Which Magnesium Supplement is Right for You?

What gets your morning off to a good start? A good night’s sleep, perhaps? A double espresso? How about a scoop of magnesium? It’s one of the most abundant minerals in our bodies and we can’t live without it. 

Magnesium deficiency causes a wide range of issues, from fatigue and weakness to heart disease, mood disorders, and migraines. No one wants to start the day low in magnesium. 

Many whole foods, like leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains provide us with magnesium But up to two-thirds of people in the Western world don’t meet their magnesium requirements with diet alone. Supplementation seems necessary.

And that’s where things might get complicated. There are many types of magnesium—enough to make the shelves at the health food store overwhelming. I’m going to clear up the confusion today. Let’s start with a closer look at this critical macromineral. 

Magnesium’s Magnificent Role

Magnesium is a vital nutrient in your body that is very abundant, especially in your bones. We need magnesium for our blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, nerve function, bone formation, muscle contraction, metabolism, and more. In fact, magnesium is responsible for helping with over 300 enzyme systems that regulate many bodily reactions!

We can’t survive without it. Supplementing with magnesium can help keep your levels at an optimal level. Below, I’ve listed the main types of magnesium and what each type offers so that you can select the supplement that fits your physical needs.

Magnesium Sulfate: The one for aches and pains

You’re probably familiar with this one. Also known as Epsom salt, this version of magnesium is made from a combination of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. Sprinkle it into a bath to relieve sore muscles and ease physical tension. 

As an oral supplement, it’s the most potent form and can cure constipation. However, magnesium sulfate can result in severe side effects if taken over the correct dose. Talk to your doctor before trying magnesium sulfate as a supplement. 

Magnesium Citrate: The one for maximum magnesium absorption

This form of magnesium is bound to citric acid, making it one of the easiest forms for our bodies to absorb. That’s why it’s one of the most popular forms and commonly used to address low levels of magnesium. 

However, magnesium citrate can be used medically to treat constipation or clear the body before a colonoscopy. Some people experience unwanted digestive side effects from taking magnesium citrate. 

Magnesium Lactate: The one you’re probably already getting

This type of magnesium forms when magnesium binds with lactic acid. While you can take magnesium lactate as a supplement, it’s also a common food additive ingredient in fortified or enriched foods, like whole grain cereals. 

Magnesium lactate absorbs easily in the gut, making it a popular option for people who need to take large doses of magnesium regularly. There’s even evidence that people who don’t tolerate other forms of magnesium have fewer digestive issues when taking magnesium lactate. 

Magnesium Chloride: The one for topical treatment

This form of magnesium is found naturally in seawater and salt lakes. You’ll frequently see this type of magnesium sold as a dietary supplement to boost daily intake and improve bone health. 

This form is also used in topical products like lotions and ointments. Though further research is needed, magnesium chloride may help relieve muscle aches and soreness. It’s unclear, however, whether topical magnesium has the same benefits as taking an oral magnesium supplement.

Magnesium Malate: The one that may fight fatigue

Magnesium malate—which occurs when magnesium binds with malic acid—is one of the easiest forms of magnesium for our bodies to absorb. Some studies have found that magnesium malate also enables you to maintain an elevated magnesium level in your blood.

Magnesium malate is used to treat the neuromuscular system, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia. More research is needed to confirm these uses. However, magnesium is involved in several chemical reactions that provide the body with energy. Supplementing with any form of magnesium can help promote energy production and fight feelings of fatigue.

Magnesium Taurate: The one for better blood balance

Magnesium taurate is made up of a magnesium ion and taurine—an amino acid. Both help to regulate blood sugar and keep levels within a healthy range. Magnesium taurate may also prevent high blood pressure and hypertension. 

In addition to bringing heart health-boosting benefits and better cardiovascular health, magnesium taurate may also help slow or prevent the onset of cataracts. 

Magnesium Oxide: The one for tummy troubles

Heard of milk of magnesia? Magnesium oxide is its other name. This form of magnesium is often used to relieve digestive complaints (though some have also found that it eases anxiety).

Magnesium oxide pulls fluid into the intestines, which acts as a digestive buffer, reduces stomach acid, eases heartburn, and aids in digestion. In fact, doctors may suggest taking magnesium oxide to treat constipation or as an antacid for heartburn and indigestion. 

This type isn’t as easy for our bodies to absorb. It’s not typically used to raise magnesium levels. However, it can be a great natural option to get the gut moving.

How Much is Too Much Magnesium?

Too much magnesium from foods isn’t a concern for healthy adults. However, the same can’t be said for supplements. High doses of magnesium from supplements or medications can cause nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. 

The National Academy of Medicine recommends not exceeding 350 mg of supplemental magnesium per day. Chat with your doctor about magnesium to find the amount and duration that’s best for you.

Make Magnesium Part of your Morning Routine

A magnesium deficiency can have devastating consequences. Boost your daily intake by incorporating more magnesium rich foods, like pumpkin and chia seeds, spinach, figs, avocados, nuts, beans, and quinoa, into your daily diet. Or start taking a daily magnesium supplement.

If supplements aren’t part of your routine, try these tricks to make sure you don’t miss a day:

  • Print out my habit tracker and put it somewhere visible. 
  • Portion out your daily dose of magnesium one week at a time in a pill organizer. 
  • Set up a reminder on your phone.
  • Buy two containers of magnesium–one to keep in the kitchen, one to keep at your desk in case you forget to take it.
  • Stack your habits–take your magnesium right after you complete an established habit, like brushing your teeth or drinking your first cup of coffee.

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