The star ingredient: magnesium.

By Julia Guerra
September 26, 2019
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In the words of Ariana Grande, my digestive system has been a "mother f*cking trainwreck" for as long as I can remember.

I don't know what it's like to go an entire month without alternating constipation and diarrhea. I'm used to waking up in pain five days out of the week. I've spent most of my life trying (and failing) to manage my symptoms. So when my husband came across Natural Vitality Calm (Buy It, $25, amazon.com), an anti-stress drink and magnesium supplement, I wasn't expecting it to help much. Fast forward one month later, and color me amazed at how much relief this product has given me. (Related: Why Do So Many Women Have Stomach Issues?)

I started experiencing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) when I was a kid, but I wasn't officially diagnosed with the digestive disorder until I was in my early 20s. It's a chronic condition (most commonly found in women) that affects the large intestine, and symptoms range from abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, excessive gas, diarrhea and/or constipation, and mucus in the stool, according to Mayo Clinic.

The exact cause of IBS is still unknown, but the most common triggers include food sensitivities/intolerances, stress, and hormonal changes. There's also no known cure for IBS, and managing the symptoms can be a lengthy game of trial and error.

It's important to keep in mind, though, that every case of IBS is different. What triggers one person may not trigger another, and that goes for management strategies, too. The best thing you can do is track your symptoms and figure out what methods work for your body. For me, managing my IBS means regularly doing yoga and exercising, going to therapy to keep my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in check, avoiding caffeine, eating an abundance of whole, organic foods, and, evidently, upping my magnesium intake. (Related: Magnesium Is the Micronutrient You Should Pay More Attention To)

ICYDK, magnesium is a mineral found in foods like leafy greens, legumes, and dark chocolate, and it plays a key role in your body's nerve functionality, its ability to break down proteins and glucose in carbohydrates, energy production, and bone development, explains Niket Sonpal, M.D., a New York-based internist and gastroenterologist. It's even believed that magnesium might help to reduce symptoms of anxietyimprove sleep quality, and relieve symptoms of IBS, says Dr. Sonpal.

Although magnesium is naturally abundant in the human body—adults carry 25 grams—it's recommended that men consume 400-420 milligrams and women consume 310-320 milligrams per day, says Dr. Sonpal. However, the recommended daily allowance can vary from person to person based on their health, he adds. Natural Vitality Calm yields 325 milligrams of magnesium per serving.

The anti-stress drink has an extremely minimal ingredients list. It's made with ionic magnesium citrate (a blend of citric acid and magnesium carbonate), and it's flavored with organic raspberry and lemon flavoring, as well as organic stevia. One serving is two teaspoons, and you can add it to tea or mix it into cold water before bed to relieve stress, support a healthy immune system, and balance your blood sugar levels.

I've been taking the supplement twice a week for the past month; I add it to a glass of cold water about a half-hour before bed, and it tastes like raspberry-lemonade seltzer. In my experience, the more you sip, the sleepier you become—and in the morning, I feel completely rested. (Related: Melatonin Skin-Care Products That Work While You Sleep)

Evidently, I'm not alone in this: Thousands of Amazon reviewers say Calm makes for an amazing nightcap. "I noticed a difference within two days of taking it. I started sleeping really well through the night," one reviewer wrote. "I was able to sleep 'til my alarm went off [after drinking Calm], I had not done this in 10 years?!" read another review.

But more importantly, I can't remember the last time my bowel movements were so regular. Turns out, that's because magnesium can act as a natural laxative in the body, says Ian Tong, M.D., chief medical officer at Doctor On Demand. It stimulates the gut by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (also called the rest and digest system) and pulling liquid into the GI tract, explains Dr. Tong.

In my experience, one night of Calm typically translates to two days' worth of normal bowel movements. But Amazon reviewers claim that how much you go will ultimately depend on how your body responds to the drink. (Related: The No.1 Reason to Check Your No. 2)

"I've always struggled with being stopped up and this is a miracle worker. [Now] I can go like clockwork every morning," one user wrote. "[Calm is] a part of my daily supplement routine, that, along with a paleo diet has helped me heal from IBS," added another.

What's more, as someone who struggles with GAD, I've also noticed that the day after I drink Calm, I actually feel calm: My overall mood improves, I feel relaxed, and I can tackle daily stressors with a level head. This is likely because magnesium regulates nerve functionality, with some evidence suggesting it might also control the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, aka your central stress response system, explains Dr. Sonpal. In other words, those who are magnesium-deficient are likely to experience more anxiety than someone who regularly meets the daily recommended intake.

Calm has been a miracle worker in times of high anxiety for me, as well as some more Amazon reviewers, apparently.

"If you have anxiety issues, please research magnesium deficiency. Taking one recommended dose of this during stressful times helps me calm down within 15 min, and a regular dose helps me sleep at night. For me, it's almost a 'miracle cure,'" one user wrote. "I've been having panic attacks more often and didn't want to take a rx, if possible. Within 10 mins of drinking Calm, I can feel my chest tightness lessen, my breathing slow down and my thoughts stop racing," wrote another. (Related: Why You Should Stop Saying You Have Anxiety If You Really Don't)

Taking Calm really has changed my quality of life. But just because Calm works for me, that doesn't necessarily mean it's right for your body. Too much magnesium can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure, heart rate, and excessive sleepiness, explains Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health.

So if you're interested in trying Calm, talk to your doctor to figure out if, and how much, magnesium can help manage your symptoms.

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