Magnesium 101, everything you need to know!

Magnesium 101

Magnesium 101, everything you need to know!

What do pumpkin seeds, leafy greens and avocado have in common?


Magnesium is a powerful mineral responsible for over 300 different functions of the body. In fact, every organ in the body needs magnesium. It helps keep your blood pressure normal, your bones strong, your immune system in check, and your heart rhythm steady. It’s kind of a big deal, folks and a magnesium deficiency can wreak havoc on your body.

Are you getting enough?

The answer is likely a big fat no. Dietary surveys of Americans consistently show intakes of magnesium are lower than the DRI. Magnesium is prevalent in many foods, but due to soil depletion, herbicide use, and food processing (such as refining grains) we just don’t get as much as we need from our diet. There are also certain health conditions and medications that decrease absorption. People with Type 2 Diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases (IBS, gastritis, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc), and liver damage are at a higher risk for magnesium deficiency.

Other factors that can lead to magnesium deficiency include:

  • Drinking too much coffee, soda, or alcohol
  • Eating too much sodium (salt)
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Excessive sweating
  • Prolonged stress

Some studies suggest that over 90% of the population is deficient. Many experts believe that magnesium deficiency is the largest health concern facing our nation.

Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency are:

  • Muscle spasms and cramps
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Anxiety & depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormone problems
  • Sleep issues
  • Low energy
  • Bone loss

Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, nuts, legumes/beans, and green leafy vegetables.

What I recommend

Magnesium supplements are commonly combined with another molecule to stabilize the compound. Many of these molecules have biological effects that can help guide you in selecting the appropriate magnesium formulation for your needs. each one has a different absorption rate and varied bioavailability. Chelated minerals have been chemically combined with amino acids so the body can use them better.

The most common forms and their benefits are listed below:

Magnesium citrate: In this form, magnesium is combined with citrate. I recommend this form of magnesium for constipation because it helps relax bowel spasms and is an osmotic laxative. Take up to 200-600 mg twice daily until you achieve loose stools, then dial back to the lowest dose that allows for normal bowel movements.

Magnesium glycinate: Glycinate is the most bioavailable and absorbable form of magnesium, and the least likely to induce loose stools. It’s the best option for correcting a deficiency and to drive up stores. It’s also the form that relaxes muscles and has a calming response. Take daily before bed to induce sleep and to relieve restless leg syndrome. You can also take 600-1200 mg daily to relieve migraines and muscular tension, especially for women who get headaches around their periods.

Magnesium malate: Malate is best known for pain relief and energy due to its effect on ATP production. There’s also evidence that it may reduce muscle pain and tender points in those with fibromyalgia. Take 200-600 mg per day.

Magnesium Oxide: Magnesium Oxide is bonded to oxygen, which has little effect on the body. Magnesium oxide is considered the least absorbed form, but has one of the highest percentages of elemental magnesium per dose, so it actually may be the highest absorbed per milligram. Oxide is a great general purpose choice if magnesium itself is all you need. It can serve as a simple muscle relaxer, nerve tonic and laxative if you take a high dose.


There is potential for some medications to cause interactions with magnesium, so you should take dietary supplements under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare provider. Because magnesium helps to lower blood pressure, talk to your doctor about supplementing magnesium if you’re on blood pressure medication or have kidney disease.


Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in this post for Designs for Health professional grade supplements. All of these are products are ones I use myself and with my clients, and I highly recommend.  

6 replies
  1. Whitney
    Whitney says:

    I have magnesium and in the ingredients it says magnesium oxide and magnesium stearate. Are both of these different than the types you mention?

  2. Danielle Omar
    Danielle Omar says:

    Hi Whitney, mag oxide is actually the least bioavailable and gut absorption is thought to be very low. You’ll often find Mag oxide in less expensive lower quality supplements because it’s cheap!

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