Your Go-To Guide To Magnesium Supplements + The Importance of This Beneficial Nutrient
There is no one-size-fits all when it comes to supplements. And that is especially the case when it comes to magnesium supplements. While magnesium is essential for your body to thrive (it is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body) there are different types of magnesium supplements that can help target different areas of your health.
Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is extremely common for anywhere between 50-90% of the population since it is difficult to get adequate magnesium through diet alone. This can lead to a whole slew of symptoms including headaches, trouble sleeping, thyroid problems, fatigue, weak bones, and more - making supplementation an often overlooked necessity.
As a functional medicine practitioner, I believe food is foundational; but, sometimes supplements are necessary to help ease symptoms and correct deficiencies when dietary changes aren’t enough. If you have heard the hype around magnesium and are looking to add this to your routine, read on to learn more about the different types of magnesium supplements so you can choose the best one for your health.
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Types of Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium is typically combined with other ingredients in order to help achieve a more specific result by aiding in the process or making magnesium more bioavailable to your body.
1. Magnesium oxide
This is the most commonly used form in supplements that you can buy over the counter and is produced by combining magnesium with oxygen ions. Research shows it only has a 4 percent absorption rate so if you are struggling with deficiency or absorption issues this is probably not your best option. (1) Even though it’s bioavailability is low, it still can help relieve constipation.
2. Magnesium citrate
Magnesium citrate is a formulation with citric acid and salt to form a type of saline solution. Due to its laxative effect it is commonly used as a constipation relief. To achieve this, magnesium citrate helps draw water into the intestines that loosens packed stools so they are easier to pass.
It has a 16 percent absorption rate so it’s more powerful than magnesium oxide. If you suffer from chronic constipation lower dosages on a daily basis can help maintain regularity whereas higher dosages can be used for times when you need immediate relief. Magnesium citrate is most often found in powder and liquid forms.
3. Magnesium threonate
Since this form can pass the mitochondrial membrane, research is supporting its ability as a powerful neurological support and a good option for those with depression, anxiety, or brain fog. However, this form is not as readily available in over the counter supplements.
4. Magnesium chloride
A combination of magnesium and chloride, this form of magnesium is water soluble making it more easily absorbed in your gut for increased bioavailability. This is a great choice for anyone with underlying gut dysfunction like leaky gut syndrome that can inhibit the absorption rate of nutrients.
5. Magnesium sulfate
A combination of magnesium and sulfate (sulfur and oxygen), you are probably more familiar with its other name - Epsom salts. Even though epsom salts can also be taken to relieve constipation, most people use them as a foot or full body soak since your body is able to absorb magnesium through the skin through what is known as transdermal absorption.
6. Magnesium glycinate
This type of magnesium is composed of magnesium bound to an amino acid known as glycine. Since glycine has a calming effect on the body and the brain, this is a great option for anyone looking to help improve sleep and reduce anxiety. It also has a better absorption rate and has less of a laxative effect than other forms, making it the perfect choice to take more on a daily basis and to help overcome deficiencies.
7. Magnesium oil
Similarly to magnesium sulfate, magnesium oil is placed directly on the skin for absorption. This is a fantastic choice for anyone struggling with headaches or gut dysfunctions since it can soothe digestive muscles to help relieve an upset stomach.
8. Magnesium stearate
While this form of magnesium is technically not a supplement in itself, it is used in the production of supplements and other food items as a binder, emulsifier, thickening agent, lubricant, and more. It is made from combining magnesium with stearic acid. There is some debate on exactly how healthy this additive is, studies have shown that when taken in minimal amounts through its use as an additive, it shouldn’t be enough to cause any immediate or long-term effects. In fact, magnesium stearate is known as an excipient which means it helps enhance the effect of whatever the active ingredient is in the supplement to help improve bioavailability. All of this to say, while it is fine as an additive, steer clear of this form of magnesium as your main source of supplementation.
To determine the best dosage for you, it’s best to work with your doctor who can run advanced nutrition labs to assess your levels. Since the majority of your body’s magnesium is stored in your cells and bones, not your blood, this often contributes to the inaccuracy of conventional nutrient labs.
Once you have a baseline you’ll be able to see how much you should be taking each day for maintenance, symptom relief, or to correct deficiencies. Go off your doctor’s recommendations or start at a lower dose and listen to your body and gradually increase your amount over time. To learn more about magnesium and overcoming deficiency, check out my previous article.
For healthy individuals, the NIH recommends the following daily recommended amounts (4):
- Infants to 6 months: 30 mg
- 7 to 12 months: 75 mg
- 1 to 3 years: 80 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 130 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 240 mg
- 14 to 18 years: 360 mg for women; 410 mg for men
- 19 to 30 years: 310 mg for women; 400 for men
- 31+: 320 mg for women; 420 mg for men
- During pregnancy: 350 to 360 mg
- While breastfeeding: 310 to 320 mg
Just remember, that even though magnesium is safe to take, large amounts could potentially cause GI upset and diarrhea.
A New Magnesium
Once you have decided on the best magnesium for you, the biggest problem is finding a high-quality supplement. Unfortunately, most brands contain unnecessary additives and fillers that can hinder all the great benefits you want to achieve from taking magnesium supplements in the first place. That is why I went ahead and created my own.
The Magnesium is the newest addition to The Collection. Designed to work synergistically with the rest of the supplements in the line, it also brings something completely new to the table to help fill in a missing piece of people’s health puzzle.
The Magnesium combines Albion chelated magnesium with Magtein ™ (magnesium L-threonate) - the only form of magnesium proven in animal studies to cross the blood-brain barrier and boost the brain’s magnesium levels necessary for healthy cognition, long- and short-term memory, learning, and stress management.
Since sleep is often an underappreciated but extremely vital part of maintaining thriving health, I also wanted to formulate a supplement that helps promote more immediate relaxation in addition to helping curate more long-term, healthy sleep habits. Magnesium is essential for GABA receptors to function properly - a key piece in regulation of your body’s sleep system.
Because magnesium threonate is so difficult to find over the counter, I wanted to make this highly bioavailable and beneficial form of magnesium as accessible as possible. So if you are looking to reap the benefits of magnesium for yourself - look no further than The Magnesium.
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- Firoz, M, and M Graber. “Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations.” Magnesium research vol. 14,4 (2001): 257-62.
- Bartell, Sharon, and Sarah Zallek. “Intravenous magnesium sulfate may relieve restless legs syndrome in pregnancy.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine vol. 2,2 (2006): 187-8.
- Kovo, Michal et al. “The Effects of Magnesium Sulfate on the Inflammatory Response of Placentas Perfused With Lipopolysaccharide: Using the Ex Vivo Dual-Perfused Human Single-Cotyledon Model.” Reproductive sciences (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) vol. 25,8 (2018): 1224-1230. doi:10.1177/1933719117737845
- Magnesium NIH. August 11, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/#en39
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.