Various pills and supplements

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According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, most Americans are not getting the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals they need. Across a range of lifestyles and ethnicities, studies show that people often don’t consume enough of the foods that keep their body functioning properly.

Many doctors and nutritionists believe that a change in diet to incorporate healthier food groups can help with a lack of nutrients. However, that’s not always an option for people. As The Times Herald points out, a nutrient-rich diet isn’t accessible for people who live in food deserts or can’t afford better produce or food. Additionally, those with lifestyles and jobs that leave little time for cooking must survive on what is easy to get at the moment.

In order to supplement these vitamins and minerals, some people get by via taking supplements. Magnesium is a vital nutrient for the body, yet around 50% of the population doesn’t get enough, reports The Washington Post. Is it something that you need to add to your diet?

What is magnesium?

Fruits, vegetables, and nuts high in magnesium

Found in plants, seeds, grains, and seafood, magnesium is a mineral that helps the enzymes in our body build protein, strengthen bones, and regulate blood sugar and pressure (via Harvard School of Public Health). While around half of the magnesium within the body is in the bones, the rest is spread throughout the body in our tissues.

A common mineral that you need on a daily basis, magnesium assists with brain development, learning, and memory, blocking our nerve cells from being overworked. It works in tandem with calcium, says Healthline, relaxing the heart muscle cells when calcium activates contracting muscle fibers. Magnesium actually relaxes other muscles other than the heart, reportedly making it a great treatment for muscle cramps.

Outside of aiding the muscles, it’s been found to help with insomnia, depression, and migraines. Magnesium notably decreases blood pressure and helps blood sugar control in individuals with type 2 diabetes, lowering the risk of heart disease.

From dark, leafy greens to fish, magnesium is found in a wealth of foods. Per WebMD, the mineral is prominent in salmon, pollock, spinach, okra, broccoli, bananas, and swiss chard. Legumes and whole grains also have high amounts of the mineral, with quinoa, brown rice, black-eyed peas, edamame, chickpeas, almonds, cashews, cooked tempeh, and pumpkin, flax, and chia seeds being excellent magnesium-rich options.

Who should be taking magnesium?

Older woman taking supplement

Before you determine whether or not you need to include magnesium supplements in your daily or weekly intake, it’s important to recognize the signs of magnesium deficiency. Low magnesium, also known as hypomagnesemia, can result in weakness, muscle twitching, heart palpitations, numbness, seizures, confusion, and mood changes (via GoodRx Health).

Other than not eating enough magnesium-rich foods, it can be caused by your digestive system not absorbing magnesium well, a symptom of IBS and celiac disease. Certain medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and chemotherapy can lead to magnesium being lost through the urinary tract. Both Healthline and Beyond Celiac agree that magnesium supplements are helpful to people with IBS or celiac disease.

As Houston Methodist states, if you experience the symptoms of magnesium deficiency without any of the conditions or diseases listed above, you can probably make up for it via diet. However, if your body naturally has issues with magnesium, taking magnesium supplements may be a possibility that you can bring up with your doctor.

Possible risks and side effects of taking magnesium

Tired-looking woman with hand on forehead

If your body doesn’t have trouble absorbing magnesium, increasing your consumption of foods rich with the mineral will be your best path to solving a magnesium deficiency. For people who lack it, assessing the risks and side effects that may come with taking magnesium supplements is vital before consuming them.

There are a number of medications that don’t always react well with magnesium, which Mount Sinai points out. Certain blood pressure, diabetes, antibiotics, and HRT medications may not work as well when taken in conjunction with magnesium. It can also increase the side effects of the medications you take.

As for the side effects of magnesium itself, diarrhea is a major one, as it is often used for constipation. If too much is taken, it can result in dehydration, weight loss, nausea, and electrolyte imbalance (via Verywell Health). Magnesium is also processed from the blood via the kidneys, so those with kidney disease should abstain from the supplements unless instructed to take them by a doctor.

Too much magnesium may also bring on the risk of magnesium toxicity, reports Insider. This happens when the amount of magnesium in your blood is up to 1.74 to 2.61 millimoles per liter, potentially causing confusion, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and in serious cases, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and cardiac arrest.

Types of magnesium supplements and dosage

Hand holding various supplements

When it comes to all the kinds of magnesium supplements out there, Healthline explains that there are many types, with magnesium citrate, glycinate, oxide, taurate, and chloride being the most popular kinds.

Created in part with citric acid, magnesium citrate is one of the most popular forms of magnesium. It’s a laxative that medical professionals often use before procedures such as a colonoscopy. It’s useful for constipation, helping you go after 30 minutes of taking it (via WebMD). As a standard dosage for bowel movements, Healthline recommends taking 240mL of magnesium citrate a day.

For those who lack the mineral, magnesium glycinate is the best option. It’s made partially from glycine, an amino acid, and is ideal for a stomach that reacts easily, as it’s one of the most delicate forms of magnesium that doesn’t really have any side effects, per Medical News Today. According to the site, magnesium glycinate is the optimal magnesium for people with migraines, depression, high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes. As for the daily dosage, Mind Body Green suggests 350 mg for anyone over the age of 8.

Magnesium chloride is a multi-use magnesium supplement, used for a myriad of reasons. Besides helping those with low magnesium levels, it can also be used to decrease stomach acid in cases of heartburn, indigestion, and stomachaches (via WebMD). In order to lower the risk of an upset stomach or diarrhea, magnesium supplements are best taken with food.

The best magnesium supplements, based on your need

Supplements in different bowls

If you’re having trouble with constipation, try the Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Citrate. In this supplement, the mineral is combined with vitamins B6, C, and E, helping ease out any backups in the digestive tract. It also supports your overall metabolism, as well as improving heart health.

For better bones and an improved immune system, the Magwell Magnesium Zinc & Vitamin D3 supplement will keep you in optimal health. Created with a combination of magnesium citrate, glycinate, and malate, this supplement wards off magnesium deficiency while aiding your respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

The NutriCology Magnesium Chloride Liquid is the best supplement option for people who have trouble swallowing pills or prefer a liquified version of their vitamins and minerals. Absorbable and easy to consume, this supplement features magnesium chloride as the only form of the mineral. It can be taken up to two to three times daily and can be mixed into 8 ounces of whatever you’re drinking.

While magnesium is a vital mineral that may be lacking from your diet, it’s important to speak with a trusted healthcare professional before including any new supplement in your daily routine.