How Magnesium Calms the ADHD Brain

How magnesium calms the ADHD brain?




Magnesium (chemical symbol Mg) is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body. It is essential in the proper functioning of the muscular and nervous system.

Mg is well-known for relaxing the mind through its role in neurotransmitter synthesis, such as serotonin. Serotonin plays significant role is calming the mind and provoking a sense of well-being. Low level of serotonin is associated with depression, mood swings and irritability.

Some signs and symptoms of Mg deficiency includes sensitivity to loud noises, insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness, panic attacks, salt craving, and both carbohydrate craving and carbohydrate intolerance.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Magnesium is needed to activate the enzyme, delta-6-desaturase, that converts dietary alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the main components of brain cell membranes. It is suggested that children, especially boys, has a deficiency in delta-6-desaturase, which leads to DHA deficiency frequently seen in children with ADHD. Supplementing with Mg may help faciliate conversion from ALA to DHA by increasing activity of delta-6-desaturase.

Magnesium calms the nerves by interfering with the release of acetylcholine (an excitatory neurotransmitter)at the neuromuscular synaptic junctions.

Mg also interferes with the release of catecholamines from the adrenal medulla, thus, calming the nervous system. Psychological reactions and/or environmental stressors, such as excessive noises, intense light, etc may increase blood catecholamine levels. Catecholamines, such as norepinephrine and adrenaline, are neurotransmitters responsible for the fight-or-flight response, by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels, getting the body into an excited state.

Magnesium is needed for the production of myelin sheaths that insulate the nerve cells in the nervous system. The myelin sheaths act in a similar manner as the plastic casing on electrical wires. This protective layer prevents nerve impulses from misfiring, which can result in seizures.

Mg activates glutamine synthetase, which is responsible for the combination of glutamate with ammonia to yield glutamine. Glutamine synthetase is present predominantly in the brain, kidneys, and liver.

In the brain, glutamine synthetase participates in the metabolic regulation of glutamate, the removal of brain ammonia, uptake and release of neurotransmitters. In the brain where glutamate is used as a neurotransmitter, glutamine synthetase is not subject to the same regulatory system as in kidneys and liver. Brain glutamine synthetase is found mainly in astrocytes, which plays important roles in regulating neurotransmitters and synaptic transimissions, and ion concentration in nerve cells, and maintaining maintaining the blood-brain-barrier.

Mg deficiency is associated with the impulsiveness and hyperactivity in ADHD more so than the inattentiveness. Lack of Mg is related to muscle spasms and over-excitability. However, the combination of vitamin B6 and Mg complement each other to tackle both the hyperactivity and inattentiveness of ADHD.

Mg and vitamin B6 has a co-dependent relationship. While treatment with Mg is most effective when combined with vitamin B6, which boosts absorption of magnesium into the cells, Mg is required for the proper functioning of alkaline phosphatase, which facilitates the absorption of vitamin B6 into body tissues.

Vitamin B6 is required in both the synthesis of serotonin from tryptophan and activation of kynurenase that breaks down by-product of tryptophan metabolism. Both vitamin B6 and magnesium are essential for the enzyme kynurenase to breaks down kynurenine, a waste product of tryptophan in the kynurenine pathway. Deficiency in vitamin B6 may result in a suboptimal functioning of kynurinase, resulting in high levels of kynurenine, which are associated with disturbed balance of brain chemicals, such as serotonin, gama-aminobutyric acid (GABA). An imbalance of brain chemicals or neurotransmitters, especially gama-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine, is associated with behaviors seen in ADHD and other cor-morbid conditions.

FOOD SOURCES

Mg is plentiful in green vegetables, cereal, grain, nuts, legumes, and chocolate. Food processing and cooking may deplete magnesium content. Typical western diet composed of mainly processed foods, which obviously is not able to supply the needed Mg. Furthermore, the metabolic stress from the foods further put the body’s detoxification system in overdrive trying to rid the body of the harmful substances in processed foods.

A diet high in fat, phosphate and calcium may reduce Mg absorption.

SUPPLEMENTATION

Oral Mg supplements are available in various salt preparations. Multivitamins and minerals generally contain Mg oxide, which is less bulky and inexpensive to manufacture. However, it is not soluble in water, which means it is poorly absorbed by the body. Mg hydroxide in milk of magnesia is another example of insoluble Mg salt.

Magnesium aspartate, chloride, lactate, citrate and glycinate are more soluble, thus, easily absorbed in the intestines. Magnesium taurinate, glycinate or elemental Mg is the preferred form that is less likely to cause diarrhea.

SUGGESTED DAILY DOSING

The typical dose for children is 200 mg of Mg and 10 to 20 mg of vitamin B6.

Age 3 years and under: 40-80mg

Age 4-6 years: 120mg

Age 7-10 years: 170mg

Adolescent and adult male: 270-400mg

Adolescent and adult female 280-300mg




Author: Anna

I’m a board-certified Pediatric Nutritionist, who takes care of medically-fragile infants and children in the US Defense System; I’m mother of a teenager and a real estate investor. I love spending time with friends and family playing tennis, golf, hiking and stand-up-paddling. And we live in Honolulu, Hawaii.