I get so many emails these days of folks asking, “What form of magnesium supplement should I take?” Sooooooo, let’s chat about the options for the most overlooked mineral for enhancing digestive health.
WTH is Magnesium?
Firstly- let’s just start with a real quick intro about this mineral. It is the 4th most abundant element on the whole EARTH, and the 9th most abundant in the whole UNIVERSE! It’s also the 3rd most common element in Seawater. It must be good for something, right? Well, actually, its good for SO. Many. Things. It’s like in my top 3 essential supplements, period.
What’s Mag Good for? Well, like everything.
There are over 300 processes in the body that require Magnesium, which you’ve probly read 100 times over. I’m not going to elaborate on all these processes- that’s a different article. Suffice to say, its important. Like, really really important.
The majority of us are magnesium deficient, which simply doesn’t contribute to our journey in healing our guts. I put every single patient on Magnesium, without exception. Why? If you are suffering from digestive issues, its almost a given that you are poorly absorbing Magnesium.
It contributes to healthy bones, organs, cells, relaxes arteries and lowers blood pressure.
Magnesium is a big deep exhale for our nervous system.
Irregular heartbeat? Probly Mag deficient. Seriously, its like a natural Xanax for our bodies….and who doesn’t need that these days. It relaxes muscles, helps decrease stress and anxiety, and bonus- helps us poop more if we need to poop more. And this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to its benefits.
It also regulates proper transit time of elimination. Your intestines quite literally use Magneisum to regulate water in the bowel and assist softening of the stool.
Can we get it from Food?
Yup. Its at the very center of the chlorophyll molecule in plants, meaning dark leafy greens are super high in it. So eat up. Problem is, our soil is seriously depleted. And of course, the majority of society is eating processed foods.
Once upon a time we drank real Spring water which naturally contains Magnesium, not city water. One more reason we’re all walking around with a deficiency……..said to be almost 80% of the population, contributing to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Restless Leg Syndrome? Think Mag deficiency every time.
What to Consider in a Magnesium Supplement
Which really boils down to the bottom line- absorption.
Its’ gotta be bound to something to make it a thing to get it inside our bodies. So inspecting the different forms really means identifying what its bound to and seeing if that is beneficial.
The Straight Up on the Most Common Forms of Mag found in Supplements
* not an exhaustive list, just the most common
- Magnesium Citrate- the most common form found in supplements (sadly). Dirt cheap. Crap. Citrate- almost always made from GMO corn! Don’t buy it unless you’re looking to go poo and you want a natural laxative…..which has its place for sure, but Mag Oxide better choice for this. Most companies use this form simply because it cost them pennies. Citric acid which is a very large molecule, you’ll absorb very little of this form. The famous “Calm” supplement made by natural Vitality? Only contains Mag Citrate- won’t “calm” you at all. False marketing. Trash.
- Magnesium Oxide or Hydroxide- extremely small molecule, very compact. Here Magnesium is bound to oxygen, which just isn’t absorbed in the digestive tract at all. Osmotic effect (water-attracting); might have some benefits to body tissue. Almost exclusively used as a laxative. And this is the real deal laxative, if you need to go. Don’t use if the goal is to raise Mag levels in the body.
- Magnesium Malate- bound to malic acid, a naturally occurring acid found in certain foods and wine. Considered a fairly well absorbed form, a favorite for some athletes as it plays a role in ATP synthesis and energy production. Not a good choice for constipation.
- Magnesium Glycinate or Bi-Glycinate- considered the most gentle form of mag, therefore a good choice for those very sensitive folks, which seems to be the majority of my readers. Its bound here by the amino acid Glycine, which is often prescribed for anxiety, depression and insomnia. Glycine is also a natural occurring neurotransmitter, sending all kinds of signals to the brain. This is surely a superior form of Mag as it is well absorbed and well tolerated. Also a fave for Fibro patients.
- Magnesium Chloride- a magnesium salt, and also very well absorbed. The best option for those dealing with GERD or stomach issues in general since it increases stomach acid. This form can be taken in liquid form suspended in water (ionic), as well as topical. Great choice if you hate taking powders. Hit or miss when it comes to increasing bowel movements- could go either way, depending on how your body responds. In topical form it is super effective for muscle relaxation. *Take with food because of the chlorine bond.
So, what are my Go-To’s clinically?
Well, I’ll tell ya. Here are my top 2 (say goodbye to low quality powders):
- Liposomal Magnesium by Des Bio- liposomal delivery is really the way to go with supplements these days. Much research has been done on the superior absorption of this lipid-based delivery system. It involves whatever substance being suspended in tiny fat particles. Seriously, its 10 times more effective than powders, and just plain easier to take. This product contains Mag BiGlycinate, my first pick. Gentle and super effective. Does contain small amount of stevia- has slight citrusy flavor, very palatable.
- Ionic Mineral Magnesium- liquid form of Magnesium Chloride. Highly absorbable, don’t need to take much at all (tablespoon or two). Tolerated well by most. Best choice for those suffering form GERD or other stomach issues- which ends up being a lot of the people that reach out to me.
Now, if your goal is to just go poo, go with Mag Citrate or Oxide. Both are incredibly cheap, and a MUCH better choice than an over the counter laxative OR Senna (beware).
Recommended dose for woman is 320mg, for men 420mg. I have found that most of us can and should take almost double this amount. Experiment- if you start to get runny poo, then you know you’re taking too much and you should back down is dosage.
Best Tests for Magnesium Levels:
Serum Magnesium Test- Most common and sadly the most inaccurate. Only 2% is found in plasma (blood), so if those test shows you are deficient then well, you better run to the health food store.
Magnesium RBC Test- somewhat more accurate, measuring levels in red blood cells stored for the last 4 months.
Magneisum WBC Test- moving up in accuracy, this test measures intracellular mag levels. Shows current levels. Hard test to find available though.
Magnesium EXA Test- best test. Done by scraping cheek cells, also considered an intracellular mag test. With 90% accuracy of mag levels found in your cells, bones and muscles.
Stay Away form these Icky Forms of Magnesium:
- Mag Aspartate- aspartic acid becomes neurotoxic pretty quickly.
- Mag Pidolate- Neurotoxic due to excess glutamic acid. Especially if you have SIBO, stay away (altered glutamic acid pathways).
- Mag Yeast Chelate- made from brewers yeast, which so many people with gut issues are sensitive to.
- Mag Glycerophosphate- chelated with phosphate. We get plenty of phosphate in our diets. People with Kidney issues beware….you already have issues eliminating phosphates.
- Mag Lactate- extra lactic acid just not needed for anyone, at all, ever.
If you need are in Urgent Need of Raising Mag Levels:
Transdermal (topical), all the way. Oral route takes 4-8 months to raise plasma levels. Topical application can get things going in sometimes less than 2 months, and relief can be felt almost immediately. These products come in a gel like form and can easily be rubbed onto the skin. *Can do oral and transdermal supplementation simultaneously.
If you have Kidney Issues:
You do not excrete Magnesium like other people. Your Mag levels should be tested, especially if supplementing. Very important to rule out hypermagnesemia.
Essential and Just Essential
Don’t skip over the Mag. I’ve seen really odd health issues resolve just by a person addressing their Mag deficiency. At the very least, you’ll feel more relaxed. Your muscles won’t be so tight, your nerves won’t feel so on edge. Of course eat your leafy greens and don’t under-estimate getting this mineral in its most natural form. There’s always the good ol’ Epson Salt bath- Mag Sulphate, which can be a great choice for sore muscles and an exhausted body due to skin permeability (careful those sulfur sensitive).
Get your Mag on, my fierce Warriors.
Karen Mullins DOM