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How to Choose the Best Magnesium Supplement for Your Body

By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
October 26, 2017

How to Choose the Best Magnesium Supplement for Your Body

Magnesium is one of the most fascinating micronutrients out there. It affects everything from your energy to your brain function. But minerals aren’t as easy to come by as they once were. Between processed foods and mineral depletion of most topsoils, it’s no wonder most Americans deficient.[1] Read on to find out why it is so important and how to choose the best magnesium supplement for your needs.

What does magnesium do?

Your body relies heavily on magnesium for a range of 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

Now, you’re in the supplement aisle, faced with dozens of different options. Not only are there different brands and doses, but there actually different kinds of magnesium that all do different things. So, how to choose the best magnesium supplement? Wonder no more.

Which magnesium supplement should I take?

If you’ve decided to supplement, you have a little homework to do. Not all magnesium supplements are created equal. Determine what you want to address in your body, then you have to do a little trial and error to find the best magnesium supplement for you.

While you’re figuring it all out, try new magnesium supplements and doses when you’ll be home for a while. If you’re not sure what form works best with your system or if you are experimenting to find your ideal dose, you could run into a disaster pants situation. (Disaster pants = 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.

Magnesium malate for energy, muscle soreness

Magnesium malate is a good one to take in the morning. It contains malic acid, which helps your cells make and use energy.[2] It soothes muscle pain by relaxing tense areas, and fibromyalgia patients see substantial improvements[3] after supplementing with magnesium malate for a while.

Magnesium threonate for memory and and brain

Your brain quickly absorbs magnesium threonate,[4] making it a favorite to boost your brain and nervous system.

It not only promotes learning and retaining new information,[5] it can also prevent memory deficits.[6]

Magnesium threonate is gaining attention for its brain protective properties, especially against cognitive decline from aging.[7] It even reversed Alzheimer’s disease in a rodent study.[8]

Magnesium oxide for constipation

If you’re going #2 less than once a day, small doses of magnesium oxide throughout the day will boost your magnesium while keeping 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.

With that information, you might expect that it’s not the most absorbable form.[9] You end up excreting a lot of it[10] so you may need to boost your dose with other forms of magnesium.

Magnesium citrate for relaxation

The popular magnesium supplement, Natural Calm, contains magnesium citrate because, as the name implies, it has calming properties. It promotes mental and muscle relaxation, and reduces muscle cramping.[11]

Magnesium citrate is more absorbable than magnesium oxide[12] but you’re still on disaster pants alert. Start small and work your way up to find your dose.

Magnesium chloride for better absorption

You’ll find magnesium chloride “oil” in a body spray and in liquid drops for your drinking water. 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 absorb a lot of magnesium through the skin using magnesium oil sprays.

Topical magnesium is best for people who have trouble digesting or hanging onto minerals. Some examples of conditions that affect your mineral balance include low stomach acid or adrenal fatigue.

When you first start supplementing, you may notice a tingle after application. As your magnesium stores build up, you’ll notice you no longer tingle when you spray on magnesium oil. If the tingle is troublesome, you can rinse off as soon as it dries. It absorbs that quickly.

Magnesium sulfate (epsom salts) to relax muscles and detox

Your local grocery store and pharmacy carry magnesium sulfate as bags of epsom salt. 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 with the bath soak, but that’s no reason to trade your bath for capsules. Feel free to 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. You’re more likely to get disaster pants than to get any benefit from the magnesium when you ingest Epsom salt.

Magnesium glycinate for sleep

Magnesium glycinate is one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium capsules you can take.[13] It’s a good choice if you want to raise your levels quickly, and it’s especially a good choice if you get disaster pants 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 helps you sleep.[14]

If magnesium gives you anxiety or elevates your heart rate, you might have other minerals out of balance, like sodium and potassium. You also need adequate levels of B vitamins, boron, and others to make sure you absorb the right amount. A functional medicine doctor can order testing and get everything into balance.

In short, the best magnesium supplement is the one you take that’s right for you. Of course, you can get magnesium in your diet, too. Foods high in magnesium include spinach, avocado, and dark chocolate (yes, chocolate!). Magnesium content in food varies, though. You can get inexpensive magnesium supplements everywhere, and it’s a crucial supplement to add to your stack.

READ NEXT: Upgrade Your Energy, Optimize Your Supplements

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