Magnesium citrate is a supplement made up of magnesium and citric acid.
Magnesium is one of the 21 essential minerals your body needs for optimal health. It’s involved in hundreds of reactions in your body, relating to things like:
- Bone synthesis (creation)
- Blood sugar control
- Blood pressure regulation
- Immune regulation
- Energy production
- DNA and RNA synthesis
- Protein synthesis
Magnesium is also an electrolyte, or an electrically charged molecule, and helps to power your body’s “electrical circuit”. Your brain, heart, nerves and muscles all depend on this electrical circuit (and magnesium) to function properly, making magnesium one of the most important minerals for overall good health.
Citric acid is an organic acid that occurs naturally in citrus fruits, such as lemons and limes. As we’ll discuss in this article, citric acid is a key part of the process the body uses to create energy, making it critical for the survival of every single cell in your body.
What are the benefits of magnesium citrate?
Magnesium supplements of all kinds, including magnesium citrate, are known for health benefits like heart function, blood pressure control, blood sugar regulation, immune function, cognitive support, brain health, and more. (You can read all about these in our in-depth article 12 Evidence-Based Benefits of Magnesium Supplements.) Combining magnesium with citric acid creates some specific, unique benefits of its own. Here are our top five benefits of magnesium citrate…
Constipation is generally defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in a one-week period. Most people will experience constipation from time to time and it usually resolves on its own. However, it can cause abdominal discomfort, bloating, nausea and, if you’re straining, hemorrhoids or anal fissures (small tears). So naturally, some people are keen to move things along!
If that’s you, magnesium citrate can help. It’s best known as a laxative and is often found in over-the-counter constipation medications. It works by pulling more water into the intestines, making the stool softer and easier to pass through the digestive tract.
Indigestion or reflux
Magnesium citrate is also commonly used for acid reflux. This is when the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) — the “gate” between your esophagus and your stomach — allows stomach acid to come back up into your esophagus. That can cause a nasty taste in your mouth, a sore throat, and a burning sensation in your chest, which is why acid reflux is also commonly referred to as heartburn.
One potential cause of reflux is a failure further down the line. After your food passes through the LES and into the stomach, it’s then supposed to empty out through the pyloric sphincter. If the pyloric sphincter doesn’t relax enough, the pressure in your stomach can force the contents to go back the way they came! Magnesium helps by relaxing the pyloric sphincter and allowing your stomach contents to continue in the right direction.
Another potential cause of reflux is when acidity inside the stomach is too high. This gets in the way of proper digestion and stomach emptying and can cause gas and bloating, again putting pressure on the LES. Magnesium citrate can help by neutralizing acidity and supporting proper digestion.
All magnesium supplements are believed to help with fatigue, but magnesium citrate is especially effective. To understand why, let’s first talk about how your body actually produces energy.
You probably know that most of your body’s energy comes from glucose. In order to actually extract that energy and use it, though, your body first has to put glucose through a complicated cycle of chemical reactions. A molecule called ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, captures the energy released during this cycle, then shuttles it all over the body and into the cells.
This process is called the Krebs cycle, but it’s also commonly known by its other name: the citric acid cycle. As you can probably guess, a big part of this cycle is… citric acid! You need citric acid to activate and maintain this cycle, so if you don’t have enough of it, your energy levels will suffer. In one study comparing citric acid to a popular energy supplement (L-carnitine), citric acid was shown to be much more effective at reducing physical stress and fatigue.
But even with an abundance of citric acid, ATP can’t actually be used by the cells unless it’s bound to magnesium. That means getting plenty of both of these essential substances, whether in your diet or in a magnesium citrate supplement, is critical for maintaining healthy energy levels.
Migraine headaches can be debilitating for sufferers, but many people find relief with magnesium citrate. One study found that when people took magnesium citrate for preventing migraines, they experienced significantly fewer migraine attacks. Two similar studies found a 41.6% and 42% reduction in migraine attacks, respectively, and people reported that their migraines were much less intense.
General magnesium deficiency
Magnesium citrate is a great option if you’re looking to boost your magnesium levels, treat a magnesium deficiency, or just enjoy the various well-being benefits of magnesium.
Citric acid is known to increase the absorption of minerals like magnesium in the gut, which is why magnesium citrate has higher bioavailability than various other popular types of magnesium. The higher the bioavailability, the more magnesium your body can use from your supplement, and the greater the benefits. That makes magnesium citrate one of the best magnesium types for general supplementation.
Is magnesium citrate safe?
Yes, magnesium citrate is generally safe for most people if taken as directed. That said, there are a few important things to keep in mind if you’re taking a magnesium citrate supplement.
First, while magnesium citrate is a very effective laxative, it’s not intended to be used for this purpose long-term. If you have chronic constipation that’s not getting better, it’s important to see your doctor so that you can get the treatment you need.
Excessive laxative use can also cause potentially dangerous electrolyte imbalances and kidney problems. For that reason, you should never exceed the recommended dosage on your supplement label.
Magnesium citrate’s laxative effects work by pulling water into your intestines, which you’ll then lose when you go to the bathroom! Regardless of why you’re using magnesium citrate, then, it’s important to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.
If you have a pre-existing health condition, speak to your doctor before taking magnesium citrate. Some health conditions can affect how your body absorbs, processes, and gets rid of magnesium. Also, both magnesium and citric acid can affect how certain medications behave in your body.
This doesn’t always mean you can’t take magnesium citrate, but your doctor may need to advise you on how to take it safely. For example, your doctor might advise you not to take magnesium citrate in the two hours before or after you take your medications, as the laxative effect may prevent you from absorbing them properly.
Does magnesium citrate have side effects?
The most popular use of magnesium citrate can also be a downside. If you’re taking magnesium citrate for any other reason than constipation, then its laxative effect is likely to be very unwelcome! You could also find yourself with diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas bloating, and nausea.
If this happens, don’t panic! Simply lower your dosage of magnesium citrate and the symptoms should ease. Alternatively, you might want to choose a better-tolerated type of magnesium, such as magnesium malate or magnesium taurate, both of which are less likely to cause digestive discomfort. Check out our in-depth comparison of the different types of magnesium supplements.