Who Needs an Epsom Salt Bath? It Could Be You!
Tammie Burak |
6 min read
What is an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a white salt-like crystal that some people add to bath water to treat skin problems, muscle pain, insomnia, and other complaints. The secret of its effectiveness as a natural remedy lies in what it’s made of.
Epsom salt is composed of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen, naturally occurring chemicals that serve many functions in living organisms. The chemical work done by our cells, called metabolism, is what keeps us alive, allows us to grow and reproduce, adjust to our environment and do the daily repair work necessary for good health. Our cells need the minerals in epsom salt to do this work, so let’s take a closer look at them.
Your body uses magnesium to:
About half the magnesium in the body is found in bone and half in muscle and soft tissues. It is an essential mineral, yet three out of four Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diets. In addition, certain lifestyle factors like alcohol consumption and the use of diuretics (substances such as coffee) cause a depletion of magnesium.6 These factors are reason for concern. It’s likely that many of us have symptoms of magnesium deficiency and don’t even know it.
Although magnesium levels in the blood vary slightly and may not clearly identify a deficiency, having a blood test to determine magnesium levels can be helpful in monitoring treatment. Ask your doctor to include a magnesium test and ask about magnesium deficiency and treatment options. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include:7
A study found that adults aged 20-75 years in the Netherlands who had less magnesium in the urine, signifying a diet low in magnesium, were at higher risk of heart disease. A diet higher in magnesium intake was associated with lower risk of ischemic heart disease which is caused by a reduced blood supply to the heart muscle.8
Other studies suggest that diets high in magnesium
Good sources of dietary magnesium include:
The other component of Epsom salt is sulfate. Researcher Stephanie Seneff says, “Sulfur is known as a healing mineral, and a sulfur deficiency often leads to pain and inflammation associated with various muscle and skeletal disorders.”9 She believes that modern farming practices and lifestyle habits like the use of sunscreen has led to sulfate deficiency and may be linked to such problems as obesity and heart disease.
Epsom salt bath and blood levels of magnesium and sulfate
A study tested the ability of skin to absorb magnesium and sulfate from Epsom salt in bath water. Both blood levels and urine levels of magnesium and sulfate increased as a result of bathing in Epsom salt dissolved in bath water.10 Researchers concluded that magnesium sulfate is absorbed through the skin.
However, a different study stressed that more research is needed before transdermal magnesium absorption proves an acceptable means of achieving adequate magnesium levels. In cases of magnesium deficiency, oral magnesium supplementation has so far been proven more beneficial than magnesium applied to the skin.11
Medically, magnesium sulfate is used to:
Since most of us are not getting enough magnesium from our foods, it’s a good idea to eat more foods high in magnesium. If you grow your own food, you can increase the magnesium content of fruits and vegetables by adding Epsom salt to the base of the plants or adding it to the soil at planting time.
Do not use Epsom salt or magnesium sulfate supplements internally without the advice of your physician as several types of medications can interact with magnesium supplements or affect magnesium levels in the blood. Also, an overdose of magnesium sulfate can be fatal.
It’s unlikely that you could absorb a dangerous amount of magnesium sulfate from bathing. Bathing in water with dissolved Epsom salt is generally safe, and may increase magnesium and sulfate levels in the body. Add one or two cups of Epsom salt to your bath (or follow package instructions) to ease tension, relieve sore muscles and help you relax before going to bed.
Epsom salt and autism
Parents of children with autism or ADHD report benefits for children given Epsom salt baths. It is thought that the sulfate supplied through the skin improves neurotransmitter function, helping children to feel calmer.
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