Breathe: Another "cure" for anxiety
So I'm browsing Facebook. I follow a lot of pages that are about yoga, happiness, wellbeing and so on. I get to see some helpful, thought provoking articles. I also get to see some bullshit. And sometimes it's difficult to work out which is which.
This morning, I was shown a particularly thin article about how magnesium can cure anxiety.
Now, here's the thing. I am not a scientist, nutritionist or doctor, but I do have access to google and I'm an excellent researcher. If you google "Magnesium to treat depression" you don't get a single source of medical research or scientific information to show that it works.
In fact, every article that comes up uses phrases like "old wives tales" and "our stone age ancestors used to consume more magnesium". Nothing scientific. Nothing proven. I'm about to call bullshit....
...But I promised myself that I would try pretty much anything in pursuit of happiness, so I did some research into the side effects and risks associated with an overdose - I'm not going to start taking supplements without considering the possible detrimental effects as well as the positive ones. And, for me in my current health, there are very few associated risks.
Then I looked at the symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and there we get into more reliable territory. There are numerous scientific papers on this subject and they all list anxiety as a symptom, so maybe sometimes I'm not anxious... I'm just magnesium deficient?! Wouldn't that be great?! I could just pop a daily supplement and feel better! Hurrah!
Except that, according to the same scientific papers, magnesium deficiency is pretty rare. We mostly get it from our food and it's especially found in leafy green vegetables, which I eat a boatload of.
Oh, and it's in my daily vitamin supplements that I take.
So I'm not deficient in magnesium and I'm still anxious. Yep. I'm calling bullshit.
But here's the thing. I firmly belief that a good, balanced diet full of unprocessed, healthy food with a variety of colour helps my anxiety. I know that when I'm eating well and taking care of myself I feel better, I cope more easily and the anxiety builds more slowly making it easier to manage.
I'm calling bullshit because I hate this "magic bullet" approach to anxiety. "You have anxiety? Had it for years? Here, take this supplement and it will all go away instantly!"
And then it doesn't. And an already anxious person has something else to worry about. Why does it not work for me? Should I take more? Should I go get blood tests done? Why isn't it working?
And I end up feeling like anyone who actually has anxiety would never write a blog called "do this one thing and it'll fix your anxiety forever". Because that's not how anxiety works. Not for me, anyway.
If someone is experiencing anxiety for the first time and they're on Facebook, I want them to find options and practical advice that will help them to think about and resolve their own anxiety. I don't want them to think that all they have to do is pop a pill and make it all better, because it won't. And while they're not getting help, it may get worse.
Please speak to your doctor before you start or stop taking any supplements.