Magnesium is an essential mineral that your body needs. While calcium gets a lot of talk for bone health, you need magnesium every bit as much! Magnesium is one of those nutrients that you don’t really notice until you don’t have enough—then you can feel it everywhere in your life.
From your ability to sleep well to your mood to muscle cramps to hydration to cellular function, magnesium is essential in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. You may feel the effects of inadequate or deficient levels of magnesium in many health issues.
Just like calcium, magnesium comes in many different forms, and not all of them provide the same benefits. Magnesium bicarbonate has gained popularity recently, for a good reason! In this blog post, I’ll explain how it’s different from other forms of magnesium. I’ll also tell you exactly how I make it for myself with an easy recipe you can replicate in your own kitchen to optimize your health.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that supports many vital physiological functions, including:
- Energy production in cells
- Protein synthesis
- Cellular signaling
- Nutrient transport
It’s absolutely necessary at a metabolic, DNA, and cellular level.
Without the right amount of magnesium, even if you have enough other nutrients, these important biological processes may not happen optimally.
You also need magnesium for other reasons. It’s important for:
- Normal vitamin D and calcium absorption
- Bone health (and preventing osteoporosis)
- Heart health
- Normal heart rhythm
- Healthy blood pressure
- Healthy glucose levels and normal insulin response for metabolic health
- Production of glutathione (the body’s master antioxidant)
- Electrolyte balance
- Nutrient transport across cell membranes
- Nerve impulses
- Muscular contractions and function
- Reducing carbon dioxide in the body
- And a lot more!
As you can see, magnesium isn’t just a fad nutrient, and it isn’t of little consequence. While all nutrients have their place in contributing to health, magnesium ranks near the top of the list.
Who Is Likely to Be Low in Magnesium?
Even though magnesium is such an essential nutrient, it’s also a common deficiency. As much as half of the U.S. population doesn’t get enough magnesium.
The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium changes based on sex, age, and stage of life. Pregnant women have higher magnesium requirements than non-pregnant women, but breastfeeding does not increase your need.
The tolerable upper limit in supplement form is 350 mg of magnesium per day. Most multivitamins contain about half of this amount or less.
Magnesium from food is slightly different from supplements in how it absorbs. Too much magnesium from supplements can lead to diarrhea or intestinal discomfort, depending on the form. Sometimes magnesium is even used as a laxative, like with Milk of Magnesia.
Magnesium may also negatively affect how your kidneys work, especially if you already have known kidney problems.
You can get magnesium from food sources like leafy green veggies, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate. However, most people don’t eat enough of these to meet their daily needs. Even if you do, some of these foods may be harder to digest due to the presence of anti-nutrients, like oxalates.
Magnesium absorption can also be affected if you take too much zinc, eat a lot of fiber, or don’t eat enough protein. The human body contains about 25 grams of magnesium at any given time. As much as 60% of that is found in the bones, while the rest is in muscle and intracellular fluid. Your blood contains less than 1% of your magnesium stores.
Could you be low in magnesium? It’s very possible! Even if you eat a diet rich in magnesium foods and take a multivitamin with magnesium, you still may not be absorbing enough. How would you know?
Signs of low magnesium levels include:
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Abnormal eye movements
- And more
How Do Magnesium Forms Differ?
You can supplement with magnesium. In fact, it is a very common dietary supplement. It comes in many different forms, and each one may have a slightly different purpose and use.
Common magnesium supplement forms are:
- Magnesium citrate
- Magnesium glycinate
- Magnesium lactate
- Magnesium sulfate
- Magnesium oxide
- Magnesium malate
- Magnesium chloride
- Magnesium taurate
- Magnesium l-threonate
- Magnesium orotate
With so many different forms of magnesium, how do you know which one is best?
Some magnesium supplements are better at correcting deficiencies than others. Magnesium citrate is a commonly used form to address magnesium deficiency since it is well-absorbed in the gut. However, people with sensitive intestinal conditions may find that the laxative effects lead to discomfort.
For people who need magnesium supplementation that does not affect their gut function, magnesium malate may be recommended.
Certain types of magnesium work for specific purposes:
- Magnesium citrate may have a laxative effect, so it may help to address constipation. It may also produce calming effects.
- Magnesium oxide is used for laxative benefits.
- Magnesium taurate is used for supporting healthy blood sugar levels.
- Magnesium l-threonate is the only form of magnesium known to cross the blood-brain barrier, making it the optimal choice for supporting cognitive function and mood.
- Magnesium sulfate is also known as Epsom salt and is absorbed through the skin.
- Magnesium glycinate is paired with the amino acid glycine and is used for supporting healthy sleep. I’ve heard that it’s gentler for those with digestive issues as well.
- Magnesium orotate supports cardiovascular health and offers support for the muscular system.
What Is Magnesium Bicarbonate?
There is another form of magnesium that we haven’t talked about yet: magnesium bicarbonate. (Not to be confused with sodium bicarbonate!)
Magnesium bicarbonate is a form of magnesium that you take in water. It contributes to your daily magnesium needs and also supports a healthy pH level.
Your body is always working to maintain homeostasis or complete balance. This includes tightly regulating your pH levels from being too alkaline or too acidic. Magnesium bicarbonate works like other electrolytes to support a healthy pH level in the body.
While it’s great to try to get most of your magnesium from food intake alone, it’s often difficult to do so. Adding magnesium bicarbonate to your health routine may prevent the need for taking a supplement while still giving your body the extra magnesium minerals that it requires.
How to Make Magnesium Bicarbonate Water
I make my own magnesium bicarbonate water with magnesium hydroxide. It is super easy to do so, plus you get the added benefit of supplementing with something that you made yourself (and you save money!).
Here’s how I do it:
- Get a 33.8-fluid ounce bottle of sparkling mineral water. Pour out 100 mL (around seven tablespoons) so there is some room in the bottle. (You can’t use plain drinking water or flavored carbonated water because it will not form the same. You can use seltzer water.)
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30-60 minutes.
- Remove the bottle and slightly tilt it to one side. Take the lid off and gently add ¼ teaspoon of magnesium hydroxide powder, sliding it down the inside of the bottle. You want to avoid shaking the bottle while adding the powder.
- After adding the powder, replace the lid quickly. Shake for 60 seconds. Place it back in the refrigerator for another 30-60 minutes.
- Remove the bottle and shake again for 60 seconds.
- Put it back in the refrigerator once more for another 30 minutes. After that, your homemade magnesium bicarbonate supplement is ready to go!
How to Take Magnesium Bicarbonate
It’s important to note: you are not going to drink this whole bottle in a day. Drinking too much magnesium bicarbonate water can cause some serious intestinal discomfort, diarrhea, cramping, electrolyte imbalance, and even lead to magnesium toxicity. It can be dangerous for your heart and other muscles to take too much magnesium in a day.
You don’t want to make your body too alkaline. All you need to supplement your daily magnesium intake is 1-2 small glasses per day, about ¼ to ½ cup each. If you take other magnesium supplements or eat a lot of magnesium-rich foods, limit it to only one small cup per day or every other day.
A couple of things you may want to know:
- You can mix your magnesium bicarbonate with juice if you want to add a little flavor to your drink.
- If you are not used to taking magnesium supplements, start slowly and work your way up to the desired amount of magnesium. This will prevent any discomfort and help your body adjust. You may also find you need less than you think you do!
- Magnesium bicarbonate is not the same thing as magnesium carbonate, which is a non-liquid form of a magnesium supplement.
- Many medications also directly deplete magnesium levels or interfere with the absorption of magnesium, such as many blood pressure medications, metformin and insulin, antacid medications, warfarin, estrogen, birth control pills, asthma inhalers, and steroid medications. If you take any of these medications, you should discuss your magnesium levels with your doctor and consider checking levels with an RBC magnesium test (NOT serum magnesium).
Your magnesium bicarbonate needs to stay refrigerated to stay active. If you don’t drink it all within a few weeks, you may notice some white powder settling at the bottom of the bottle. This may mean that it has lost some of its potency, but it’s not bad to drink. If you want to make sure you are getting enough magnesium bicarbonate in each drink, you can make a fresh bottle when you notice this.
Can You Give Magnesium Bicarbonate to Kids?
Magnesium is an important nutrient for children. They need it for the same health benefits that adults do, and many don’t get enough in their diets. However, you have to be careful with the dosages of supplements in kids versus adults. Children do not have the same RDAs as adults do for most nutrients.
Most supplements are labeled for ages 4 and older, so if your kids are older, you can likely give them magnesium bicarbonate at a lower dose than yours. If your child is younger than age 4, it is best to check with your pediatrician, a naturopath, functional medicine doctor, or health care provider to make sure there are no reasons to avoid it for your younger child.
The Bottom Line
Magnesium is a vital nutrient that we all need. Most of us don’t get enough in our daily diets. Magnesium bicarbonate is an easy DIY magnesium supplement you can make that can support your magnesium needs. I have loved integrating it into my daily wellness routine because it’s simple to do and actually feels like a treat. Swallowing supplement capsules is fine, too, but when I pour myself a small drink and actually take more than just a few seconds to invest in my health, it supports my mental health as a busy mama, too.
This article was medically reviewed by Jessica Meyers, MPAP, PA-C, RH(AHG), who specializes in herbal protocols and functional medicine. You can also find Jessica on Instagram. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Do you take a magnesium supplement? Have you ever tried making magnesium bicarbonate? Let me know your experience in the comments below!
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