Everyone has pretty much heard of magnesium nowadays. We know it’s important but what we may not be clear on is what KIND to take. There are different types and of course each brand says they offer the best, but what is actually IN your supplement?
First off magnesium is a mineral (the 4th most abundant element on earth!), it is involved in almost EVERY single process of the body and that is a LOT of processes. Since there are over 300 enzyme pathways that depend on magnesium to be able to function you may want to ensure you are getting enough. Everything from muscle relaxation (bye, bye leg cramps), to hormones (hormone processing to be exact). It’s water soluble which makes things a little easier from a utilization standpoint.
Where can you get it naturally (cause food first and all that). Well fun fact, magnesium is the center of the chlorophyll molecule – so dark green plant life is a solid choice. Another is spring water, likely a source we used to get it from back in the days before city water removed everything good and added a chemical shitstorm of fluoride and bleach (yes, I know it isn’t actually bleach – enter sarcasm folks).
So what’s with all the different types then? Well the magnesium part is actually the same, it’s the binding molecule that changes – think chloride, oxide, citrate, glycinate, sulphate and amino acid chelate. Here is where we get technical. The magnesium molecule itself is pretty small, it’s the binder that can be large – so when it’s bound to something larger you end up having to take larger amounts to get the right amount of the smaller magnesium molecule, nobody wants to take a jug full at one time, so smaller is better (like 1 – 2 capsules instead of tablespoons… you with me?)
something else to consider is that your kidneys are involved in helping to clear and regulate magnesium in the body. This means if you have any form of kidney disease you want to perhaps stick to glycinate versions as it is gentler. Dosing can be split into smaller doses throughout the day rather than higher doses once or twice.
Let’s look at absorption.
Magnesium itself is not absorbed well at all, 35-45% and that’s at best! Remember that calcium and magnesium compete for absorption os never take these together, and if they are combined in a supplement that is a good indicator that it’s crap. Diet is also important, too much or too little when it comes to protein as well as phytates from some vegetables can negatively affect absorption. Personally I prefer my magnesium transdermally, that means through the skin. It’s absorbed best this way as the digestive tract is not always the best at absorbing things especially if you have conditions such as IBS/IBD. Epsom salt baths (magnesium sulphate) and magnesium lotions, gels or oils (usually magnesium chloride) work well – although in Canada we don’t call it oil anymore. it’s now referred to as “liquid”.
Citrate is the best as far as oral absorption goes, but its a pretty big molecule so you have to take more as you get less of the magnesium in each dose. Oxide is the WORST when it comes to absorption but has the highest density of magnesium so you get more (in terms of weight that is).
Ok so now that we have the size component down, what about usability? YOu want to know if the molecule is something easily utilized by the body – which is where we get the breakdown of which kinds do what.
This is bound to oxygen, something the body definitely needs. It is also the not absorbed very well… but has a higher dose of magnesium in it so it’s not that bad. My suggestion is use it for a muscle relaxer or to calm nerves. If you need a laxative effect you want to mega dose this one.
This one is everywhere, it’s bonded to citric acid. I’m not a fan of this one at all. Unless you need a laxative effect then by all means go right ahead.
This one is my favourite, it’s bound to a larger molecule (glycine) so there is less magnesium by weight BUT glycine is a relaxing neurotransmitter so it will enhance the relaxation properties of the magnesium you are using.
This form is very similar to glycinate, it’s a larger molecule but is quite beneficial for those suffering health issues from illness such as fibromyalgia – however this is very individualized so pay attention to your body and how it reacts. It can be very calm and help melatonin do its job better, so adding this one at night is a great idea.
Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate
As far as the amino acid component, if you are lacking an amino make sure that is one of the ones it is bound to so you get better bang for your buck. Once again it’s a larger molecule so you get less of the magnesium itself but that’s ok cause you are getting amino’s your body needs. Still I prefer glycinate.
This one I save for cardiac patients, it’s not as common but if you have issues and need to relax the heart muscle this one is your best bet. You’re going to open up the blood vessels that feed the heart and deliver more blood to where it needs to go.
This is another one I really love, it’s a newer player to the game and works well for those with alzheimer’s. It crosses the blood brain barrier, which means for cognitive decline it will work fantastic. You need to ensure that you have a healthy gut for this one though, as it is not easily absorbed by the gut. Side note for those who have intestinal permeability it is said you may also have permeability of the brain (leaky brain) so it may work even better. The theory is there but the literature seems to be all over the map. Also known as L-Threonate.
Magnesium Sulphate and Magnesium Chloride
Both are best topically applied, I prefer chloride myself. Sulphate is more epsom salts for the bath and great for relaxation and lowering blood pressure where the chloride comes in liquid format to be applied topically for leg cramps and best overall absorption.
Last but not least… make your own – Magnesium Acetate!
This one was passed down from a herbalist friend and I really like it. It’s the most bioavailable form as far as absorbability (magnesium acetate). It converts to bicarbonate in the body.
1 part milk of magnesia (plain not the flavoured stuff)
4 parts ACV (apple cider vinegar)
Mix, shake well and then let sit for 5 min.
Take 1 tbsp twice daily (not at the same time your you may end up living on the toilet for a bit)