You may know the importance of supplementing with magnesium. In general, magnesium is responsible for hundreds of functions in the body—from supporting an optimal immune system to helping build strong bones and muscle. Every system relies on optimal magnesium levels.
While magnesium is found in many foods, it is estimated that at least 50% of Americans are magnesium deficient and require supplementation. Our soil and food is not as nutrient-dense as it once was along with chronic stress and environmental toxins we encounter in our daily life, which impact our ability to absorb nutrients.
Responsible for over 300 functions in the body, it’s important to maintain optimal magnesium levels. Women require approximately 250-300 mg of magnesium a day; men need more, about 400 mg daily.
Magnesium deficiency comes with some unpleasant symptoms—headaches, joint pain, muscle ache, brain fog, hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues, hair loss, anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, heart palpitations, weight gain, gut issues and more.
Standard blood tests do not accurately measure magnesium levels. It is estimated that only 1% of magnesium in your body is found in your bloodstream. This makes testing very tricky.
Because magnesium is responsible for so many functions, your body intuitively knows its importance in creating homeostasis. It will pull stores of magnesium from your bones, teeth and other tissues in order to utilize magnesium for multiple systems. This can result in chronic illnesses and a cascade of symptoms.
Magnesium creates a unique balancing act with vitamin D. Without proper levels of magnesium, your body has difficultly absorbing and utilizing vitamin D. The two, however, cannot be taken at the same time, since vitamin D will utilize most of the magnesium for its own absorption and leave little for the body to absorb. Vitamin D is best taken in the morning (it boosts energy levels) and magnesium at night (most forms help the body and mind to relax).
Not all magnesium, however, is created equally. Some forms are more bioavailable than others. Some come with side effects when taken long-term. Here is a list of the most common forms of magnesium, their functions, risks and recommendations for taking:
Magnesium glycinate is the MOST bioavailable form of magnesium. It is also called magnesium bisglycinate because it is attached to an amino acid called glycine. Glycine works with various chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters, and is responsible for helping to promote feelings of calm and relaxation.
Magnesium glycinate may help reduce systemic inflammation, improve blood sugar levels, regulate circadian rhythms (sleep/relaxation), improve leaky gut, help manage neuropathy, promote better blood sugar control and decrease anxiety
Magnesium glycinate does not have a laxative effect and is gentle on the stomach, so it may be taken long-term without damaging or irritating the digestive system.
For those with low magnesium levels, magnesium glycinate will help increase overall levels rapidly due to its high bioavailability.
Magnesium oxide can alleviate constipation, migraines and heartburn, but it’s the LEAST bioavailable form. You have to take large amounts of magnesium oxide to increase your overall levels, which can cause upset stomach and diarrhea.
Magnesium oxide is great for headaches, so it’s not a bad idea to have on hand to manage temporary headaches/migraines.
Magnesium citrate is easy to find and very inexpensive. Although it is bioavailable and can raise your levels, it is not recommended for long term use. Magnesium citrate may interfere with iron dysregulation and lead to electrolyte imbalances due to it being harsh on the stomach.
It’s not a bad idea to keep Magnesium citrate on hand for temporary relief from constipation.
Magnesium malate is a combination of elemental magnesium and malic acid. Malic acid is a dicarboxylic acid that is made by all living organisms, contributes to the sour taste of fruits.
This form of magnesium is great for sore muscles and the management of fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. A 1995 study of patients with fibromyalgia given malic acid demonstrated a significant reduction of symptoms.
Magnesium malate is also instrumental in removing aluminum from the body, reducing heavy metal toxicity. Several studies have demonstrated this detoxification benefit.
Most known as Epsom Salt, Magnesium Sulfate is great for soaking to eliminate toxins.
Epsom salts improve your blood stream’s mineral content within a few hours of soaking. Epsom salts can help reduce inflammation, regulate blood pressure, manage chronic pain and help the body relax, promoting better sleep.
Magnesium Sulfate is most commonly absorbed by the skin, but it can be taken orally on occasion for constipation relief.
Most forms of magnesium do not effectively cross the blood brain barrier—but Magnesium threonate can do exactly this.
Magnesium threonate is food for the brain, helping cognitive function, depression and memory. It can also help improve sleep and help improve learning outcomes. Several studies support its neuroprotective and nootropic qualities.
Always read labels! Magnesium stearate is NOT a magnesium supplement--it is a flow agent utilized in supplement manufacturing that is an unnecessary additive, which may impair the bioavailability of a product and cause health issues with long-term use.
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