Magnesium (Mg) is a mineral that is involved in almost every process in your body from muscle relaxation and proper muscle movement to hormone processing. Clinically it is used to treat muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, high blood pressure, constipation and chronic stress.
But despite how essential magnesium is, plenty of people don’t get enough of it (these days). Historically, humans would have obtained a lot more magnesium, either from dissolved spring water or through their higher vegetable intake. An analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 48% of Americans don’t get adequate amounts of magnesium from food alone—and that’s where supplements come in.
Magnesium can’t just be by itself as a molecule – it needs to be bound to something else to be stable, so the biggest difference in different magnesium products comes not from the magnesium itself (which is all the same) but from the molecule it’s bonded to. There are two things to look for about the molecule it’s bonded to: size, and function. There is the secondary consideration of absorption.
Magnesium itself is reasonably poorly absorbed (35% absorbed in the worst case scenario and 45% absorbed in the best). Generally if you are magnesium-depleted then your body will absorb any magnesium better than it would otherwise. Calcium and magnesium compete for absorption, so if you take calcium and magnesium together they will both compete with each other (meaning you will absorb less of each).
- Magnesium Glycinate To Improve Sleep: This is a combination of magnesium and the amino acid glycine. Research has linked glycine with better sleep and may even help with insomnia. In fact, in a study on the elderly, magnesium glycinate supplementation subjectively improved insomnia. Some studies have shown that it may also help promote calm and relaxation. This form of magnesium is best if you’re looking for a restful night of sleep. Further research has shown that this form of magnesium may decrease daytime tiredness and enhance memory.* One study found that taking magnesium glycinate daily helped with short-term memory and IQ.
- Magnesium Citrate to Improve Digestion: This is one of the most bioavailable of the magnesium supplements and it can act as a powerful stimulant laxative.
- Magnesium Chloride To Soothe Skin Issues: This is a wonderful general magnesium supplement. It can be used topically in lotion to soothe muscle.
- Magnesium Oxide to Treat Heartburn: It can be used as a supplement, but it’s usually reserved to treat specific issues. It’s actually found in Milk of Magnesia, which uses magnesium hydroxide (a mix of magnesium oxide and water) as the active ingredient. This form is only about 4% absorbed, so it’s not a good magnesium supplement if you are wanting to increase your magnesium levels. It works by pulling fluid into the intestines and is ideal for severe constipation.
- Magnesium Taurate to Control Blood Sugar: This is magnesium plus the amino acid taurine and it may help to control blood pressure and blood sugar better than magnesium alone
- Magnesium Malate to Relieve Sore Muscles: One rat study published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research found that magnesium malate is easily absorbed in the body and can stay there for an extended period of time. It also has a sour taste and is sometimes added to foods to enhance flavor. Magnesium malate is regularly used to treat muscle issues like fibromyalgia and muscle cramps
Generally if you’re taking a magnesium supplement it’s best on an empty stomach. Magnesium also absorbs well through the skin (potentially far better than through the digestive tract), so Epsom salt baths (magnesium sulphate) and magnesium lotions, gels or oils (usually magnesium chloride) can be a great way to increase your body stores. Topical forms can be best if you’re using magnesium for it’s muscle relaxation and calming properties.
Magnesium is crucial to your health, and a magnesium deficiency can have a number of adverse effects on our body. That said, if you’re not getting enough of this mineral, you may want to consider supplements.