The Difference Between Magnesium Glycinate vs. Citrate

June 29, 2021.

Magnesium is a buzzword in health circles everywhere. Whether you are looking to improve your sleep or energy levels or just trying to get a grip on perimenopause symptoms, most people recommend you give a magnesium supplement a try. But when it comes time to choose a supplement, it can be hard to know which one you should select. To make matters harder, there are also different forms of magnesium. So here is your in-depth guide on the difference between magnesium glycinate vs. citrate.

What’s the deal with magnesium supplements?

Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. Indeed, it is also one of the most common minerals on earth. Our bodies need magnesium to complete over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Magnesium may help:

  • Muscle soreness
  • Nerve function
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Protein formation
  • Bone health
  • DNA synthesis
  • Sleep
  • Depression
  • Moodiness
  • Digestive function
  • Headaches

Despite its importance, some studies suggest that over 68% of Americans do not meet the recommended daily intake for magnesium. What is more, your ability to absorb nutrients like magnesium can decrease the older you get and can be compromised if you have a condition like IBS

Thus, numerous people are turning to magnesium supplements to improve some of the most common and frustrating symptoms that seem to turn up in adulthood. 

Why might you take magnesium for menopause?

Menopause is a natural phase that every woman will reach at some point in her life. Whether you come by it naturally or medically, menopause is often accompanied by several (that is, numerous) uncomfortable symptoms that can make this near-decade of life a challenge. From hot flashes and night sweats to moodiness and low libido, women often tap into alternative remedies to help navigate “the big change.”

Many of the symptoms that magnesium supplements may help to relieve are common in perimenopausal and menopausal women. Thus, women often try magnesium supplements if they are struggling with symptoms like fatigue, headaches, constipation, moodiness, and depression. 

Intriguingly, women are prone to developing heart disease, and this risk increases after menopause. Estrogen is thought to be cardioprotective, meaning that it is good for the heart. After menopause, estrogen levels fall to low levels for the remainder of a woman’s life, and the risk for heart disease increases. Because magnesium helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure, healthy magnesium levels may help ward off heart problems down the road. 

Choosing your magnesium supplement

People often get stumped over which magnesium supplement they should take. This is because there are different formulations that may offer various benefits. The most common magnesium supplement formulations include magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate. You may also stumble across magnesium oxide, but this type of magnesium is often poorly absorbed and can have a strong laxative effect on the body. Indeed, this is the ingredient in laxative medications like Milk of Magnesia. 

Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate supplements are quite common and are a popular choice among magnesium supplements because they are well-tolerated by the body. This formulation often has less of a laxative effect than other types of magnesium. This supplement contains glycine, an amino acid that works synergistically with the neurotransmitters in your brain. Studies show that glycine helps promote neurotransmitters like GABA, which can make you feel calmer and improve sleep. 

Incidentally, magnesium glycine also helps lower inflammation and improves blood sugar levels, which are issues for many women throughout their lifespan.

Magnesium citrate

Like magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate is also well absorbed by the body. It contains citrate, which is an organic salt. It is often the preferred choice for people who struggle with constipation because it has a mild laxative effect while also helping with migraines and muscle aches. Because it is a salt, citrate helps pull water back into your intestine to help soften stool so that it may pass more easily through the body. 

Other ways to get magnesium

You may encounter several other combinations of magnesium in the vitamin and supplement aisle of your local pharmacy or supermarket. And, you can often find magnesium in other supplements, including multivitamins. However, diet is actually the primary way most of us get magnesium. It is abundant in the following foods:

  • Avocados
  • Dark chocolate
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tofu
  • Whole grains
  • Certain fatty fish
  • Bananas
  • Leafy greens

Because of processing methods and possibly due to changes in agricultural practices, mineral content in foods may be declining. Thus, even if you do eat a diet full of magnesium-rich foods, you may still need a supplement. 

Is Magnesium safe for everyone?

Given what we have seen about this essential mineral, it would appear that magnesium and menopause should go hand in hand. However, not all people require magnesium supplementation. With that being said, magnesium supplements are usually safe for most people to take, and there is little risk of having hypermagnesemia (a state where your magnesium levels are too high). If you do take too much magnesium, you are likely to experience diarrhea and an upset stomach. In rare cases, it may lead to poor kidney function, muscle weakness, and irregularities in your heart rate and rhythm.

The greater risk is having too little magnesium in your system, which if severe, can lead to heart problems. 

The Final Word on Magnesium 

If you are curious if you should be taking magnesium, ask your doctor for their opinion. You can get a blood test to assess your levels. However, a blood test does not always represent the total amount of magnesium in your body, as much of it is stored in your muscles and bones. 

Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral in our bodies that is safe for most people to take. If you are prone to constipation, you may benefit from taking magnesium citrate. However, if you find you are struggling with sleep issues, moodiness, and anxiety, magnesium glycinate may be the better choice for you

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.

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Julia Walker
perry expert Julia (RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations. She specializes in helping women optimize their health during perimenopause and beyond.

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