Magnesium is one of the most abundant and arguably important minerals found in the human body. It is the fourth most common mineral after calcium, sodium, and potassium, and it’s required for more than 300 physiological reactions in the human body. In other words, it’s necessary for humans to survive. Without magnesium we could not exist.
Magnesium plays an integral role in the maintenance and function of your muscles, energy levels, and your cardiovascular and nervous system health. Not only this, but it helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, is needed to synthesize serotonin and melatonin, involved in adrenal hormone production helping to relieve stress, anxiety and panic, relaxes your muscles, helps with bone health, and assists in removing heavy metals and other harmful waste products from the body.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated that up to 90% of the US population are magnesium deficient. This deficiency may present itself as a variety of symptoms and ultimately leads to a plethora of health concerns. Fortunately, the awareness around the benefits of this wonder mineral is growing, and many individuals are beginning to self-prescribe and supplement with magnesium. The challenge is that there are many types of magnesium and each type has its own set of unique benefits.
Below is a general reference guide for the types of magnesium, their benefits, along with some additional information.
This type of magnesium is excellent for fatigue. Its energizing effect can be useful for chronic fatigue syndrome and for those with low energy or vitality. This form is moderately absorbable.
Citrate is the most common form of magnesium and it’s highly absorbable. It can be helpful to correct a magnesium deficiency, and relieve heartburn, indigestion and constipation due to its gentle laxative effects.
Also known as magnesium bis-glycinate. This highly absorbable form of magnesium is the most commonly prescribed magnesium in my practice due to its diverse benefits. Because it’s bound to the amino acid glycine, it has powerful calming and relaxing properties, and is useful for those with an overactive nervous system. It’s helpful for improving sleep, managing chronic pain, relaxing muscles, and for relieving stress and anxiety. While other types of magnesium can serve as laxatives, glycinate does not technically have this side effect. However, because it’s a muscle relaxant and your intestines are lined with muscle tissue, some do note temporarily looser stools upon beginning supplementation. In my opinion, it’s the best type of magnesium for long-term use and to correct significant deficienciences.
Most commonly used for indigestion, this form of magnesium is the active ingredient in “milk of magnesia” and other formulas for heartburn and constipation.
Malate is a moderately absorbed form of magnesium that helps calm the system and provide sustained energy. It is commonly used in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and muscle fatigue. It can also be used for athletic performance. It has a mild laxative effect.
This type of magnesium is poorly absorbed which causes it to have a strong laxative effect. Because it’s not well absorbed, it draws liquid into the intestines which results in stools flowing more freely. Oxide is your go-to for temporary relief of constipation.
This magnesium type is unique due to its ability to enhance cardiovascular health and act as a nootropic (a substance used to enhance memory and brain function). It also helps to increase insulin sensitivity which ultimately improves blood sugar levels. It’s commonly used for high blood pressure, arrhythmias, as well as anxiety and stress. It is moderately absorbed.
This is a wonderful form of magnesium that may slow brain aging. It’s capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, ergo, it helps to boost circulating magnesium levels within the brain and increase the magnesium levels within your brain cells. It’s currently being studied for its ability to slow age-related memory loss and manage certain brain disorders, including depression and anxiety. As such, it may help with sleep disorders, cognitive dysfunction, and even Alzheimer’s. It is moderately absorbed.
The above list is general and not exhaustive; there are other types of magnesium and other usages for each type.
It is important to note that foods are also a source of magnesium. Including foods higher in magnesium like spinach, avocado, hemp hearts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and Brazil nuts can be helpful. However, foods do not generally contain the same levels of magnesium they once did due to modern farming practices and depleted soils. Depleted soils means that plants are no longer able to obtain magnesium and other minerals from the soil to the same degree. This coupled with consuming greater amounts of processed foods and demineralized water means we are receiving less magnesium from our diets than ever before.
As with any other nutrient, certain medications can also deplete this mineral even further, or on the contrary, even increase magnesium. Pharmaceuticals that deplete magnesium include the birth control pill and other estrogens, corticosteroids, certain antibiotics, certain chemotherapeutics, among others. Medications that may increase magnesium include certain antidepressants, lithium, and certain diuretics like spironolactone.
Other considerations when it comes to magnesium levels are lifestyle factors. For example, smoking and alcohol consumption decrease magnesium levels. Consider supplementing if these apply to you.
As always, speak to your naturopathic doctor, prescribing doctor, pharmacist and/or other trusted health care provider before supplementing or making any changes to medications. Although magnesium is relatively safe, it’s always necessary to have a professional assess your concerns and health history to ensure you are receiving the best possible care.