Best Magnesium Supplements
Up to 75% of people in the United States don’t consume an adequate amount of magnesium from their diet, so if you’ve thought about magnesium supplements before, you’re not alone. Before we get into the use of supplements, let’s talk about why we need magnesium.
How does it in the body?
Like many nutrients, magnesium plays a role in hundreds of small-scale actions within the body. It’s used in the production of proteins, including those involved in DNA synthesis, and it improves nerve function. It also is necessary for muscle contraction, in everything from daily actions to intense workouts to your heartbeat. Some other processes that require magnesium are the metabolism of food and the production of energy. Magnesium helps other minerals to cross cell membranes so that they can be in the right place for their important roles in the body, too.
What conditions does magnesium treat?
Since magnesium plays such an important role in the function of the heart, taking it as a supplement can help to treat some cardiovascular problems. For example, people with hypertension may find that magnesium supplementation is a useful part of treatment, as it can lower their blood pressure. Magnesium is sometimes used in treatment of patients with congestive heart failure or those who have suffered a heart attack; the risk of abnormal heartbeat and other complications after these events is lower when magnesium is part of the treatment.
The effectiveness of magnesium as a treatment for headaches, particularly migraines, is currently being studied. Although everyone experiences migraines differently, it seems that some migraines are relieved by taking high doses of magnesium. Ongoing studies also indicate that magnesium may be a useful treatment for the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, although this is a relatively new idea and further research is still needed.
What conditions does magnesium prevent?
Magnesium helps to keep many types of tissue in the body healthy and functioning, so some conditions that are caused by the deterioration of tissue can be prevented with sufficient magnesium. Because of magnesium’s role in healthy bone formation and function, it can lower the risk of osteoporosis, especially for high-risk groups like post-menopausal women.
It likely prevents this condition in more ways than one, since it aids in the transport of other minerals that are also associated with healthy bones. The reasons for this are not yet fully understood, but high magnesium intake seems to prevent the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. People with high-magnesium diets have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and a statistically significant portion of people with type 2 diabetes have low magnesium levels. One theory is that this is because of the role magnesium plays in insulin metabolism and the regulation of glucose.
Magnesium supplements are available in many different forms. Once you understand what the most popular types are and when they are useful, you can refer to our top ten list above to pick the best product for you.
- Magnesium citrate - This is one of the most common and easy-to-find types of magnesium supplement, possibly because it is believed to be the most easily absorbed. It is typically taken as a capsule to treat low magnesium levels.
- Magnesium oxide - Available in a capsule, as a loose powder, or in liquid products, this type of magnesium is most often used to treat constipation.
- Magnesium chloride - This form is easily absorbed when consumed as a tablet or capsule, making it useful for treatment of many issues. It can also be found in muscle-soothing topical creams.
- Magnesium lactate - Although it’s more often found as a food additive than its supplement, this form of magnesium is less likely to cause digestive side effects than other forms, making it ideal for someone who needs large doses or long-term treatment.
- Magnesium sulfate - Often called “Epsom salt”, this is used topically more than orally. It is effective in treating issues like constipation when consumed orally, but most people find the taste unpleasant. Many choose to use it as a bath salt or in skin care products to relieve sore muscles.
Food Sources of Magnesium
Magnesium is found, both naturally and as an additive, in plant foods, animal foods, and beverages. Some high-magnesium foods include:
- Leafy greens - Vegetables like spinach and chard are naturally very high in magnesium.
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes - Almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and Brazil nuts are just a few of the nuts, seeds, and legumes that make a magnesium-rich snack.
- Whole grains - Grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat products (like pasta) are much higher in magnesium than their refined counterparts.
Hundreds of cellular processes rely on magnesium for facilitation, regulation, and transport of other substances. When you consume the correct amount of magnesium, these processes are more efficient, and you can see many benefits as a result. Study results are mixed, but many believe that magnesium supplements improve athletic performance, and some athletes report better training results while taking magnesium. This makes sense, since magnesium is involved in proper muscle contraction, and the body uses more magnesium during exercise than it does at rest.
Some studies also support the idea that magnesium, which is involved in brain and nerve function, can improve mental health. Low magnesium is associated with worsened mood and increased risk of depression, while magnesium supplementation has been found to improve mood, in some cases as effectively as prescription antidepressants.
Side Effects of Magnesium
When taken in appropriate amounts, as directed by a doctor or within the recommended daily intake, magnesium is generally very safe. The primary side effects experienced by people who take magnesium appropriately are stomach upset and soft stools. However, magnesium is more likely to cause side effects when consumed in high doses. This might cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or muscle weakness. Very severe symptoms of a magnesium overdose could include abnormal electrical conduction in the heart, cardiac arrest, or respiratory distress.
If you experience mild to moderate side effects as a result of taking a magnesium supplement, you should consult with your doctor about whether the type or dose of your supplement should be changed. In the event of severe cardiovascular or respiratory side effects, seek immediate medical attention. The effects of magnesium overdose can often be treated or reversed if caught quickly.
Precautions and Warnings
Although magnesium supplements are safe for most people, you should avoid taking high doses unless specifically advised and supervised by a medical professional, to reduce the risk of side effects. Certain people should take extra caution with magnesium supplements, as well.
Low doses of magnesium, taken orally, are generally considered safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women, but other forms of supplementation could be dangerous. Injectable magnesium can cause defects in the infant if taken by a pregnant woman for more than a few days.
High doses of oral magnesium are also not recommended during pregnancy. People with bleeding disorders or kidney problems should take extra caution when considering magnesium supplements, as they may worsen or aggravate the problem. Magnesium supplementation could increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders, and it could cause a dangerous magnesium buildup in people with kidney problems.
Length of Magnesium Treatment
How long you should take a magnesium supplement will vary depending on the condition it is treating or preventing. If you are taking magnesium to treat constipation, for example, you will likely only need it for a day or two. When using it as a bath salt or skin scrub for muscle soreness, the treatment will be as needed, on days when your muscles ache. If, on the other hand, magnesium is part of your treatment for a chronic condition like diabetes, then it may need to be a very regular, long-term supplement. Regardless of the condition and the type of treatment you’re using, you should follow a doctor’s instructions. Your physician will be able to advise you on the length of treatment, as well as all the other details like the dose and the appropriate form of magnesium.
Some medications can interact with magnesium supplements, so you should be cautions when combining magnesium with anything else, especially if you are taking:
- Antibiotics - Magnesium can reduce the effectiveness of some types of antibiotics. Other types of antibiotics can cause muscle problems when taken with magnesium.
- Antacids - Antacids can reduce the effectiveness of magnesium, meaning the dosage or timing of your magnesium supplement should take the antacids into consideration.
- Hypertension medication - Since magnesium also lowers blood pressure, taking it in combination with hypertension medication may cause your blood pressure to drop too low.
- Diabetes medication - In some people, magnesium can cause low blood sugar when taken in combination with other diabetes treatments. Make sure that your doctor is always aware of your current medications and supplements, so that they can advise you on potentially dangerous drug combinations and interactions.
Magnesium affects many of the body’s systems and many cellular processes. This makes it useful as a treatment for a variety of conditions, but it also means that any part of the body could be negatively affected if the instructions for treatment are not followed. Consult your doctor about magnesium supplements to ensure that you are taking a safe type and amount of magnesium for your body and your current health conditions or other medications. Once you have guidelines for what is likely to be safe, you can refer to our list of the top products to find a high-quality brand that offers the treatment recommended by your physician.
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