Close this search box.

How to Choose the Right Magnesium Supplement

Magnesium supplements

With such a vast array of magnesium supplements available on the market today, it can be daunting trying to choose the right one. From oxide and chloride, to citrate and glycinate – how do you know which one is right for you?

Unfortunately, many people mistakenly assume all magnesium supplements are equal, that if it says ‘magnesium’ on the label it should fit their needs. In truth, there are a variety of forms of magnesium and each has distinct specifications in terms of helping you address different symptoms or deficiencies. Depending on why you’re taking this supplement — sleep issues, digestion problems, joint pain, etc — it’s worth doing your homework and researching which form best meets your needs for optimal health.

What exactly does magnesium do?

Magnesium plays an integral role in more than 300 essential physiological processes within the human body.  It modulates blood pressure, helps with sugar regulation, ensures proteins are being synthesized correctly for energy production — it even influences how well other important minerals and nutrients do their jobs. Without magnesium, your muscles won’t be able to contract and nerves will have difficulty sending and receiving messages. This mineral is also essential in keeping a steady heartbeat as well as providing strength to the immune system.

The good news is that magnesium is commonly found in a variety of food sources such as vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans; the bad news is that research has shown that the majority of Americans don’t consume enough to meet their daily needs.

How can I tell if I need a magnesium supplement?

Diagnosing magnesium deficiencies can be difficult, due to the fact that many of its initial signs could point towards a variety of other health issues, say experts. So it’s likely that some individuals may be low in magnesium and not know it.

A magnesium deficiency can stem from various sources, such as physical activity, inadequate diet, GMO foods, alcohol consumption, stress and certain pharmaceuticals. Carbonated drinks and refined sugars are two common culprits that contribute to this issue since they cause the body to excrete more magnesium through urine than it would otherwise naturally do.

The initial indications of magnesium deficiency may include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Tired and fatigue
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)

If left unchecked, magnesium deficiency can lead to

  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Personality changes  
  • Seizures

Types of magnesium supplements

Magnesium oxide

A common form of magnesium found in several dietary supplements, magnesium oxide, has a natural laxative effect due to its inability to be readily absorbed by the body. This poor absorption also leads to loose stools and as it binds with fatty acids. Magnesium oxide acts as a remarkable digestive ally, drawing in fluid to get digestion flowing smoothly and reducing stomach acid for relief.

Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is an excellent supplement for those seeking relief from occasional constipation. Unlike oxide, this form of magnesium (bonded with citric acid) ensures it’s easily absorbed by the body, so its mild laxative effects can be seen quickly. Yet, it’s important to monitor the dosage you take as excess consumption may lead to stomach discomfort or even diarrhea.

Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is one of the most beneficial and well-tolerated forms of magnesium available. By combining organic chelates with the amino acid glycine, this blend offers superior bioavailability while being gentle on even the most sensitive stomachs. Glycine is a powerful ally in the quest for mental wellness. Working with magnesium, this calming amino acid can help promote feelings of relaxation and peace as well as encourage quality sleep — perfect for those looking to combat mild depression and stress-related issues such as insomnia and add an extra layer of calmness into their lives.

Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is a multi-faceted supplement with a range of uses. Known for helping to restore depleted magnesium levels, it can also be applied topically as an aid in relieving sore muscles and reducing the discomfort from heartburn or constipation. Additionally, this versatile remedy may prove beneficial towards tackling several conditions such as type 2 diabetes and insomnia along with aiding in detoxification of the body.

Magnesium threonate

If you’re looking for a mental boost, magnesium threonate is the perfect choice. This form of magnesium (blended with threonate) is quickly taken up by your nervous system to help bolster mental clarity and productivity. It’s also emerging as a leading nutrient for preserving the brain’s functioning, particularly its ability to resist cognitive deterioration associated with aging. Extra research is required in order to validate this, but if you’re looking for ways to boost your brain health, magnesium threonate might be the right choice for you.

Magnesium malate

Magnesium malate is enriched with malic acid, a type of fruit acid found in apples and pears. This acid also forms naturally when your body breaks down carbohydrates to create energy (also known as ATP), so magnesium malmate is often recommended to those looking for an energy boost, or battling fatigue or symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Magnesium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt, is a mineral compound composed of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen.  Sulfates are believed to flush out toxins, enhance nutrient absorption and even provide relief from severe migraines. It has become an increasingly popular choice for those looking for natural remedies with its potential health benefits. Adding this magnesium sulfate to your bath helps soothe sore muscles and draw toxins out through your pores. Simply add some of the salts along with calming essential oils, slip into warm water and let stress drift away. The potential benefits of ingesting Epsom salt remain unproven, and their safety is questionable. For the best results with this form of magnesium, stick with magnesium supplement designed for oral intake and use magnesium sulfate only when soaking. 

Magnesium taurate 

This magnesium is bound with taurine, an amino acid that calms the nervous system and promotes healthy circulation. A multitude of studies have uncovered that magnesium and taurine both offer cardioprotective benefits while facilitating healthy blood pressure and sugar levels. Magnesium taurate is easily digested and a perfect supplement for anyone struggling with cardiovascular problems.

Magnesium aspartate 

You will find this form of magnesium in a lot of bodybuilding and fitness supplements. Magnesium aspartate is a combination of magnesium and the neurotransmitter-like amino acid, aspartate. While consuming isolated aspartate can offer some benefits, it’s not without risks — high doses of this supplement could have toxic effects on nerve cells and should be avoided by everyone, especially those with preexisting magnesium deficiencies.

Magnesium hydroxide (Milk Of Magnesia)

Magnesium hydroxide acts as a laxative to reduce stomach acid, relieve occasional constipation, and increases water in the intestines which may induce bowel movements.

This type of magnesium blend has a remarkable ability to draw water into the intestinal tract, which causes bowel movements and softens stools so they are effortless to pass. Additionally, this compound is an effective remedy for heartburn and indigestion as well.

Magnesium lactate

Not only is magnesium lactate an effective supplement for a variety of health issues, but it’s frequently used as a food additive to regulate acidity and enhance the nutritional value of foods and drinks. Magnesium lactate is created when magnesium and lactic acid combine to form a salt. This specific acid is not only produced naturally by your body, but it’s also manufactured for various purposes such as preserving foodstuffs and enhancing flavor.

Magnesium in this form is quickly absorbed into the body and may be more gentle on your digestive system than other types. It’s particularly important for people with certain medical nutrition therapy requirements (under a doctor’s care) or those who take high doses of magnesium regularly as well as those with gastrointestinal sensitivities to other forms.

Magnesium carbonate 

Magnesium carbonate is a fine, white powder that can be found in the natural world as dolomite or magnesite and utilized in various dietary supplements to boost magnesium levels in your body. For this reason, magnesium carbonate is used to bring low levels of magnesium back to normal and offer relief from the general ailments commonly associated with magnesium deficiencies (i.e., muscle cramps, tiredness, irritability, and changes to your emotional wellness).

Magnesium orotate

Formulated with magnesium and orotic acid, this supplement is beneficial for a range of issues. Its magnesium content can help prevent or treat deficiencies while its orotic acid is thought to improve athletic performance, endurance levels, and overall heart health. Despite the promotion of magnesium orotate as a way to enhance athletic performance or stamina, there is still no scientific proof that it has any effect.  With evidence pointing to potential safety concerns in regards to the higher doses of magnesium orotate, it might be prudent not to use this product until more is known about its benefits and risks.

Tips to help you choose the right magnesium supplement

Consider your reasons for taking magnesium

This might seem obvious, you might already have an inkling that you should look into magnesium supplements. Before deciding on a type of magnesium supplement, consider why you’re taking it in the first place. If you’re looking to improve your sleep quality or reduce stress levels, then choosing a form like magnesium glycinate or magnesium threonate may be more beneficial due to their higher bioavailability and ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. On the other hand, if you want to address digestive issues or constipation, then magnesium citrate might be your best bet since it’s known for its laxative effect.

If you’re wanting something that works quickly for constipation or anxiety, then magnesium citrate is an ideal choice. If you’re looking to correct mitochondrial dysfunction, then you’re going to choose something like magnesium threonate. If you want something chelated to correct a magnesium deficiency that came up on a lab test, then magnesium glycinate is the way to go.

Talk with your health care provider

Even if you have done your research, it’s a good idea to talk with your health care provider or pharmacist before making a decision. They will be able to provide more tailored advice based on your individual needs and the current medications you are taking.

Note your body’s needs

Before taking any supplement, it’s important to be aware of your body’s specific needs. If you’re deficient in magnesium, there are certain tests available that can help determine which form is most beneficial for your individual body chemistry. Similarly, if you suffer from a medical condition such as diabetes or kidney disease, then it may be necessary to consult a doctor or nutritionist before taking any form of magnesium.

Read the Label

Reading the label on any supplement you consider buying is a must, as it will help ensure you make an educated choice when selecting your magnesium supplement. Make sure to look for “USP Verified”, which indicates that a supplement meets strict quality standards, and always check to make sure the dosage is correct.

Read product reviews

Doing an online search for product reviews can provide useful insight into the effectiveness of a magnesium supplement. This can help you decide if a particular product is right for you before making a purchase.

How to take magnesium the right way

If you’ve got to this point and educated yourself on the type of magnesium you might need, this part is easier . . . simply follow the dosage on whatever it is you’re taking. Although you can take magnesium to bowel tolerance (i.e. if your stools are loose you’ve gone too far), it’s always best to start small and work your way up, while keeping track of changes in your symptoms.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re getting magnesium-rich foods from your diet like bananas, butternut squash, almonds, spinach, dried figs, dark chocolate, and avocados. Supplements are just that … supplements to a healthy diet.

Be sure to let your doctor know if you’re taking magnesium, especially if you’re on other medications. Although it can help improve symptoms of certain disorders, it could also interact with some medications. As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement in order to get the best advice tailored to your individual needs.