- Magnesium is key to several different processes in your body, from metabolism to brain function.
- Magnesium supplements are available in a wide variety of forms, and each plays a different role in your body.
- Read on to learn how to choose the right form of magnesium supplement, and how to add it to your supplement routine.
Magnesium is one of the most fascinating micronutrients out there. It affects everything from your energy to your brain function. Since it plays a role in so many bodily processes, a magnesium deficiency can be hard to diagnose. With the prevalence of processed foods and the depletion of American farmland topsoil, it’s no wonder most of us are magnesium deficient.
Read on to find out why magnesium is so important and how to choose the best magnesium supplement for you.
What does magnesium do?
Your body stores roughly half your magnesium in your bones. Most of the rest is in your soft tissues, but a slight amount is strictly controlled within your blood. Traces of magnesium play a critical role in a wide range of bodily functions. It has a key role in things like:
- Synthesizing proteins
- Supporting your DNA
- Helping muscles contract and relax when they should
- Regulating blood sugar
- Maintaining blood pressure
- Controlling neurons
Of course, you can get magnesium in your diet, too. This includes foods like spinach, avocado, and dark chocolate (yes, chocolate!). However, most Americans are deficient in magnesium, so supplements are an easy and inexpensive way to fill in the gaps in your diet.
When you find yourself in the supplement aisle, you’ll be faced with dozens of different supplement options for magnesium. Not only are there different brands and doses, but there actually different kinds of magnesium that all do different things. So, how do you choose the best magnesium supplement?
Which magnesium supplement you should take?
If you’ve decided to take a magnesium supplement, you have a little homework to do. Not all magnesium supplements are created equal.
Ask yourself what processes in your body you want to support, and read on to learn what type of magnesium fits the bill. Then, do a little trial and error to find the best magnesium supplement for you.
Plan on staying close to home while you try new magnesium supplements in different doses. While you are experimenting to find your ideal dose, you could run into stomach problems (like loose stools or, ahem, worse).
Here are the forms of magnesium you’ll most commonly find on the shelves, and how they work in your body.
Energy and muscle soreness: Magnesium malate
Magnesium malate is a good one to take in the morning. It contains malic acid, which has been shown in rodent studies to improve stamina. It soothes muscle pain by relaxing tense areas, and has provided substantial relief to fibromyalgia patients in scientific tests.
The bottom line: Take magnesium malate in the morning for increased stamina and muscle relaxation.
Memory and brain function: Magnesium threonate
Your nervous system quickly absorbs magnesium threonate, making it a favorite of people who appreciate a boost for their nervous system and brain. Rodent studies show magnesium threonate prevents synaptic loss and a reversal of cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease.
It not only promotes learning and retention but in rodent studies, it has also been shown to prevent memory deficits. Magnesium threonate is gaining attention for its brain protective properties, especially against cognitive decline from aging.
The bottom line: For a quick boost to brain and cognitive function, take magnesium threonate in the morning. It has been proven to offer memory benefits and may protect against the effects of aging.
Constipation: Magnesium oxide
If you’re pooping less than once a day, small doses of magnesium oxide throughout the day can help keep your digestion moving. If you’re going once or more per day, you might want to look at other forms. Of all the forms of magnesium, magnesium oxide is the one most likely to give you disaster pants.
The bottom line: If you’re having a BM less than once a day, take magnesium oxide to help your digestion. If you are low on magnesium, supplement with an additional form.
Relaxation: Magnesium citrate
The popular magnesium supplement Natural Calm contains magnesium citrate because, as the name implies, it has calming properties. It’s known to promote mental and muscle relaxation, and has been proven to reduce nighttime muscle cramping.
Since magnesium citrate doesn’t pass through you as quickly as magnesium oxide, you’re likely to absorb more of it. If you are sensitive to magnesium oxide, start with a little magnesium citrate and work your way up to find your dose.
The bottom line: If you’d like a nice dose of muscle and mental relaxation, take magnesium citrate. Say goodbye to jumpy legs, because magnesium citrate is proven to reduce night-time muscle cramping.
Best-absorbed magnesium: Magnesium chloride
You’ll find magnesium chloride “oil” in a body spray. The topical magnesium oil isn’t actually an oil — it just feels a little slippery because magnesium chloride is slightly more alkaline than water. You can absorb a lot of magnesium through the skin with magnesium oil sprays.
Topical magnesium is best for people who have digestive trouble or other health problems, such as low stomach acid or adrenal fatigue. If you have trouble maintaining your mineral balance, you might benefit from a magnesium supplement you absorb through your skin.
When you first start supplementing, you may notice a tingle after application. As your magnesium stores build up, that tingle will subside. If the tingle is troublesome, you can rinse it off as soon as it dries — it absorbs that quickly.
If you don’t like the feeling on your skin, you can also get magnesium chloride drops to put in your drinking water.
The bottom line: If you aren’t comfortable ingesting magnesium, use a spray of magnesium chloride on your skin instead.
Muscle relaxation and detox: Magnesium sulfate (epsom salts)
Your local grocery store and pharmacy carry bags of epsom salt, which contain magnesium sulfate. Added to the bath, epsom salts soothe sore muscles. A relaxing epsom soak also draws toxins out of your pores.
You don’t absorb much magnesium in an epsom salt bath, but that’s no reason to trade your bath for capsules. Sprinkle in your epsom salt, add a few drops of your favorite calming essential oils and soak your stress away.
Some people take magnesium sulfate internally, but it’s easy to overdo it. If you ingest epsom salt, you’re more likely to cause gastric distress than get any benefits.
The bottom line: If you’d rather take luxurious baths to get your magnesium, get a bag of epsom salts and soak your worries away.
Sleep: Magnesium glycinate
Magnesium glycinate is a highly absorbable form of magnesium. It’s a good choice if you want to raise your levels quickly, and it’s especially a good choice if you get an upset stomach with other forms.
The glycine content in collagen is the reason a lot of people like to take a spoonful of collagen before bed. The magnesium is bound to glycine, a calming amino acid that in a small-scale test was reported to help people sleep.
The bottom line: Take magnesium glycinate if you want to raise your magnesium levels quickly. Also, it comes with a side benefit that might help you sleep.
How much magnesium should I take?
Every supplement package includes specific instructions on how much to take. Follow the directions, and you should be just fine.
Don’t worry about balancing your supplement with the magnesium you get from foods — your kidneys keep the right balance by filtering out excess magnesium from foods. But with supplemental magnesium, there is a risk of getting too much and suffering from magnesium toxicity. Before taking any supplement, make sure it’s okay with your doctor.
If magnesium makes you feel anxious, your body might be out of balance with other minerals, like sodium and potassium. You also need adequate levels of B vitamins, boron, and other trace minerals, which help to make sure you absorb the right amount of magnesium. Your doctor can order tests to make sure everything is in balance.
The bottom line: Follow the directions on your magnesium supplement bottle. Talk to your doctor before you make any changes. And remember — the best magnesium supplement is the one you take that’s right for you.
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