Happy Gut Kitchen

Stressed, constipated and sleepless? Magnesium to the rescue!

Do you suffer from insomnia, agonize over constipation, endure painful leg cramps, battle depression or even find yourself feeling like you need a detox? Would you believe me if I said these symptoms and chronic health issues could be alleviated with the supplementation of a single mineral?1 With the stress of the upcoming holidays, this mineral is your best friend for surviving family get-togethers and holiday parties.

Magnesium is a powerful nutrient that is utilized by many enzymatic processes in the body. Enzymes are basically the catalysts that make things happen in the cells. More specifically, magnesium acts as a cofactor to these enzymes. Magnesium assists in energy metabolism, protein synthesis and cell replication. In regards to the cardiovascular system, magnesium regulates the conduction of other important minerals–calcium, sodium and potassium–in the heart. This mineral also plays important roles in sugar metabolism by facilitating glucose transport and the actions of the hormone insulin–its binding, secretion and activity.1 Magnesium has another important job, it aides in the synthesis of the master antioxidant in the body, glutathione.2

The recommended daily allowance or RDA of magnesium for men ages 19 – 30 years is 400 mg daily. For women in this age range, a recommended value is 310 mg daily. For ages 31 and up, the intake for men is 420 mg and 320 mg for women. Most Americans do not reach their RDA, which is actually the minimum requirement (not the amount needed for optimal function), leading to significant magnesium deficiencies.3

Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiencies can be due to a host of factors, among which are included:4,5

  • Gastrointestinal disorders. Individuals with a  leaky gut or malabsorption issues due to chronic irritable bowel syndrome, tend to also suffer from magnesium malabsorption.
  • A diet high in processed and altered foods. This type of manufacturing can deplete 85% of naturally occurring magnesium in foods.
  • Food preparation. Cooking or boiling food also decreases the amount of bioavailable magnesium that is present in a food.
  • Phytate-rich foods.  Phytates or phytic acid are naturally occurring components in legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds that are sometimes referred to as “anti-nutrients.” They bind to micronutrients like magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, and selenium, and inhibit their absorption into the body.
  • Excess alcohol consumption. Alcohol acts as a magnesium diuretic in the kidneys, contributing to a deficiency.
  • Antibiotic Use. Antibiotics disrupt the gut microbiome. As a result, barrier function and nutrient absorption are impaired, affecting the body’s ability to absorb magnesium.  

Do you feel that you eat a healthy diet, mostly plant-based with lots of nutrients? Do you not fit into any of these categories? You don’t drink alcohol or take medications. Even with a well-designed diet, you may still not be absorbing magnesium.

Due to our mass agricultural techniques, much of our soil has been stripped from essential nutrients that used to occur naturally. Magnesium is one of these. Researchers at the University of Texas published an article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition with evidence suggesting there has been a steady decline in the micronutrients in our soil and plants, including magnesium, zinc, vitamin E and vitamin B6. The vegetables and fruit our ancestors were consuming years ago were much more nutrient dense than what we eat on a daily basis in today’s society.4 That said, “popeye’s spinach” no longer has as many minerals as it once did.

It is clear there are many ways magnesium deficiency can show up. Take a look at common symptoms you and so many of my patients are often suffering from on a daily basis.6,7

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

  • Muscle Pain/Spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Palpitations
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Constipation

Nourishing Your Body With Magnesium

One way you can address these symptoms and the resulting chronic conditions is to nourish your body with magnesium in several ways. Start with where you source your food from. Unfortunately, you do not have the power to stop the widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers that are depleting the soil of its nutrients, but you can control what you buy. Find whole foods from local farms you trust with high-quality organic, seasonal produce. Organic produce has been shown to have higher nutrient and antioxidant content than regular produce. Second, be sure you are consuming foods rich in magnesium on a daily basis. Check out the list of magnesium rich foods below.3

Magnesium Rich Foods

  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Avocado
  • Figs
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Cashews
  • Bananas

Magnesium Supplementation

Aside from honing in on great food sources of this mineral, you may also want to consider supplementing with magnesium. There are many forms of magnesium to address different ailments. Listed below is a guide to the most common supplemental forms and what they can be used for.3

  • Magnesium Citrate: Combined with citric acid, it can aid in constipation through its laxative effects (at higher amounts can sometimes cause diarrhea, so always start low at around 200 mg and slowly increase the dose until the constipation is relieved with normal bowel movements).
  • Magnesium Glycinate: Beneficial in addressing deficiencies due to its high absorbency rate. Magnesium helps promote GABA secretion in the brain, which helps you and your body relax. Take 400 mg of this type at bedtime.
  • Magnesium Chelate: Attached to an amino acid, making it less likely to cause GI issues such as diarrhea or bloating. Different forms can be found. One example is malate, and another notable one is taurate.
  • Magnesium Taurate: An example of a chelated form with high absorption. Taurine is an amino acid that is good for both the brain and the heart–the two locations that concentrate the most taurine in the body. However, it also aids in liver detoxification. The starting dose range is 200 – 400 mg daily, preferentially at bedtime.

Tip: Don’t forget, your skin is yet another way to absorb magnesium. Epsom salt baths make for a great way to help your muscles relax. Add 10 drops of essential lavender oil, light up some scented candles, and you will be in the zen zone before you know it! It’s the perfect escape without needing to escape.


1. Chaudhary, D.P., Sharma, R. & Bansal, D.D. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2010; 134: 119.

2. Mills BJ, Lindeman RD, Lang CA, Magnesium deficiency inhibits biosynthesis of blood glutathione and tumor growth in the rat.” Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1986 Mar;181(3):326-32.

3. “Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web. 02 May 2017.

4.”Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?” Scientific American. 25 Apr. 2011. Web. 02 May 2017.

5. Rivlin RS. “Magnesium deficiency and alcohol intake: mechanisms, clinical significance and possible relation to cancer development.”  J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Oct;13(5):416-23.

6. Serefko A, Szopa A, Wlaź P, Nowak G, Radziwoń-Zaleska M, Skalski M, Poleszak E. “Magnesium in depression.”  Pharmacol Rep. 2013;65(3):547-54.

7. R Swaminathan. “Magnesium Metabolism and its Disorders.” Clin Biochem Rev. 2003 May; 24(2): 47–66.

Trick or Treat Almond Butter Bites

As we enter the holiday season, it can be challenging to stick to healthy eating habits with all the temptations around. This healthy treat is free of processed sugar and other additives, making it easy to skip the Halloween candy for good!

With each bite of these holiday treats, invigorate your senses with the decadent taste of pure chocolate, paired with a rich almond butter filling and creamy coconut shell.

Trick or Treat Almond Butter Bites


Serves: 12


1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cup coconut manna

¼ cup pumpkin puree

2 tbs cacao powder

1 tsp coconut oil, melted

¼ cup almond butter

5-6 squares dairy-free, dark chocolate bar (85% or higher)

1 ice cube tray

Step 1

In a food processor, mix together coconut manna, shredded coconut flakes and pumpkin puree.

Step 2

In a bowl, add almond butter. Melt in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften. Then, stir in cacao powder until the mixture is smooth.

Step 3

Grease ice cube trays lightly with melted coconut oil and a paper towel.

Step 4

Take a quarter size amount of the coconut mixture and pack it down into the ice cube tray. With a spoon, add a dime size amount of the almond butter and cacao mixture on top. Next, add another quarter size amount of the coconut mixture and spread until it covers the filling evenly.

Step 5

Repeat this process until all the ice cube trays are filled. Freeze for 1-2 hours.

Step 6

Over a stove top, boil water in a pot. On top, place a small skillet or pot, creating a double boiler. Melt the chocolate for 2-3 minutes over high heat. If easier, use a microwave to melt the dark chocolate bar for 15-20 seconds.

Step 7

Set chocolate aside to cool. Meanwhile, pop out treats from the ice cube trays onto a plate.

Step 8

Drizzle chocolate over the top and enjoy. Store in refrigerator if not eaten right away.

Cumin Chicken Salad with Berries

This is a delicious lunch idea for your leftover chicken and a way to spice up your traditional chicken salad with delicious flavor. This dish highlights seasonal foods, like farm fresh greens and blueberries. Dandelion greens, like other bitter greens, promote the process of digestion and stimulate the liver and gallbladder. Support your gut and use food as medicine with bitter greens this fall season!

Cumin Chicken Salad with Seasonal Berries


Serves: 2


1, 3 oz chicken breast, cubed

3 tbs cumin

½ ripe avocado, peeled

1 tsp stone ground mustard

½ cup fresh blueberries

¼ cup sunflower seeds

2 cups roughly chopped dandelion greens

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs avocado oil

Juice from ½ freshly squeezed lemon

Sea salt and pepper

Step 1

In a skillet, over medium heat, add olive oil. Then add cubed chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook until no longer pink. About 5-10 minutes.

Step 2

In a bowl, mix cooked cubed chicken with ½ avocado and mustard. Add a touch of olive oil if too dry or extra avocado. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to mix with cumin, blueberries and sunflower seeds.

Step 3

In a separate bowl, toss greens with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

Step 4

Enjoy together as a salad or top chicken salad with greens (as shown in the recipe picture).