Magnesium is an extremely important mineral that the human body needs to perform more than 300 biochemical reactions related to every aspect of health maintenance. Every major system and component of the body relies on the presence of magnesium to function properly including heart rhythm, bone density, and disease resistance.
There are different forms of magnesium, and absorption can vary depending on how you prepare the food as well the other ingredients present in what you’re eating. Things can really start to get complicated when you begin to learn about the intricate ways that magnesium is used by the body and the plethora of symptoms and conditions that arise from a magnesium deficiency.
If you just want to know which kind of supplement you should take based on your needs, you’ve come to the right page. With this quick guide, you’ll gain a better understanding of magnesium supplementation and how you can use it to improve your overall wellbeing:
The Importance of Magnesium in a Healthy Diet
The body uses magnesium to maintain and optimize processes that affect every aspect of your health and fitness. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot produce this mineral independently, so therefore we must consume and absorb a minimal amount on a regular basis in order to stay healthy.
Magnesium plays a key role in maintaining cardiovascular health by regulating blood glucose levels, pulse rate, and blood pressure. It also functions as a building block in DNA and protein synthesis, which means your body needs it to grow and heal. In many ways, humans are completely reliant on the ongoing consumption of magnesium to have healthy skeletal, nervous, immune, and cardiovascular systems.
Likewise, magnesium levels are also linked to cognitive function. In fact, studies have proven that consuming an optimal amount through both diet and supplementation can actually improve mental performance. Sadly, according to Science Daily, an estimated 50% of the U.S. population is currently deficient in magnesium.
What’s even more concerning is the fact that Vitamin D cannot be metabolized and activated in the body without magnesium, which means that roughly half the population is at risk of complications from both Vitamin D and magnesium deficiency. Some researchers have suggested that deficiencies may be contributing to the steady decline in average intelligence and IQ scores seen in many developed nations over the past few decades.
If you’re taking Vitamin D supplements, getting a healthy amount of direct contact from the sun, or consuming a diet that’s high in Vitamin D, you might think you’re on the right track in that regard. However, if you’re not getting enough magnesium, you could actually be doing yourself harm, as you could be increasing phosphate and calcium to unhealthy levels while still remaining Vitamin D deficient.
Why Should You Take Magnesium in Supplement Form?
Many doctors and nutrition experts recommend supplementing this vital mineral because it’s commonly used by the body and needs to be replenished, yet most foods only contain trace amounts of it. As such, the average person can typically benefit from magnesium supplementation.
If you’ve been eating a balanced and highly nutritious diet for a long time, you may not have a magnesium deficiency at all. However, most people who have only recently started to focus on their health haven’t been making an effort to consume foods that are rich in this often-overlooked mineral.
It’s also possible to limit your absorption of magnesium by eating certain foods. Bioavailability – the body’s ability to absorb the mineral in a usable form – is another factor to consider if you’re trying to determine which foods to eat. You could actually be getting more than enough magnesium in your diet, but the food sources that you’re getting it from aren’t making the mineral bioavailable.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) stated in their National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that the vast majority of Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium in their daily diets. This doesn’t mean that they’re “deficient” in the sense that their levels are dangerously low, but it means that their diet is in a state of magnesium inadequacy, which puts them at risk for becoming deficient if corrections aren’t made.
Taking magnesium as a supplement ensures that you don’t have to do any fancy meal-planning, calorie counting, or other nutritional calculations to meet a designated quota for your daily magnesium consumption.
How Can You Tell if You Are Magnesium Deficient?
Now that you know that approximately half of the population is legitimately deficient in magnesium and the vast majority are only getting minimal amounts, you might be wondering if you actually have something to worry about. You could be dealing with the consequences of magnesium deficiency if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Muscle problems – Cramps, spasms, weakness, or twitching can be caused by mineral deficiencies.
- High blood pressure – Sustained blood pressure problems can be caused by low magnesium levels.
- Fatigue – If you become exhausted easily and have trouble finding energy, it could be stemming from magnesium inadequacy in your diet.
- Stress & Anxiety – Increased incidences of worry, depression, panic, frustration and other negative emotions have been linked to lower levels of magnesium.
- Mental Clarity – If you find yourself feeling confused, overwhelmed, or forgetful, lack of magnesium could be the culprit.
- Cardiovascular Symptoms – Rapid heartbeats, palpitations, or arrhythmias could be telltale signs as well.
- Sleeping problems – Trouble falling asleep, tossing and turning, feeling tired after a full night’s sleep, insomnia, or other sleeping disorders are all linked to magnesium deficiency.
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) – Like other nervous conditions, RLS could be caused by long-term magnesium inadequacy in your diet.
- Digestive Issues – Low magnesium levels can increase the prevalence of constipation, indigestion, acid reflux and other digestive issues.
- Tingling or Numbness – Any condition related to the nervous system could be caused or worsened by a lack of magnesium and other vital minerals.
- Chronic Pain Conditions – Researchers have shown a connection between low magnesium levels and pain-causing diseases like osteoporosis and arthritis.
Of course, while the list above is already relatively extensive, there are hundreds of other problems that can be caused or exacerbated by inadequate consumption of magnesium.
So, What’s the Best Magnesium to Take?
Generally, supplements are the best form of magnesium to take because they’re specifically designed to aid absorption and activation in the body. However, there are seven main types of supplements to choose from:
- Magnesium Citrate – This form is known to be beneficial for people who are having problems sleeping or those with inflammation or digestive issues. It’s often prescribed in a more concentrated beverage form as a remedy for constipation as well.
- Magnesium Taurinate – This is one of the best absorbed magnesium forms and is important for regulating calcium absorption and supporting the cardiovascular system.
- Magnesium Malate – Also known as malic acid, this form of magnesium is effective for chronic pain relief and improving energy levels.
- Magnesium L-Threonate – This is the most bioavailable magnesium for cognitive benefits because it can pass through the blood-brain barrier.
- Magnesium Glycinate – This is the most bioavailable magnesium form, which simply means that it’s the most absorbable magnesium you can find in a supplement.
- Magnesium Orotate – This form is recommended for restoring sugar and energy levels after depletion and is therefore a common component in athletic shakes and supplements.
- Magnesium Chloride – This is a less commonly used form that is usually found in topical creams instead of supplements.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the various kinds of magnesium that are available in supplement form, how do you know which one is right for your dietary circumstances or condition?
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In the following sections, we’ll provide brief but informative recommendations for some of the more common conditions that magnesium is used to treat or improve:
What’s the Best Magnesium Supplement for Sleep?
Magnesium glycate is the winner in this department, as it contains glycine that can help you wind down and fall asleep when taken one hour before bedtime. Studies show that people who start taking this in supplement form often fall asleep faster, stay asleep without interruptions for much longer, and wake up feeling more energized. It’s also worth noting that there usually aren’t any significant side effects with this form of magnesium because it’s gentle on the stomach.
What’s the Best Form of Magnesium for Muscle Cramps?
Magnesium citrate is the most recommended form of magnesium for athletes and is by far the best kind to take when you’re dealing with cramps, spasms, weakness, or any other muscular problems. In fact, a randomized study found that only 300mg can significantly reduce cramping within one hour of absorption.
What Type of Magnesium for Muscle Pain?
Magnesium malate is the best kind of supplement to take if you’re experiencing chronic muscle pain. Studies have shown that this form can even help to decrease pain in individuals who are dealing with fibromyalgia.
What’s the Best Magnesium Supplement for Anxiety?
Magnesium threonate is usually recommended for people who are suffering from anxiety and stress related problems. As mentioned, this form of magnesium passes the blood-brain barrier and is therefore the best for treating any kind of cognitive condition. However, magnesium glycinate may also be of assistance in this area.
How to Avoid and Correct Magnesium Deficiencies
First, beyond taking a well-rounded magnesium supplement, you’ll obviously want to increase the amount of magnesium-rich foods in your diet. Some foods to keep in mind include beans, dark green vegetables, seafood, seeds, nuts, and even chocolate. Second, you’ll want to avoid alcohol and caffeine, as both of these substances can interfere with magnesium absorption. Finally, try to stick to a sustainable exercise regimen, as it will improve your digestion and sleep patterns in general.
Additional Tips for Boosting Your Magnesium Levels
Once you’re back on the right track with your diet and supplement regimen, here are a few more tips you can use to increase your magnesium levels:
- Relax and reduce stress
- Limit your time in front of computer screens or TVs
- Stay away from processed sugars
- Get plenty of Vitamin D
If you take the four steps above, you should be able to optimize your absorption of whatever magnesium supplement you choose to take.