easily tired out by stress, and/or you don’t sleep well).  I associate easy irritation, agitation, and/or a short fuse with a lack of magnesium.

This new study indicates that a lack of magnesium sets the stage for the inability of your body to handle high stress or trauma – resulting in perpetual inflammatory cascades that are the hallmark of worsened health. This specifically includes anxiety-ridden poor states of mental health including depression, PTSD, and fibromyalgia.  It also includes chronic digestive distress, bloating, and irritable bowel. It is clearly involved with poor cardiovascular function. For women in particular it will translate to no sex drive and/or vaginal pain or discomfort.

While maybe that sounds like a lot of different health issues to you, they all share the same common thread in that the related areas of the body have high levels of nerve activity that are required for their healthy function. Excess substance P is like dumping a caustic chemical, literally, out the nerve endings into the body tissue. Tissues that have the most nerves suffer the most adverse symptoms. Substance P, when in excess, generates a chronic and self-perpetuating inflammatory problem in the affected tissues. This is because it triggers inflammatory histamine release from mast cells and the histamine triggers further substance P release from nerve endings and we end up with a rather inflammatory catch 22.

This study says that low magnesium enables excessive substance P response. In other words, if you are cruising through life with a lack of magnesium – sort of stressed, sort of irritable, and then something traumatic happens (emotional or physical) or you simply have a period of high stress for an extended period of time, then you will be susceptible to these high demands pushing you body into a condition of substance P overload. That can be how one can get fibromyalgia or PTSD in the first place.

This information is relevant to everyone. First of all, make sure you have adequate magnesium in your supplements, 400 mg – 800 mg a day – higher levels if you are under higher stress in general and/or if you exercise a lot (magnesium is lost in sweat).  If a high level stress event happens to you, ensure you maximize magnesium intake during the duration of the event and until you feel fully recovered. This simple strategy could save you years of misery.

I can’t help but feel bad for the 16 vets that commit suicide every day in America, mostly suffering the effects of PTSD due to the trauma of what they have observed while serving our country. This data suggests that all combat personnel should be supplemented with magnesium (and B vitamins for that matter).  Doing so would save American lives.

Once a substance P problem exists this new study supports the use of magnesium to help clear it up. For many years I have used calcium AEP, quercetin, and acetyl-l-carnitine to help resolve this issue. It appears that adequate magnesium is also an important part of this strategy. 


Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ Magnesium Adequacy Prevents Excess Substance P  Magnes Res.   Weglicki WB, Mak IuT, Chmielinska JJ, Tejero-Taldo MI, Komarov AM, Kramer JH.

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