Types of Magnesium: Which one is for you?

Increase magnesium levels by bathing in the ocean!

There are so many different types of magnesium on the market these days, but do you know if you should even be taking magnesium?!

For those, that don’t live near the ocean and can’t regularly absorb magnesium from ocean water, supplementing magnesium may be a good idea.

In this article we’ll review: what is magnesium, why you should be supplementing magnesium, and help you figure out which form of magnesium is best for you!

Magnesium is by far my favorite supplement, and the only one I have been taking in one form or another since the very beginning of our healing journey (2015). So let’s get to it!

Why are there Different Types of Magnesium?

Magnesium can be bound to different molecules, which affect its bio-availability, meaning how well our body can use it.

Because nothing is the body works alone, to determine which type of magnesium you should take, it is helpful to understand the roles of magnesium in the body.

Once we understand why we need magnesium, then we can move on to finding the best form of magnesium to supplement.

Why is Magnesium Important?

Magnesium is one of our body’s macro-minerals, meaning that we need a larger amount of it. It is considered the “relaxing” mineral, and serves several important functions.

Magnesium is a co-factor for over 300 enzymatic reactions (Schwalfenberg & Genuis, 2017)!!! Some of these enzyme are important for protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

As the relaxation mineral, magnesium relaxes skeletal muscles as well as the smooth muscles of blood vessels and the GI tracts. It’s important in preventing coronary artery spasm and is needed for DNA production and function.

From a quantum perspective, as an electrolyte magnesium modulates the electrical potential across cell membranes, which allows nutrients to pass back and forth. This is really important when we’re talking nutrition!

Different types of Magnesium (at my house)

Why You May Be Deficient in Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency has become extremely widespread. In large part, this is because of the shift to industrial mono-cultures and removal of grazing and foraging animals from the land. This has caused soil depletion of minerals which means reduced minerals in food.

Another lesser factor, is that magnesium is naturally present in spring water. Since many of us need to filter our drinking water from contaminants, often times the filters also remove minerals from the water.

Factors which affect magnesium absorption:

The ability to absorb magnesium depends on various factors and is often inhibited. It is one of the most common mineral deficiencies along with calcium, iodine, iron and zinc.

Some of these factors include stress, high blood sugar and elevated insulin levels, alcohol consumption and high calcium.

Finally, there can be an increased need for magnesium due to life stages such as infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy.

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

Some of the signs you may need magnesium include: increased anxiety or irritability, migraines, brain fog, irregular heart beat, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, chronic pain, or insomnia.

That said, we are not here to diagnose, and it is never just one thing. The body works as a system all together. So keep reading, and notice is any of these descriptions intuitively resonate with you.

Different Kinds of Magnesium

There are so many different kinds of magnesium that it can be hard to sort through the options.

The first three forms of magnesium on this list are easily accessible for general use, but please consult with your medical professional before beginning a new supplement regimen.

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnsium Glycinate is magnesium that is bound with the amino acid glycine. It has been shown to have good absorption rate both because of the stability of being bound to glycine and also because it’s absorbed in a different area of your intestine, compared with other forms of magnesium.

Glycine can be helpful with sleep, anxiety and inflammation. Therefore, magnesium glycinate is often recommended as a sleep aid.

Magnesium Bisglycinate is bound with 2 molecules of glycine instead of one, which can further increase its stability.

This is probably the most recommended form of magnesium and for good reason: it can be helpful for sleep and relaxation, but is safe to take any time of the day.

Here’s a brand of Magnesium Glycinate I like. *Clients, please message me for a discount link.*

Magnesium Sulfate

Magnesium sulfate is created by combining magnesium with sulfur and oxygen- also known as: Epsom Salts!

These are typically used for sore muscles in bathwater, or in GAPS detox baths. Epsom salt baths may not raise your body’s magnesium stores, although they do have benefit for soothing and relaxing, which is so, so important.

This version also supplies sulfur, which can be beneficial for the liver’s detoxification pathways. So if you are working on detoxification via diet, this can be very supportive!

You can buy epsom salt at most pharmacies and grocery stores, just choose the plain/unscented version!

Buy: Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt, 365 Epsom Salt

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride flakes, can be a better option for trans-dermal (through the skin) magnesium absorption. I find that this form of magnesium, when applied transdermally, does a better job repleting magnesium than magnesium sulfate (epsom salts).

My favorite Magnesium Chloride Flake brands: Ancient Minerals.

Magnesium chloride spray or lotion is another trans-dermal delivery method. I find the spray version is itchy when you are low on magnesium, so lotion is a good go-between. If you do use the spray, I suggest spraying, just one spray on the bottom of your feet when you go to bed. From there you can increase sprays.

Magnesium lotion can be a very gentle and supportive option, without the need for a full bath. I also love this for pregnancy and children, as your body will only absorb as much as it needs through the skin.

Ancient Minerals Magnesium Spray, has had a place on my nightstand for many, many years!

Note that Magnesium chloride is not a great form for using orally in a supplement.

Magnesium Bicarbonate

Magnesium Bicarbonate is the bicarbonate salt form of magnesium, in which magnesium hydroxide is reacted with carbonic acid.

At home, this can be made by reacting magnesium hydroxide powder with carbonated water (the carbonation in sparkling water is made by infusing carbon dioxide, and this process produces carbonic acid.)

Since this bicarbonate form of mag is water soluble, it’s a very bio-available form of magnesium. If you decide to take magnesium bicarbonate, just take it in very small amounts between (and not with) meals.

Personally, I have found that this magnesium is helpful with electrical sensitivity. If you have some research on the matter, let me know! As always, start low and slow, as too much may have a laxative effect.

To make magnesium bicarbonate buy: Crucial Four Magnesium Hydroxide Powder and carbonated water (seltzer).

Magnesium Malate

Magnesium malate is a chelated formula of magnesium and malic acid. This improves absorption and also makes it a good choice for the liver and gallbladder, due to the malic acid it is reacted with.

This kind of magnesium can be energizing, so take it in the morning. It can be very supportive for those with muscle tension or chronic pain.

Magnesium Taurate

Magnesium taurate is a form of magnesium that has been bound and reacted with the amino acid, Taurine. This amino acid is beneficial for cardiac health and blood sugar regulation, and research indicates this form can be particularly helpful for these two areas.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium, reacted with citric acid. Most citric acid in supplements is derived from aspergillus (mold) which can be problematic.

It is most commonly used as a laxative before a colonoscopy or major surgery. It can be helpful for short term use as a laxative, but is not a great option for long term use.

Magnesium L-Threonate

Magnesium L-Threonate is magnesium that has been reacted with threonic acid, a substance that is derived from the metabolic breakdown of vitamin C.

This magnesium is sometimes used for those who have a specific need to improve cognitive and neurological health, or brain fog.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide has the highest amount of elemental magnesium per weight, and consists of magnesium bonded with an oxalate anion.

Studies have found that magnesium oxide is essentially insoluble in water, making absorption rates extremely low. Due to the oxalate anion it’s bound with, those who struggle with oxalates can struggle to tolerate this form.

This type of mag can work as a laxative for occasional constipation, but not great for improving your overall magnesium levels.

Which is the Best Form of Magnesium to Take?

After all that, you can see that there’s no clear answer to the best magnesium out there. It is prudent to speak with your personal practitioner that knows you health challenges and goals to decide on the best magnesium supplement for you.

Supplement Forms of Magnesium

Supplement forms of magnesium that are usually well tolerated include magnesium glycinate, magnesium bisgylcinate, magnesium taurate and magnesium malate. That said, please don’t go out and buy a million forms of magnesium supplements!

As with all minerals, the goal is to achieve balance in the body. Magnesium needs to balance with calcium and other mineral to function optimally.

An Important Note on Magnesium and Anxiety or Jittery-ness

If you incorporate magnesium and find that you have more anxiety, loose stools, dizziness, cardiac rhythm issues, you need to work on sodium and potassium before incorporating magnesium.

One way to do this is by incorporating an adrenal cocktail into your routine, once or twice a day.

This is why it can be important to work with a practitioner in balancing mineral levels!

Which Foods Contain Magnesium

Many foods contain small amounts of magnesium. A few foods that contain relatively higher amounts include:

  • Cashews
  • Molasses
  • Brazil nuts
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Kelp
  • Brown rice
  • Almonds

That said, I wouldn’t go crazy with any of these foods to try to raise your magnesium levels! Focusing on a well rounded nutrient dense diet and reducing stress levels will be most helpful.

Magnesium for ADHD and Autism

One of the ways in which mineral deficiencies impact our bodies is through affecting brain chemistry. One study reported deficiencies of magnesium, zinc, copper and calcium in children that were diagnosed with ADHD (Kozielec & Starobrat-Hermelin, 1997)

Using hair tissue mineral analysis and red blood cell magnesium tests, they found that 95% (!) had a magnesium deficiency. Supplementing the missing minerals improved the symptoms. However, when magnesium was left out of the supplementation regiment, symptoms actually worsened! The conclusion was the magnesium is essential in supporting ADHD (Starobrat-Hermelin & Kozielec, 1997).

Magnesium on the GAPS Diet

Once you really get into GAPS, you will be getting some magnesium from food sources. That said, our soil is very depleted at this point, so supplementing may be necessary.

At the very least, make sure you are taking regular detox baths as part of your GAPS protocol.

FAQ about Types of Magnesium

What type of magnesium is in Calm?

Calm is made of magnesium carbonate and citric acid. When you combine this powder in water is makes Magnesium Citrate. As noted above, this can be helpful as a laxative.

Can you take different types of magnesium together?

Yes. Often supplements will combine multiple forms of magnesium. You should consult a health care practitioner to figure out which magnesium will be best for you.

What is the best absorbed form of magnesium?

As detailed above, there are many forms of magnesium that are well absorbed. Some forms are better topically or through the skin (Sulfate, Chloride), and others are better internally (Malate, Taurate, Bicarbonate, etc).

Which form of magnesium is best for sleep?

Generally speaking, magnesium glycinate may be a good choice before bed. Ask you health care provider.

What type of magnesium is best for muscle pain?

After a tough workout, I suggest an epsom salt bath (Magnesium Sulfate).

What is the best form of magnesium for anxiety?

Ask your practitioner! There are many forms that could work. Taking magnesium topically is best for those that have not consulted a health care provider, as your skin will only absorb what it needs.

Want some personalized advice about raising magnesium levels? Check out our 1:1 services here!


Kozielec, T., & Starobrat-Hermelin, B. (1997). Assessment of magnesium levels in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Magnesium research, 10(2), 143–148.

Schwalfenberg, G. K., & Genuis, S. J. (2017). The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica, 2017, 4179326. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4179326

Starobrat-Hermelin, B., & Kozielec, T. (1997). The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Positive response to magnesium oral loading test. Magnesium research, 10(2), 149–156.

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