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Magnesium Supplementation – It’s not all the same

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Magnesium is essential for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and plays an important role in the nervous system and brain!1 Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diet, and suboptimal magnesium levels increase with age.2,3

In fact- Around 48% of the US population does not meet the recommended intake levels of this important mineral (NHANES, 2013-2016).

Magnesium levels can be hard to detect through traditional labs – however many people with IBD exhibit physical signs of low magnesium like: headaches, muscle cramping, tightness in the jaw etc.

Magnesium plays an important role in muscle relaxation. This is why when it’s low we tend to see more of the above signs. Constipation can also occur in some with low magnesium since the gut is also a smooth muscle! However, low magnesium doesn’t always show up as constipation. It can also show up as cramping of the muscles within the gut.

Before supplementing, it’s important to know that there are many different types of magnesium and each absorb at different levels and can be used for different things.

Magnesium citrate

Many of the over-the-counter magnesium comes in the form of magnesium citrate. It’s a bit cheaper to produce products with this form of magnesium but it has poor absorption rates.

However, poor absorption rates come in handy when it comes to constipation. Instead of absorbing, it draws more water into the colon which can help with constipation. However, if you are not constipated, this is not the form we would recommend! Magnesium oxide also falls into this category.

  • Best used for: Constipation
  • Where to find it: Most over the counter options like Mag Calm are in the citrate form

Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate absorbs a bit better than other forms of magnesium. Magnesium is an amino acid chelate (bis-glycinate) – meaning magnesium is combined with glycine (an amino acid) to improve absorption and intestinal tolerance.

Magnesium glycinate is known for its high bioavailability, which means that the body can absorb and utilize it efficiently. This form of magnesium is less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects like diarrhea, which can occur with some other forms of magnesium supplements, such as magnesium oxide.

People often take magnesium glycinate supplements to support overall health and well-being, as well as to address specific health issues related to magnesium deficiency. Common reasons for supplementing with magnesium glycinate include managing muscle cramps, promoting relaxation and sleep, and supporting heart and bone health.

Magnesium theonate & blends

Magnesium L-threonate, commonly known as magnesium theonate, is a unique form of magnesium supplement that combines magnesium with the amino acid L-threonate. This particular form of magnesium is specifically designed to enhance magnesium’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which is a protective barrier that separates the bloodstream from the brain and can limit the entry of certain substances into the brain.

Theoretically, magnesium L-threonate may have an advantage over other magnesium supplements when it comes to cognitive and neurological benefits because it can more effectively deliver magnesium to the brain. As a result, some people take magnesium theonate for potential cognitive enhancement, improved memory, and support for neurological health

Supports healthy memory and cognitive function

In a randomized placebo-controlled trial in 44 adults aged 50-70, the group receiving a daily dose of 1.5 to 2 grams of magnesium L-threonate showed markedly improved cognitive and executive function in just 12 weeks.4

Magnesium L-Threonate

Adequate magnesium is essential for a good night’s sleep. Magnesium threonate may aid in regulating sleep patterns and promoting better sleep quality. A randomized controlled trial in Neuropharmacology reported that magnesium threonate supplementation improved sleep efficiency and sleep onset latency in older adults with insomnia.

  • Best used for: Migraines, headaches, muscle cramping, sleep, heart, bone health, cognition
  • Where to find it: GutLove MagNeuro

Putting it all together

Magnesium is a vital mineral with its own set of essential functions, and it serves as a cofactor in the conversion of vitamin D into its active form. So if you are consistently low in Vitamin D, this may be another nutrient to look into.

In cases of magnesium deficiency, the availability of vitamin D diminishes, potentially giving rise to mood disorders, cardiovascular problems, weakened immunity, and elevated C-reactive protein levels. Additionally, high doses of vitamin D can deplete the body’s magnesium reserves.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a great test for evaluating magnesium levels yet so we have to rely on physical signs of deficiency and make sure we are including magnesium-rich foods in the diet.

If you are finding that you are having frequent headaches, muscle cramping or restless leg – talk to your dietitian or other nutrition informed health care provider about if it could be right for you!


  1. Neuron. 2010;65(2):165-77.
  2. Nutr Rev. 2012;70(3):153-64.
  3. Magnes Res. 2009;22(4):235-46.
  4. J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;49(4):971-90.