Did you know there are several different types of magnesium that are beneficial for different things? Migraine disorders can be linked with magnesium deficiency, making supplementation of magnesium for migraine necessary for most of us. However, if you’re finding that you have more digestive “issues” when upping your magnesium intake, you’re not alone. I wasn’t aware until I started doing a little more research after my Migrelief formula was changed. I realized that the magnesium in this particular supplement was more commonly prescribed as a laxative…something I did not need.
When people search for a new magnesium supplement without knowing what to look for, they usually focus on price. This means many aren’t getting the full potential out of the supplements they’re taking. This could be because our body doesn’t agree with that particular form of magnesium. Or it could be that the supplement contains additional fillers or potential Migraine triggers, making it poor quality and more difficult to absorb.
Bioavailability Matters with Magnesium for Migraine
According to Ancient Minerals, “If one was to ingest the commonly recommended (albeit modest) adult dosage of 300-400 mg magnesium per day in (a) poorly absorbed form, it could equate to a usable dosage of only 12-16 mg.”. They also go on to quote Holy Water, Sacred Oil: The Fountain of Youth where it is mentioned that magnesium is most effective when contained in the intestine for a minimum of 12 hours. If magnesium was going through the system faster (ie. in the form of diarrhea), you’re not getting the full benefits of the supplement you’re taking.
One key word to know is “bioavailability”, which means how well the supplement is absorbed by the body. If the supplement you’re taking is not very bioavailable, it’s not being metabolized and you’re probably not reaping the benefits from it. As we age and our metabolism slows, it can be even more important to focus on bioavailability, as vitamins can become more difficult to absorb. This is why choosing high quality supplements is so important. Fillers, binders, and artificial ingredients or flavorings can all limit absorption. Magnesium itself isn’t a highly absorbable supplement to begin with, but if you have a deficiency then your body will be able to absorb more than it would otherwise.
Types of Magnesium for Migraines
Another thing to watch for when researching supplements? How many articles are connected to a brand selling their product. I tried to wade through all that for you to bring you a quick breakdown of each form.
This type of magnesium is one of the most effective at boosting low levels of magnesium quickly, without causing digestive problems or diarrhea. It is ideal for those who cannot tolerate the laxative effects of citrate or oxide and need a more well absorbed form. Because Migraine patients are recommended to take around 400mg daily, it’s the best way to make sure you’re getting a higher amount in and not losing it all in the toilet, for lack of a better phrase. Glycine, an amino acid to which the Magnesium is bonded, supports cognitive function and calms neural functions. Therefore patients find this form helps with reducing inflammation, sleep, and anxiety, making it great for those with Vestibular Migraine.
A newer type of magnesium, this is one of the only forms of magnesium that has been shown to penetrate the blood brain barrier, directly raising the magnesium levels in the brain. In studies, it played a positive role with improving Alzheimer’s and other cognitive issues. Developed by MIT grads, Magtein promotes improvement of learning abilities, memory, and cognitive function. It even helped me get rid of my morning brain fog, a common symptom with Vestibular Migraine. This type also doesn’t contain laxative properties that you would find with citrate or oxide. The downside? It’s expensive and fairly new so there’s not as much known about it. Threonate is a good one to supplement in addition to another form of magnesium so you’re saving money, and reaping benefits from both.
Magnesium Chloride & Magnesium Sulfate
You might be more familiar with epsom salts, also know as magnesium sulfate. Through research and discussion with other Migraine patients, it seems as if magnesium chloride is like Epsom salt on steroids. It appears to have better absorption and cellular penetration, as well as lower tissue toxicity. This form of magnesium is wonderful for topical applications, especially if you’d like to supplement your oral intake. This would include adding it to a bath, foot soak, or applied topically in a lotion or spray form. Concentration of the solution, length of time it is in contact with the skin, and area it is applied all affect magnesium chloride’s efficacy. Some find that if they do a soak for 20-30 minutes or apply to their feet before bed it helps to calm the body and promote a deeper sleep.
On the other hand, there’s not a lot of great scientific research to back this up according to this 2017 study. I read a quote the other day that said something to the effect of “a placebo is the perfect example of how healing starts with the mind”. I personally believe there’s more merit to topical magnesium than this study suggests, and it’s worth a try to see if it truly helps you. Since chloride is more expensive than epsom salts, I like to mix both if taking a full bath.
This form has great reviews for those suffering with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s a combination of malic acid and magnesium, which is said to have a higher bioavailability. Another positive is that it supports energy production and an ability to chelate toxic metals. Aluminum is linked to neurological disorders, so it may be beneficial for anyone concerned with this aspect. Malate is also creates less GI stress than citrate and oxide. The only downside from reports I read was some find it too energizing. Therefore it is recommended to take in the morning. It also could potentially be too stimulating for those with Vestibular Migraine.
One of the most popular and well-studied forms of magnesium, this bonds to citric acid, making it more absorbable than some other forms like oxide. If you google “magnesium citrate”, you’ll notice it’s promoted to relieve constipation – which is great (sometimes)! However, if you’re taking this at the 400+mg recommended amounts each day, you could be spending long mornings on the toilet. This means you’re probably not getting many benefits out of it in the end. Citrate is one of those “proceed with caution” items. If you can tolerate it – great! If you can’t, look into malate, glycinate, or threonate. This type of magnesium mixes well with liquids and could be an option for those who cannot tolerate pills.
I see neurologists recommend this form for Migraine in my groups, and I can’t understand why other than that it’s cheap and widely available. While magnesium citrate can relieve constipation, oxide is commonly used to relieve heartburn, indigestion, and as a laxative. It is not as bioavailable as magnesium citrate. There are better forms out there that will be more highly effective.
Magnesium Orotate and Magnesium Taurate
I’ve seen mixed reviews on orotate and simply not enough good evidence to make a suggestion for it. It seems to be helpful with heart related issues. Taurate, the amino acid taurine combined with magnesium, is more well-studied. It has been shown to reduce heart attacks and promote stable blood sugar levels. In studies, taurate was effective in Migraine prevention while having limited side effects. If you also have cardiovascular issues, this could be a good choice for you.
Recommended Brand: Natural Rhythm makes two kinds. Here is the Magnesium Taurate by itself. Triple Calm combines glycinate, malate, and taurate. I might give this one a try. The only downside is if it starts to help you, you won’t know exactly which type is helping or if it’s the collection of them.
Fillers, Gelatin and Binding Agents
As always, even when choosing supplements, we must check the ingredients – the fewer the better. I find it easier to search for vegetarian or vegan capsules, which eliminate gelatin. Some patients find gelatin, even in a small capsule form, a potential Migraine trigger. I often wonder if people mistake this for a reaction to the supplement as it’s easier to blame the attack on the supplement itself. Since there are many vegan alternatives out there, it’s better to avoid gelatin unless you know it does not bother you.
Fillers and binding agents that you often see are cellulose, stearic acid, and magnesium stearate. Magnesium stearate has the most controversy of them all due to a 1990 study which found that suppressed cells that are responsible for the immune system. I’ve also read in some of my Migraine groups that it appeared to be a trigger for a few people. Fillers by themselves are not necessarily as bad as they sound. Some manufacturers use them to bulk up which might be a very tiny product without it. What you want to be careful of is brands that are using more fillers than actual product. While it may be less expensive, the fillers won’t be helping you feel better in the long run.
A few people do find that certain forms of magnesium can make them dizzy or feel worse. It can take some trial and error to find the perfect form for you. Always consult your doctor before trying a new supplement. If you have any feedback about any of these supplements, let me know in the comments.
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