OK so I get asked ALL the time where to start with magnesium supplementation. There is no one single “best” option – it all comes down to the individual and the need they are trying to fill.
Firstly, I would suggest for the most sensitive individuals especially, starting with magnesium only on your skin is likely to minimise reactions and start your body adjusting to having some magnesium available.
Epsom Salts can be sprinkled into a bath or even a bucket with some warm water (for a foot soak) and are a great way to help in detoxing and short-term magnesium boost in the body. It DOES NOT help massively with replenishing deficiencies, as it is only in the body a short time. That is, it can help ease the excess lactic acid in sore muscles, facilitate reduction of inflammation due to exertion or injury, and generally helps muscles to be able to relax, but the magnesium won’t necessarily be available long enough to increase stores in red blood cells.
Magnesium Flakes/Magnesium Chloride/Magnesium Oil can be used in the bath as well, or in liquid. Magnesium chloride in water is what is sold as magnesium “oil”, or you can put it into alcohol and make a less tingly, quicker drying ‘alcohol rub’ – see recipe here. You can even use mag flakes/oil to create a magnesium cream!
This area is absolutely huge, and no two people who know anything about magnesium, probably agree…
I would recommend getting guidance before adding too much of ANY oral magnesium. Certain types WILL have a quicker laxative effect than others and all types can disrupt electrolyte balance.
The main types I have found best to focus on are…
- Ionic (liquid) – generally mag chloride
- Glycinate (tablet, capsule or powder)
- Malate (tablets or capsules)
- Bicarbonate (also known as ‘mag water’)
- “Magtein” – Magnesium threonate
Please see my note lower down about types I do NOT suggest.
The long version…
For those who like ‘the details’… this is for you. I will cover some background on each of the types I have used or researched to be suitable for most people, and you can make up your own decision from this and other reseach what will fit in best!
Ionic Magnesium (mag chloride) is added in with water or other food or drink to consume. It isn’t affected by heat and comes as a concentrate. I have found this to be a lifesaver for ease of use for ALL of the family and how effective it is.
When we started it, it was easy to introduce slowly (to adjust tastebuds to it and reducing toilet visits!) but also to be so gentle on the body.
The bottle may say to have 5ml/tsp daily, but, my experience in my family and with clients tells me it’s better to start with (say) 0.5ml once per day for adults, and build up. I found I started with a matter of drops for my kids, and increased from there.
My youngest was about 2 when we started – she had around 1-2 drops per day to start, then increased to about 5 drops morning and night in water. The older kids got more from the start and we have continued to increase their quantities ever since as they grow.
For Australian readers, Amenas Daily Boost is a very good product for the mag, potassium, some sodium plus trace elements like boron. Another great option with a similar composition is ‘Ancient Lakes Magnesium‘ which is available in Australia, USA and UK.
“Anderson’s” and “Aussie Minerals” are options for those in the US also.
I started out sourcing my ionic magnesium at my local Health Food Store – so don’t be afraid to ask them if they can order it in. They may not stock it, but may do if there is demand.
There are other liquid magnesium supplements similar to those mentioned above, but I am not necessarily personally familiar with them. My suggestion is to read labels, be aware that they aren’t always what they seem to be, and to discuss with your health care provider.
Magnesium Glycinate is often found in products as ‘magnesium chelate’ – worth checking the product you can access is not combined with less desirable types too.This is often used to help relax the body to encourage sleep.
My personal experience has been very positive for glycinate based chelates – it’s often very gentle-on-the-stomach types which is also well absorbed. There are a few variations in forms you can access.
- Doctors Best Magnesium from iherb is my family’s ‘go to’ tablet for this type of mag. It’s well tolerated and well priced.
- Natures Own magnesium chelate is an Australian product available at supermarkets or chemists.
- Jigsaw Health have a capsule option – “Magpure Glycinate” with no fillers or other components – great for those who are super-sensitive and may not tolerate products like Doctors Best
- Jigsaw Health also “MagNow” – a powdered mag glycinate that comes with potassium and sodium, and is palatable for kids or those who can’t take tablets/capsules
I found it best to start with only one tab/capsule each day… then to build up – take it slow (read below for how I increased!)
I first added one before bed – it encouraged deeper, restful sleep. Some time later, I added another in the morning. You may find that one morning and one at night works for you… or you may feel that you want to increase it some more beyond that.
If you find it negatively impacts your sleep, you could try one in the morning a day or so later. Most people will sleep better at night having had this type of magnesium… but some will be better on other types as it may not suit their bodies.
Magnesium Malate is another form which is readily available to most and is said to energise. I use it in the morning for this reason, though in my experience I find it helps to maintain energy throughout the day (I do use a ‘slow release technology’ option – “Jigsaw mag malate, with SRT b-free“). Others find ‘Source Naturals‘ as a suitable option – we didn’t find that fitted well with our family.
My family do really well having some malate in their routine – we started with glycinate morning and night, but seem to have further improved by introducing malate too having a mixture of types each day.
Magnesium bicarbonate, or mag water, is a liquid mag you can make yourself (see how here) or in some countries, you may source it within mineral waters. I find it refreshing to have in my drinking water throughout the day (about 1/4 of it, 3/4 filtered water).
I started out only adding a smaller amount to my drinking water, and increased as I got used to the flavour change and as my body started to crave more.
My youngest LOVES to “steal” my water too with this in.
“Magtein” – Magnesium threonate – said to be good for brain function over other types, but I’m not convinced it’s any better than the other types. It seems to be a lot of good marketing with some level of truth. It does help many with focus and concentration, but so do the other cheaper/easier to access types.
Magnesium orotate – I haven’t personally used it, but it’s a form many find helpful as an option.
Forms of magnesium I DO NOT recommend
Magnesium citrate is commonly found in laxative magnesium options and can really cause havoc on your ‘ceruloplasmin’ levels, as well as simply being an irritant. There are better ways to get laxative relief!!
Ceruloplasmin contains a critical antioxidant enzyme and we want more of it in our body to help us every day, not less. The following quote is a little insight into “why”…
You want to stay away from citrate. It has a very known impact in the body and in the mitochondria. It disrupts the functionality particularly of the liver’s ability to make ceruloplasmin. It’s not a well known reaction, but it is there.
You can watch a video which covers that, or read the associated transcript here.
Magnesium oxide isn’t very bioavailable in the forms it’s often presented in – you can mix it with water to make ‘milk of magnesia’ – it’s more available to your body then… but use caution here.
It’s a laxative – actually a great alternative to citrate, just be mindful that it’s still just a crux – not solving WHY constipation is there. That needs you to look at deeper mineral balancing aspects including potassium intake and much more.
But what do YOU supplement with Kristan?
My personal experience with introducing magnesium was back in about August 2013 and was taking a small amount of a basic magnesium supplement (to use up some I had purchased along the way to help with my aching neck!)… and then to add in just FOUR sprays of magnesium oil to my skin each day. I did that for one week, then upped it to SIX sprays per day.
Each night I would apply the sprays to the soles of my feet before bed. That’s it! I did have to deal with sheets which got the mag oil on it (later could be stopped by wearing socks, but I’ve never been a big sock-wearer at night)… but you know what, after 3 weeks, and only increasing to 8 sprays per night between my two feet… I had a baby who slept the whole night through, and I had never felt better sleep-wise!
NOTE: I had put *none* on her… it was all via me, and then her being a breastfed baby… nothing else was varying in our lives… we both ate the same food every… single… day… and if I stopped the magnesium, she would revert back.
I then gradually increased week by week with the spray, and from time to time I added some ‘Natures Own’ Magnesium capsules. One at a time, reducing the number of sprays of the mag oil I did each day for a while until I adjusted. I was very paranoid by this stage of not overdoing anything new (about 11 months of being on a very limited diet will teach you to be careful!)…
Within 6 months I was taking or applying more than 1000mg worth of elemental magnesium (ever heard the term “equivalent to xx mg elemental magnesium” ?), spread across three different forms of magnesium. I spread it through……
- Doctors Best Magnesium tablets (after I used up my Natures Own ones – cheaper from iherb and it has a combination of mag sources which I responded to extremely well)….
- Magnesium Oil (I ended up DIY my own with magnesium flakes + water)
- Amenas Daily Boost ionic Minerals
I have evolved that over time and now use:
- Jigsaw mag malate in the morning
- Doctors best mag (glycinate) at night
- Amenas Daily Boost morning and night
- Mag water throughout the day
- Mag cream or mag-a-hol on my skin each night before bed
Please DO NOT start doing that amount of magnesium quickly nor without getting guidance. This is MY story, and it may not be something that will work for you.
HOW MUCH do I need to take?
The Magnesium Advocacy Group I am a part of on Facebook has discussed this topic many times – the amount to take. The general guideline discussed is a maintenance level of magnesium which is about 10x your weight in kilograms, in the unit of milligrams (mg) – so a 50kg person would look at needing a maintenance dose of 500mg of elemental magnesium. I am a lot heavier than 50kg, but no where near 100kg… but I found that I hit ‘gut tolerance’ (laxative effect) from oral magnesium when I got around 1000mg elemental magnesium between the three types I use. So this level is helping me to improve my deficiency and to feel in the best health I can be.
If I used one more of one type than the others, I wouldn’t feel as good and balanced. No matter how many times I hoped I could do it in a simpler way. That’s just how my body worked best at that stage (early 2013)… I have adjusted it along the way in times of stress increase (more mag!) or when I’m relaxed (less mag).
I still do a combination of all three each and every day. Now I can get away with missing some here or there and I’m ok, but if I don’t get doses fairly regularly over a matter of days, I will start to notice a dramatic change.
There are national guidelines on Magnesium, and I encourage you to review them if you are cautious on this. It is a LOT lower than what I have talked about here… and interestingly, those national guidelines are a LOT lower than what they were in days gone by. Say the 60’s? Since when have our needs for magnesium reduced?
To me it seems like its been easier to drop the recommended amounts and the ‘normal’ ranges for testing to reflect on the results being seen, not the actual amounts that the body needs nor what has been previously set for good reason!
A little note on children…
My children all get varying amounts of the same three magnesium sources… but they also get the magnesium flakes and epsom salts added to their bath water every single time they have a bath. The change in them when we consistently use it is amazing and warrants its regular use!
For everything except their baths, I still broadly use the guide of 10 x their weight in kg… so a 30kg child will need about 300mg of magnesium each day to MAINTAIN their magnesium levels, not to fix deficiencies…
In my experience, it has been massively beneficial to give them magnesium, but start small too and go up in smaller amounts.
HTMA and full testing is highly recommended in my experience to make sure you give them co-factors of other things they may need beyond just magnesium.
Supporting your body when starting magnesium…
You cannot launch yourself into taking a huge dose of magnesium because you decide you are really deficient. It will only make you feel sick and/or end you up on the toilet.
You should ease into it steadily – increase each week as the body adjusts. If you take a lot suddenly, your body will potentially pump out a lot of electrolytes to offset the sudden increase, and you may end up feeling dehydrated, with a headache and feeling very much like the magnesium was causing a reaction. It kind of was. Start slow, and increase in small steps.
Also, supporting your adrenal system sufficiently and consuming enough electrolytes is critical. Electrolytes are the salts which make your cells work. They go in and out of your cells continuously and allow transfers of all the important components in and out… not enough electrolytes = headaches, sickness and feeling pretty yuck!
Have you always had it drummed into you that salt is bad? Salt as most people refer to it (sodium) as well as other types of salts are absolutely critical to our body being able to function from day to day. I challenge anyone who blindly believes that salt is the sole cause of high blood pressure – and encourage you to read up on mineral imbalances and how much things like magnesium will naturally help to reduce BP.
This video gives an amazing insight into how salts and electrolytes are important to the body.
I use the ‘Adrenal Cocktail‘ a lot… its been a big part of my journey looking into mineral balancing – finding that my adrenal system was nearly exhausted when I was first tested in early 2014… and on its way to better health in late 2014/early 2015! I don’t need quite the same support now as I did when I started, but its really just changed (regular testing is important!).
Where to go beyond magnesium?
There is so much more to regaining health and balance in your body beyond magnesium… mineral balance is a complex part of the human body – it underlies every single part of how your body ticks! It is also very individual… so while we all need lots more magnesium as a general rule, we do NOT all need the same thing with other minerals and vitamins.
I have an extremely good personal experience and seen a huge change in our family from using Morley from rcp123.org for our consults. He has taught me so much and unlocked a massive amount of how our WHOLE family ticks health wise, all the way through to my Mum and her Mum….
I learned so much with my own consult back in early 2014, that I have since encouraged dozens (hundreds?) of others to work with Morley, and have since gone on to do my own training and now work with Morley myself.
I also work with clients to educate and empower them, just as Morley did with me.
Mineral consults are more than just giving you a label of a certain diagnosis for Pyroluria or a syndrome or disease… it helps you understand your individual biochemistry and mineral “make-up”, what stress does in your body and helps you to see where you need particular support.
Please don’t hesitate to drop me a line here, I’m here to help!