How to Avoid Digestive Symptoms when Taking Magnesium.

Have you ever started taking a magnesium supplement, excited for it to help your sleep, boost your energy or reduce your stress levels and/or muscle cramps, and then promptly stopped taking it because it made you feel nauseous or gave you diarrhoea?

While supplemental magnesium has been given a bad rap due to these side effects, it doesn’t have to be this way! In fact, these symptoms mostly occur due to the type, or form of magnesium found within your supplement. Often by changing the form of magnesium you take, side effects are quickly mitigated.

So let’s take a closer look at the different types of magnesium found in supplements, so you can feel confident you’re selecting the best form of magnesium and not flushing your money down the toilet!


Is Your Magnesium in Good Form?

When it comes to supplemental minerals, each one (including magnesium) is bound to a carrier compound, which helps it stay stable in the formula and ensures it can be absorbed by your body. Examples of the most common carriers can be found in Figure 1.


Figure 1: The different carriers and forms of magnesium.

Different forms of magnesium are referred to depending on which carrier compound it’s bound to. It’s these different forms that you see written on supplement labels.

For example, magnesium combined with:

  • An oxide carrier is written as magnesium oxide;
  • A chloride carrier is written as magnesium chloride;
  • A citrate carrier is written as magnesium citrate; and,
  • An amino acid chelate carrier is written as magnesium amino acid chelate (Figure 2).


Figure 2: How magnesium amino acid chelate appears on a supplement label.

Good Form = Good Absorption

It’s important to know that when it comes to your digestive system tolerating and absorbing these forms of magnesium, they aren’t all created equal.

As we discussed in this blog, forms of magnesium such as:

  • magnesium oxide
  • magnesium chloride
  • magnesium citrate

Are more likely to create digestive upset, and less likely to replenish your magnesium levels, because they are poorly absorbed compared to other forms of magnesium.1 These forms can often leave magnesium in your bowel, drawing water to it, causing digestive upset or diarrhoea.

Magnesium Bisglycinate’s in Prime Form

Alternately, amino acid chelate forms, such as magnesium bisglycinate, are optimised for absorption2 and hence reduce the likelihood of experiencing digestive side effects compared to other forms of magnesium (Figure 3).3


Figure 3: The absorption levels of different forms of magnesium.

One of the best amino acid chelates, magnesium bisglycinate, offers this superior tolerability due to magnesium being bound to two of the amino acids glycine. Glycine:

  • Allows magnesium to be efficiently absorbed via protein channels in the intestine, instead of competitive mineral channels;4
  • Stays strongly bound to the magnesium, stopping it from attracting and drawing water into the bowel;5
  • Reduces the pH of the intestine, which again prevents water being drawn toward the magnesium;6 and,
  • Optimises the transport of the magnesium through the gut wall, ensuring it does not stay within the intestines.7

Together, all of these actions work to ensure that when you take your magnesium (bisglycinate), it travels through your digestive system without unwanted side effects.

Win win!


The Good Form Challenge

If you’ve experienced digestive upset from taking magnesium before, or even just want to ensure you’re getting the most out of your supplement, I’d like to set you a challenge – Review your formula using your new found magnesium knowledge above.

  • What form/s of magnesium are within your product?
  • Where does it fall in terms of the carrier quality and its tolerability?
  • Could the form be playing a role in creating your unwanted digestive symptoms?

Getting You in Good Form Too

Remember, preventing digestive upset when taking your magnesium supplement is largely due to what form of magnesium you are taking. If you’re still experiencing issues like nausea or diarrhoea even when using superior forms like magnesium bisglycinate, I’d encourage you to contact me, as underlying digestive issues could be at play.

However, for most people, optimising the form of magnesium then optimises its absorption, leading to side-effect free supplementation. So take up the challenge and review the forms of magnesium you’ve been taking today!