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A guide to magnesium supplements

Magnesium is an essential mineral for our bodies and plays an important role in over 300 of our body’s biochemical reactions.

Magnesium helps to:

  • Build bones
  • Maintain energy levels
  • Keep nerves functioning
  • Regulate blood sugar levels
  • Fuel the heart and brain

Your body does not make magnesium so it’s important to take it in through the foods you eat and by taking supplements. Magnesium plays such a key role in so many of your body’s processes, being deficient can cause a wide range of symptoms.

This guide will take a look at the magnesium supplements available, how they can help you, why you should take them and how you should take them.

In this guide

The key causes of magnesium deficiency

    Identify magnesium deficiency and when you may need a supplement

    Magnesium supplements and dosages

      When should you take a magnesium supplement and how much should you take?

      How should magnesium supplements be taken?

        Alternatives to tablets and capsules

        What are transdermal magnesium supplements?

        Learn more about how transdermal magnesium works

        Types of transdermal magnesium

        Find out more about sprays, flakes, gels and lotions

        Magnesium flakes vs epsom salts and dead sea salts

        How do magnesium flakes compare?

        What are the key benefits of magnesium supplements?

        Effect of magnesium supplements on your health

        Can you take magnesium supplements with other vitamins and minerals?

        Find out more about the supplements that are safe to take with and which complement magnesium supplements

        The best vitamins and minerals to take for your health and body

        Learn more about other beneficial supplements for your health

        What are the causes of a magnesium deficiency?

        The most common cause of a magnesium deficiency is not getting enough through your diet. This could be due to eating a number of processed fats or refined sugar, which can reduce magnesium absorption or it could be simply from not eating enough magnesium rich foods.

        It can be tricky to know when your magnesium levels are low but the signs include:

        • Poor sleep
        • Fatigue
        • Heart palpitations
        • Irregular heartbeat

        Magnesium deficiency can be rectified by:

        • Increasing the amount of magnesium you consume in your diet
        • Taking magnesium supplements

        For more information on magnesium deficiency, read our guide.

        Are magnesium supplements safe? What dosage should you take?

        If you think you may be deficient in magnesium, you may choose to take a supplement but are unsure of how safe supplements are and how much you should be taking.

        Magnesium is completely safe to take as a supplement as long as you don’t exceed the recommended dosage for your age. As with any supplement, there are difference recommended doses for adults and children.

        However, maximum dosages are only recommended for products that can be taken orally and not lotions, flakes or sprays. This is because oral magnesium supplements act as a natural relaxant and can have a laxative effect when taken in large doses.

        Public Health England recommends the following:

        Age Recommended daily dose of magnesium
        Adults 300mg
        Pregnant women 400mg
        Children aged 15-18 300mg
        Children aged 11-14 280mg
        Children aged 7-10 200mg
        Children aged 4-6 120mg
        Children aged 1-3 85mg
        Children aged 7-12 months 75mg
        Children aged up to 6 months 30mg

        You can read more about the safety of magnesium supplements and recommended dosages in our guide

        How should magnesium supplements be taken?

        Many magnesium supplements are available in tablet form, but many people find it unpleasant or difficult to swallow tablets and would prefer an alternative.

        Magnesium supplements are also available in transdermal forms such as:

        • Sprays
        • Creams
        • Gels
        • Lotions
        • Flakes

        These are all alternative options for those who do not want to swallow tablets or for children who find it difficult to take tablets and do not get enough magnesium in their diet.

        Read here for more information on how magnesium supplements should be taken.

        What are transdermal magnesium supplements?

        Instead of taking magnesium tablets, magnesium can also be taken transdermally. Transdermal application means that the active ingredient in the supplement travels through the skin to reach the blood flow and be distributed around the body.

        Transdermal magnesium supplements are available in the form of gels, sprays and lotions and, by bypassing the digestive system, allow for the supplement to be absorbed quickly and more effectively than tablet form.

        The benefits of transdermal magnesium include:

        • Easy to apply
        • Bypasses the digestive system
        • Universally acceptable and suitable for those with malabsorption issues
        • Avoids laxative effect of high oral supplementation doses

        To find out more about how transdermal magnesium supplements work and the benefits, read our guide.

        What types of transdermal magnesium supplements are available?

        Magnesium supplements are available in a wide range of forms including products for children and to aid sleep. All methods are as effective as each other and the form you choose depends on your own preference.

        Magnesium supplements are available in the following forms:

        Magnesium flakes

        Magnesium flakes are a highly concentrated form of magnesium chloride, a completely natural form of magnesium.

        Adding magnesium flakes to a bath or footbath and relaxing for at least 20 minutes will allow your body to absorb and replenish your magnesium levels.

        Magnesium flakes are also effective at relaxing your body for sleep and may help you to get a more restful night’s sleep.

        For more information on magnesium flakes, read our guide.

        Magnesium sprays

        Magnesium sprays provide a quick and effective way to replenish your body’s magnesium levels. Sprays can be taken anywhere to boost magnesium and are effective for relaxation and muscle relief, which are hugely beneficial for sleep and exercise.

        When sprayed directly onto your skin, the magnesium will immediately begin to absorb.

        The key benefits of magnesium sprays include:

        • A quick way to replenish magnesium
        • Can be used on the move
        • Helps bones absorb calcium
        • Relieves muscle tension and speeds up recovery time
        • Allows for restful sleep

        For more information on magnesium sprays, read our guide.

        Magnesium lotion

        Similarly to sprays, magnesium lotions can be applied anywhere on your skin, avoiding your eyes and broken or damaged skin.

        Magnesium lotions are ideal for a variety of purposes:

        • To be used before/after exercise to support bone and muscle health
        • To aid sleep by slowing sensory activity and quietening the mind
        • For healthier looking skin by moisturising and hydrating skin

        For more information on magnesium lotions, read our guide.

        How do magnesium flakes compare to Epsom salts and Dead Sea salts?

        Magnesium flakes vs. Epsom salts

        Both magnesium flakes and Epsom salts are made from magnesium and are used in the bath.

        However, there are subtle differences between them, which you should be aware of to gain the full benefits of both products.

        Epsom salts are:

        • Made of magnesium sulphate
        • Sourced from naturally occurring springs or synthetic materials

        Magnesium flakes are:

        • Made from a pure and natural magnesium chloride solution, which has been heated up and cooled to create a hard sheet of highly concentrated magnesium chloride that is broken down to create flakes.

        The main difference between the two products is the way in which they’re absorbed by your body. The magnesium chloride in magnesium flakes is more easily absorbed by the body.

        The high solubility of magnesium chloride allows the compounds to break their bonds and travel into your bloodstream. The magnesium in the flakes can be much more easily absorbed and utilised by your body in comparison to using Epsom salts.

        For more on the differences between Epsom Salts and Magnesium Flakes, read our guide.

        Magnesium flakes vs Dead Sea salts

        While Dead Sea salts contain magnesium, they are also rich in other minerals such as potassium, calcium and bromide. Dead Sea salts have a reputation for their healing properties and are sold within skincare products and products promoting general good health.

        The key difference between the two products is the concentration of magnesium. Magnesium flakes are purely made from magnesium, but Dead Sea salts contain other minerals too.

        So, if you want to focus on the benefits of magnesium, Dead Sea salts will be much less effective than magnesium flakes.

        Read our guide to find out more about the difference between magnesium flakes and Dead Sea salts.

        What are the key benefits of magnesium supplements?

        Due to the huge role magnesium plays in many of our body’s processes, magnesium supplements can have a range of benefits.

        What effect can magnesium supplements have on sleep?

        A magnesium deficiency can lead to disrupted sleep as a lack of the mineral can have a detrimental effect on how your body winds down to fall asleep and could cause you to wake throughout the night.

        Magnesium works alongside melatonin (a hormone your body produces naturally) to control your body clock and sleep-wake cycles. Magnesium helps to relax your nervous system in preparation for sleep.

        Magnesium supplements are perfect to be taken as sleep aids because:

        • According to a recent study*, magnesium helped 92% of people to sleep better
        • They help to relax muscles
        • They keep your mood stable and limit stress

        Read here for more information on how magnesium supplements can help you sleep.

        *Independent clinical sleep trial, 2018

        How can magnesium supplements help with muscle tension?

        Magnesium is necessary for relaxing muscles and muscle function, working alongside other minerals in your body. If you’re deficient in magnesium, you may find that you suffer from muscle aches and pains.

        Magnesium can help to relax your muscles after exercise by reducing the build-up of lactic acid and helping your muscles to get the oxygen they need.

        Not having enough magnesium in your body puts you more at risk of suffering muscle:

        • Spasms (especially in the legs or feet)
        • Tightness
        • Aches
        • Weakness
        • Fatigue

        Read our guide to find out more about how magnesium can help with muscle tension.

        Can you take magnesium supplements with other vitamins and minerals?

        Vitamins and minerals are used for a wide range of bodily functions and most work together for the best effect. So, if you’re deficient in one vitamin or mineral, you may not see the full effects of taking supplements.

        It’s useful to know which nutrients work together and which are helpful to each other as some require the help of others to absorb properly and others can hinder absorption.

        For a full guide on the minerals and vitamins that work together, read our guide here.

        How do vitamin D and magnesium work together?

        Magnesium and vitamin D are two of the key vitamins that work together. Magnesium has a huge effect on the amount of vitamin D our bodies are able to make so it’s important that adequate levels of both are maintained.

        While our bodies produce vitamin D, it’s not effective unless it can be converted into a form that your body can absorb. The level to which a vitamin or mineral can be absorbed is known as its bioavailability.

        Vitamin D’s bioavailability is all dependent on magnesium which helps to convert it into its active form calcitrol.

        Vitamin D has a number of important functions, it:

        • Improves your body’s calcium absorption (calcium levels have an influence on how you absorb magnesium)
        • Enables your immune system to function properly, protecting you from illnesses such as the common cold
        • Regulates blood pressure
        • Aids in the growth and development of bones and teeth
        • Helps keep muscles healthy

        If left unconverted due to a magnesium deficiency, vitamin D can increase calcium levels rather than regulate them, which stimulates your hormones to draw the mineral out of your bones (where it’s needed) and depositing it in the soft tissues such as arteries.

        To find out more about the role of magnesium and vitamin D in your body, read our guide.

        How do vitamin B and magnesium work together?

        Unlike other vitamins, B vitamins do not compete for absorption. In fact, they work in tandem to:

        Vitamin B and magnesium work in tandem to:

        • Promote normal function of the nervous system and normal psychological function
        • Contribute to energy yielding metabolism
        • Reduce tiredness and fatigue

        Both B vitamins and magnesium help your body to break food down and convert it into energy which helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue.

        Benefits of vitamin B include:

        • Fighting fatigue
        • Helping with digestion
        • Improving cognitive function

        To find out more about how vitamin B and magnesium work together, read our guide.

        Magnesium and zinc

        Zinc is another of the minerals your body needs to stay healthy. Taken together and in the right doses, magnesium and zinc can work to each other’s advantage. They work together so well, there are a huge number of oral supplements that combine the two.

        Magnesium helps to regulate your body’s zinc levels while zinc enables it to absorb magnesium more efficiently.

        Your body needs zinc for a number of reasons:

        • To produce enzymes that catalyse vital chemical reactions
        • To process protein, carbohydrates and fat in food
        • To helping to heal wounds
        • To boost immune system function
        • To support protein and DNA synthesis
        • To maintain bones
        • To play a role in the growth and division of cells

        Read our guide to find out more about how to take magnesium and zinc together.

        Magnesium and calcium

        While your body needs a range of essential minerals, calcium is the most abundant, with most of it stored in your bones and teeth.

        Alongside magnesium, calcium is crucial for bone health and enables bones to develop and grow as well as slow the decline of bone density as you get older.

        Calcium also contributes to normal:

        • Muscle function
        • Blood clotting
        • Neurotransmission
        • Digestive enzyme function

        Whilst your body doesn’t rely solely on magnesium to absorb calcium, without it, calcium can become toxic and deposit itself in soft tissues, kidneys, arteries and cartilage rather than in your bones where it has the greatest benefit.

        For more information on how calcium and magnesium work together, read our guide.

        The best vitamins and minerals to take for your health and body

        Keeping a balance of minerals and vitamins in your diet and through supplements will help to boost your immune system, support development and growth and help your body to function normally.

        However, certain minerals and vitamins are more suitable to take for particular purposes. For example, different vitamins and minerals work together and are best for different reasons including:

        • Hair, skin and nails
        • Energy and tiredness
        • Joint support
        • Runners
        • Boost immune system
        • Bones
        • Vegetarians and vegans
        • Sleep
        • Children

        Read our guide to find out more about the best vitamins and minerals for each of these purposes.

        What are the best magnesium supplements for kids?

        Ensuring a child receives the correct levels of magnesium is particularly beneficial in helping with sleep, mood, concentration, energy levels, bone and teeth health, blood sugar levels, bowel regulation, immune system, digestion and absorption of other essential nutrients.

        Many children struggled to get the recommended amount of magnesium in their diet so magnesium supplements such as sprays and lotions can be hugely beneficial in their development.

        A lack of magnesium in children can lead to the following symptoms:

        • Muscle weakness and cramps
        • Poor sleep
        • Tiredness
        • Apathy and low mood
        • Memory problems
        • Decreased attention span and poor concentration

        Our guide will answer more of your questions about how and why children should take magnesium supplements.

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