Have you ever found yourself in front of a shelf of supplements staring blankly at the countless varieties of magnesium, not knowing what to make of the descriptions on the labels, only to turn around and walk away empty-handed because you just didn’t know which one to choose? So instead, you chose none? It can get confusing and sometimes even overwhelming.

In an attempt to help you decipher information about a popular supplement—magnesium, I wrote this blog post in hopes to answer some of the most common questions I get about it, share the various benefits, and help you decipher which one might be right for you.

What is Magnesium and why is it so essential?

Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral found in our soil. We used to be able to count on our food sources to obtain a decent amount of this mineral. But mass farming practices and heavy amounts of chemical sprays being applied to our produce have damaged our soil and have drastically depleted its nutrients.

But this is not the only reason most people fall short of having adequate amounts.

In fact, high caffeine and alcohol consumption, a diet high in sugar and refined or processed foods, stress, high levels of activity or exercise, hormonal imbalances, and the regular use of diuretics and antibiotics that prohibit the proper absorption of the mineral all play a significant role as well.

Did you know that magnesium is used by every organ in your body! You read that right!

It’s involved in over 600 different biochemical reactions in the body, which makes it critical to the proper functioning of just about every bodily process, especially the nerves, heart, muscles, bones (that includes teeth too!), and kidneys. Truth be told, the majority of the population is deficient in magnesium and doesn’t even know it.

According to a scientific review published in Open Heart journal in 2018, a “vast majority of people in modern societies are at risk for magnesium deficiency” due to “chronic diseases, medications, decreases in food crop magnesium contents, and the availability of refined and processed foods.”1 This review reveals that a large number of people fail to meet the recommended daily allowance and almost half of the American population don’t get enough through their diet. Magnesium deficiency among Type 2 diabetics is at 75%2, among postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, it’s at a whopping 84%.3

Magnesium offers protection for your heart. It helps to fight inflammation and prevents the hardening of arteries, regulates blood pressure and improves blood flow.

Researchers have recently found magnesium in more than 300 different enzymes in the body that are responsible for creating ATP (energy), developing healthy bones and teeth, assisting in the relaxation of blood vessels, promoting proper bowel movements, and regulating blood sugar.

Magnesium also plays a significant role in your body’s detoxification processes and helps prevent damage from environmental toxins. In addition, its consumption can have therapeutic benefits for many ailments such as fibromyalgia, atrial fibrillation, PMS, migraines, cardiovascular disease, digestion, insomnia, fatigue, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and anxiety and depression. A study published in the National Library of Medicine revealed that giving a higher dose (450 mg) of magnesium to elderly with type 2 diabetes who are also suffering from depression was as effective as using antidepressants.4

What is causing this surge in deficiency in the majority of the population and how can we tell if we’re deficient?

Magnesium is actually one of the minerals needed to form the chlorophyll molecule which gives plants their luscious green color. I’m sure you have a sense of where I’m going with this. As my mom (and I’m sure every mom out there) used to drill at the dinner table, “eat your greens, they’re good for you!”

Granted that having a diet high in processed foods will amplify your risk of deficiency. But unfortunately, with the increasingly poor conditions of our soils in our day and age, even if you do eat lots of greens, you may still need to take a supplement. In addition, exposure to fluoride and chlorine from our water compromise our ability to absorb the mineral.

It’s important to note as well that magnesium absorption is also subject to having adequate amounts of selenium, parathyroid hormone, and vitamins B6, D and K. Too much alcohol, table salt, coffee and phosphoric acid found in soda, can impede on its absorption.

High intensity exercise, heavy menstruations, inadequate amounts of sleep, exposures to electromagnetic fields (Wi-Fi, 5G), and even some drugs like medications for acid reflux, high blood pressure and diuretics also exhaust the magnesium reserve.

If you experience numbness and tingling in your extremities, muscle spasms or cramps, eye twitching, heart palpitations, poor sleep, coronary spasms, insulin resistance, loss of appetite, headaches or migraines, anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue, you could be lacking magnesium. The sad truth is that most people won’t associate these symptoms with magnesium deficiency. Instead, they’ll just brush it off as stress-related symptoms or something else completely unrelated.

What food sources can you add to your diet to increase your magnesium levels?

The recommended daily allowance of magnesium will depend on your age and sex. On average, the recommended daily allowance for women is 310 mg and 420 mg for men. However, each person’s bio-individuality and lifestyle will determine whether this amount should be higher. Many experts believe that in order to achieve optimal health and longevity, we should be getting somewhere between 600 mg to 900 mg per day.5

We can find a fair amount of magnesium in many foods that can be easily incorporated into our daily diet:

  • Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Legumes
  • Avocados
  • Bananas and potatoes (white or sweet)
  • Nuts or nut butters such as raw almonds and cashews
  • Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, chia, hemp, and flax
  • Herbs like chives and basil
  • Cacao nibs or powder and dark chocolate (70% or above)

Try incorporating some of these ingredients into your salads, soups or smoothies. Use the nuts, seeds and cacao nibs as toppings on your yogurt or smoothie bowls or add them into your baked goods. There are plenty of delicious recipes online to help inspire you.  Not only do they serve as extra sources of magnesium, many also provide protein and have amazing anti-inflammatory benefits.

If you wish to see what your daily magnesium intake is from foods, you can use a free online nutrition tracker such as Cronometer or myfitnesspal.

Other ways of boosting your magnesium intake are by taking Epsom salt baths. However, since Epsom salt also helps with detox, make sure to limit your soaking time to 20 minutes or you may begin to reabsorb those toxins right back.

With all the different types of magnesium supplements out there, how do I know which one is the right one for me?

There are seven types of magnesium available on the market so I can empathize with how confusing it can be to pick the right one for your needs. However, each one has a slightly different benefit.

Magnesium Chelate — is a type of magnesium that bonds to several amino acids, which makes it especially important for muscle building, recovery, and health. Because its composition is very similar to that of the food we eat, it’s easily absorbed by the body.

Magnesium Citrate — is magnesium bound to citric acid. Due to its laxative properties, it is often used to alleviate constipation.

Magnesium Oxide — is another form of magnesium that is mainly used as a laxative. It can also provide relief from acid reflux.

Magnesium Glycinate or bisglycinate — is a chelated form of magnesium that is highly absorbable due to its bioavailability and has a calming effect. It’s ideal for those who are deficient in the mineral and are trying to increase their magnesium levels. Often used to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PMS. It also helps to regulate blood sugar and maintain healthy heart rhythms.

Magnesium malate — is another highly bioavailable form of magnesium that can help with migraines, chronic pain, Blood sugar balance, and mood disorders.

Magnesium Threonate — is a newer type of magnesium that is gaining popularity for its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and penetrate the cell membrane. It has serious benefits on mood disorders and degenerative brain disease.

Magnesium Chloride — this form of magnesium comes in oil form and is meant to be applied topically to alleviate skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema and acne. It can provide relief from muscle cramps and spasms. It can be used by those who struggle with digestive issues like malabsorption as it bypasses the digestive system.

Magnesium sulfate — commonly known as Epsom salt is used in baths by many to help soothe muscle cramps, soreness, tightness, aches, and pain. It’s also great for pulling toxins out of the body.

Bottom line, magnesium plays a critical role in our health and everyone should consider supplementing with one that is right for them, particularly since getting adequate amounts through diet is almost impossible. It is important to note however that magnesium should not be combined with other minerals as they will compete for absorption.

If you are interested in trying a few out for yourself, I’d highly recommend the three below. I personally like to alternate with a few different types and can confidently recommend these to try (the first two you can click on the name and it will bring you to a page to purchase if interested).

Magnesium Breakthrough has all 7 forms of magnesium mentioned above.

Neuro Mag contains magnesium that is chelated to threonic acid (magnesium L-threonate) which supports cognitive function, memory and overall brain health.

Magnesium Glycinate Chelate provides magnesium bisglycinate chelate that is known for it’s absorption.

If you’re not already taking a magnesium supplement daily and wish to do so, it’s best to consult with your healthcare practitioner beforehand to ensure it is safe for you as it does interact with common medications for high blood pressure, antibiotics, or diuretics.

Yours in health,

Dr. Nathalie

Specific References:

1. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart2018;5:e000668. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668. https://openheart.bmj.com/content/5/1/e000668.

2. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart2018;5:e000668. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668. https://openheart.bmj.com/content/5/1/e000668

3. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart2018;5:e000668. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668. https://openheart.bmj.com/content/5/1/e000668

4. Barragán-Rodríguez, L., Rodríguez-Morán, M., & Guerrero-Romero, F. (2008). Efficacy and safety of oral magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression in the elderly with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, equivalent trial. Magnesium research, 21(4), 218–223. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19271419/

5. Mercola, J. (2022, April 10) The Overlooked Mineral That Could Save You From Diabetes.  https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/low-magnesium-diabetes?s=r#footnote-10

General references:

1. Harvard School of Public Health, Magnesium (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/magnesium/)

2. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson WSubclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart 2018;5:e000668. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668. https://openheart.bmj.com/content/5/1/e000668

3. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

4. Mercola, J. (2022, April 10) The Overlooked Mineral That Could Save You From Diabetes.  https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/low-magnesium-diabetes?s=r#footnote-10

5. Top 7 Benefits of Magnesium https://thenutritionwatchdog.com/top-7-benefits-of-magnesium/

6. Ginta D, Grant. C. (2021, January 11) Everything You Should Know About Magnesium Glycinate Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/magnesium-glycinate

7.  Axe, J. (2017, October 9) 9 Signs of Magnesium Deficiency https://draxe.com/nutrition/9-signs-magnesium-deficiency/#Best_Magnesium_Supplements

 8. Axe, J. (2019, May 28) Top 5 Magnesium Citrate Benefits (Including for Constipation) https://draxe.com/nutrition/magnesium-citrate-benefits/

9. Hill, Ainsley. (2019, November 21) 10 Interesting Types of Magnesium (and What to Use Each For) Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-types

General HealthAre You Confused By The Numerous Forms Of Magnesium? Find Out Which One Is Right For You!