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What Form of Magnesium is Best?

We discussed signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and how common that is in many patients with “invisible illnesses” such as POTS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME, and fibromyalgia. But how do you know what form of magnesium to buy? There are options, and your choice of magnesium can be used to your advantage.

For example, if you take Diamox or Topamax for headaches or high intracranial pressure, it is easy for you to become metabolically acidic. This can cause symptoms such as flushing, tachycardia, rapid breathing, shaking, and weakness. Additionally, your medication won’t be as effective at reducing your intracranial pressure if you are acidic. To help restore alkalinity, taking the citrate form of magnesium can help. Additionally, magnesium in the citrate form can help prevent kidney stones. If you are constipated, magnesium citrate can encourage a bowel movement (and even be used as a laxative, if needed). This can be helpful for those of us who are suffering with constipation or gastroparesis.

Magnesium oxide is the most inexpensive form of magnesium, but is also the least likely to be absorbed. I will sometimes take magnesium that is a mix of different forms of magnesium (often including magnesium oxide), but I don’t bother taking it by itself because of poor absorption.

Epsom salt baths can be an effective way to absorb magnesium through the skin. This can be helpful for those of us who need to work around poor gut absorption. If you use Epsom salts, be sure to dissolve at least two cups in a tub of water, and try to stay in the bath for 20 minutes. This can be an effective way of reducing swelling, too and decreasing pain from edema.

In lieu of Epsom salt baths, magnesium bisglycinate chelate is better absorbed than oxide and citrate forms (but will not help with the prevention of kidney stones nor help shift acid/alkaline balance). It may be a good choice, however, if you suspect deficiency and are trying to restore your tissue levels as quickly as possible.

Magnesium l-treonate is proposed to help brain function (studies are on-going). It is pricey, and I’m not sure it is worth the cost, lacking human studies. Although I could not tell a difference in my cognition when using it (and I had difficulty swallowing the large capsule – and the sheer number of capsules needed), I would not say it won’t help others and will be keeping an eye on study results. 

When exploring other forms of magnesium, please keep in mind that there is no one preferred form of magnesium for everyone. The amount of elemental magnesium, however, is important. The maximum upper tolerance limit (UTL) for magnesium in supplement form for adults is 350 mg per day of elemental magnesium according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition, according to the NIH, total dietary requirements for magnesium from all sources (i.e., food and supplements) is 320–420 mg of elemental magnesium per day, though there is no upper limit for dietary magnesium. The supplement label should tell you how much elemental magnesium is in each serving – something worth looking for.

As I mentioned in this post, many of us can become deficient very easily, and symptoms of deficiency can be missed when we have so, so many symptoms occurring at once. Be sure to keep magnesium close by!

Here are some of our favorites: Click the photos below for more information on where to purchase these.



For information on symptoms of deficiency, this previous post may be helpful.

For more information concerning my recovery from POTS and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, please check out the ebook, The Driscoll Theory.

Have more questions? Please join us at the forum!

Gentle hugs,

Dr. Diana

Magnesium. Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Magnesium in the Central Nervous System:

Journal of Magnesium Research:

Importance of Magnesium to Human Nutrition:

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