How to Choose the Best Magnesium Supplement for Your Body
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
October 26, 2017
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. Read on to find out why it is so important and how to choose the best magnesium supplement for your needs.
Are you really deficient in magnesium?
You don’t get as much magnesium in your diet as your great-great-grandparents did. With monocropping and soil depletion, your vegetables don’t take up as many minerals from the soil as they used to.
Natural spring water used to be a reliable source of minerals, too, but it’s way more likely you’re drinking filtered water from a bottle or your fridge. If you have public water, more than likely it contains flouride, which depletes magnesium even further.
The good news is, magnesium supplements are super cheap and easy to come by. Once you find the type that’s right for you, you can feel the effects fairly quickly.
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
How do you know if you’re magnesium deficient?
It’s hard to pinpoint magnesium as the source of your troubles when it’s is involved in so many seemingly unrelated functions in your body. Think about it – if you haven’t pooped in three days, you’re snapping at your kids, and you keep losing your car keys, would you think that all of those trace back to the same thing?
What’s more is that these symptoms aren’t always something doctors will treat. Constipated? Eat more fiber. For your temper, just meditate. If you’re forgetful, you’re told it’s all part of the normal aging process. When in reality, magnesium might help all of this.
Magnesium deficiency is one of those things that tricks doctors. It looks like a lot of other conditions, since magnesium is involved in so many things. If you’re deficient, and 80% of people are, the effects range from mildly annoying to serious. Symptoms include:
- Aches and pains
- Mood problems
- Irregular sleep patterns and insomnia
- Heart irregularities
- Metabolic problems
- Digestive trouble
- Brain fog
- Depression  
Or, you can have no noticeable symptoms at all, even if your body could use a mag boost to work better.
From heart arrhythmias to major depression, skipping your mag isn’t worth the gamble. Having adequate magnesium is vital, and it’s one of the cheapest, most abundant supplements you can get.
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. It soothes muscle pain by relaxing tense areas, and fibromyalgia patients see substantial improvements after supplementing with magnesium malate for a while.
Magnesium threonate for memory and and brain
Your brain quickly absorbs magnesium threonate, making it a favorite to boost your brain and nervous system.
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.
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.
Magnesium citrate is more absorbable than magnesium oxide 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. 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.
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.
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