Magnesium is trending right now, and I want to really stort through the different forms of it!
Did you know there are more than 10 types of magnesium that can be found in supplement form, alone? Besides the fact that we need a lot of it, it is important to note that we use different forms of magnesium for different things (and outcomes).
Why is Magnesium Important?
Here are 10 reasons, in simple list format, to prove magnesium’s importance:
Fact: it’s the 4th most abundant mineral in our bodies, and we cannot make or store it, so we need it daily.
Regulates muscle and nerve function.
Helps make protein, bone, and DNA.
It is an essential mineral, and one of the seven essential macrominerals.
Supports energy production.
Helps transport calcium, potassium, and other essential minerals. No calcium goes into bones without magnesium. Our hearts would not beat without it.
Protects metabolic health, which includes promoting better sleep.
Magnesium is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions including energy metabolism and protein synthesis.
Functions as an electrolyte, maintaining fluid balance in your body.
Increases GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid, a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain), which helps reduce stress and promotes more relaxation.
Without a doubt, it is very important.
But again, there are so many different types of magnesium. Some I have already discussed in great detail; others not so much.
Today it’s time to bring them all to the forefront.
Note: I am grouping the types of magnesium by “laxative” and “supplement” because while the below are all types of magnesium, they definitely don’t act the same.
Specific types of magnesium have a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles of the gut, and also draw in water. So while 'magnesium', in general, is how you may refer to any magnesium supplement, supplements that contain Magnesium Citrate, for example, may have a laxative effect. This distinction is even more important for the gut-health community, so I chose to break it down even further.
Different Types of Magnesium: Laxative Effect
Magnesium Citrate is a type of magnesium that is bound to citric acid, so it’s better absorbed. This form of magnesium has a laxative effect at high doses. What makes the difference between well absorbed with no effects, or having a laxative effect, is the dose.
Magnesium citrate is the generic name for over-the-counter products such as Citroma or Citrate of Magnesia, which can be used as a laxative or dietary supplement. Magnesium citrate belongs to a group of drugs known as saline laxatives, which work by pulling more water into the colon in order to help the colon empty its contents.
Magnesium Oxide (MgO)
This is the least absorbed form, but also has one of the highest percentages of elemental magnesium per dose, so it still may be the highest absorbed dose per mg. This is a great general purpose magnesium if Mg is all you need. Magnesium oxide has been shown to promote digestion and ease heartburn, and may also help with anxiety. It makes a simple muscle relaxer, nerve tonic and laxative if you take a high dose.
Magnesium Sulfate (MgSO4)
Yes, I did put this under the “laxative effect” category because it’s something that not a lot of people know or expect. And the laxative effect can be shocking, if you’re not aware.
If you take it internally, it tastes awful and has a definite laxative effect.
However, Magnesium Sulfate is most widely used and known as Epsom Salts. Epsom Salt baths, due to the Magnesium Sulfate, can help relax your muscles and relieve aches and pains.
Types of Magnesium: Supplemental
Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2)
Magnesium chloride is absorbed almost completely in the gut, increasing its bioavailability in the bloodstream. It is widely used for: bone health, reducing blood pressure and migraines. It might also manage GI issues, and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Like Magnesium Sulfate, Magnesium Chloride is a salt. While Magnesium Chloride can be taken internally, many use it in the flake form for therapeutic baths and foot soaks.
I kept this as a “supplemental” vs “laxative effect” because Magnesium oxide is more likely to cause diarrhea because it is so poorly absorbed and requires a larger dose. On the other end, magnesium glycinate is the best-absorbed form and poses little risk. Magnesium chloride falls somewhere in between.
Magnesium Gluconate (C12H26MgO16)
This form has the highest bioavailability overall. The NIH states, Although magnesium is available in the form of sulfates, lactate, hydroxide, oxide and chloride, only magnesium gluconate is recommended for magnesium supplementation as it appears to be better absorbed and causes less diarrhea.
This form is for treating and preventing low levels of magnesium in the body.
Magnesium Glycinate (C4H8MgN2O4)
In addition to its calming effect and helping to promote better sleep, magnesium glycinate has been known to help reduce PMS symptoms and control blood sugar in those with diabetes. The glycinate form is highly bioavailable and less likely to cause diarrhea for sensitive individuals.
Magnesium Taurate (C4H12MgN2O6S2)
This form comes from the combination of magnesium oxide and taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that is known to feed cardiac muscle and enhance the quality of contractions of the heart. For those who take magnesium for heart functioning, this is probably the best form.
Magnesium L-Threonate (C8H14MgO10)
The L-Threonate is also written as magnesium threonate. This form crosses the blood brain barrier and so has recently been studied for uses such as patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline.
Due to the strong brain correlations, it’s also used to help manage certain brain disorders, such as depression and age-related memory loss.
Magnesium Lactate (C6H10MgO6)
Magnesium lactate is the result of magnesium binding with lactic acid to form salt. It is commonly used for magnesium deficiencies as it’s easily absorbed and mostly tolerated. The lactate form is very generic, and is also a form of magnesium that’s used as a food additive in fortified or enriched foods.
Magnesium Malate (C4H4MgO5)
Magnesium malate is often recommended for people with fibromyalgia as a treatment for the fatigue and stiffness characteristic of this chronic illness. While there isn’t scientific evidence for this (studies continue to happen), we do know that supplementing with magnesium can help with many side effects those with fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses deal with daily.
Do You Need a Magnesium Supplement?
I don’t know. Only you (in conjunction with your doctor or medical provider) know this.
Here’s what you should know, though:
Magnesium naturally occurs in many foods. You could get 100% of your daily value of magnesium through 3tbsp hemp hearts + 2 cups spinach.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 400–420 mg of magnesium for adult men and 310–360 mg for adult women.
If you’re going to supplement with magnesium, be sure you know why you’re supplementing and what for. Be aware of side effects that can occur when you consume amounts above the upper limit.
Let’s be honest, many of you want or need the magnesium because – constipation. Now you know what to look for.
A food journal can help you understand if you might be deficient, and bring the topic up to your healthcare provider.
My favorite magnesium brands are: