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Topical Magnesium vs Oral Supplements: Which is Better?

Magnesium is being talked about often by health practitioners and social media influencers, now more than ever, and for good reason. Over 80% of us currently have a Magnesium deficiency, so there’s a lot to talk about. 

There are many different types of oral Magnesium supplements on the market today, and it can be challenging to figure out which one is the best for you.  Some supplements use only one type of magnesium, while others use multiple types.  The forms they come in are in tablets, capsules, or powders.

What are the main types of oral magnesium?

There are several main types of oral magnesium supplements, each with its unique properties and benefits, that are commonly found in supplement aisles.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is one of the most commonly used forms of magnesium supplements due to its high bioavailability. It can come in a powder form that is mixed with water.

Magnesium citrate has a mild laxative effect, which can help promote bowel movements and alleviate occasional constipation.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide is typically a lower cost form and is found in the majority of magnesium products available today. Its bioavailability is low compared to other forms, meaning that the body may absorb less magnesium from magnesium oxide supplements.

Magnesium oxide is often used as an antacid to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, and upset stomach.  However, using it can cause loose stools and diarrhea, which mitigates the reason for taking it in the first place.

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium, where magnesium is bound to glycine, an amino acid.

This form of magnesium is more absorbable than some other forms, and can be less likely to cause gastrointestinal discomfort or have laxative effects.

Magnesium glycinate is recommended for individuals with magnesium deficiency, muscle cramps, anxiety, or insomnia due to its calming effects on the nervous system.

Magnesium L-Threonate

Magnesium L-Threonate is for brain health, and is used mostly for older adults.  This type may have a role in helping those with Alzheimer’s or cognitive issues.  It raises Magnesium levels in the brain, to help with memory, cognitive function and increased learning abilities. This Magnesium is also used for pain relief in some instances. Since it’s a newer form of supplementation, more human-based studies are needed, but it looks promising.

Topical Magnesium

Topically, Magnesium Chloride is usually used. It is typically sourced from either the Dead Sea, or from the Netherlands.  Because the latter has a much higher and cleaner quality overall, it is the source Mineral & Co. uses for all products.

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride is typically found in topical forms such as magnesium creams, lotions, oils, or sprays. While it can also be taken orally, it is more commonly used for transdermal absorption through the skin.

Like other forms, magnesium chloride is used to relieve symptoms of low magnesium. These symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, depression, muscle cramps, sore muscles, headaches, fatigue and chronic pain.

Topical magnesium chloride bypasses the digestive system and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, making it an effective option for individuals with digestive issues or those who prefer to avoid oral supplementation. This also makes topical products ideal for anyone who has Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, or IBS. 

There is a high level of absorbability with the topical products, due to extremely high solubility and it binds well with other elements.  It has been found in medical studies to match or surpass the absorption of other forms of magnesium.

Magnesium Chloride is the type of Magnesium Mineral & Co. uses for the entire product line. It is listed as the first ingredient in all our Whip products. This results in the highest concentration available on the market, so you can use less!

Combining Topical + Oral Supplements

Cynthia Thurlow, a well-known health practitioner, author and podcast host, recommends using a two-pronged approach with Magnesium.  This method is for people who want to ensure they are getting enough Magnesium, from two different sources.  Cynthia suggests using a topical product along with an oral supplement, on a daily basis.

Using two types of Magnesium can be beneficial for overall health and well-being, and double supplementation may be necessary for individuals with a high level of magnesium deficiency or specific health concerns.

High Stress = More Magnesium Needed

There may be times when we are going through high stress situations, such as a job loss or life transition, when extra magnesium is helpful because it is depleted at a faster rate. And because soils no longer carry optimal levels of magnesium like they used to, we aren’t getting it from foods like our ancestors did.

Athletes know they will get more cramping and muscle soreness with the harder they workout and stress their bodies.  This can quickly deplete their reserve of magnesium.  By applying topical magnesium to sore muscles, they accomplish two things at once — relieving their pain with a good magnesium muscle rub — and restoring their reserves.

Look for the Elemental (Absorbable) Values

With whatever type you use, it’s important to note the amount on oral supplement bottles — which is the elemental, or absorbable, value? Sometimes brands will print the maximum value which makes it look like 1000+ milligrams of magnesium in one pill when the elemental value will be only 50 mg. Your body will only be able to use 50 mg. So look carefully at what you’re buying to make sure it is in elemental values.

At Mineral & Co, we exclusively use Magnesium Chloride in the entire product line of organic magnesium creams and lotions, as it has the highest bioavailability of all the types of Magnesium. Its ability for water solubility is directly related to absorbability in our bodies. Additionally, it totally bypasses the gastro-intestinal system, so there is no chance of disruption. 

The choice of magnesium supplement depends on factors such as bioavailability, gastrointestinal tolerance, and intended purpose, so consulting with an integrative healthcare professional is recommended to determine the most suitable form and dosage for your individual needs. We’re all different, so find out what works best for you!