Every cell in your body requires magnesium to produce energy. While all minerals are important, magnesium is one of the masters. It runs over 3700 enzyme functions in the body. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and every cell in your body requires magnesium to make energy!
Your hormones run on minerals & enzymes. And, magnesium is one of the first mineral your body burns through when you’re under stress.
But we didn’t use to have to supplement with magnesium. Why now?
Magnesium used to be abundantly available in our food and water. Now, due to fluoridated water (that binds to magnesium and prevents you from absorbing it) and severely depleted soils due to pesticides and synthetic potassium (that also bind to magnesium), it’s very difficult to get enough from diet.
Not only that, but higher stress levels than ever before, combined with overconsumption of processed foods and refined sugar all deplete magnesium at alarming rates.
Magnesium is important for:
- Metabolizing fats, carbs, amino acids
- Proper cardiac & brain function
- Blood sugar regulation
- Helps with GERD and heartburn
- DNA synthesis
- Reducing menstrual cramps
- Needed for SLEEP
- Muscle contractions, including the heart
- Insulin metabolism
As you can see, this definitely isn’t a nutrient to take for granted (none of them are!).
While magnesium deficiency is a serious issue, an even bigger problem arises, calcification. With minerals out of balance and added calcium in nearly EVERYTHING, your body becomes calcified, including your bones, muscles, tissues, and arteries, which is a driving factor in heart disease. Even your individual cells. When too much calcium accumulates in your cells, it leads to cell dysfunction and death. This is one of the reasons I far prefer to get calcium from food and never from supplements.
More on calcification in another post, let’s get back to magnesium.
The relationship between magnesium and iron:
Magnesium also has an interesting relationship with iron. Iron is the metal that ages us and when left unchecked in the body, causes all kinds of oxidative damage. Iron also triggers magnesium loss, which leads to inflammation. If you’re working on iron dysfunction in your body, magnesium is a crucial part of the process in getting iron moving out of the tissues and back into the reticuloendothelial system (the iron recycling system).
Best food sources of magnesium:
While it would be very difficult to get adequate amounts of magnesium from food alone, I can’t do a post on magnesium without talking about food sources.
Some of the best food sources include:
- Dark chocolate
- Cooked leafy green vegetables
- Legumes (make sure to soak and pressure-cook to reduce the mineral-binding anti-nutrients)
- Fish, including salmon, mackerel, and halibut
- Yogurt and kefir
How to get more magnesium?
While I always prefer to take a “food-first” approach it’s pretty tough to get sufficient amounts of magnesium from diet. For that reason, I choose to supplement with magnesium on a daily basis. It’s one of the few supplements I take every day, since I know I’m not getting enough from food.
But with all the different forms and brands of magnesium, how do you know which is best for you? This is a common question I get, especially since some of the more readily available forms, like magnesium citrate, can do more harm than good.
Important notes on magnesium supplementation
Before we dive into the different types of magnesium supplements, a couple quick notes. Jumping into massive amounts of magnesium is not a good strategy. There are a few reasons for this, but mainly, minerals do not work in isolation and they need to maintain a delicate balance in the body. Magnesium works with potassium and sodium (among other minerals) and if your potassium and sodium levels are low, supplementing with magnesium can make things even more out of balance and even cause issues with adrenal function.
Start here: The adrenal cocktail is a great place to start when it comes to mineral balance. It provides sodium, potassium, and real food vitamin C to help support adrenal function and energy production. After the body adjusts to one or two adrenal cocktails a day, then I like to begin experimenting with magnesium supplementation. When starting magnesium, like all things, start low and go slow. Give your body time to adjust and listen to your body if you sense any strange reactions.
And one more note: Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement.
Okay, let’s dive in!
Types of magnesium:
Magnesium glycinate is a very bioavailable form and one of my favorites. It is magnesium bound to the amino acid, glycine.
Studies show it can improve sleep, reduce PMS symptoms, help control blood sugar. It is fast-acting and generally well-tolerated, meaning it’s unlikely to cause GI upset.
Due to its calming effects, magnesium glycinate is best taken at bedtime. One caveat here, while the glycinate form is calming for most, the conversion to glutamate can be stimulating. If you notice you’re having a harder time falling asleep, feelings of overstimulation or anxiety, you may be one who can’t tolerate magnesium glycinate well at this time. A good alternative in this case would be magnesium taurate.
Preferred brand: Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate
Another one of my favorites! Magnesium malate can improve energy levels and help with fatigue and stiffness. It also improves your mood and enhances cellular metabolism.
Since magnesium malate can have an energizing effect, it’s best taken at breakfast and/or lunch.
Preferred brand: Jigsaw Magnesium Malate
Magnesium taurate is another great option as it is bioavailable and great for supporting cardiovascular health.
This type of magnesium is a magnesium salt attached to the amino acid, taurine. Magnesium and taurine make great partners because the body uses taurine to transport across cell membranes. Taurine also has the ability to act differently depending on the type of cell it is trying to cross (i.e. immune cell, heart cells, nerve cells, etc).
Taurine is needed for phase 2 liver detox and to make bile. It is included in the Root Cause Protocol for its many benefits, including the role it plays in keeping magnesium and potassium in the cell and sodium out of the cell.
Notes: Magnesium taurate is great alternative to glycinate for those who may not tolerate glycinate well.
Magnesium chloride is another great option. It has a high bioavailability and supports the body’s detox system and metabolism.
Studies show magnesium chloride can reduce blood pressure and migraines and it’s great for soothing sore muscles and aches and pains. It can also help with skin issues like eczema.
Notes: Magnesium chloride absorbs well topically and is often used topically as a lotion or oil or as salt flakes in a bath or soak.
Preferred brands: Life Flo and Ancient Minerals
Magnesium bicarbonate is VERY bioavailable. Part of this reason is that bicarbonate helps get magnesium inside the cell and then INSIDE the mitochondria where it is used to make energy.
Magnesium bicarbonate is the only liquid form of magnesium and you can’t get it from food (we used to get through our drinking water). I know many people like to add magnesium bicarbonate to their adrenal cocktail. Keep in mind that bicarbonate can decrease stomach acid so it is best taken away from a meal.
Notes: You can make your own or buy in liquid form through a brand like Mitigate Stress.
This form of magnesium is not recommended as it can do more long-term harm than good. Magnesium citrate is often used for is strong laxative effects. And while it is good at helping relieve constipation, it is not meant for long-term use and can be aggravating to the intestines (also, why not get to the root cause of constipation?)
Even more than that, citrate forms of nutrients interfere with ceruloplasmin activity and can lead to iron dysregulation and mineral imbalances.
The citrate form can also be problematic for those with MCAs and histamine issues, as it is often made from fermented corn.
For constipation relief, magnesium oxide is a better alternative.
While magnesium oxide is generally not well-absorbed by the body, you can increase absorption by taking smaller amounts throughout the day, rather than one larger dose.
Magnesium oxide does have a strong laxative effect, especially if you take the full amount all at the same time. It can also lower stomach acid, so those with low stomach acid should be mindful about this type.
While magnesium oxide is an option, in my opinion, there are better options that are more bioavailable listed above. For that reason, the oxide form is lower on my list, although it can help if you need the occasional relief from constipation. I have clients who experience travelers’ constipation take it with them on trips, just in case they need a little extra help. Having a regular BM every day is one of the most important things for gut health.
Notes: Better absorbed in small doses throughout the day rather than one or two large doses.
Good option: Now Magnesium Oxide
Don’t forget magnesium co-factors
This is such an under-appreciated mineral, in my opinion! Boron helps to keep magnesium in the cell. If you’re using mineral drops in your water, you get small amounts of boron there. If you’ve already implemented phase 1 of the Root Cause Protocol (i.e. working on sodium, potassium, magnesium, copper and retinol….don’t skip this step!), you may want to consider adding a boron supplement or using boron in a mineral bath.
Vitamin B6 helps get magnesium inside the cell. Some great sources of vitamin B6 are grass-fed beef liver, raw milk, salmon, pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed beef, chicken liver, bee pollen, and unfortified brewer’s yeast. Carrots and sweet potato also have vitamin B6.
Sodium and potassium
As mentioned above, it’s important to have sodium and potassium balanced with magnesium intake. This is where the adrenal cocktail comes in handy.
Potassium and sodium help keep magnesium in the cell, so until we have those two minerals in balance, adding magnesium may lead to unpleasant symptoms. Part of this reason is due to the fact that if you are under chronic stress and the adrenals are functioning at a suboptimal level, the adrenals can become even more sedated if you add a bunch of magnesium without first balancing sodium and potassium. This will drive the vitality ratio down on an HTMA. The vitality ratio is your adrenal ratio and is the ratio of sodium to magnesium. A low vitality ratio is a sign of adrenal “burn out” and decreased adrenal resiliance.
It’s important to be intentional that we are getting a nutrient-dense, traditional foods diet to help nourish our bodies and meet the nutrient requirements our body needs. Some nutrients, like magnesium, are just plain difficult to get enough through food due to depleted soils and pesticides. For that reason, strategically supplementing with magnesium can be beneficial for many people. Knowing which forms are most bioavailable and which forms work best for you is an important step in supporting your body’s stress response and meeting daily magnesium targets.
Do you take magnesium? What kind of magnesium works best for you? If you don’t what kind do you want to try first?
Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?
Taurine Supplementation Lowers Blood Pressure and Improves Vascular Function in Prehypertension
The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease
The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial
I am not a doctor, and I don’t claim to be one. I can’t prevent, treat, cure or diagnose illness or disease. The information presented on this website is not meant to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. The purpose of this website is to share knowledge from my research and experience. I encourage you to make your own decisions regarding your health care based on your own research and relationship with your health care professional.
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I started taking a high quality magnesium supplement and went from having frequent migraine attacks to zero. I had no idea it was so difficult to get enough magnesium from food until I researched the potential link between magnesium deficiency and migraine. Interesting stuff for sure.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Mel! It is amazing how balancing minerals can make such a big difference in our health. Glad your migraines are improving!
hi these are nice posts, but i have a question, i only could find Mag oxide in my country and also it’s very affordable, can i still take that?my problem is estrogen dominance 🙁
Unfortunately, mag oxide isn’t very well absorbed. It can also have a strong laxative effect. Some people do okay putting oxide in a glass of water and sipping it throughout the day, making it better absorbed in smaller amounts. Do note that it can lower stomach acid, so it’s best to drink away from a meal. I hope this helps!
Such a great post, finally a bit more talk about different types of magnesium … I would like to know what about magnesium carbonate, that is also not recommended to supplement with, WHY?… Also, is it true that people with good ability to use glucose for fuel need less magnesium hence the dosages, how much to take per day??? . And also magnesium threonate vs magnesium taurate, or it is the same thing??
great questions! Mag carbonate isn’t bad, is just isn’t the best or all that bioavailable. There are better magnesiums. Threonate and taurate are different. Threonate acts more on cognitive/brain function while taurate is more cardiovascular. I intentionally left threonate off the list though since it’s a manufactured form of mag. It’s not bad at all, but it’s claim is that it is the only mag that crosses the blood brain barrier which just isn’t true. It’s a good form with a bug marketing team. But I think other forms like glycinate, malate, bicarbonate, etc are just as good and actually occur in nature, unlike threonate which is made in a lab.