Magnesium Glycinate: The Form Of Magnesium That Will Really Help With Anxiety & Sleep

mbg Health Contributor By Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
Gretchen Lidicker earned her master’s degree in physiology with a focus on alternative medicine from Georgetown University. She is the author of “CBD Oil Everyday Secrets” and “Magnesium Everyday Secrets.”
Medical review by Leah Johansen, M.D.
Board-certified family medicine physician

Leah Johansen, M.D., practices alongside Robert Rountree, M.D., at Boulder Wellcare in Boulder, Colorado. Johansen earned her medical degree from Trinity School of Medicine and completed her residency training in family and community medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

Photo by Darren Muir

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If you're a health-conscious individual, you've probably already heard that taking a little bit of extra magnesium might support your health in myriad ways. Maybe you have a friend who takes magnesium for her headaches or a family member who's an Epsom salt bath enthusiast, or a co-worker who swears by that powdered magnesium they drink for recovering from post-workout aches and pains. Whatever the reason, magnesium is quickly becoming one of the most popular supplements in the wellness world.

Magnesium and your overall health.

Why the popularity, you ask? There are a ton of different minerals out there, but few are as involved in our everyday health and wellness as magnesium. For starters, according to the NIH, magnesium plays a key role in over 300 diverse biochemical reactions in the body. These reactions range from those involved in energy production and protein synthesis to blood sugar control and blood pressure regulation. In other words: Magnesium is pretty important to our health.

And this brings me to some good news and bad news. The bad news is that it's hypothesized that 50 to 90 percent of us are deficient in this mineral due to factors like medication use, soil depletion, and major pitfalls of the standard American diet (for example: Processed foods are virtually devoid of this important mineral). The good news is that luckily, magnesium supplements are inexpensive, generally safe, and available in many forms—including as Epsom salts, magnesium oil, magnesium cream, drinkable powder, and traditional supplement capsules—that make it easy to incorporate it into your everyday routine. Want more good news? Magnesium is also present in some delicious foods like dark leafy green vegetables, legumes and nuts, wheat and other grains, and fish.

As the health editor at mindbodygreen and the author of the upcoming book Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil & Nature's Relaxation Mineral, it's basically my job to know a lot about magnesium. And one of the crucial pieces of information to know about this essential mineral is that it comes in a lot of different forms—and some are better than others. That's where magnesium glycinate comes in. It's considered the "gold standard" of magnesium supplements for a few reasons.

Here's what you need to know:

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Magnesium glycinate uses & magnesium dosing.

As mentioned before, magnesium comes in a lot of different forms. Magnesium sulfate can be taken by way of injection or IV to treat a diverse array of conditions, including seizures in pregnant women with severe eclampsia, muscle spasms, brain swelling, and uncontrolled irregular heartbeat. The dosage for magnesium sulfate is different depending on the type of treatment, and magnesium sulfate can also be used in the form of Epsom salts, which you can add to your bath.

Another popular type of magnesium is transdermal magnesium, which includes magnesium chloride "oils" and creams. But does transdermal magnesium really work? There's some debate about this, and the science isn't entirely clear. That said, transdermal magnesium cream has demonstrated its effectiveness at rising blood and urine concentrations of magnesium in a single-blind, parallel study for non-athletes at a dosage of 56 mg/day.

But what about the typical oral magnesium supplement in a capsule or powder? According to expert sources, supplemental oral magnesium—which includes forms like magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, and magnesium oxide—is safe in the following doses:

  • 65 mg for children 1-3 years
  • 110 mg for children 4-8 years
  • 350 mg for children older than 8 years
  • 350 mg per day is recommended in adults aged 19 and over for both men, women, and pregnant and lactating women.

The dosage recommendations for magnesium can vary slightly with other sources saying that the recommended dose for women is 320 mg and the recommended dose for men is 420 mg per day. Many also suggest that magnesium intake should be increased during pregnancy.

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Magnesium glycinate benefits.

Should you choose this form of magnesium over others? Magnesium glycinate is a favorite among integrative and functional medicine doctors and has been used in quite a few studies. According to William Cole, D.C., IFMCP, a functional medicine expert and mbg Collective member, "Magnesium glycinate is one of the easiest types for your body to absorb, making it a great form for treating migraines and other headaches as you want something that is as fast-acting as possible. Also, since it is one of the most bioavailable forms, it's a great option for those looking to help correct nutrient deficiencies." Here are just some of the major benefits of magnesium glycinate:

Magnesium glycinate for insomnia.

Many people use magnesium as a sleep aid, and while the mechanisms aren't entirely clear, its ability to induce muscle relaxation and ease anxiety are two of the ways it's thought to help improve sleep. In a study on the elderly, magnesium glycinate supplementation subjectively improved insomnia.

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Magnesium glycinate for memory.

Research has shown that magnesium glycinate can help lessen daytime sleepiness and enhance memory. One study found that taking 125–300 mg of magnesium glycinate a day helped with short-term memory loss and IQ loss.

Magnesium glycinate to lower blood pressure.

Magnesium may moderately lower blood pressure in those who already have a magnesium deficiency. In fact, one study found that “after magnesium supplementation, systolic and diastolic pressures were significantly decreased.”

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Magnesium glycinate for better blood sugar control.

Lowering blood sugar is no easy task, but magnesium might be a useful tool in doing so. Research has shown that dietary magnesium intake (aka, eating foods high in magnesium) reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because magnesium helps break down sugar, which in turn decreases insulin resistance.

Magnesium glycinate for bone health.

When it comes to bone health, calcium tends to get a lot of the attention. But magnesium is involved in bone formation and has an influence on parathyroid hormone and vitamin D concentrations, which are also involved in bone formation. This means that having adequate intakes of magnesium is useful for preventing osteoporosis.

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Magnesium glycinate for migraines and headaches.

Low levels of magnesium in the blood (aka, a magnesium deficiency) has been linked to migraine headaches. In addition, supplementing with magnesium has been shown to successfully reduce the frequency of migraines.

Magnesium glycinate for PMS symptoms.

It's true! Studies, like one double-blinded placebo-controlled trial, have shown that taking magnesium glycinate (at a dose of 250 mg per day) reduces PMS symptoms. You might be surprised by the connection between magnesium and hormones, but according to Jolene Brighten, N.D., a naturopathic doctor, female hormone expert, and founder of Rubus Health, "Magnesium has been shown to be more effective than placebo in positively helping lower prostaglandins and easing menstrual cramps. Magnesium is also necessary for estrogen detoxification, which is why it can help ease PMS."

Magnesium glycinate for leg cramps.

Studies have shown that magnesium glycinate is effective in treating pregnancy-induced leg cramps. In one study, 80 pregnant women participated in a double‐blinded, randomized, placebo‐controlled trial by taking 300 mg of magnesium glycinate per day. The frequency of cramping as well as the intensity of leg cramping were reduced by 50 percent when compared to the placebo group.

Magnesium glycinate side effects.

Clearly, there are a lot of benefits to taking magnesium, especially if you have a deficiency in this important mineral. But are there any downsides to taking magnesium or magnesium glycinate, specifically? Interestingly, the most common side effects of magnesium supplements are diarrhea, cramping, and digestive upset. This is more common in certain forms of magnesium—like magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate. In fact, magnesium glycinate is a form of magnesium that has the fewest side effects and doesn't cause digestive upset when taken in a higher dose. It's thought to be a good choice for those with gastrointestinal issues over other magnesium supplements.

Hypermagnesemia is the name for a magnesium overdose, which is rare but more common in people with kidney disease as the kidneys are required to excrete excess magnesium and work to regulate magnesium balance in the body. Overdosing on magnesium can cause serious side effects, including an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, slowed breathing, coma, and even a few deaths have been reported. Keep in mind that an overdose of this measure would require a person to take thousands of milligrams of magnesium, which is well beyond the dose in a typical magnesium supplement.

Magnesium supplement safety concerns.

It would be difficult to overdose on magnesium-rich foods or magnesium supplements, but magnesium is also the primary ingredient in some prescription and over-the-counter laxatives, and severe hypermagnesemia has been recorded to occur from taking laxatives that contain magnesium for constipation over a long-term period. As mentioned before, fatal hypermagnesemia can occur in those with renal problems when taking these laxatives because kidneys that are not fully functional are not able to effectively clear magnesium from the body. This means that large doses of magnesium should be avoided in people suffering from renal failure or kidney disease. As a general rule, you should always talk to your doctor before taking a new supplement.

Magnesium can also interact with certain medications, and especially relevant is its interaction with certain types of antibiotics. Because of this, one study concluded that “Antibiotics should be taken at least 2 hours before or 4 to 6 hours after a magnesium-containing supplement.” Another magnesium-drug interaction has to do with bisphosphonates, which are a group of drugs often used to treat osteoporosis. Magnesium can interfere with how well this drug can be absorbed, so it should be taken at least two hours before or after taking these medications.

Magnesium glycinate versus magnesium citrate.

Magnesium citrate is one of the other most commonly recommended sources of magnesium. Magnesium citrate has a laxative effect, but in many cases that's actually a benefit since it's used specifically to treat constipation due to its ability to increase gut motility. Of all the forms of magnesium, magnesium glycinate is least likely to cause diarrhea, and experts also turn to it for the treatment of a magnesium deficiency due to its high absorbency rate. According to Dr. Brighten, "Magnesium glycinate is highly absorbable, doesn't cause diarrhea like the citrate form can, and has a calming effect."

Both magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are more bioavailable than other common forms of magnesium like magnesium oxide. To conclude, both magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are great options for magnesium supplementation. It all just depends on your specific needs, whether they be correcting a deficiency, helping with sleep, or increasing gut motility and supporting digestion.

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