Takeaway: Every single organ needs magnesium in some capacity, and when you don’t get enough, it can impact our health. Magnesium supplements that are absorbed well include magnesium citrate, glycinate, orotate, and carbonate. These supplements are generally safe for everyone but may interfere with other prescription drugs, such as heart medications or antibiotics.
Because magnesium is crucial to your body’s most basic functions, maintaining healthy levels of this mineral in your body is important. Read on to learn about the many benefits of magnesium and the different types of magnesium supplements that you can incorporate into your daily life.
Who Needs Magnesium Supplements?
The short answer? Everyone! Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to the human body. Every single organ needs magnesium in some capacity, and when you don’t get enough, it can cause general feelings of discomfort and illness.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in your bones while the rest is in your muscles, soft tissues, and fluids.
Magnesium is involved in more than 600 reactions in your body. It helps convert food into energy and helps create new proteins from amino acids. Magnesium also helps with gene maintenance by assisting in the creation and repairing of DNA and RNA. It aids with the contraction and relaxation of muscles and helps regulate the neurotransmitters that send messages throughout your brain and nervous system.
Studies reveal that almost half (48%) of the U.S. population consumes less than the required amount of magnesium from food. Thankfully, however, there are a variety of magnesium supplements you can purchase at your local grocery store, pharmacy, or vitamin shop without a prescription!
Supplements that are absorbed well include magnesium citrate, glycinate, orotate, and carbonate. If you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before taking any magnesium supplements. These supplements are generally safe for everyone but may interfere with other prescription drugs, such as heart medications or antibiotics.
Magnesium Deficiency Causes
Although only an estimated 2% of Americans experience a magnesium deficiency, up to 75% do not meet their recommended daily intake. The causes of magnesium deficiency vary from person to person. Some magnesium deficiencies are due to low dietary intake while others are due to more severe health conditions.
Some of the health conditions that can lead to magnesium deficiency include gastrointestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, vomiting, and diarrhea. Conditions like diabetes and kidney disease can also change the way your body absorbs and stores magnesium. Studies also show that drinking too much alcohol or caffeine on a regular basis can affect your magnesium levels as well.
Magnesium Normal Range in Humans
Because magnesium is crucial to your body’s most basic functions, maintaining normal levels of this mineral in your body is essential. Testing your magnesium levels to find if they are normal requires a simple blood draw. The typical adult range for magnesium is 1.7 to 2.2 mg/dL. In extreme cases of shortfall, your body may release some of the stored magnesium from your bones to make up for a deficiency. In this situation, your blood test could read normal, but additional testing or symptoms will let your doctor know that your magnesium levels are extremely low.
Here are the National Institutes of Health’s daily recommendations for magnesium:
- Adults 19-30 years: men 400 milligrams (mg), women 310 mg
- Adults 31+: men 420 mg, women 320 mg
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
- Twitches and spasms
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle weakness
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Aches and pains
- Mood problems
- Irregular sleep patterns and insomnia
- Heart irregularities
- Digestive trouble
- Lack of appetite
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
- Mental disorders: depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
What are the Uses and Benefits of Magnesium?
Magnesium for Sleep
Every night, millions of people in the U.S. struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey program revealed that about 4% of U.S. adults aged 20 and over used prescription sleep aids in 2010. Statistics also show that about 25 % of Americans experience acute insomnia each year. For some, insomnia is only a brief problem, but for others, it can be a severe, ongoing struggle.
Over the years, magnesium has established quite the reputation for being a potential sleep aid for many people who suffer from a lack of or an inability to sleep. This mineral can influence some of the processes in your body that enable you to get a good night’s sleep. Magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the system in your body responsible for controlling all activities that take place when the body is at rest.
Magnesium helps quiet the nervous system by regulating the neurotransmitters that send signals to both your nervous system and brain, which may help your body and mind relax and get some quality sleep. Research has shown that magnesium binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors responsible for quieting down nerve activity—the same neurotransmitter used by sleep drugs like Ambien.
There are a number of studies that have resulted in participants achieving deep and restful sleep. In one study, elderly adults suffering from insomnia were given a supplement of containing 225 mg magnesium, 5 mg melatonin, and 11.25 mg zinc. The participants who took the supplement reported better and much deeper sleep than participants who were part of the placebo group.
Magnesium for Anxiety
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that anxiety affects 40 million adults every year—that’s 18.1% of the U.S. population. Many people suffering from anxiety never seek treatment because they fear that they will never overcome this cyclical condition. But, there are actually a number of both prescription and non-prescription pills that prove to be effective in reducing anxiety—magnesium being one of them.
Magnesium makes the ultimate chill pill supplement to calm your nerves, relax your muscles, and help reduce anxiety. It can stabilize your mood and promote feelings of calmness and well-being. Magnesium relaxes the nervous systems and assists with fear, irritability, and restlessness. Because magnesium and calcium are interdependent, it is highly recommended that you choose a supplement that contains both of these minerals.
In addition, magnesium can help stabilize cortisol in the body—a hormone released in the body when we are under stress. While it typically receives a bad reputation, cortisol is actually essential to our health. Cortisol enables us to increase our focus and energy levels when we are faced with any situation that requires our immediate attention. But, in cases where we feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious, magnesium can help by lowering cortisol, preventing neuroinflammation, and effectively lowering anxiety.
Anxiety and depression are closely tied to one another, with an estimated 90% of people suffering from anxiety also experiencing symptoms of depression. Some studies have shown that magnesium can be just as effective as a prescription anti-depressant in regulating the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for making us feel content.
Magnesium for Constipation
Magnesium supplements can sometimes have a laxative effect on our bodies. This laxative effect comes through two different mechanisms:
- Muscle Relaxation: Magnesium relaxes the muscles in the intestines which can help to promote a smoother flow as the stool passes through the bowels.
- Stool Softener: Magnesium draws water into the intestines. This increase in water stimulates bowel motility. It also softens and increases the size of the stool, encouraging a bowel movement and helping to make stools easier to pass.
Magnesium citrate can be an effective way to treat occasional constipation. It is relatively gentle and shouldn’t cause you to need an emergency trip to the bathroom (unless you take too much of it).
You can find it at many drug stores, and you don’t need a prescription to purchase it. Before taking magnesium for constipation, or any other vitamin, it is very important that you do your research and consult your doctor about whether or not taking a magnesium supplement would be enough in your specific situation. Keep in mind that your kidneys are directly responsible for clearing magnesium from your blood, so you should not take vitamin and mineral supplements if you have kidney disease. In extreme cases, only take supplements that have been prescribed by your doctor.
Magnesium for Migraines
Research shows that magnesium can be an effective way to cure acute migraines. The American Migraine Foundation even suggests taking a 400–500 milligram supplement of magnesium oxide daily to prevent migraines. It can be an effective way to treat and reduce migraine symptoms such as experiencing a severe headache, sensitivity to light and sounds, nausea, and potential vomiting.
Some people get migraines solely because of their low intake of magnesium. One research study evaluated 40 people who constantly experienced migraines. This study found that 50% of patients experienced a migraine due to low levels of magnesium in the brain. Magnesium was administered to these participants via IV, and it appeared to reduce the pain of migraine in half of the patients.
As a natural migraine remedy, magnesium supplements are available to purchase without a prescription in a variety of forms, including powder, capsule, liquid, syrup, and tablet. Magnesium injections are given only by or under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
Magnesium for Leg Cramps
Do you know those sudden, painful leg cramps you get in the middle of the night? Well, there’s magnesium to help with that! Whether your leg pain stems from a Charley horse or an intense workout session that leaves you sore for days, a magnesium supplement should have you feeling better in no time.
Magnesium is essential for proper muscle and nerve function. It helps release calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes which are required for healthy nerve impulse conduction and muscle contraction. Because cramping is a series of painful muscle contractions, it is no wonder that a magnesium deficiency is a reason behind some of the sporadic leg cramps we experience.
It is also very common for pregnant women to suffer from prenatal leg cramps. These leg cramps usually don’t have an apparent cause, but one research study found that magnesium supplements appeared to be an effective way to reduce the occurrence of leg cramps in pregnant women. There have also been a number of studies that were inconclusive and resulted in magnesium being no more effective than a placebo in treating leg cramps, although most of them were done on older adults.
Because there are mixed feelings (and findings) on the matter, it is always highly recommended that you talk to your doctor about your cramps and ask them whether they think magnesium may help you or if you need a prescription drug, as some cases are more severe than others.
Magnesium for Weight Loss
Magnesium helps your body perform a variety of important tasks, such as produce energy, regulate blood sugar levels, build your bones, and reduce bloating and water retention in the body—all activities which may aid in weight loss.
However, no scientific evidence suggests that taking magnesium alone has been shown to be useful for weight loss. Most nutrition and dietary experts recommend getting your daily magnesium intake from food sources before opting to a supplement instead.
Below is a list of magnesium-rich food options:
- Dark chocolate
- Black beans
- Whole Grains
- Fatty Fish
- Leafy Greens
Typically, magnesium will not cause any drastic weight loss or gain. A low intake of magnesium might, however, contribute to a deficiency.
What’s the Best Form of Magnesium?
Magnesium citrate is one of the magnesium supplements used to clean stool from your intestines. It is often time used for patients before going in for surgery or certain bowel-related procedures, such as colonoscopy and radiography. Magnesium citrate may also be used as a laxative to relieve constipation. Over the counter magnesium citrate supplements increase fluid in the small intestine to promote a bowel movement after 3 hours of consumption.
Magnesium stearate is a simple salt made up of two substances: a saturated fat called stearic acid and the mineral magnesium. It is commonly added to many foods, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. In medications and vitamins, its primary purpose is to act as a coating and lubricant. Magnesium stearate prevents the individual ingredients in a capsule from sticking to each other and the machine that creates the capsules. It helps improve the consistency and quality of medication capsules. Magnesium stearate is generally recognized as safe to consume. Some of the magnesium supplements you may come across are coated with magnesium stearate.
Developed by a Chinese scientist at UCLA, magnesium threonate is a salt of magnesium and L-Threonate with neuroprotective and nootropic effects. Magnesium threonate can significantly improve memory and learning. Magnesium threonate supplements are magnesium supplements that are designed to promote long and short term memory, combat cognitive decline, enhance sleep quality, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, and it is highly absorbable.
You might not find magnesium threonate supplements as easily as other magnesium supplements at your local food store or pharmacy. You can find these supplements online; Amazon is the best marketplace to shop for this magnesium supplement at an affordable cost.
Magnesium glycinate has a wide variety of health benefits, and it is used to prevent or treat low amounts of magnesium in the blood. It has a calming effect on your brain due to the presence of glycine, and it can help relieve anxiety to promote better sleep. Magnesium glycinate also reduces abnormal heart rhythms, premenstrual syndrome symptoms, and helps control blood sugar in people with diabetes. Magnesium glycinate is available in capsules containing 120 mg or 125 mg. The recommended dose is 320 mg for women and 420 mg for men per day.
Magnesium malate is a highly absorbable form of magnesium that provides the benefits of this mineral, along with the benefits of malic acid—a nutrient found to contribute to the process of transforming food into ATP, the body’s energy source. Magnesium is important for the formation of cells, and the maintenance of muscles, bones, and nerves. Malic acid is believed to help with muscle performance, fatigue after exercise, and improve mental focus.
Magnesium malate has also been effectively used for boosting energy and alleviating the pain and tenderness of FMS, a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain that is often accompanied by fatigue, depression, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, and digestive and urinary symptoms.
Magnesium oxide is most frequently used to prevent migraines, but it is also one of the most common magnesium supplements used to treat low magnesium levels in the body. Research shows the majority of migraine sufferers are magnesium deficient. The American Headache Society finds magnesium to be an ideal treatment for migraine relief and prevention. Magnesium oxide is available in 140 mg capsules as well as 400-425 mg tablets.
Magnesium orotate is a combination of magnesium plus orotic acid. Some people use it to prevent or treat magnesium deficiency while others take it for its orotic acid which is used for improving athletic performance and endurance, and for heart health.
A clinical study in people with heart failure found that giving 6,000 mg of magnesium orotate daily for one month, followed by 3,000 mg daily for 11 months reduced the risk of dying during the study by about 25%. It also improved heart failure symptoms in about 40% of patients.
Magnesium chloride is a naturally occurring inorganic compound composed of one magnesium and two chloride ions. It was first used for medicinal applications during World War I when a French surgeon named Dr. Pierre Delbet used it as an antiseptic. Today, magnesium chloride is used as a supplement to help treat magnesium deficiency and promote better overall health. Magnesium chloride supplements contain only 12% elemental magnesium, which is a lot lower than other magnesium supplements.
Magnesium sulfate, commonly known as Epsom salt, is a mineral. It works by replacing magnesium in the body and increasing water in the intestines. Magnesium sulfate can be used orally as a laxative to relieve occasional constipation and to treat low levels of magnesium. One study revealed that magnesium sulfate-rich natural mineral water was effective in reducing constipation and hard or lumpy stools in women with functional constipation.
Magnesium Taurate is an amino acid-mineral complex. Both taurine and magnesium stabilize cell membranes, and both cause sedative effects and prevent the excitability of nerve cells throughout the central nervous system. The combination of magnesium and taurate is thought to help speed absorption of magnesium and allows a more stable form of magnesium to be ingested without other impurities.
The 6 Best Magnesium Supplements
1. Magnesium Threonate
- Formulated for brain health
- Improves memory
- Demonstrated restoration of function in aging neurons in animal studies
- May help to diminish symptoms of hyperactivity, depression, anxiety, and other brain-related disorders
- The only form of magnesium that significantly increases levels of magnesium in the brain
2. Magnesium Glycinate
- Made from magnesium and the amino acid glycine
- Promotes relaxation
- Is easily absorbed
- May improve leaky gut
- May reduce nerve pain
3. Magnesium Malate
- Made from magnesium and the organic compound malic acid
- Improves energy levels
- Reduces muscle pain
- May counteract heavy metals
4. Magnesium Oxide
- Relieves constipation
- Can help regulate blood pressure
- May lower cholesterol
5. Magnesium Orotate
- Well absorbed
- Improves athletic performance and recovery
- Improves cardiovascular health
6. Magnesium Sulfate
- Promotes relaxation
- Improves sleep
- Can help ease constipation
- Helps the body to eliminate toxins
Magnesium is involved in more than 600 reactions in our body. Magnesium supplements are something that everyone can and should benefit from! Just be sure to ask your doctor if you are not sure which magnesium supplement is right for you.