What Does Magnesium Do?

Co-Authored by Dr. Melissa Glover, ND & Dr. Brittany Schamerhorn, ND 

In a perfect world, magnesium is supposed to be the fourth most abundant mineral in our body, as it is necessary for the synthesis of ATP, the body’s main form of energy. However, it is estimated that over 43% of Canadians do not get sufficient magnesium through the diet. This is due to our food sources being depleted of magnesium themselves. With depleted soils, food processing, and absorption issues becoming more common getting enough magnesium in a day can become quite challenging! When you increase your demand for magnesium by chronic stress and various medications, it is no wonder it is one of the most commonly deficient minerals in developed countries.

....it is estimated that over 43% of Canadians do not get sufficient magnesium through the diet.

Magnesium works on a fundamental level and is involved in many biochemical and physiological roles, so the signs of deficiency can be quite variable. Here is a very simplified list of some of the key functions of magnesium:

  • Magnesium activates enzymes - making our biochemical processes more efficient
  • Magnesium activates enzymes that help produce cellular energy (ATP)
  • Magnesium helps with the regulation of minerals - for example: 
    • Sodium and potassium in our nerve cells
    • Pumping calcium out of our muscles (preventing muscle spasms or twitching)

The Optimal Daily Intake is 600-800 mg/day (including all sources, both supplemental and food).

Food Sources: Nuts, whole grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables, fish and meat. (Note: 50-75% of Magnesium is lost in water when vegetables are boiled)

Fun fact: 

 The absorption of magnesium is actually regulated by the level of magnesium you already have. If you are deficient in magnesium, your body will automatically increase absorption, while if you have sufficient magnesium levels your body will decrease absorption.

 photo credit: https://eatlove.live/daily-need-of-magnesium/

photo credit: https://eatlove.live/daily-need-of-magnesium/

Since Magnesium is so crucial to so many processes the signs of deficiency are vast and various! Just a few potential signs of a magnesium deficiency are:

• Brain Fog
• Headaches
• Elevated blood pressure
• Decreased glucose tolerance
• Neural excitation
• Inflammation
• Fatigue
• Muscle cramps or tightness
• Irritability
• Weakness
• Insomnia
• Anxiety
• Depression


  • Acid reflux & heartburn - magnesium will reduce spasm of the lower esophageal sphincter and prevent the release of acid into the esophagus. Magnesium is also needed for stomach acid production, so deficiency can be an indicator of low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria).
  • Alzheimer & dementia - magnesium acts as a cofactor for enzymes that break down and prevent amyloid-beta plaques, which are closely associated with Alzheimer's disease & dementia.
  • Anxiety, stress & panic attacks - magnesium promotes relaxation through the sympathetic nervous system, thyroid and adrenal glands.
  • Blood sugar regulation - magnesium helps to improve insulin sensitivity
  • Bone health - magnesium and calcium go hand in hand.
  • Constipation - magnesium induces muscle relaxation and some forms act as a gentle laxatives.
  • Hypertension - magnesium leads to general relaxation and dilation of blood vessels which promote improved circulation at a lower pressure.
  • Vitamin D & calcium deficiencies - magnesium regulates key enzymes that activate Vitamin D and promote calcium absorption
  • Depression - magnesium helps convert tryptophan into serotonin (our happy and calm neurotransmitter)
  • Migraines & headaches - magnesium promotes relaxation of muscles and the production of serotonin (both with have shown effective in treating migraines and headaches)
  • Fatigue - magnesium increases ATP levels which is our main source of cellular energy in the mitochondria.
  • Sports endurance & athletic recovery - magnesium creates cellular energy and promoting optimal muscle relaxation & contraction.

Now that you know a bit more about magnesium this contraindicating statement should make a bit more sense. Magnesium can be energizing in the fact that it can support our various energy-producing pathways, while also decreasing our stress response and increasing our sleep quality. Magnesium truly can be both relaxing and energizing, acting to balance and optimize the body's energy levels.

Magnesium truly can be both relaxing and energizing, acting to balance and optimize the body’s energy levels

Unfortunately, there is not one type of Magnesium that is better than all of the others. Given the various uses of magnesium in the body, the type best chosen for treatment is specific to both the desired outcome and the demands on an individual.

  • Magnesium Aspartate: thought to help more specifically with fatigue since aspartic acid plays a role in energy production. Higher absorption of ~42%.
  • Magnesium oxide/oxalate: gastrointestinal side effects like diarrhea and bloating are common due to a lower absorption rate. Can be useful for severe constipation. Absorption is low, ~4-5%.
  • Magnesium glycinate: the quickest and easiest to be absorbed through the intestine (this means there is minimal if any, laxative effect). Successfully used for chronic pain and hypertonicity. Higher availability than magnesium oxide.
  • Magnesium citrate: has a more gentle laxative effect than the oxide form and it is rapidly absorbed in the GI tract. Absorption is ~25-30%
  • Magnesium malate: the combination of malate and magnesium can improve ATP production has may relieve pain and tenderness in fibromyalgia. Similar absorbability as magnesium citrate (~25-30%).
  • Magnesium sulfate: not used in oral form, but can be absorbed through the skin, so it is found in topical applications & Epsom bath salts.
  • Magnesium orotate: this form is studied mostly in relation to heart health.
  • Magnesium-L-Threonate: has been shown to improve cognitive function. Not as useful when suspecting magnesium deficiency.

If you think you may be deficient in magnesium or that supplementation may benefit you make sure you talk to your doctor first to make sure it is right for you! This article was written for information purposes only and was not intended to diagnose or prescribe.  

E. (2017, April 29). Magnesium - Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://examine.com/supplements/magnesium/
Gaby, A. (n.d.). Nutritional medicine. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
Zhang, Y., Xun, P., Wang, R., Mao, L., & He, K. (2017). Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance? Nutrients, 9(9), 946. doi:10.3390/nu9090946
On the significance of magnesium in extreme physical stress.Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998 Sep;12 Suppl 2:197-202.
Can Prev - Magnesium A complete primer  

What Causes Mood Disorders in Young People?

As we grow older, many of us have the tendency to idealize our child- and young-adulthood as a carefree, exploratory time, with few responsibilities or consequences.

Whether that view of our youth is true or not, North American statistics are showing a new trend towards the opposite: a study released by Statistics Canada on January 17 showed that over 11% of Canadians age 15-24 have experienced an MDE (major depressive episode) at some point in their lives. They are the demographic with the highest incidence of mental health disorders in North America.

The number appears to rising, as well: a study done in the US showed a 37% increase in mental health issues in young people between 2005 and 2014. Scarier still? Suicide is the second cause of death for kids in this age bracket.

...a study done in the US showed a 37% increase in mental health issues in young people between 2005 and 2014.

So what’s causing poor mental health in our young adults? And, more importantly, what can we do to help?

The diet


The inflammatory response in the body and brain is largely due to the dysregulation of stress hormones, infections, environmental toxins and a diet rich in trans fats and sugar.

Canadian researchers found that a protein known to be a marker of inflammation was up to 1/3 higher in the brains of depressed patients compared to healthy ones.  Those with the most severe forms of depression also had the most inflammation.


The current SAD (standard American diet) is FULL of hidden sugars, allergens, and food stripped of its nutrients due to over-farming… all things that cause massive amounts of inflammation in the body!

Parents have less control over what their kids eat between the ages of 15-24, so there’s a good chance inflammatory foods are being consumed on a regular basis by this at-risk age group - much to their mental health’s detriment.

Healthy gut, healthy brain


On the subject of what we’re eating, our gut, or gastrointestinal (GI) system, is intimately connected to our brain. Just as emotional situations can cause feelings in our stomach (think about feeling butterflies, or feeling nauseous when we’re nervous), what’s going on in the gut can cause an emotional response.

In fact, did you know that 85% of our “happy hormones”, like serotonin and dopamine, are produced in our gut? Also, 80% of the immune system’s tissues are located in our gut.

The gut is as much of an epicentre in the body as the brain!

This is why it’s vitally important that we sustain a healthy gut flora. When we eat too many sugars, or allergens like wheat, dairy, corn and/or soy, our gut loses its ability to perform optimally.

Never mind just feeling sluggish or low-energy because we’re not digesting our food properly - if our GI system isn’t healthy, it won’t produce enough of the hormones we need to moderate our mood, either.

Screens & Social Media

If you’ve read my blog or visited me at my clinic, you’ll know that I advocate screen-free time strongly, particularly when mental health issues are involved.

Even for adults, who have (mostly) fully-formed opinions of themselves and the world, being exposed to a constant influx of information can have negative impacts on health, and self-worth.

For teens and young adults, too much screen time and exposure to social media can be like poison. As the brain develops it requires real-life social interaction and engagement, not 2D moderated interaction. Additionally, happiness studies have shown that a sense of community is crucial to living a happy, fulfilling life.

The isolation of staring at a screen all day, combined with the social pressure and downright bullying that happens on various social media platforms, make technology a bit of a lethal combo for a young person with a mood disorder - or on the verge of developing one.

How to help

If you suspect your child is struggling with their mental health, I highly recommend visiting a professional - be it an MD, and ND, or a counsellor - who can make suggestions for your unique situation.

That being said, there are some supplements & lifestyle changes you can implement right now.

Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies and underlying hormone imbalances can lead to changes in our brain chemicals and lead to mood disorders.  The following are important to have checked by your MD or ND:  Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, iron, thyroid, adrenals, and blood sugars.



5-HTP may help to increase serotonin synthesis as depression and anxiety have been linked to serotonin imbalances in the brain.

Passionflower is known as a “calming” herb for anxiety or nervousness, insomnia, generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD.

PharmaGABA is the most inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.  Low levels of GABA have been linked to anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Probiotics will restore imbalances in the microbiota in the gut that can negatively affect brain function.

B vitamins, especially B12, B6, B5 and folic acid are often low in people with anxiety and depression.

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the inflammatory response in the body, which seems to be an underlying cause in depression and anxiety.



Encourage your kids to get outside, see their friends in person, engage with their family, read, write (on paper!), play sports - anything that breaks up the lonely monotony that comes with “smart” technology. “Phone free” zones and times of day can be really effective, as can strict boundaries - your kids may not like the feeling of being without their technology at first, but the benefits far outweigh the bad moods!

More than anything, if you suspect your teen/young adult is suffering, a little love & compassion can go a long way. It’s hard enough to be a teenager, but nowadays kids and young adults are contending with a world  - and a level of mental health - we’ve never seen before. Try to be patient with them, and give them the support they need.

What's with "Cracking Backs"? Understanding the Popping Noise you Hear at your Chiropractor

You’re nervously walking into your first visit to a Chiropractic office with stories from your friend who referred you to the doctor who "cracks your bones" ominously swirling around in your head. "Yeah, the ones in your back, your neck and even in your arms and legs", but “don’t worry” they said, “it feels great and my pain is gone”. Yeah, right! How could someone cracking my bones feel "great"? Fair enough, that sounds pretty terrifying to me and I’m a chiropractor… but don’t worry! This is a very common misconception and you’re not the only one who assumes this myth to be true.

Allow me to set your mind at ease and tell you that we do NOT crack bones; to be honest, we do very little to bones at all. A chiropractic adjustment, manipulation, back crack, or whatever you want to call it is intended to affect your bodies joints. Now, as a great teacher of mine once said, "I don’t mean to insult your intelligence" - a joint is a fluid-filled, pressurized, connective tissue capsule that connects bones together and allows for movement in different directions. There are different types of joints with different structures and functions – some of which have more movement than others, and some that are more likely to become restricted and pain producing. Again, we do NOT crack bones, we help to create space and movement within a joint.

Again, we do NOT crack bones, we help to create space and movement within a joint.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, why do your joints make that cracking sound when they are adjusted? Well to use the proper term, we call that noise a ‘cavitation’. A cavitation is the formation of an air bubble inside of a liquid which undergoes the phenomena of ’tribonucleation’, this is a known natural process where distraction forces on a joint result in a small separation due to viscous attraction by the synovial fluid within the joint capsule. The fluid cavity is then formed, and a cavitation may be heard when sufficient force rapidly separates the liquid. The cavity only disappears when the action is completed.

Well that’s a little bit confusing, now isn’t it? Let’s break it down.


When a Chiropractor administers an adjustment, they’re applying a controlled, high velocity (read: quick) low amplitude (shallow) force to the desired joint. This force is sufficient to gap the joint, which creates enough space within the joint capsule to form the bubble that creates the cracking sound you may hear.

Wait! Bubbles? Yes, just bubbles. Not so bad, right?

What does the joint gapping and adjusting do? How does it get me out of pain? How does it allow me to move my neck, back, arms, and legs more freely? And where did my headache go? Those are all great questions, and ones I look forward to answering another day!

I hope this helps you better understand what is truly happening when your Chiropractor adjusts you!


  • Chiropractors do NOT “crack” bones
  • Chiropractors DO gap joints to improve movement and decrease pain
  • The cracking noise is called a cavitation and is caused by a gas bubble forming within the joint
  • Bubbles are not scary:)

Bulletproof Coffee: Upgrade your morning and boost your energy throughout the day

You may or may not have heard of bulletproof coffee, but this yummy morning brew is going to amp up your mornings and the rest of the day! So many people these days are in a huge rush in the morning and simply grab a coffee, a muffin (or other carbohydrate dense breakfast food) and head out the door. In my experience, this usually causes fogginess, fatigue and hunger mere hours later. Sound familiar?

Bullet or Bulletproof coffee is a delicious, creamy and easy recipe to add some healthy fats to your morning brew. Adding healthy fats, such as MCT oil and grass-fed butter dense with omega 3 and 6, to your coffee slows down the absorption of caffeine. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are isolated from coconut oil, for their ability to bypass metabolism in the liver and provide the body and the brain with sustained energy. Blending in these fats and some other powerful, natural add-ins essentially turns your drab morning joe into a breakfast of champions. No need for any more muffins, and it will keep you full until lunch! It is important to note that Bulletproof coffee is not the appropriate choice for everyone, but can be a healthful breakfast substitute for many.

The individual ingredients in bulletproof coffee are nothing too special on their own, but all together... Look out! You’re in for a treat! Aside from the joy of your morning coffee ritual, you’ll also have these amazing benefits:

1. Less desire for multiple coffees throughout the day

Possibly one of my favourite benefits of bulletproof coffee, is that having one cup in the morning is going to stop you from reaching for that second, third or even fourth cup in the afternoon. This is a nice change for both your liver and your wallet. Black coffee has some proven health benefits, but these only holds up if consumed in moderation, meaning less than three cups (250mL) of coffee per day. The reason for this reduced craving for that afternoon joe is multi-factorial, but largely due to the ability of fats and coffee to balance blood sugar levels. The addition of fats to caffeine slows its absorption and prolongs coffee’s energy enhancing and blood sugar balancing properties throughout the day. More specifically, one component in coffee (chlorogenic acid) causes glucose to be absorbed further along in the intestine, therefore prolonging satiation and reducing blood sugar spikes. Moderate black coffee consumption has been linked to enhanced metabolic profiles by improving insulin sensitivity, which in turn can even lower the risk of Type II Diabetes. We know that carbohydrates and proteins (like the ones in your breakfast muffin) can be converted to sugar, and therefore cause blood sugar levels to rise, but the fats in bulletproof coffee aren’t going to promote blood sugar spikes at all. Without a blood glucose spike in the morning, you won’t get a blood glucose drop in the afternoon.

Having fewer blood glucose highs and lows creates a sustainable balance that will have you saying goodbye to that 2-3pm slump!

2. More efficient fat metabolism throughout the day (which can lead to weight loss for some)

Ok wait… so adding fat to coffee, can improve my fat metabolism? You bet!

Adding fats to coffee is going to massively increase the caloric profile of your morning brew. Giving your body ample calories in the morning is important so that it doesn't get tricked into entering starvation mode, which is prompted by caloric restriction. Calorie restriction promotes fat storage and decreased metabolism, which in turn causes you to gain back all the weight that you would have lost restricting your calories. Instead, having a calorie dense, fat-filled breakfast is going to kick start your metabolism for the day ahead of you!

Coffee itself is known to improve the satiety hormone profile, via ghrelin and serotonin, while specific phenols in coffee also increase fat utilization and promote fat excretion. Butter that comes from grass-fed cows contains a much higher content of healthy essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6) when compared to regular run-of-the-mill butter, and these EFAs are going to promote production of an optimal hormone profile. Having healthy hormones is key for efficient fat metabolism (see benefit #4).

Medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is specific type of fat that is more easily digested than other fats and sugars. While being easy to digest, MCT oil helps you feel full longer by producing ketones that will suppress the hunger hormone grehlin, and increase the satiety signal via CCK. Ketones also fuel your brain and promote thermogenesis, which helps speed up your metabolic rate.

3. Improved cognitive function and energy (no more 3pm fatigue and brain fog)

We all know that the caffeine in coffee gives most people an energy boost, can stimulate digestion, and promotes regular bowel function. MCT oil helps stimulate digestion in a similar way, therefore it is important to start with only about 1tsp per day, and increase slowly from there. Regular bowel function is key to removing toxins, and an overburden of toxins and inefficient digestion can make us foggy and fatigued throughout the day, which will reduce our energy and cognitive function.

There has been a lot of mixed research on the benefits and harms of coffee. However, recently black coffee in moderation has been shown to reduce rates of neurological disorders such as Parkinson disease, age-related cognitive decline, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Potentially due to the large antioxidant profile of coffee which can be protective against oxidative damage in the brain. Similarly, MCT oil is known to help optimize brain function and cognition by being metabolized into ketones quickly, and providing the neurons in your brain with fast, available energy.

4. Increased production of healthy hormones

I’ve already mentioned a lot about hormones, particularly the ones that send signals of whether you’re hungry or full: ghrelin, CCK, and serotonin. However, it is important to note that the building blocks of ALL hormones in the human body is through saturated fat and cholesterol – no fat equals no hormones. The fats from both MCT oil and grass-fed butter are going to promote production of our hormones including steroid and sex hormones, including testosterone. Testosterone is known to promote fat loss, lean muscle mass development and improved energy!


  • 1 cup of organic coffee (Not a fan of coffee? Try experimenting with bulletproof matcha, or chai tea!)
  • 1 tsp MCT Oil High in C8
  • 1 Tbsp organic grass-fed unsalted butter (or ghee if you’re dairy sensitive or lactose intolerant)
  • ¼ tsp organic vanilla


Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Mix on high speed for about 20 seconds until frothy. Enjoy immediately!

Test out these optional add-ins:

  • 2-3 drops of stevia extract to help sweeten the mix
  • 1-2 tsp Chaga mushroom powder as a coffee substitute or for its adaptogenic and immune boosting function.
  • 1-2 tbsp Collagen Hydrolysate to hydrate connective tissue and joints.
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon to additionally balance blood sugars and add a warming flavor.

Note: Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. Health-related information contained in this post is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a Naturopathic Doctor.


Pourshahidi, L. K., Navarini, L., Petracco, M. & Strain, J.J. (2016), A Comprehensive Overview of the Risks and Benefits of Coffee Consumption. Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety, 15: 671–684. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12206

Cunnane, S. C., Courchesne-Loyer, A., St-Pierre, V., Vandenberghe, C., Pierotti, T., Fortier, M., . . . Castellano, C. (2016). Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimers disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,1367(1), 12-20. doi:10.1111/nyas.12999