Do you take a Magnesium supplement? Maybe you should. Magnesium is an essential mineral found on the earth, in our food and inside our bodies. According to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions; reactions that regulate biological processes ranging from blood sugar balance and muscle contraction to nerve function and DNA synthesis. In other words, it’s really, really important for our health.
Taking a magnesium supplement is often recommended for ailments like PMS, constipation, anxiety, headaches, and insomnia; it’s also one of the natural remedies that both conventional and integrative doctors seem to agree can help with a wide range of common aches and pains. Learn more about the benefits here.
The Magnesium Supplement Guide: Which Form Is For You?
If you’re shopping around for a magnesium supplement, you might be overwhelmed by all the options. Magnesium comes in a variety of forms and it can leave even the health-savviest among us with their head spinning. Here are the most common ones—and what you need to know about each.
Magnesium citrate | Magnesium citrate is most commonly recommended for constipation. This type of magnesium acts as an osmotic laxative, which means it pulls water into your GI tract and relaxes your bowls, making it easier to “go.” Research has shown that magnesium citrate is more bioavailable than other commonly recommended forms of magnesium such as magnesium oxide.
What to buy: If you want to try magnesium citrate, try this Natural Vitality Natural Calm magnesium powder ($22.95).
Magnesium oxide | Speaking of bioavailability, a study published in 2001 concluded that “there is relatively poor bioavailability of magnesium oxide,” which means it’s not the highest quality magnesium around. While it can still work for constipation, this type of magnesium is also more likely to cause diarrhea, cramping, and GI upset if you take too much. Knowing this, it’s wise to start with a low dose of magnesium oxide and gradually work your way up; or, opt for magnesium citrate.
What to buy: If you’re looking for magnesium oxide, you can buy it at Target for $11.99.
Magnesium glycinate | Magnesium glycinate supplements are considered the gold standard—recommended by top functional medicine doctors, like Dr. Mark Hyman—because of their high absorbability and the fact that even at higher doses, they will not cause a digestive upset like other forms of magnesium. Studies have shown that magnesium glycinate shows promise for ailments like PMS and insomnia.
What to buy: Magnesium glycinate tends to be a little more expensive, but it’s highly bioavailable. If you’re ready to splurge, try Thorne’s Magnesium Busglycinate powder ($40).
Magnesium sulfate | Fun fact: Magnesium was actually first discovered in the form of magnesium sulfate, when residents of a small town in England, called Epsom, started bathing in and drinking water from a bitter saline stream nearby. The town praised the water for it’s healing properties and eventually learned that if they boiled it down, they’d get a flaky substance, which they named Epsom salt.
Today, Epsom salts are still available in most major pharmacies and grocery stores. They’re praised for helping with muscle soreness and fatigue, insomnia, and general stress and anxiety. It’s no longer recommended that you take magnesium sulfate orally—since according to Cleveland Clinic it can cause serious GI symptoms like diarrhea and cramping and even put you at risk for a cardiac arrhythmia—but they are still fine to bathe in.
What to buy: If you’re eager to try a magnesium sulfate bath, start with this fragrance-free Dr. Teal’s Magnesium Sulfate Soaking Solution ($6.79).
Magnesium chloride | If you want to try transdermal magnesium but don’t have time for a bath, you’ll probably land on magnesium chloride, which is the ingredient found in most magnesium creams and oils. There’s some debate over the efficacy of transdermal magnesium—aka, how efficiently it actually penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream—but one study showed that a magnesium cream was able to increase blood and urine concentrations of the mineral when applied at a dosage of 56mg/day. Many health experts recommend massaging it into your feet before bed for a peaceful night’s sleep.
What to buy: If you want to try some magnesium chloride on your feet before bed, this Ancient Minerals Magnesium Oil ($11.99) will do the trick.
Clearly magnesium has beneficial properties, but do we really need to supplement? Well, according to one study showing that up to 75% of us aren’t getting our recommended intake, yes. Just make sure you follow this guide and choose the right type of magnesium for your budget and health goals.
Gretchen Lidicker is a wellness writer, editor, and author of the books CBD Oil Everyday Secrets and Magnesium Everyday Secrets.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.