Which type of magnesium is right for you?

Recently, I did a webinar with Steven Wright, a gut health expert who has helped millions heal their gut.

We spoke a lot about one of my favorite supplements right now, magnesium. 

You may have heard of magnesium over the past few years– or used it yourself for calming purposes or as a natural laxative.

It’s an incredible tool. Magnesium helps with more brain volume, less mental fatigue, less bodily exhaustion and muscle exhaustion, hundreds of metabolic reactions, blood pressure regulation, stress regulation, mental illnesses like generalized anxiety and depression, sleep quality, activation of vitamin D, digestion, constipation, and more. 

If you aren’t getting enough magnesium, it can lead to heart disease, migraines, diabetes, and osteoporosis, amongst other conditions. 

Getting enough magnesium is crucial for a healthy, functioning body. But almost 50% of the US population consumes less magnesium than recommended.

You can get magnesium from leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but most of us don’t get enough simply from our diet. We used to get magnesium through the levels present in soil, but most soil is now depleted– so in short, it’s hard to acquire enough without taking a supplement. 

Luckily, there are lots of great magnesium supplements out there. However, magnesium needs to be bound to something else for it to be stabilized, manufactured, and used by the body. There is no such thing as a pure magnesium supplement! 

There are many different supplements options depending on what the magnesium is bound to. The different types can feel confusing at first– but we’ve put together a comprehensive list of different types of magnesium to help you choose the best supplement for you. 

Magnesium Citrate 

Magnesium + citric acid 

Characteristics: a tart, citrusy flavor

Absorption: absorbs easily in the digestive tract

Uses: a natural laxative, sometimes marketed as a calming agent 

Steven’s notes: While this type of magnesium is often marketed for calming effects, there are other types that are better. This type can be good for constipation and more gentle than magnesium oxide, but can still cause urgency and diarrhea if the dose is too high for your body. Steven recommends magnesium glycinate as a better alternative all around. 

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium + oxygen

Characteristics: white powder sold as a powder or capsule 

Absorption: absorbs poorly in the digestive tract 

Uses: relieves digestive symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, and constipation, intense natural laxative, potential migraine fix

Steven’s notes: This is the oldest and cheapest form of magnesium– and the best for inducing diarrhea. Because oxide irritates the gut and draws a lot of water into it, this magnesium can be extremely intense, and Steven recommends other, safer forms.

Magnesium Chloride 

Magnesium + chloride, forming a salt

Characteristics: mainly lotions and ointments for sore muscles, can be found as capsules but not common

Absorption: absorbs easily in the digestive tract

Steven’s notes: This is a great topical option for magnesium, and many people do notice a difference when using it for soreness. However, using just magnesium chloride won’t be enough to raise your magnesium levels if that’s what you’re looking to do.

Magnesium malate

Magnesium + malic acid

Characteristics: sour taste, sometimes added to food for acidity 

Absorption: absorbs easily in the digestive tract

Steven’s notes: This magnesium is gentler on your system with less of a laxative effect. Some people report it being energizing and uplifting. 

Magnesium L-threonate 

Magnesium + threonic acid 

Absorption: easily absorbed in the digestive tract, could also be the best option for absorption into brain cells

Our notes: This magnesium can be used for potential brain benefits and could help with depression, memory loss, and Alzheimers. It may also help reduce neuro-inflammation.

Steven’s notes: This type of magnesium can supposedly cross the blood brain barrier– however, for other types of magnesium, there isn’t evidence that they don’t, it just hasn’t been studied yet. Most people go back and forth on this type of magnesium and find it either uplifting or calming, depending on the person.

Magnesium sulfate 

Magnesium + sulfur + oxygen (commonly known as epson salt)

Characteristics: salts for bathwater, capsules

Our notes: This can be used as constipation relief, but other forms may be better as it’s likely to cause diarrhea. It can also be used to prevent seizures in women with preeclampsia, a condition in which blood pressure becomes higher during pregnancy. Dissolved in bathwater, it’s great for stress and sore muscles, though isn’t absorbed well by the skin to raise magnesium levels. 

Magnesium glycinate 

Magnesium + animo acid glycine

Absorption: easily absorbed in the digestive tract

Characteristics: capsules, powder

Or notes: Glycine is used for protein construction and is found in foods like fish, meat, dairy, and legumes. This type is used for its calming properties and anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia. It’s effective for bringing up your magnesium levels and well-tolerated by the body. One study shows that doses of magnesium glycinate ranging from 100 to 300 mg given daily multiple times per day may rapidly improve symptoms of depression.

Steven’s notes: This is Steven’s favorite type of magnesium supplement. There are two types: magnesium glycinate and magnesium bisglycinate (2 glycines as opposed to 1). Bisglycinate is great for those with sensitive stomachs who don’t want urgency or a laxative effect as it doesn’t pull water into the intestines. It’s also great for stress, anxiety, and sleep. It’s a well-rounded version of a magnesium supplement overall. Steven recommends 3 grams a day (of the magnesium glycinate or bisglycinate formula) for sleep improvement or 1 gram a day for general support and stress reduction.

A shoutout to Stephen for this great information about different types of magnesium– and there are even more wonderful nuggets in the webinar.

Keep in mind that you should consult your doctor before starting any supplements, and getting tested for your vitamin and mineral levels with your doctor or a naturopathic doctor is often a great idea. If you don’t have low magnesium levels and aren’t looking to use magnesium for stress relief or digestive assistance, there isn’t evidence that a supplement is necessary- and excess magnesium will be filtered out by the body. 

According to the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, the average recommended daily amount of pure magnesium for adults ranges is around 320mg for females and 420mg for males. You may want to work with your doctor or naturopath to find a dosage that works for you.

If you’re looking to hear more about Steven’s wealth of experience with magnesium, listen in to a recording of our webinar here

We discussed:

  • How magnesium can support modern healing (especially for mood and gut health!) 
  • Benefits of different formats and which is my favorite  
  • Top warning signs of low magnesium

About Steven:

Steven Wright is a health engineer and author. After overcoming IBS, Acne, Asthma and other health issues he started SCDlifestyle.com in 2009 with Jordan Reasoner to help others naturally heal their digestive problems. Together they’ve also created the Pracitionerliberationproject.com a brand dedicated to showing others how to create sustainable and profitable health companies. He’s a metro-hippie living in the backcountry of Boulder, CO. 

As a guest at SIBO SOS®, Steven is always full of practical, useful, action-oriented advice and has been a pioneer in gut health education! His personal digestive health issues, IBS diagnosis, and his background as an engineer give him a unique perspective and he has literally helped millions heal their gut.

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