Magnesium in the Body

Did you know that more than 300 chemical reactions in the body rely on the mineral magnesium, yet the average American only get about three quarters of the recommended 400 milligrams a day?  It is not overly surprising that the “standard American diet,” with a heavy reliance on packaged and refined foods, results in deficiency. What is surprising, however, is that even people with a comparatively healthy diet can be at risk of magnesium deficiency due to  improper meal planning, overcooked vegetables, or the wrong calcium to magnesium ratio. Dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and seeds are the best foods to ensure the body is getting enough magnesium.

What is the role of Magnesium in the body?   

Maintains Nervous System Balance

All of our cells contain receptor cites that allow messages to be transported through the body. Some of the most studied receptors are the receptors found in brain cells. The NMDA receptor in the brain is the cite where recreational drugs and anesthetics seem to affect brain function. Research has shown that when magnesium levels are too low, the NMDA receptors are affected, and there is an increased risk of depression. Magnesium aids in calming the nervous system which is helpful not only for depression, but also sleep disorders, pre-menstral syndrome, irritability, and emotional disturbances.

Relaxes Muscles

Calcium contracts the muscles and magnesium relaxes them. Calcium blocking drugs are often given to stop heart disorders and headaches, but magnesium has been used to create the same effect.  Some women get bad menstrual cramps and headaches associated with hormone changes prior to their monthly cycle. About a week or two before my period I always take a calcium, magnesium, and zinc supplement. I notice my body also craves lots of magnesium rich foods. I think this is why so many women crave chocolate! I never get cramps or headaches, ever. Maybe I am just blessed with good genes.

Maintains Bone Health

About 50-60 percent of Magnesium is stored inside the bone. Research has found that even a mild ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to bone loss. When magnesium levels get low inside the body, levels of the parathyroid hormone go down. This leads to a decrease in calcium absorption, and a loss of both calcium and magnesium in the urine. The relationship with calcium and magnesium is one of the most actively studied, yet frequently misunderstood mineral interactions. Magnesium is necessary for calcium absorption, however, both calcium and magnesium compete with each other. I worked at a health food store many years ago and the science of that time stated that magnesium and calcium ratios had to be 2:1 in order to be properly absorbed. Now research is dictating a 1:1 ratio and clinical trials show that supplements with the incorrect ratio may cause the mineral with the higher level to completely block out the absorption of the other. The best remedy for this is to get minerals through whole foods rather than supplements if possible.

Facilitates Energy Production

One of the functions of our cells is energy production. This requires a complicated task involving a long chain of chemical reactions. Many of these reactions cannot take place unless magnesium is present. Low magnesium levels can be a contributing factor in causing fatigue.

Decreases Inflammation 

While some inflammation in the body is useful for tissue repair and injury, chronic inflammation has been frequently linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and dementia. Research has shown that restoring magnesium to recommended intakes has reduced inflammation in clinical trials.

Maintaining Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Magnesium is involved in the control of blood sugar and glucose metabolism. Research has shown that people with low levels of magnesium have poor blood sugar levels and improvements were found when magnesium levels normalized.

Best Magnesium Rich Foodsspinach

  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Halibit
  • Collard Greens
  • Turnip Greens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Green Beans
  • Sea Vegetables
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Black Beans
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Cashews
  • Almonds

For a full list of all magnesium rich foods visit Worlds Healthiest Foods.

How to Prepare Vegetables to Maximize Magnesium Content

Magnesium is a mineral and unlike vitamins, nothing can be created or destroyed in the process of cooking. That being said, magnesium can be lost in the cooking water during boiling and steaming, especially the longer the process takes place. A study was conducted on spinach and kale and found that after boiling for 3-5 minutes 20 to 30 percent of the magnesium was lost into the water. One effective way to save the lost minerals is to re-purpose the water for a sauce or soup. Leafy greens are delicate and really do not need much more than a one to two minute quick steam or sauté.

Can I Be Eating Too Much Magnesium?

Too much Magnesium can occur from supplementation, but not usually from food alone. The National Academy of Sciences  and the Institute of Medicine have not established any upper limit on magnesium. A level of 350 milligrams, from supplementation alone, has been known to cause loose stools. Those with renal failure need to follow special guidelines on magnesium as the kidneys are the primary regulator of blood magnesium levels.

I have a pretty healthy diet rich in a variety of whole foods. I like to buy whatever seasonal produce that looks appealing. I often run out of a particular fruit or veg but have a whole crisper full of beets (Thanks Ashley!) So I can’t justify buying more until I use up what I have. What this means is that I may go for a while without spinach, kale, or dark leafy greens. I probably get most of the magnesium through almonds and almond milk, but after a while without the greens, I will crave them and feel the difference after I eat them. For me, magnesium is the best mineral for when I am feeling easily irritated, stressed out, muscle soreness, or having trouble sleeping. My favorite magnesium supplement, for when I am not eating what I should is Natural Calm by Natural Vitality. I like this one because it is loose powder and I can control how much I want to take. A serving gives 80 percent of the daily amount (325 milligrams), which is more than most people need.

This post was inspired by a woman wanting to know more about magnesium and by our newest team member and baker, Krystal. Customer requests help me direct my creativity and are always welcome and appreciated.

Sarah with Feed Your Vitality


Byrd-Bredbenner, Moe, Beshgetoor, Berning. Wardlaw’s Perspective’s in Nutrition. Ninth Edition. Mcgraw Hill. 2012.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Third Edition. North Atlantic Books.,Berkley, California. 2002. Accessed 8/25/2013


7 Ways To Reduce Cortisol In The Body

12668892434h8twWCortisol is a hormone produced by the body. It is typically known as the “stress hormone.” It is produced when the body feels physical, emotional, or mental stress. It is necessary for the body to function. It helps the body wake in the morning, shuts down other body systems to conserve energy, and gives greater focus during dangerous or stressful situations. However, as with all hormones, it can become unbalanced, especially in today’s hectic world. When the body has elevated cortisol levels, the body can feel fatigued, the mind can feel unfocused and depressed, the immune system is weakened, and losing weight becomes next to impossible because the body wants to hold onto fat stores the body may need during a crisis. This hormone may be a survival mechanism, but it can be challenging for the busy person trying to lose weight and regain mental clarity.

The inspiration for this post came from author, Caroline MacDougall at the following website.,-Cortisol.html

Here Are 7 Tips To Naturally Reduce Cortisol in The Body:

1. Eliminate caffeine from your diet. It’s the quickest way to reduce cortisol production and elevate the production of DHEA, the leading anabolic youth hormone. 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz mug of coffee) increases blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour! Cortisol can remain elevated for up to 18 hours in the blood. Cortisol is naturally high in the morning  to help the body wake up. A cup of coffee only fuels the fire. Black tea, even though it contains caffeine, lowers cortisol levels in the blood by almost 50%, making it a wonderful coffee substitute.

2. Sleep deeper and longer. The average 50 year old has nighttime cortisol levels more than 30 times higher than the average 30 year old. Try taking melatonin, a natural hormone produced at night that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles, before going to sleep to boost your own melatonin production that also decreases with age. You may not need it every night, but if you are waking up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning, melatonin can help you sleep deeper and lengthen your sleep cycle. If you get sleepy during the day even though you had plenty of rest, back off the melatonin for a while. It’s a sign you are getting too much.

3. Exercise regularly to build muscle mass and increase brain output of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression. DHEA supplements shorten the adaptation period when out-of-shape muscles discourage people from continuing to exercise before they get in shape. DHEA also accelerates the building of muscle mass and increases the feeling of being strong and energetic.

4. Keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid sugar in the diet and refined carbohydrates to keep from spiking your insulin production. Eat frequent small meals balanced in protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats like olive oil and flax seed oil. Diets rich in complex carbohydrates keep cortisol levels lower than low carbohydrate diets.free_7991993

5. Keep well hydrated. Dehydration puts the body in stress and raises cortisol levels. Keep pure water by your bed and drink it when you first wake up and before you go to sleep.

6. Take anti-stress supplements like B vitamins, minerals like calcium, magnesium, chromium and zinc, and antioxidants like vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, grapeseed extract, and Co Q 10. Adaptogen herbs like ginseng, astragalus, eleuthero, schizandra, Tulsi (holy basil), rhodiola, and ashwagandha help the body cope with the side effects of stress and rebalance the metabolism. These supplement and herbs will not only lower cortisol levels but they will also help you decrease the effects of stress on the body by boosting the immune system.

7. Meditate or listen to relaxation tapes that promote the production of alpha (focused alertness) and theta (relaxed) brain waves. Avoid jolting alarm clocks that take you from delta waves (deep sleep) to beta waves (agitated and anxious) and stimulants like caffeine that promote beta waves while suppressing alpha and theta waves. Meditation and yoga not only reduce stress, but can enhance awareness, focus, posture, balance, and overall wellbeing.  Namaste Yoga by Dr. Melissa West, available on youTube, offers hundreds of free, full-length classes.


Feed Your Vitality will be selling medicinal teas personally handcrafted by Lisa from The ReTrailer located here in St. Louis. Many of her teas contain herbs that not only lower cortisol levels but also reduce inflammation and promote a healthy immune system. A cup of her beautifully fragrant and delicious tea can be an excellent alternative to the cup of coffee so many feel they cannot live without. Trust me, you won’t miss it. We will be promoting this product during our anti-inflammatory class August 15th. I look forward to meeting all the people helping to support us in growth and in health. Thank you!


Sarah with Feed Your Vitality

Gluten: A Problem for Everyone?

Many scientific studies have focused on food sensitivities in the past decade. Certain foods are causing allergies, inflammation, and other ill effects within the body. Even those uninterested in health and nutrition are aware of the gluten-free craze that has been sweeping the country, and many have noticed the even smaller grocery stores now carry numerous gluten-free items. Despite this, there is still much confusion about the differences between food sensitivity and Celiac disease. Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity is only recently being recognized by traditional medicine. The tests are becoming more accurate, but still have a long way to go. Some of the doctors leading the way in gluten research and education are  Dr. Thomas O’Bryan, Nora Gedgaudas CNS, and leading Celiac expert Dr. Alessio Fasano.

Dr. Fasano estimates that 30% of the population has a sensitivity to gluten.

(Let me note that the same doctor a few years prior said that only six to seven percent of the population has a sensitivity to gluten. Now he is saying thirty percent. Dr. Rodney Ford, author of The Gluten Syndrome, says that thirty to fifty is more likely, but he would not be surprised if the number was over fifty percent when the medical community is finally able to settle on a number. These speculations demonstrate how new this science is, and alerts us that the statistics on gluten sensitivity may be flawed.)

So what is Gluten?

We’ve heard the word “gluten” but what does this mean? Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley in varying amounts. The protein we call “gluten” is actually a family of proteins says Dr. Thomas O’Bryan. The proteins are all a bit different in molecular shape but are in the same family. The protein gluten, itself, is not bad for you but it has become harmful because  according to Dr. O’Bryan this protein has changed dramatically over the years. The protein has mutated. In the last 50 years, gluten content has gone up 50 percent due to the plant being hybridized. “The bread that was eaten in ancient times may have been okay, but there is no conventional wheat, rye, or barley that can be digested without ill effects,” says O’Bryan. We cannot digest gluten from these sources anymore, or to be more specific, we can’t break it down without inflammation in the body. Whether you appear sick or not, depends on your immune system and genetic susceptibility.

When this protein enters the body, the body cannot recognize or assimilate this enlarged, mutated protein. The body attempts to fight off this encroaching substance; but often sends mixed messages, and if the immune system is not functioning optimally, or if there is a genetic predisposition, an autoimmune response triggers an assembly line of antibodies that attack and damage the body. In cases of Celiac Disease, according to leading Celiac expert Dr. Fasano, the antibodies start deteriorating the lining of the intestines, which causes inflammation, inability to absorb and digest other nutrients, and lack of blood flow to the brain, which can trigger an array of physical and emotional distress. When the gluten effects the intestines severely and there is already a large amount of damage done, the patient, usually, tests positive for Celiac’s. Otherwise, many cases go unreported or unnoticed.

“Gluten sensitivity is much more than just digestive problems. For every one person that has got digestive symptoms from gluten, there are eight that don’t. The symptoms are in some other part of their body.”  Thomas O’Bryan

What is the difference between Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities?

 Celiac disease is when the cilia, the fibrous lining of the intestines, are destroyed and the body is unable to digest vitamins and minerals.  According to Dr. O’Bryan, 73 percent of Celiac patients have a lack of blood flow to the brain and this causes the brain to function poorly, and depending upon what area of the brain is affected, can cause a wide range of other symptoms. “People with their intestinal lining worn down, says Dr. O’Bryan, “which is called villous atrophy, had a 39% increased risk of dying early in life of heart disease, cancer, or something else.”

“Celiac disease was one of the main areas of study for about 30 years,” says Dr. O’Bryan. “If you don’t have a problem with your gut, then gluten isn’t a problem, was the common notion of the time. If they had looked into the brain, instead of the gut, they would have thought gluten was a brain disease. But now, we find that gluten can be a disease of anything. If it affects any other part of the body it is labeled as “gluten related sensitivity,” says Dr. O’Bryan.  Because most conventional tests only check the intestines, if the gluten is affecting other areas of the body, the tests are commonly inaccurate. There are new blood tests for gluten sensitivities that may be more promising.

How much gluten can a person eat without causing an inflammatory response?

A research study was done about a woman with Celiac disease who wanted to partake in communion each Sunday at church. The bread wafer was studied, and in her particular case, it was broken into a crescent shape about an eighth of a fingernail in size. She, like many others thought that as long as she kept gluten consumption down, she would be okay. The study was called A Milligram a Day Keeps the Healing Away. The study showed that even ingesting as little as one tiny milligram can cause the assembly line of antibodies ready for destruction, and according to Dr. O’Byran, the memory B cells produced in our bodies when gluten is eaten, will cause an assembly line of antibodies that continue attacking your body for 2-3 months even after you resume a gluten free lifestyle. AHHH! How alarming for the mostly gluten-free person who occasionally wants that slice of pizza.

Furthermore, Dr. Thomas O’Bryan stated that there are current studies being done on these memory B cells and dairy consumption. A person can be gluten-free but ingest certain forms of dairy, and if the protein is mutated, enlarged, or unrecognizable, the body can register it as gluten and the antibodies will continue body deterioration. There may be even more foods out there that cause a similar response that have not been studied. It makes me question the integrity of the food eaten. I say this not as a doctor, but as Sarah, content writer for Feed Your Vitality. It is my hypothesis that through conventional, intensive agriculture practices, and multi-generations of excessive consumption, we have mutated the genes found in the foods we eat. After many years of research, we are only now finding out about gluten, wheat, and dairy but in time, there may be many other foods that we find to be unsuitable for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

But I have no symptoms. Wheat doesn’t seem to bother me. 

Some people can consume gluten and don’t appear on the surface to be affected. According to Dr. Thomas O’Bryan, most of this has to do with our immune system and genetic predisposition. “We can have a immune tolerance to certain foreign proteins in our body, but if the immune system becomes disrupted, due to environmental chemicals and toxins, gluten can be the tipping point,” says Dr. O’Bryan. This is the hypothesis for why people do not seem to be diagnosed with these conditions until middle age. The body may work up a tolerance to a point and then, when the system is taxed, cannot handle any more. There are no current studies explaining exactly why.

It is also really hard to tell what the body could be like otherwise. It is easy to feel normal when you are used to your body feeling a certain way. Headaches, joint pain,arthritis, allergies, seizures, asthma, high blood pressure, skin problems, diarrhea, depression, thyroid problems, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, hormone imbalances, infertility, and many other diseases and symptoms can be thought to be normal. Or at least, not related to the pasta you ate for dinner.

“Any symptom of the body can be attributed to gluten.”  Dr. Thomas O’Bryan

 You get diagnosed with something, you take prescription medication, and you feel generally normal or healthy.  It is easy to feel like these are all just normal states of the body. What if you could remove the food from your diet, and eliminate the problem entirely? What if you were no longer dependent on medications because rather than treat the symptom, you got to the root of the problem? This is one of the main differences in preventative care verses conventional. It is very easy and profitable for conventional doctors to pill away a problem. In the long run, it is better, in my opinion, to dig a little deeper, to really understand the body, and to try to solve the problem before it manifests into disease and disease like conditions.

Who should be concerned about gluten?

According to Dr. Thomas O’Bryan, anyone who is sick. “If you have a headache, you’re sick. If you have joint pain, you’re sick. If you are depressed, you’re sick. If you have irritable bowel, you’re sick. If you have poor memory, you’re sick,” says O’Bryan. You get the point. If you don’t feel well, then gluten may be the culprit.

“The current generation of children 10 years and younger have a fore-casted lifespan to be less than their parents. This is the first time in history that the youngest generation is going to live shorter than their parents. We need to change the momentum. We need to change what we are eating and the choices we make,” says Dr. Thomas O’Bryan.

It sounds bleak but this is an exciting time. Gluten-free may sound like a fad, but people are talking about it.  “The gluten-free movement has happened because so many people have felt better without eating wheat,” says O’Bryan. Celebrities are doing it, people are trying it out, and the result is an increase in availability and request for these gluten-free products. This is good, maybe they will eventually be comparable in price.

 But wait… Just switching to gluten free products does not necessarily mean healthy. Most of these highly processed foods are not enriched, which means that they don’t contain a lot of nutritional value. Many rice flour substitutes actually have a higher glycemic index and less nutrition than white flour. (See our blog post on paleo muffins!) Once in a while, these treats are a wonderful alternative to gluten.

According to Dr. O’Bryan most people feel better getting off the gluten, lowering carbohydrates, or even adopting a grain free paleo diet.  

The average American diet is so laden with gluten. Cereal for breakfast, a cookie for a snack, a sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner. It’s everywhere. Initially transitioning off of wheat can be a confusing, challenging, and expensive. Wheat is cheap, that’s why it is put into everything! Finding a good, informed Doctor, nutritionist, or coach can be really helpful.

Feed Your Vitality can also play a role in cooking your gluten free meals, so you don’t have to think about it. We are also trying to expand our education program and will be offering classes related to anti-inflammatory living, cooking, health, and wellness. If you are struggling to get healthier, but are having too many set backs (grandma came over with brownies and you couldn’t resist!) , let us help.

Still aching for more knowledge here is a Gluten Expert Panel discussing everything you could want to know. It’s long, but worth it. Gluten Expert Panel