Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Epsom Salt and Magnesium
Today had me spending a lot of time researching Epsom salt. Since this has both a health and nutrition angle I decided to post the results of my research here.
My muscles were sore from exercising today so I decided to soak in a warm bath with Epsom salt. The Epsom salt always seems to reduce my muscle soreness. I decided to a little research today to find out if it was all in my head or whether the Epsom salt actually had a positive impact on muscle soreness.
Well …… it turns out that Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulfate, and that most Americans are deficient in magnesium. Oddly, in areas with hard water in the US (which also contains higher levels of magnesium and calcium) the average magnesium deficit is lower. An internet article I read also indicated that magnesium and sulfate are most efficiently absorbed through the skin. When I checked with a good friend and he indicated that only 20% of oral magnesium is absorbed, so …….. maybe soaking in Epsom salt makes sense.
Magnesium is known to regulate 325 different enzymes in the body. According to one of my nutrition books, magnesium is required for ATP metabolism, essential for the body to use glucose, and the synthesis of protein, fat and nucleic acids. But ….. does soaking in Epsom salt increase your magnesium enough to get a measurable impact?
According the Epsom Salt Council adding two cups of Epsom salt to your bath three times a week and soaking for at least 12 minutes is adequate to increase your levels of magnesium and sulfate. So, I thought this was a good reason to soak in a warm bath a few times each week.
Not so fast, my pharmacist friend isn’t on board with the benefit or the harm of soaking in an Epsom salt bath three times a week. When I asked why he disagreed he explained that when patients have a low magnesium level in the hospital they are given IV magnesium, not a patch or ointment with magnesium. Okay, so that makes sense. But maybe something new has been recently discovered. I continue my search, just in case those long baths were good for me.
Next I returned to my books and couldn’t find one book in my library that agreed with the Epsom salt soaking theory increasing your magnesium levels. Maybe one of my Dr. Andrew Weil books would agree. No luck, he isn’t advocating it either. So it appears the long soaks in the bath will have to remain a luxury not a necessity.
During all this research I was reminded that having adequate levels of magnesium is required for good health. Magnesium deficiency is associated with alcohol abuse, people that are regular strenuous exercisers, those with protein malnutrition, kidney disorders as well as prolonged vomiting or diarrhea. Magnesium is also important for heart function and appears to protect against hypertension. Good dietary sources of magnesium are: dark green leafy vegetables, cashews, artichokes, whole wheat, tofu, peanut butter, pinto beans, sunflower seeds, watermelon, banana, and potato.
Magnesium toxicity is possible and potentially fatal, but is rare. Some over-the-counter drugs contain magnesium these are: Maalox, Mylanta, Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia, and Di-Gel to list a few. A common symptom of magnesium toxicity is diarrhea. If you have diarrhea and have been taking any of the products above, I would recommend that you check with your doctor to make certain you aren’t harming yourself.
It appears the only benefit from soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salt was from the heat of the water, and the relaxation of the bath. Oh well…. you can’t blame a girl for trying to find a good reason to take more long baths. The long hot baths with Epsom salt may not help me, but at least I know it isn't going to hurt me either.
Finally, be careful what you believe that you read on the internet. I saw the idea that soaking in Epsom salts increased your magnesium in many places on the web. It is apparently a very well traveled fallacy. It makes me wonder how many other falsehoods are being promulgated. I suppose it means we all need to be more diligent when we check our facts.