Despite how essential it is to consume enough magnesium on a regular basis, many adults are believed to be magnesium-deficient — up to 70 percent to 90 percent of the population, according to some findings. This means that the majority of people living in industrialized nations, even many who think they eat a mostly “balanced diet,” are missing out on the many benefits of magnesium. These include its ability to help manage pain, decrease digestive issues and support quality sleep. This is where a magnesium supplement such as magnesium glycinate comes in.
Given how common magnesium deficiency can be, many practitioners now recommend magnesium supplements to their patients, which fortunately are easy to find, inexpensive and available in a number of forms, including powders, salts, topical oils and capsules. One type of magnesium supplement that is often recommended by doctors due to its high absorption rate is magnesium glycinate — a form that has added benefits due to containing the amino acid glycine, which is known for having calming qualities.
What Is Magnesium Glycinate?
The National Institutes of Health’s definition of magnesium is “an abundant mineral in the body that is is naturally present in many foods, added to other food products and available as a dietary supplement, and present in some medicines (such as antacids and laxatives).”
Magnesium is both an essential mineral and electrolyte. It’s involved in the regulation of cellular stress and activity, which means people experiencing lots of stress may benefit from getting more.
Magnesium glycinate is one type of magnesium supplement that is available to increase levels in people who can use more magnesium, including those with anxiety, diabetes, heart issues and pain. It consists of the mineral magnesium bound to the amino acid glycine. It’s considered to be one of the most effective types of magnesium supplements due to its bioavailability — plus it’s also fast-acting, generally well-tolerated and unlikely to cause loose stools (diarrhea).
The absorption rate and bioavailability of magnesium supplements differ depending on the kind. Usually types that are chelated and those that dissolve in liquid are better absorbed in the gut than less soluble forms. Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form. This means it tends to be better utilized by the body than other forms that are excreted more easily.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s very important for many aspects of health, since it’s involved in hundreds of bodily functions, including:
- Blood pressure regulation
- Protein synthesis
- Energy production
- Blood sugar control
- Digestive processes like moving stools through the intestine
- Regulation of heartbeat rhythms
- Neurotransmitter functions, including those involved in sleep and mood stabilization
- Balance of nitric oxide in the body
- Growth and development in babies and children
- Functions of nerves, muscles and tissue
- Production of stomach acid
What are the benefits of taking magnesium glycinate?
As explained more below, some magnesium glycinate benefits include helping improve sleep, digestion, pain, your mood and more.
What is magnesium glycinate used to treat?
Some of the most common reasons that people use magnesium glycinate supplements are for treating migraine headaches, anxiety, insomnia and constipation.
1. Helps Reverse Magnesium Deficiency
Considering that magnesium glycinate is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium, it’s a smart way to reverse a deficiency in this mineral. Treating magnesium deficiency is critical because this mineral is connected to other essential nutrients within the body, including calcium, vitamin K and vitamin D.
Experts believe that one of the reasons magnesium supplements are so beneficial is because they help counterbalance high levels of calcium that can accumulate in the body when people take calcium supplements regularly. Similarly, taking vitamin D in high levels, or being deficient in vitamin K2, can lower magnesium stores in the body and contribute to a deficiency.
Being deficient in a combination of magnesium, calcium, vitamin K and vitamin D increases your risk for health problems like bone loss, heart problems, lowered immune function and more. Emerging research also shows that being low in magnesium may contribute to neurological problems, such as migraines, chronic pain, epilepsy, and possibly Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke.
2. Can Improve Sleep Quality
Magnesium seems to play a key role in the regulation of sleep. How can magnesium glycinate help you sleep? Studies have found that magnesium supplements can help promote muscle relaxation, decrease leg cramps and muscle spasms, reduce tension and anxiety, and fight pain — all of which can keep you up at night. Because it may help improve the quality and amount of sleep you get, magnesium glycinate may also help decrease daytime fatigue and enhance focus, learning and even information retention/memory.
A 2012 double-blind randomized clinical trial that was conducted in 46 elderly adults struggling with insomnia found that dietary magnesium supplementation brought about statistically significant increases in sleep time, sleep efficiency, and concentrations of renin and melatonin (which help with inducing sleep). Supplementing with magnesium (500 milligrams daily) also resulted in significant decreases in insomnia symptom scores, sleep onset latency and serum cortisol concentrations (a marker of how stressed someone feels).
3. May Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Why do people turn to magnesium glycinate for anxiety? Both magnesium and glycine have calming qualities, which means that together their effects may be even more powerful. This is one reason why magnesium glycinate is recommended for people who feel tense or have trouble sleeping. There’s evidence that supplementing with magnesium can help decrease many symptoms tied to stress and anxiety, such as worsened pain, restlessness, depression, cravings and more.
According to an article published by Psychology Today:
Increased stress increases magnesium loss, and the environment may not readily replace it. Since magnesium is such an important mineral to the brain as a part of almost every part of the stress response, recovery, and repair, it seems self-evident to study magnesium as how it relates to brain function and common stress-related ailments such as clinical depression.
4. May Help Treat Headaches/Migraines
Deficiency in magnesium is suspected to play a role in the pathogenesis of migraine headaches for several reasons. Deficiency can increase muscle tension, enhance the perception of anxiety or depression, alter neurotransmitter release, interfere with blood pressure, and alter aggregation of blood platelets.
Magnesium supplements have been shown to be helpful for both acute and preventive headache treatment. They are also “simple, inexpensive, safe and a well-tolerated option,” according to some experts. How much magnesium glycinate should you take for migraines and headaches? A general recommendation is to take about 400 to 500 milligrams a day. (Less may also be helpful, so start low and increase as needed.) Magnesium oxide is also a good option for preventing and treating migraines.
5. Beneficial for Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Magnesium works with calcium to support proper blood pressure levels and prevent hypertension. Magnesium deficiency can increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, dyslipidaemia and diabetes. Magnesium also has an anti-inflammatory role and can help to keep arteries clear. Additionally, use of magnesium glycinate may help normalize irregular heartbeats (or “heart flutters”) that cause chest pains and feelings of anxiety.
6. Can Help Decrease PMS Symptoms
If you struggle with PMS symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, cramps and headaches, then consider trying magnesium glycinate. It has been shown in some studies to help decrease release of prostaglandins, which can trigger inflammation, cramps and pain. One double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trial found that a combination of vitamin B6 and magnesium taken over the course of two menstrual cycles had the greatest effect on reducing the severity of PMS symptoms. The women who experienced the most improvements took 250 milligrams of magnesium plus 40 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily from the first day of their menstrual cycles to the start of the next cycle.
Researchers believe that magnesium deficiency may be one underlying cause as well as the aggravation factor of PMS symptoms. Magnesium seems to offer relief for women with PMS due to its relaxing effects and ability to control neuromuscular stimulations and inflammation.
Other benefits of magnesium glycinate may include:
- Reduced leg cramps during pregnancy
- Less muscle spasms and cramps among athletes
- Improved athletic performance and recovery from workouts
- Improved quality of life, flexibility and functionality among people with chronic pain
- Help controlling blood sugar among those with diabetes/insulin resistance
- Improved bone health among those susceptible to bone fractures
Magnesium glycinate comes in several forms, including liquid and capsule form. Capsules are the most common type of magnesium glycinate supplement. Magnesium glycinate is typically available in capsules containing 120 milligrams or 125 milligrams, which means most people need to take several doses per day to meet their needs (usually between 250 and 420 milligrams for adults).
Magnesium Glycinate vs. Citrate
Magnesium citrate is a popular, widely available and inexpensive form of magnesium that’s combined with citric acid. This form is more likely to have a laxative effect when taken in high doses but is otherwise safe to use for improving digestion and preventing constipation. It’s highly recommended for people looking for help with digestive issues like constipation and acid indigestion, but taking too much can cause loose stools.
While magnesium supplements can be helpful, of course it’s ideal to also consume plenty of magnesium from natural, whole food sources, especially nutrient-dense foods, such as dark leafy green vegetables, legumes, avocado, nuts, bananas and sweet potatoes. Ideally you want to eat magnesium-rich foods that have been grown in organic soil, which may result in higher levels of this mineral.
Can you take magnesium citrate and glycinate together?
Yes, just be sure not to take a high dose of both types, which may cause some side effects. Different forms of magnesium supplements are better suited to treat different symptoms, based on how they are absorbed and distributed throughout the body. For example, if you suffer from both headaches and constipation, taking magnesium citrate and glycinate together may be beneficial.
Hypomagnesemia is another name for magnesium deficiency (the opposite condition, called hypermagnesemia, is the name for a magnesium overdose). How do you know if you’re low in magnesium and can benefit from supplementing? It can be difficult to accurately test someone for magnesium deficiency, which is why paying attention to your symptoms is recommended. Some of the most prominent magnesium deficiency symptoms include:
- hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease
- nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin K, vitamin B1, calcium and potassium
- restless leg syndrome
- worsened PMS symptoms
- behavioral disorders and mood swings
- insomnia and trouble sleeping
- recurrent bacterial or fungal infections due to low levels of nitric oxide or a depressed immune system
- tooth cavities
- muscle weakness and cramps
Severe and long-term deficiency can also contribute to more serious health problems, such as kidney and liver damage, peroxynitrite damage that can lead to migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma or Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis due to poor absorption of vitamin D and calcium.
There are several causes that are believed to be responsible for widespread magnesium deficiency. These include low intake due to eating a poor diet, soil depletion that lowers the amount of magnesium present in foods, digestive disorders that lead to low stomach acid and malabsorption of magnesium and other minerals in the gut, high rates of prescription medication (such as PPIs) and antibiotic use, and high incidence of other health problems that increase the need for magnesium.
For example, you’re most at risk for magnesium deficiency if you have a liver disorder, heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, frequent vomiting or diarrhea, or kidney dysfunction.
Magnesium glycinate dosage recommendations depend on factors including your age, weight, health status, medical history, and whether or not you’re deficient in magnesium.
Below are the current recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for magnesium:
- Infants–6 months: 30 milligrams
- 7–12 months: 75 milligrams
- 1–3 years: 80 milligrams
- 4–8 years: 130 milligrams
- 9–13 years: 240 milligrams
- 14–18 years: 410 milligrams for men; 360 milligrams for women
- 19–30 years: 400 milligrams for men; 310 milligrams for women
- Adults 31 years and older: 420 milligrams for men; 320 milligrams for women
- Pregnant women: 350–360 milligrams
- Women who are breastfeeding: 310–320 milligrams
Most studies have used magnesium glycinate doses in the range of 250 to 350 milligrams per day, which has been shown to be effective for reducing symptoms like cramps, headaches and restlessness. Higher doses around 400 to 500 milligrams daily are also used to manage anxiety and trouble sleeping, while very high doses around 1,000 milligrams per day are sometimes administered by doctors under supervision.
Most authorities state that doses less than 350 milligrams daily is safest for most adults. In other words, the “daily upper intake level” for magnesium is about 350 to 400 mg/day for anyone over 8 years old.
Is it safe to take magnesium glycinate daily?
Yes, unless you’re suffering from a known health problem that can make it difficult to maintain normal magnesium levels, such as kidney disease/failure. To prevent potential side effects, stick to the proper dose of magnesium, and aim to have no more than 300–400 milligrams at one dose. Otherwise, a daily magnesium supplement should be safe as long as you don’t notice any symptoms like diarrhea.
Should I take magnesium in the morning or at night?
The best time of day to take magnesium for most people is right before bed. It’s also a good idea to split doses, taking some in the morning and some at night, which can help with absorption. That said, magnesium can be taken at any time that is most convenient and easiest to stick with.
Risks and Side Effects
Magnesium supplements pose little risk for side effects or toxicity, but experiencing magnesium glycinate side effects is still possible. Potential magnesium glycinate side effects may include diarrhea, cramping and digestive upset. Rarely, when very high doses of magnesium are taken, complications can occur including irregular heartbeats, low blood pressure, confusion and lowed breathing.
The good news is that many people find magnesium glycinate to be one of the most easily tolerated forms of magnesium. That means it’s less likely to cause issues compared to forms, such as magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate.
Does magnesium glycinate help you poop?
Most people don’t need to worry about magnesium glycinate causing diarrhea. Because it’s absorbed in the intestines it’s less likely to have a laxative effect compared to other magnesium supplements, such as magnesium citrate. If you’ve experienced loose stools from other forms of magnesium, then trying magnesium glycinate is a good option.
People with renal/kidney problems or who are taking antibiotics should be careful about taking magnesium supplements and consult with their doctors first. Having kidney disease can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate magnesium levels, therefore supplementing can potentially be dangerous.
- Magnesium glycinate is a highly absorbable form of magnesium supplementation that is made with magnesium combined with the amino acid glycine. This form is recommended for anyone with a known magnesium deficiency and less likely to cause laxative effects than some other magnesium supplements.
- Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world, which is why magnesium supplements can help some people. Benefits of taking magnesium glycinate include helping manage headaches, anxiety, insomnia, cramps and spasms, high blood pressure, and bone loss.
- There are few risks associated with magnesium glycinate supplementation, but if you experience symptoms like diarrhea, nausea or cramping, you may be taking too much magnesium.
- Magnesium glycinate is usually taken in doses between 250 to 350 milligrams per day, but you may need more or less depending on your symptoms and health status.
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