Episode 83: Why You Need More Magnesium: It’s Not Just for Sleep or Tight Muscles

In today’s episode, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni discuss what you need to know about magnesium. Magnesium is one of our favourite nutritional supplements because of its role in hormone balance, aging and mood. Are you experiencing symptoms of low magnesium? Find out why you might need to have more magnesium in your life!

Why is magnesium so important?

  • Involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body
  • Found in your bones, cardiovascular system, nervous system and in every cell in your body – less than 1% of magnesium in your body found in your blood
  • Acts as a natural muscle relaxant
  • Calms your nervous system
  • Plays an important role for your energy production
  • Influences GABA for relaxation and melatonin for sleep
  • Influences your love and bonding hormone oxytocin
  • Supports your liver detoxification pathways to promote breakdown and elimination of excess estrogen, which is linked with breast tenderness, fibroids, heavy periods, endometriosis symptoms (see Episode 21 for more info)
  • Important for your thyroid function – research links magnesium levels with thyroid health (see Episode 42 for more info)
  • Low magnesium levels are linked with high oxidative stress and low grade inflammation associated with signs of aging like cognitive decline, wrinkles, etc.
  • Important modulator of your receptors in the brain like NMDA receptors which are involved in memory function and depression
  • Can protect you against calcium deposits in your soft tissue like calcium oxalate kidney stones or calcifications in your arteries
  • Supports your utilization of vitamin D
  • Helps insulin work to control your blood sugar

What are symptoms of low magnesium?

  • Low energy
  • Low mood, anxiety, panic (see Episode 81 for more info)
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Menstrual cramps, PMS, hormonal imbalances (see Episode 21 for more info)
  • Blood sugar imbalances (see Episode 45 for more info)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sleep issues (see Episode 73 for more info)

Low magnesium has also been shown to worsen:

  • Hypertension and cardiovascular disease
    • A Harvard study of over 70,000 people found that those with the highest magnesium intake had the healthiest blood pressure numbers
    • studies showed a dose-dependent reduction of blood pressure with magnesium supplementation
    • A University of Minnesota study showed that the risk for hypertension was 70% lower in women with adequate or high magnesium levels
  • Migraines (see Episode 20 for more info)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis

You are more at risk for magnesium insufficiency if you experience:

  • Gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s, Celiac, etc.
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Alcohol dependence or alcoholism
  • Reduced magnesium absorption and increased excretion as we age (oops, that’s everyone!)

Your levels of magnesium are depleted by:

  • Sugar – 1 molecule of sugar uses 30-40 molecules of magnesium
  • Insulin resistance
  • Medications like:
    • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), antacids
    • Birth Control Pill
    • Diuretics
    • Antibiotics
  • Stress
  • Low stomach acid – can’t absorb minerals
  • Caffeine, alcohol due to their diuretic effect 

Severe magnesium deficiency is called hypomagnesemia, resulting in anorexia, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, personality change, tetany (eg. hyperreflexia), tremor and muscle fasciculations.

Laboratory Testing to Consider to Measure Magnesium:

  • RBC (red blood cell) magnesium

How can you get more magnesium in?

  • Foods
    • Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, cashews, spinach, black beans, edamame
    • Dark chocolate – 70% or higher
    • Leafy green vegetables
    • Avocado, bananas
  • Epsom salts bath – magnesium sulfate
    • 1-2 cups in bath and soak for at least 20 minutes for absorption of magnesium through your skin
  • Topical gels, lotions, sprays
  • Liquid, capsules, powder
  • Intravenous (IV) nutrient therapy – bypasses digestive system

How do you know if you’re getting too much magnesium?

  • Loose stools/diarrhea
  • Watch blood pressure if taking blood pressure medication, could help to reduce dose of medication
  • very large doses of magnesium-containing laxatives and antacids (typically providing more than 5,000 mg/day magnesium) have been associated with magnesium toxicity

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for Supplemental Magnesium:

Source: Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies

Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating

Birth to 12 months None established

1–3 years 65 mg 65 mg

4–8 years 110 mg 110 mg

9–18 years 350 mg 350 mg 350 mg 350 mg

19+ years 350 mg 350 mg 350 mg 350 mg

What are the different types of magnesium?

  • Chloride and Sulfate – often used in intravenous (IV) solutions
  • Oxide – 90% not absorbed, used as a laxative in small amounts
    • Form of magnesium most commonly reported to cause diarrhea, along with magnesium carbonate, chloride and gluconate
  • Citrate – often used for migraines, PMS, constipation – gentle osmotic laxative – often dosed up to 600mg per day
  • Malate – shown to be more bioavailable than oxide, sulfate and citrate in rats
    • Studies show reduced pain and tenderness in patients with fibromyalgia with oral supplementation for 8 weeks and 6 months
  • Bisglycinate/glycinate – elemental magnesium chelated to amino acid glycine
    • Allows for larger amounts to be absorbed more quickly and retained by your body
    • Shown to reduce pain from menstrual cramps and leg cramps in pregnant women
    • Can be more relaxing, often recommended before bed
  • L-threonate – Magtein: patented form of magnesium developed by scientists from MIT & Stanford U with metabolite of vitamin C
    • developed and clinically proven to pass through the blood-brain barrier versus other forms of magnesium
      • People with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have lower levels of magnesium in cerebrospinal fluid
    • evaluated in a series of cognitive tests for executive function, attention, working and episodic memory and episodic memory, with significant improvement at 6 and 12 weeks
    • shown to reduce the effects of aging by 9 years
    • increases the synaptic density, which can decline with aging
    • has shown improvement in brain circulation and cognitive testing in a small sample of people taking the supplement for 12 weeks
    • more research currently for treating chemotherapy-induced memory deficits and cognitive impairment, anxiety, sleep, mood and other conditions of again

Today’s Mama Must-Have:

Dr. Lisa loves her Hella Hydrating Serum from Joyous Health with rosehip oil and hyaluronic acid, as well as her favourite brands of dark chocolate – Zazubean 80% or Giddy Yoyo.

Dr. Toni is a big fan of Epsom gel, as well as using her neti pot with saline and xylitol for reducing extra irritation from wildfire smoke.

Dr. Toni’s next HypnoBirthing info session for expecting parents looking to trust their instincts and their body during labour and birth is happening Aug 31st. Join her at https://www.hypnobirthingcalgary.com/register

Dr. Lisa’s Wild Collective begins again in Fall 2021: get on the waitlist: wildcollectivetoronto.com

Email us or connect with us on  Facebook  and  Instagram

We’d love you to subscribe, leave us a review and a 5-star rating if you enjoyed this episode.

Please tell your perimenopausal mama friends about us, too!

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this presentation is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed health care practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed health care professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Episode 76: Is Going Gluten Free Just Trendy or Can Gluten Be a Problem if You Don’t Have Celiac Disease?

In today’s episode, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni discuss the spectrum of how you can react to gluten, from celiac disease to non-celiac gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance. Gluten issues can cause more than tummy troubles if you are sensitive and needs to be considered whenever you are experiencing any kind of inflammation. Common reactions can include: brain fog, fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, headaches, boating and more.

Gluten sensitivity is estimated to be 6 times more prevalent than celiac disease, which affects about 1% of the population, but about three quarters of people are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions. 

There are 3 major categories of gluten or wheat–related conditions: 

  1. celiac disease
  2. wheat allergy
  3. gluten sensitivity (aka non-celiac gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance)

Research by Dr. Fassano from Harvard shows that the frequency of common symptoms of gluten sensitivity:

abdominal pain (68%)

eczema or rash (40%) 

headache (35%)

“foggy mind” (34%) 

fatigue (33%) 

diarrhea (33%) 

depression (22%) 

anemia (20%)

numbness in legs, arms, or fingers (20%)

joint pain (11%). 

What is gluten?

Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in common grains like wheat, rye and barley. It provides a gummy consistency.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a multi-system autoimmune disorder that is triggered by the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible individuals. Autoantibodies can be produced in your body and can be tested in the blood, along with genetic markers.

If your antibodies are positive, the second step is a small intestinal endoscopic biopsy to look for atrophy of the villi along your intestinal tract. You have to be regularly consuming gluten for the test results to be accurate.

This inflammatory autoimmune condition breaks down your gut lining, manifesting digestive symptoms and/or extraintestinal symptoms. Celiac disease is a serious disorder, resulting in an increased risk for nutritional deficiencies and development of other autoimmune disorders.

The classical or typical symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Malabsorption of macronutrients like protein, healthy fats and micronutrients like iron, vitamin B12 and other B vitamins, vitamin D and calcium
  • Weight loss

Other symptoms of celiac disease are often considered as non-classical or atypical:

  • Anemia, osteoporosis or osteopenia due to nutritional deficiencies, also dental enamel defects
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Oral ulcers and burning tongue
  • Skin issues like eczema or dermatitis herpetiformis (raised blister with intense itching and burning) 
  • Hair loss and brittleness
  • Liver enzyme elevation
  • Constipation, heartburn
  • Infertility (causes unexplained infertility in 5.9% of women), miscarriage, gestational diabetes
  • Migraines, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle aches and pains
  • Neurological problems like depression, anxiety, peripheral pain or tingling, balance issues

 Children with celiac disease can have:

  • Short stature
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting

Gluten sensitivity can be indistinguishable from celiac disease or wheat allergy based on your symptoms alone. Lab testing is needed!

Research suggests that gluten sensitivity may be linked with the activation of your innate immune response, which causes an inflammatory response without the damage to your intestinal tract that happens due to the specific immune response that happens with celiac disease.

See Episode 8 to learn more about leaky gut and your microbiome and how gluten and other foods may be impacting your health.

Research also links the high intake of gluten containing grains during pregnancy with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes in kids.

What are sources of gluten?

Gluten is commonly found in wheat, spelt, kamut, rye and barley. Other grains that contain gluten are wheat berries, spelt, durum, emmer, semolina, farina, farro, graham, khorasan wheat, einkorn, and triticale (a blend of wheat and rye). 

Oats are naturally gluten free, however commercially available oats often contain gluten from cross-contamination when they are grown near, or processed in the same facilities as the grains listed above. 

Gluten is also sold as wheat gluten, or seitan, a popular vegan high-protein food. Less obvious sources of gluten include soy sauce, modified food starch and personal care products like shampoos

There also may be cross-reactivity with other foods like oats and corn. 

How do you go gluten free?

 Gluten free grains include:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown, black, red, white rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Corn
  • Sorghum
  • Teff
  • Gluten-free oats

Gluten free doesn’t automatically equal healthy – check your labels!

It’s key not to rely on processed gluten-free foods that may be high in calories and sugar, and low in nutrients, such as gluten-free cookies, chips, and other snack foods. Consider gluten free grains as filler foods and focus more on getting your carbohydrates from vegetables. Listen to your body!

Other things you need to know about gluten:

A low gluten diet has been shown to increase the release of Peptide YY, which binds to your brain receptors to decrease your appetite and make you feel full after eating.  

Gluten is different in North America vs. Europe!

  • Faster processing of bread and pasta in North America
    • Overnight to allow enzymes in yeast to break down peptides in Europe; 2 hours in North America
  • Certain pesticides are not used in Europe
  • Traditional forms of wheat are used in Europe instead of more modern and genetically modified wheat in North America

Glyphosate is the core ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide sprayed on many crops, including gluten containing grains like wheat. Research on rats has found a disruption in beneficial gut bacteria at doses considered safe. Levels of glyphosate found in the human bloodstream have spiked by more than 1,000% in the last two decades!

Lab testing to consider:

  • Celiac screen – IgA tissue transglutaminase antibody (TTG), endomysial antibody (EMA) and deamidated gliadin peptide (DGP)
  • Endoscope and biopsy
  • Other antibodies – IgA/IgG anti-gliadin, IgE wheat
  • Genetic markers – (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes)
  • C Reactive Protein, Iron levels, vitamin B12 and D
  • IgG food sensitivity testing
  • Comprehensive Stool Testing with zonulin 

What do you do if you are diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity:

  • Eliminate gluten containing grains to lower antibody and inflammatory levels in your body
    • Can consider re-introduction to tolerable levels if you have gluten sensitivity
    • Re-test antibody levels if you have celiac disease to confirm you have not been exposed to gluten unknowingly 
  • Consider full hypoallergenic elimination challenge or food sensitivity testing
  • Support gut healing with bone broth, glutamine, NAG, aloe, probiotics, digestive enzymes, DGL, slippery elm, marshmallow, mastic gum
  • Consider immune support with vitamin D, fermented food, probiotics, prebiotics like arabinogalactans

Today’s Mama Must Have:

Dr. Lisa is a big fan of the gluten free bread by Slice of Life and Un-Bun, along with Glutenberg gluten free beer.

Dr. Toni loves her favourite gluten free pasta – black bean spaghetti by Explore Asian and Liviva, which is yummy, and higher in protein and fibre than regular pasta. 

Dr. Toni’s next HypnoBirthing info session for expecting parents looking to trust their instincts and their body during labour and birth is happening on June 21. Join her at https://www.hypnobirthingcalgary.com/register

Sign up for Dr. Lisa’s free sleep webinar on Monday, June 7th at 8:00pm to discover how to use Naturopathic Medicine, essential oils, yoga, meditation, osteopathy and massage to get those zzz…s!

Dr. Lisa’s Wild Collective in Fall 2021: get on the waitlist: wildcollectivetoronto.com

Email us or connect with us on  Facebook  and  Instagram

We’d love you to subscribe, leave us a review and a 5-star rating if you enjoyed this episode.

Please tell your perimenopausal mama friends about us, too!

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Episode 73: Why Can’t I Sleep?

In this episode, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Toni provide some updated info you need to know about sleep, especially if your sleep has been impacted by perimenopause and the pandemic. Want to stop gaining weight and craving carbs and sugar? Want more energy and better moods? Want to lower your risk of cancer, dementia and diabetes? Don’t wait to sleep when you’re dead!

Did you know?

2/3 of people in developed nations fail to sleep at least 8 hours a night!

Why do you need to get a good night’s sleep?

Research shows that the less sleep you get, the shorter your life.

You can’t make up for a poor night’s sleep by sleeping more the next night. 

As you age, your sleep can be more fragile and sensitive than when you’re younger.

Insufficient or poor sleep can:

  • Double your risk of cardiovascular disease
    • 24% increase in heart attacks after lose an hour with daylight savings time change in spring 
  • Make otherwise healthy people appear prediabetic on blood tests (even just after a few nights of poor sleep)
  • Contribute to weight gain
    • crave more simple carbs and sugar
    • insulin increases, can lead to insulin resistance
    • it takes 40% longer to regulate your blood sugar after a high carb meal
    • lowers leptin and increases ghrelin, impacting your appetite
    • 4-5 hours of sleep a night can increase daily calorie intake by 300 and contribute to gaining an extra 10-15 pounds over a year
  • Reduce your cognition or ability to think and problem solve
  • Put your body in fight or flight mode
    • cortisol increases which can make it more difficult to sleep, can become a vicious cycle due to overactivity of stress response pathway in brain
  • Double your risk of getting cancer when you get less than 6 hours sleep a night
  • Make you more likely to catch viruses such as the common cold
  • Cause your amygdala to be more activated, so you are more emotionally reactive
  • Reduce the work of your glymphatic system to clear out amyloid plaques and prevent dementia
    • even after 1 night of 4 hours sleep, more amyloid plaque in your brain is possible
  • Cause more accidents from drowsy driving than drugs and alcohol
    • Less than 5 hours sleep makes you 3 times more likely to crash your car

What can you do if your sleep is interrupted?

There is a time and a place for napping for sleep deprived moms. 

A research study by NASA in 1990s showed that even 26 min naps increased alertness by 50% and increased performance on a task by 34%

What is a good night’s sleep?

  • Adults: 7 to 9 hours a night 
    • Total sleep time, not just your time in bed
  • Fall asleep within 20 minutes
  • Wake up zero to several times a night with the ability to fall back asleep easily
  • Wake before alarm
  • Optimal bedtime depends on which chronotype you are
    • 40% of people are morning types or morning larks
    • 30% are evening types or night owls
    • 30% fall somewhere in between

Signs you are not getting enough sleep:

1. After waking up in the morning, could you fall back asleep at 10 or 11 am?

2. Can you function optimally without caffeine before noon?

3. Do you need your alarm to wake up?

What controls sleep?

  • Circadian clock: your inner time-keeper, which is temperature and enzyme dependent
    • Cortisol – regulates metabolism, blood sugar and inflammation
      1. supports memory, salt/water balance, blood pressure, immune response and more
      2. Helps body respond to stress
    • Melatonin – made in pineal gland
      1. Darkness triggers release
      2. Daylight stops release
      3. Supports sleep and detoxification
      4. Promotes bone health and immunity
      5. Antioxidant and potential cancer-protective effects
      6. Can influence reproduction and hormones
  • Adenosine – inhibitory neurotransmitter that inhibits the bodily processes associated with wakefulness
    • Adenosine exerts sleep pressure by accumulating in your bloodstream when you’re awake which makes you sleepy
    • As we sleep, we breakdown adenosine via an enzyme and your brain’s rate of adenosine metabolism determines the quality of your deep sleep
    • Caffeine – from green or black tea, coffee, chocolate, soft drinks – Stimulates you  by blocking adenosine binding to receptors so you can’t fall asleep or get into deep sleep
    • This reduction in adenosine activity leads to increased activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate
  • Lowered body temperature
    • Your body temperature must fall by 1 degree C to trigger and support sleep

Sleeping pills:  

  • Act as a sedative, not producing true sleep
  • Doesn’t allow your brain to consolidate memories like regular sleep does
  • Associated with increased cancer risk when you use more than 3 times over one year


  • THC acts as a sedative, not producing true sleep
  • Can create rebound insomnia if you stop
  • Can create dependence and paranoia
  • CBD may help your sleep without negative effects of THC

What can cause you to have a poor sleep?

External causes like:

  • Blue light
  • Sounds and movements from your kids, pets, partners, neighbours
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Stimulants like caffeine
  • Alcohol and certain medications

Internal causes like:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Sleep apnea and snoring
  • Pain
  • Urinary problems
  • Skin rashes or itchy skin
  • Hot flashes

Lab tests and investigations you need to consider:

  • DUTCH for melatonin, cortisol and other hormones
  • Snoring: food sensitivities, allergies
  • Pelvic floor physiotherapy
  • Pain: acupuncture, osteopathy, physiotherapy, etc.
  • Sleep study with medical doctors specially trained in sleep science

How Can You Get a Good Night’s Sleep?

  • Get daylight exposure
  • Exercise earlier in day
  • Balance your blood sugar and limit your sugar intake
  • Limit caffeine intake
    • Half life is about 6 hours and quarter life is about 12 hours, as you get older, you can tolerate less
    • Consider no caffeine after 1pm or for 12 hours before bed
  • Limit alcohol intake
    • Acts as a sedative – not real sleep – dulls down impulse control
    • Fragmented sleep with many short waking intervals more regularly and not deep sleep
    • Not restorative sleep with less time in REM
  • Reduce bladder irritating foods like citrus, spicy foods, carbonated beverages
  • Journal before bed – unload thoughts and “to-dos”
  • Reduce screen exposure
    • One study found even reading on an iPad versus a print book suppressed melatonin levels by 50% and delayed the onset of sleep by many hours.
  • Sleep in a cool, dark room
    • Turn thermostat down to 15-19 C or 60-67 F
  • Try out essential oils like lavender or cedarwood – diffuse or mix in carrier oil and put on bottoms of feet
  • Calming bedtime routine like meditation and a warm bath or shower helps cool you down by creating vasodilation after
  • Cortisol-balancing herbs in tea or supplement form:
    • TEAS: Tulsi, Chamomile, Lavender, lemon balm
    • Magnesium
    • Passionflower
    • GABA
  • Melatonin
    • 0.5 to 3mg is usually enough, while 5-10mg or more can shut down your natural production and produce more side effects like morning grogginess
    • Best used for jet lag from travel or as we age 
  • Progesterone support if needed
  • Consider a sleep divorce – sleep in a separate room from your partner if they snore
  • Don’t lay awake in bed longer than 20min so you don’t associate context of being awake with your bed
  • Seek out a psychologist trained in CBT-I for more personalized support

Sleep tools you can use:

  • Sleep cycle app, Oura ring, Whoop strap
  • Meditation apps like Insight Timer
  • Blue light glasses
  • Ear plugs
  • White noise machine, fan, humidifier, air purifier
  • Red light bulbs and night lights
  • Weighted blanket like Zonli

Today’s Mama Must Have:

Dr. Lisa loves putting a tea bag or two of lemon balm or chamomile tea in Stuart’s bath and using Badger sleep balm on the backs of Stuart’s hands and his feet for extra sleep support.

Dr. Toni is a big fan of Cyto-Matrix’s Mag Matrix magnesium liquid for Frankie and Bach Flower Rescue Remedy night spray for the whole family. 

Dr. Toni’s next HypnoBirthing info session for expecting parents looking to trust their instincts and their body during labour and birth is happening in May. Join her at https://www.hypnobirthingcalgary.com/register

Dr. Lisa’s Wild Collective in Fall 2021: get on the waitlist: wildcollectivetoronto.com

Email us or connect with us on  Facebook  and  Instagram

We’d love you to subscribe, leave us a review and a 5-star rating if you enjoyed this episode.

Please tell your perimenopausal mama friends about us, too!

Stay safe and healthy everyone!