*The Magnesium Sulphate debate*
I have been approached by quite a few mommies in the last few weeks for advice about Magnesium Sulphate supplements for their family. It seems like a “magic” solution to all your children’s ailments from tantrums to concentration to asthma has hit the market in the “new” Magnesium Sulphate bath crystals and powders. Our Grannies used to use Epsom salts for all sorts of ailments with varying degrees of success. Epsom salts are Magnesium Sulphate crystals, so this is not a new wonder fix, but rather a revived old one, with a little more research to go with it!
The role of magnesium and sulphates in our bodies are both numerous and far reaching. Magnesium helps our bodies to regulate over 300 enzymes, as well as helping in energy production, electrical impulses, and elimination of harmful toxins. This means that it affects muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, your immune system and bone health to name a few areas. Sulphates aid in the formation of brain tissue and joint proteins and impact the strength of the walls of the digestive tract.
Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, whole grains, bananas, dried fruit, avocados and my personal favourite…dark chocolate! However, as with most things good for you, it is not as simple as eating these foods alone to gain the magnesium your body needs. You also need vitamin B6 in order for your body to absorb the magnesium effectively. Vitamin B6 can be found in brown rice, wheat bran, pistachio and hazelnuts, raw garlic, liver, sunflower and sesame seeds, tuna and pork. Chilli powder, paprika and garlic powder have some vitamin B6, so don’t forget to add an extra sprinkle of these when cooking! Most multi-vitamins will contain sufficient vitamin B6 to aid magnesium absorption. So while you’re at it, why not take a magnesium tablet as well? There have been studies showing that only 40% (some studies show as little as 20%) of magnesium taken orally gets absorbed due to the fact that it is not easily absorbed through the digestive tract. Other studies have shown how much more magnesium is absorbed through the skin, when for example bathing in Epsom salts for 10 to 15 minutes.
Sounds like Epsom salt baths are then a great way to make sure you are getting your magnesium sulphates and your multivitamin will help with absorption and everyone will be happier and healthier. There are a few negative aspects of this plan to keep in mind…if you do not rinse properly after your magnesium sulphate bath and moisturise immediately you increase the number of natural oils from your skin being lost. Magnesium also competes with calcium for absorption. This could be a problem if you have low levels of calcium. The absorption of some antibiotics can be lowered due to increased magnesium levels.
There is much debate about whether we are a magnesium deficient society and just how much magnesium we really need to be optimally healthy. While vomiting, diarrhoea and some medical conditions can lower magnesium levels dramatically, it seems like many people have sufficient levels of it just by eating some of the magnesium-rich foods.
I think that Granny was right to promote Epsom salt baths (to improve the absorption of magnesium) to aid with relaxing, calming, aching muscles and many other stresses that come our way and also impact our children. I hesitate to agree with the 3 baths a week for 15 minutes at a time schedule recommended by some as much of the research they quote was done on very small samples, with marginal results and funded by people or companies with an invested interest. Magnesium overdose is quite difficult to achieve so giving these new products a try or including some good old fashioned Epsom salt baths into your week could solve the mystery for you. They could have no impact at all or they could assist with supporting the health of your family. You will have to make up your own mind on this one, but one thing is for sure – I now have an added reason to eat dark chocolate