top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Mallory Murray, NMD

Types of Magnesium: Differences and When to Use Them

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is one of the essential minerals that our bodies need in order to function. It's a cofactor in over 300 biochemical reactions in our body, meaning without it the reaction can't properly occur. It's used in protein synthesis, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, and DNA and RNA synthesis. It also helps move potassium and calcium ions across cells membranes which is how nerve impulse regulation occurs along with strong muscle contractions and regular heart rhythms.

When magnesium is low, you are more likely to deal with certain health issues and diseases. Approximately 80% of people are magnesium deficient due to nutritionally deficient diets, digestive disorders that affect absorption, soil depletion, medication use, and so much more.

Read on to see if you may be suffering from symptoms caused by magnesium deficiency and what the different forms of magnesium are used for.

What are the symptoms of Magnesium deficiency?

Leg cramps

Magnesium plays a role in neuromuscular signaling and muscle contraction and can help relax muscles. Often times, leg cramping can be a sign of magnesium deficiency. If magnesium deficiency is the cause of the cramping, then correcting the deficiency will resolve the symptoms.

Menstrual cramps

Much like how deficiency in magnesium can cause leg cramps, it can also play a role in reducing menstrual cramps.

Magnesium has been shown to help reduce the severity of menstrual cramps and lower prostaglandins. To read more about what causes period cramps and what else you can do to treat them, read here. Begin supplementation with magnesium a few days before your period begins for the best effects.


Magnesium is an essential precursor for the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning its role is to promote relaxation in the brain. When you are magnesium deficient, it effects your brain's GABA levels, making it difficult for your brain to be calm and relaxed.

Magnesium supplementation can improve GABA levels and has been shown to improve sleep in a number of ways including how easy it is to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake feeling refreshed.


Magnesium is vital for calming the nervous system. As magnesium deficiency inhibits the neurotransmitter GABA, it can cause restlessness, anxiety, nervousness and irritability. Daily magnesium supplementation can improve overall mood, calm the mind, and reduce anxiety.


Magnesium plays a role in conserving the electrical potential of neurons. When you are deficient in magnesium, neurological complications like migraines can occur.

Supplementation with 300-600mg of magnesium daily can help prevent migraines from occurring. Supplementing with magnesium at the onset of migraine symptoms can prevent the migraine from worsening.

High Blood Pressure

Magnesium works in unison with calcium to protect your blood vessels and support your heart for healthy blood pressure. It also helps relax smooth muscles, which can lower blood pressure.

This study has shown that supplementation with magnesium rich foods can decrease your risk of a stroke by 8%. Keep in mind that hypertension is the cause of about 50% of strokes.

Supplementing with magnesium can decrease your systolic and diastolic blood pressure and can in turn reduce your risk of a stroke.


Approximately half of the magnesium in your body is found in your bones. People with lower magnesium levels have been found to lower bone mineral density and in turn are at a higher risk for fractures.

Therefore, those with higher levels of magnesium have less bone loss and are at less of a risk for fractures.

What are the Different forms of Magnesium?

There are 6 main forms of magnesium that you will see most often and they are:

  • Magnesium citrate: This form pulls water into the bowel, giving it a laxative effect. It is commonly given for constiptation. This form is not recommended for people that suffer from diarrhea or loose stools.

  • Magnesium malate: This form is readily absorbed and supports energy production. Because of this it is good for fatigue and chronic pain. It's best to avoid taking this form before bed.

  • Magnesium orotate: This form is found most often in electrolyte mixes and athletic shakes. It's good for restoring sugar and energy levels.

  • Magnesium glycinate: This is the most bioavailable form, meaning it is the most easily absorbed and utilized by the body. It doesn't have the GI symptoms that other magnesium forms have like loose stool. It is good for impoved sleep, anxiety, and PMS symptoms.

  • Magnesium chloride: This form is most often found in topical magnesium products. It's often used for it's calming effect to reduce anxiety and improve sleep, and it's also good for soothing muscle pains or cramps.

  • Magnesium sulfate: This form has a laxative effect, commonly found in Epsom salts for bath soaks.

  • Magnesium L-threonate: This form can cross the blood-brain barrier and is thought to be most beneficial for it's cognitive effects. Commonly taken for memory improvement.

  • Magnesium taurinate: Good for regulating calcium absorption and supporting the cardiovascular system.

What are some food sources of magnesium?

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach

Fortified foods like cereal and bread

Pumpkin seeds

Chia seeds



Bone broth



Black beans



Magnesium is essential for optimal health. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you may be deficient in Magnesium and would like to begin supplementation.


Bilbey DL, Prabhakaran VM. Muscle cramps and magnesium deficiency: case reports. Can Fam Physician. 1996 Jul

Parazzini F, Di Martino M, Pellegrino P. Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnes Res. 2017 Feb

Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec

Sartori SB, Whittle N, Hetzenauer A, Singewald N. Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jan;62(1):304-12. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.07.027. Epub 2011 Aug 4.

Dolati S, Rikhtegar R, Mehdizadeh A, Yousefi M. The Role of Magnesium in Pathophysiology and Migraine Treatment. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2020 Aug

Larsson SC, Orsini N, Wolk A. Dietary magnesium intake and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb

Rondanelli M, Faliva MA, Tartara A, Gasparri C, Perna S, Infantino V, Riva A, Petrangolini G, Peroni G. An update on magnesium and bone health. Biometals. 2021 Aug


bottom of page