Candice Csaky, INHHC

Magnesium 101: What You Really Need to Know


Magnesium is one of those nutrients we tend to hear about from time to time and which tends to cause a lot of confusion for a lot of people.  So today, I am going to try to clear things up and make choosing the right magnesium for you a little bit easier.


Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in our bodies. Moreover, it’s the fourth most abundant mineral that we have and yet, some studies say that up to 68% of adults don’t get enough magnesium in accordance with the recommended daily intake (RDI). Magnesium is a necessary cofactor for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including making DNA.  These chemical reactions help to build muscles, maintain nerve functions, promote a healthy, heart, sustain optimal immune system function and support our endocrine system. 


Magnesium helps lower our stress levels. In fact, magnesium is often referred to as the “relaxation mineral.” Serotonin, which is a natural mood stabilizer found mostly in our digestive system, requires magnesium for its production. Therefore, it is recommended that we take magnesium to help manage our stress, anxiety, and mood disorders. In turn, a magnesium deficiency can affect our stress level and emotional state.


Magnesium is used in hospitals and given to patients intravenously who are having heart palpitations – the magnesium helps slow down their heart rate.


Magnesium helps maintain our brain function by relaying signals between our body and our brain. It prevents overstimulation of nerve cells, which could result in brain damage.


Magnesium helps regulate muscle contractions – it's opposite to calcium to help our muscles relax. Magnesium is commonly recommended for treating muscle cramps.


Magnesium has also been linked to helping reduce the risk of many diseases, including arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Several studies have shown that migraine headaches are associated with low levels of magnesium.


So what are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency? It might seem obvious now that you know a bit more about how the body uses magnesium but let's take a deeper look below; 


  • This might seem the most obvious but muscle pain, cramps, and spasms from feet cramps to chest pain (due to spasms in your heart muscle), and even restless leg syndrome
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Feeling constantly fatigued or weak
  • Depression, anxiety, and edginess
  • Craving chocolate (cacao is high in magnesium)
  • Quick exhaustion during exercise
  • Insomnia and mid-night waking

When it comes to Magnesium and hormones, magnesium plays a huge role in;

  • Improving thyroid function
  • Supporting estrogen detoxification of harmful metabolites
  • Lowering blood sugar levels
  • Lowering adrenalin and cortisol
  • Supporting testosterone production
  • Increasing serotonin
  • Increasing DHEA


So while I prefer that my clients get the majority of the nutrients from whole foods, I also know that our food is becoming deficient in minerals with the ongoing practice of conventional farming and heavy pesticide use.  Supplementation is becoming more and more necessary to meet our needs and not all supplements are made the same. Magnesium is no different. 


There are so many forms of magnesium that it's easy to see why people get so confused on this. 


  • Bisglycinate
  • Citrate
  • Malate
  • Threonate
  • Oxide
  • Chloride
  • Carbonate


My number 1 choice and most recommended form of magnesium is Magnesium Bisglycinate (also known as magnesium chelate, magnesium diglycinate, magnesium glycinate).  It is a highly absorbable (about 80%)  chelated form and what I take every day.  On days where my stress levels are high, I may even double up to give my body and adrenals additional support. 


“Chelated” forms of a mineral mean that an amino acid has been attached to them making them a very stable form of magnesium that is less likely to cause gastrointestinal symptoms and reduces the laxative effect.  It also helps with PMS, fibrocystic breasts, sleep, anxiety, cravings, pains, and cramps.


Magnesium Citrate is another chelated type of magnesium bound to citric acid. This form of magnesium is about 30% bioavailable, but it pulls water into the bowels giving it more of a laxative effect, which may be great for you if you are struggling with chronic constipation.


Magnesium malate is a type of magnesium bound to malic acid. For those having issues with energy production, a magnesium malate supplement may be effective for helping with chronic fatigue syndrome and/or fibromyalgia. Now if you are struggling with sleep, this form may be too stimulation and can actually disrupt your sleep, especially when taking at night! 


Magnesium threonate is a form of magnesium chelated to threonic acid, a metabolite of vitamin C. This form of magnesium in comparison to others was created to cross the blood-brain barrier – it may, therefore, improve learning and memory functions and maybe be especially beneficial for age-related cognitive decline.


Magnesium oxide contains a lot of magnesium by weight but has a bioavailability of only 4%. This form is found in many magnesium supplements and should be avoided. 


Magnesium chloride is a form of magnesium for topical use. The skin is a great way to increase magnesium levels and bypass using the gut – this is especially beneficial for people with IBS, IBD (or leaky gut) who suffer from malabsorption of nutrients.


Magnesium Carbonate, also called magnesite, is used as a remedy for heartburn and upset stomach.  Its bioavailability is about 30% when taken internally.  It has a strong laxative effect when taken in high amounts.   


So how much magnesium should we be consuming on a daily basis to keep our body functioning as it should?


Adult men should consume 420 mg/day, while adult women should consume 320 mg/day.


Some of my favourite magnesium-rich natural food sources are; 


  • Pumpkin seeds (check out the recipe below for making Creamy Pumpkin Seed Butter)
  • Raw almonds and cashews (raw nuts are better than roasted nuts – roasted nuts lose
  • magnesium during the roasting process)
  • Dark chocolate
  • Black beans, peas, and soybeans
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach)
  • Whole grains (oat bran)
  • Herbs (coriander, chives, dill, sage)

The easiest (and yummiest) way of getting in your daily magnesium - is to include plenty of food sources high in this multi-tasking mineral, such as creamy pumpkin seed butters!




Creamy Pumpkin Seed Butter





2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

1-2 tsp. olive oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.
Cool for 15-20 minutes.
Put the pumpkin seeds in a food processor.
Run the food processor for approximately 4-5 minutes, until the pumpkin seeds begin to have the texture of butter. If necessary, stop the food processor and scrape the sides.
Continue running the food processor for another 2-5 minutes until the pumpkin seeds have the texture of butter. Add some of the oil, as needed, until the desired consistency is obtained.






Candice Csaky, INHHC

Sleep and Your Gut Bacteria



Circadian rhythms are patterns of brainwave activity, hormones, cell regeneration and biological activities that occur on a daily basis. And sleeping well at the right time each day is essential to keeping the circadian rhythms functioning properly so we function properly, too.


The fact that our microbes are actually the regulators of this function and that our sleeps patterns are an issue for our microbes should not surprise us. They need us to rest so they can do their thing while we sleep and keep their balance as it should be.


There is also more news you might be interested in. Not having the right microbes may be lowering your metabolic rate while you sleep and this can lead to weight gain. This is based on a mouse study at UI Carver College of Medicine which found that mice given a drug that lowers beneficial bacteria, had a lower metabolic rate both when resting and when asleep, causing them to gain weight.


So what should you do? Should you work on sleeping better to help the microbes or should you work on your gut health to help you sleep better? The answer is to do both. There are number of strategies that can help.


To help reset your circadian rhythm:


  • Go to bed at a set time and get up at the same time as much as possible
  • Avoid bright lights near bedtime
  • Avoid eating or exercising close to bedtime
  • Sleep in dark space – light tricks the body into thinking it is time to be awake.
  • Develop a relaxing routine before bed whether it is taking a bed, deep breathing exercises or having a nice cup of herbal tea such as chamomile or valerian.


For those who have irregular work and therefore, sleep schedules, consider talking to a practitioner about taking melatonin.


Diet also plays a role. In another mouse study, both high fat and low fat diets played a negative role in the function of circadian rhythms and they also altered the microbiome. Short-chain fatty acid production was lower, especially butyrate which is essential for circadian rhythm function.  Butyrate is produced by beneficial colon bacteria from resistant starch found in complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, wheat, rice, legumes and sweet potatoes.


To improve gut health:


  • Eat prebiotic foods, especially those with resistant starch
  • Take probiotics which can help melatonin levels which, in turn, help restore circadian rhythms.
  • Butyrate supplements are available if you are unsure as to how well you are producing it, or you can add in foods that are high in butyrate. To get butyrate from foods, you can either eat grass fed butter, or eat a lot of vegetables for the fiber, or double up for the most delicious route: a big pile of vegetables slathered in plenty of butter. 


Sleep is one more example of the potential problems caused by dysbiosis and why we should be focused on improving our gut health.




Circadian Disorganization Alters Intestinal Microbiota, Robin M. Voigt,1 et al, PLoS One. 2014; 9(5): e97500.


Effects of diurnal variation of gut microbes and high-fat feeding on host circadian clock function and metabolism. Leone V1, et al, Cell Host Microbe. 2015 May 13;17(5):681-9.


Melatonin regulation as a possible mechanism for probiotic (VSL#3) in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized double-blinded placebo study, Wong RK1 et al, Dig Dis Sci. 2015 Jan;60(1):186-94.