Magnesium deficiency affects the majority of us, and since it’s an essential mineral involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies, deficiency can contribute to a number of health complaints. Deficiency occurs not only from lack of magnesium in our diets, but also as a result of excessive sugar, calcium supplementation without adequate magnesium intake, high alcohol intake, prolonged stress, and can be depleted with certain medications.

Eating a diet rich in magnesium can be difficult depending on the depletion level of the soil from which the produce is yielded. Generally, good choices of magnesium-rich foods include avocados, organic dark leafy greens (especially beet greens, Swiss chard, and spinach), nuts & seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, and cashews), legumes (navy beans, tempeh, pinto beans, kidney beans, and lima beans), some grains (buckwheat, millet, barley, and quinoa), and dark chocolate.

Helpful for inflammation, cardiovascular issues, headaches, insomnia, leg cramps and muscle pain, there are so many reasons to add a magnesium product into your daily routine. Navigating the different forms of magnesium can be a bit tricky and is a common inquiry. If you’ve taken a look at an aisle of magnesium supplements, you have probably noticed that there are different types. The magnesium must be attached to another substance, be it a salt or an amino acid, which distinguishes the different forms.

Which magnesium is right for you?

When considering a magnesium supplement, take into account the bioavailability, effect on the digestive system and the general indications of the form. This list is not conclusive; other forms of magnesium also exist, but are much less common. Before adding a new supplement to your routine, check with your healthcare provider to make sure it is a right fit for you.

Magnesium Citrate:  This common, inexpensive form is very bioavailable and therefore, usable by our bodies. It does a good job for any result you’re looking for with magnesium, such as complementing calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D for bone health, muscle pain or cramps, constipation, anxiety, or insomnia. Although generally well-tolerated, it can have a mild laxative effect for some at regular doses.  If you tend to have loose stools or have a lot of GI irritation, consider another type, or figure out what your dose limit is.

Magnesium Glycinate:  This chelated form is touted as having great bioavailability and is especially good for those tending towards anxiety or insomnia. The magnesium is attached to glycine, which is an amino acid that works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, resulting in a calming effect. Additionally, this form does not have a laxative effect, so it would be a form to choose if diarrhea is an issue.

Magnesium Malate:  Good bioavailability and helps with cell energy production, as malate is a substrate in the Krebs cycle. In particular, the malate form can help with bodily pain, in addition to the other general magnesium uses.

Magnesium L-threonate:  This form is believed to have that ability to cross the BBB (blood brain barrier) allowing it to have potential benefit in the realm of neuroscience. It has been studied for use in Alzheimer’s disease and has been found to improve working memory, as well as short-term and long-term memory. I tend to gravitate towards this form for migraines, as well.

Magnesium Aspartate:  Decent bioavailability, although supposedly less so than citrate and glycinate forms, yet more so than oxide form. This type is not as common, but is sometimes used for myalgia, as well as other general magnesium uses.

Ionic Magnesium:  This liquid form typically combines a number of magnesium types and is potentially absorbed more quickly due to the liquid ionic form of the minerals.  This would be one to consider if you prefer a liquid to a pill.

Magnesium Oxide:  Due to poor bioavailability, and because only about 4% is absorbed in the body, this form tends to be a decent laxative. For this reason, it is not an ideal form to use for supplemental uses other than constipation.

Magnesium Sulfate:  Otherwise known as Epsom salts, this form is often used for therapeutic baths to promote muscle relaxation and stress relief, as the magnesium is absorbed through the skin. This form is also commonly used as injectable magnesium.

Magnesium Chloride:  Found in a concentrated topical spray, this magnesium can be sprayed directly onto tight or cramping muscles and is readily absorbed through the skin.  If it feels itchy when applied, dilute with a little bit of water or a neutral lotion. This form is also commonly used in IV therapy.

By Dr. Jenn Grushon