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Magnesium - which form is best??

Magnesium is one of the most prevalent minerals in the body. It is estimated that 3/4 of Americans do not get enough magnesium in their diets. Magnesium has been shown to help with a variety of conditions, including preeclampsia, severe asthma, headaches and constipation. It also may help with metabolic syndrome, glucose intolerance, painful periods and some forms of leg cramps.

Most of our body's magnesium is stored in the bone and the tissues. Very little is circulating in the bloodstream. Sometimes a blood test can show low magnesium levels, however normal circulating levels on the blood test does not necessarily mean that there is no deficiency. Additionally, magnesium works in concert with other minerals in the body: primarily calcium and potassium, so levels of these electrolytes should be checked as well.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can vary. Minor deficiency may manifest with nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite or fatigue and weakness. Other people can experience muscle cramping, tingling, numbness, personality changes or irregular heart rhythms. If magnesium levels fall too much, calcium and potassium levels may fall as well.

Magnesium plays a role in over 300 reactions in the body. It is instrumental in bone metabolism. protein synthesis, cellular energy production, DNA and RNA synthesis and stabilization of the mitochondria - the powerhouse of the cell. Magnesium helps with insulin and glucose metabolism, nerve transmission and blood pressure as well.

Magnesium can be found in some fruits and vegetables, as well as chocolate, nuts, edamame, spinach, and quinoa. Factors such as malabsorption diseases, alcohol intake, certain medications, older age, and stress can deplete the body's magnesium stores. Supplements are a great way to boost your magnesium intake, but it can be hard to know which one to use. Magnesium comes in a variety of forms, and each one works a little bit differently in the body.

Let's dive into the different forms and their preferred uses.

Magnesium citrate - one of the most common forms on the market, magnesium citrate is very well absorbed by the body. This form works well as a laxative.

Magnesium glycinate - In this form, magnesium is bonded to glycine, a neurotransmitter that aids in relaxation. This is a good form to choose if you are using magnesium for anxiety or stress. Magnesium glycinate is my preferred form for ADHD treatment.

Magnesium taurate - Best for cardiac uses, this form utilizes the cardiac muscle relaxation properties of magnesium paired with taurine to help facilitate effective cardiac contractions. This form is best for managing high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels.

Magnesium sulfate - aka Epsom salts. This form is typically dissolved into a bath and absorbs through the skin. Magnesium sulfate is very effective for muscle relaxation, reduce stress, soothe body aches, and lower blood pressure.

Magnesium chloride - Another topical preparation, magnesium chloride is applied to the skin via a gel, cream, lotion or oil. This form is best to target a specific area of muscle cramps or pain.

Magnesium L-threonate - This form of magnesium crosses the blood-brain barrier and is useful in brain health. Studies have shown that use of this form may help learning and short- and long- term memory in those suffering from Alzheimer's disease or other forms of cognitive decline.

Magnesium carbonate - This is a naturally occurring form of magnesium that is ground into a fine powder which dissolves easily into a beverage. This form of magnesium is great for stress relief and its calming properties.

Magnesium hydroxide/Magnesium oxide - This form is poorly absorbed, and works best to treat conditions such as constipation or heartburn (which don't require the magnesium to absorb into the body.

Magnesium lactate - This form of magnesium may be more gentle on the digestive tract and is a good option for people who do not tolerate other formulations.

Magnesium malate - Another easily absorbed form that is very gentle on the stomach. Malic acid helps in production of cellular energy, so is often recommended for fatigue or symptoms of fibromyalgia. This form tends to have less laxative effect than other forms.

Side effects: Although typically well-tolerated, oral magnesium supplements can cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. In people with impaired kidney function, magnesium levels may build up too high in the blood and can become dangerously elevated. Certain medications may also impair the excretion of magnesium, and magnesium can influence the uptake of other medications, so any supplements should be monitored closely and in conjunction with treatment by a physician. Excess magnesium levels may cause seizures, arrhythmias, respiratory depression, low blood pressure or even death.

Please consult with your healthcare provider prior to starting any new treatments or mediation. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.


Guerrera MP, Volpe SL, Mao JJ. Therapeutic uses of magnesium. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Jul 15;80(2):157-62. PMID: 19621856.

Inna Slutsky, et al. Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium. Neuron (65): 165–177.


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