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The SPD Companion, Issue # 023-- Epsom Salts Baths
March 06, 2008
Now… about Epsom Salts Baths. I have heard wonders about them for our Austistic and/or SPD kiddos! Parents who can not otherwise get their kids to sleep or their behavior under control have been very pleased with the results they get when they use Epsom Salts baths regularly. I have found a few great resources for you regarding this topic. This is for information purposes only. I am not recommending it for any specific child without you doing your own research as well, and talking to your doctor. This is by no means “medical advice”, but it is great information you may find valuable. I do hope so. And, I do hope you have a chance to try these baths out for yourself or your kids. In fact, I am looking forward to trying it myself as I found, in my research for this newsletter, it is good for Fibromyalgia… of which I have BAD! Can’t wait to see if it helps me too!! What a relief that would be, for sure.
This newsletter is a compilation of information by www.bbbautism.com... They had a great summary of the information I felt you needed, to try this “treatment”. At the end, I have also included links to some other wonderful information I found when researching this. I hope you have the time to check it all out. The links at the end will give you much more on this topic!!
As you will note at the end of this article by www.bbbautism.com, permission was granted to reproduce this for educational purposes without changing anything… however, I did take a few links out as they no longer work or are outdated (no longer available on the web).
Please know, I would be more than happy to publish any personal stories you have about the use of Epsom Salts Baths!! If you would like to submit some information on this, feel free to do so via my contact us button… just make sure to put something in the title or body about using it on my site, so I know it is ok to make it “public”. The more information and stories we have about this, the better informed and helped everyone will be. I look forward to any experiences you have to share!!
Ok, here is our newsletter for March… Epsom Salts Baths and Their Benefits:
A Note To Our Readers: Welcome to our BBB Guides, a series of documents by parents, for parents on various topics. When searching the web, I could find little in the way practical solutions to issues like handling Halloween and large family gatherings. Our message board, however always contains such fantastic tips offered by our experts: parents of children with ASD. These are parents of various ages, their children are affected with various severities and they are all different ages. About half of our contributors have more than one child on the spectrum.
I hope you enjoy this guide and the upcoming series; and that they are helpful to you. If you would like to contribute to or have ideas for future guides, please email me at email@example.com.
Thanks to all our great parent-contributors. It couldn’t be done it without you!
Note: Our children are referred to as first initials only and we don’t include last names. We never publish these comments without permission from the contributor. Husbands/wives are not mentioned by name either.
I was telling someone about this recipe I read, (in BBB Autism). It was an ointment with Epsom salts for those of our kids who respond to getting their Magnesium this way. I remember reading that it was a bit like making Mayonnaise? Does anyone else remember this? I went back to the old club site and have spent hours reading through old posts with no luck, so I was hoping someone here might recall what it was and maybe even have it. I sure hope this is not a figment of my imagination!
Ummmm.... If it is, could someone who does know how to make homemade Mayonnaise please develop the recipe, as I am sure that it is a brilliant and effective intervention!
T. is having a horrible time sleeping through the night. The Epsom salt baths seem to help, but Sue mentioned that she had heard about this homemade lotion/cream. I thought that it might be easier..
Got any ideas to keep a kid sleeping through the night?. We have no problems getting him to sleep, but at 4ish he wakes up crying. Sometimes we are up for an hour or two!
Thanks for any help!
I have heard that some kids with autism have big improvements using Epsom salts. In what way are they being used? Does anyone know why they help?
“Sulfation also plays an important part in detoxifying the body, according to Paul Shattock. These children do not absorb sulfur-based substances well. He recommended giving children baths in Epsom salts two or three times a week to help sulfur be absorbed through the skin. Although baths are best, he also suggested that bottle with a sponge tip (such as those used for dish detergent) could be used as an applicator to wet the skin with a mixture of Epsom salts and water.” From the Biology of Autism conference: http://autismcoach.com
Kirkman’s Magnesium Sulfate Cream:
Do you want to use the Epsom Salt as a cream for sulphation purposes? We use a magnesium sulphate cream for that. We got it from our local pharmacy, but I know you can get it from Kirkmans (you don't need a prescription). This magnesium sulphate cream is just like mayonnaise, and we rub a teeny amount on L. as he sleeps.
OK I have my books out here for you... Let's see what they say about magnesium...
Sue you wondered if this was related to leaky gut. Don't know about that, but since it is an "anti-stress" mineral, perhaps it helps out. Magnesium is needed for calcium & vitamin C metabolism. Essential for nerve & muscle functioning & to convert blood sugar into energy. Combined with calcium can work as a natural tranquilizer.
A person under stress tends to lose excess magnesium. A deficiency then creates the setting for less resistance to stress. (My interpretation - autistic children are under stress, they lose magnesium, becoming less resistance to stress... therefore magnesium is calming because it helps reduce stress). I know there is a ratio for calcium-magnesium (I think it's 3:1).
I don't have anything written in front of me about this, but here's my interpretation... Epsom Salts help sulphation. That's the process where enzymes transform chemicals in our bodies (I think!). In other words, it's the body's ability to detoxify itself. It's believed that autistic people don't have this ability (most likely showing a PST deficiency - one of the enzymes needed to do this sulphation). Two things you can do about this - reduce the intake of things that need detoxification such as reducing artificial colouring, preservatives, and food additives. And Epsom salts work in the bath, by absorbing into the skin... or what we use is magnesium sulfate cream (doctor needs to recommend this). As for the leaky gut and how this is all intertwined... The proteins lining the gut are normally sulfated and form a protective layer over the surface of the gut wall. If sulphation is deficient, gaps occur in the gut wall (says my book).
Bath Tub Soaking
By placing 1 cup per every 60 lbs. of body weight (it is not necessary to exceed 4 cups) in a warm* bathtub of water. The water temperature should be as comfortable. Rub skin all over with a washcloth to open up the pores for absorption of the Epsom salts. If some areas are sore rub them a little longer. If you are treating an injury you should rub both the area of the involved site on one extremity and the same area on the other extremity (bilateral stimulation reflex). In rubbing both extremities you yield a little extra stimulation to the injured site. Don't rinse off before getting out of the bathtub. Just dry off and retire for the evening.
1. You may want to have some water for drinking near the tub. Hot baths can make you light headed and thirsty.
DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD DRINK BATH WATER WITH EPSOM SALTS IN IT!!!
Epsom salt baths are taken routinely, just before going to bed, the night before a major competitive event or race and just after. It also helps with combating jet lag. The bath will allow a more productive and restful sleep as well as produce an energy charging up effect on your body for the next day’s performance. According to nutritional researchers it improves the rate by 33.333%. This means that not only will you body heal faster but also sleep productivity will increase. That is to say, if you sleep eight hours, following the Epsom salts bath, the body productivity would be 8 hrs times 33.333% increase or 10.666 hrs of productivity. The body's performance is that of 10.66 hours of rest and repair.
Epsom salts and water are very therapeutic and help to prevent problems as well as help to solve them. Epsom salt baths may be taken daily, once, twice, or even more to provide the necessary energy levels needed to both recover from injury or illness and charge up extra energy going into high stress levels of mental and/or physical activity. Routine Epsom salt baths are often recommended as a form of prevention.
* Use common sense when adjusting temperature for your child. A hot bath can be dangerous. To dissolve the salts, mix in with some hot water to start and add the cold to make the bath nice and warm. Never put your child in a hot bath!
Epsom Salts are simply hydrated Magnesium Sulfate, (MgSO4), and can be used as an alternative source of magnesium, beyond their use as a sulfate, since the magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin. This has been found useful in persons who have Leaky Gut Syndrome, and thus have difficulty in absorbing certain essential minerals through the skin. Interestingly enough, Epsom salts, taken orally, used to be the treatment of choice for chelation of heavy metals, such as lead. (This is back around the beginning of this century). Often this is called Methylation or Sulfination. Other things, like Zinc, should be used to prevent reabsorbtion of mercury or lead.
Magnesium Sulfate is also used to treat Pre-eclampsia, pre-term labor, and asthma.
Magnesium Sulfate Class: CNS Depressant
Description: Magnesium sulfate reduces striated muscle contractions and blocks peripheral neuromuscular transmission by reducing acetylcholine release at the myoneural junction. In emergency care, magnesium sulfate is used in the management of seizures associated with toxemia of pregnancy. Other uses of magnesium sulfate include uterine relaxation (to inhibit
contractions of premature labor), as a bronchodilator after beta agonist and anticholinergic agents have been used, replacement therapy for magnesium deficiency, as a cathartic to reduce the absorption of poisons from the GI tract, and in the initial therapy for convulsions. Magnesium sulfate is gaining popularity as an initial treatment in the management of various dysrhythmias, particularly torsades de pointes, and dysrhythmias secondary to TCA overdose or digitalis toxicity. The drug is also considered as a class IIa agent (probably helpful) for refractory VF/VT after administration of lidocaine or bretylium doses.
Forms of Magnesium:
After looking into magnesium for months, what I came away with is that magnesium comes in two types: soluble forms/organic (aspartate, malate, glycinate, citrate and succinate etc.) and insoluble forms/inorganic salts (chloride, carbonate, oxide). Overall, the chelated magnesium and magnesium glycinate are often referred to as being very absorbable.
The soluble ones are pretty equally absorbed and as a group are much better absorbed than the insoluble group. Of the insoluble group, the oxide is the best absorbed. The insoluble group is far more likely to cause loose stools/diarrhea than the other group. If magnesium nutrition is what you want, go for the soluble group. If constipation is the issue, then some insoluble forms are okay. The loose stool effect (if not wanted) can be minimized by taking the magnesium with food.
Most of the products I saw on the shelves at the store were a mixture of magnesium types. Sometimes I would see a bottle of a specific type of magnesium, such as Magnesium Citrate. But the ones marked just Magnesium were usually a mixture. And some had as many as 4-5 different types in the mixture.
Although I have spent some time looking at magnesium sources, there seems to be varied opinions. Here is a reputable source from a book on nutrition:
"Magnesium chelated with amino acids is probably the most absorbable form. Less absorbable forms include magnesium bicarbonate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium carbonate. Magnesium oxide is probably somewhat better than magnesium carbonate (dolomite). The newly available salts of magnesium aspartate or citrate, both known as mineral transporters, have a better percentage of absorption."
What Chelate Form Means:
"Magnesium Chelate (Amino Acid): A chemically reacted magnesium ion, bound to 1 or more amino acids, thus allowing the magnesium to enter through the intestinal wall via the amino acid pathway rather than active magnesium diffusion. A true reacted chelate differs from simply mixing the amino acids and minerals which is often referred to as 'chelated'."
(http://www.nutraceuticals.com/reactedmagnesium.htm)... [link no longer working/available on the web]
You need to balance out how absorbable a product is versus the quantity of the mineral that is in it versus the price.
Magnesium in the Body:
Many times the chelated forms of anything are very easy to absorb.
These amounts are for healthy people. A person in an unwell or deficient state would need more. Most places recommend 2:1 calcium: magnesium ratio for regular function, not including a deficient state. When I was researching this, I looked up the amounts in a reference book in the HFS. The average recommended amount was generally 1000 mg/day for ADHD, anxiety disorder, migraines, sleep disorders, autism and some of the autoimmune disorders. These are probably for an adult and so a child should have 1/2 or 1/3. This puts it around 300-500 mg/day. I haven't found an upper limit to magnesium, and have read several places there is no known toxicity.
Also, we saw again and again that there was not a toxicity problem because the body does not store magnesium as it does calcium. The body excretes what is not used. Your upper limit will be when you notice continuous loose stools.
NOTE: Excessive magnesium inhibits calcium and excessive calcium inhibits magnesium - although I didn't see any amount as given as "excessive" for magnesium. Calcium had the number of 2500 mg/day most likely for an adult - from the Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements at the HFS. It is a balancing act.
The symptoms of magnesium deficiency are irritability, tantrums, seizures, insomnia, muscle cramps/twitching, hyperactivity and poor digestion among others. Magnesium is needed for proper electrolyte function, over 300 enzyme functions, and calcium absorption.
I also found it very interested to read that one of the primary sources of dietary magnesium is whole grains and cereals. If one goes 100% gluten free, you would be loosing a main source of magnesium, and could go deficient especially if you are also supplementing with extra calcium to make up for the casein free part.
Higher amount of magnesium may cause a laxative effect (milk of magnesium, Epsom salts).
I am currently using Natural Calm. It is a very absorbable magnesium citrate powder that you dissolve in water and drink. I like heating it and drinking it like tea - it has a very mild citrus/orange taste. There is a web site http://www.naturalcalm.net and you can get it at your health food store.
Even if you aren't interested in this product, it has LOADS of information on magnesium, how is affects different conditions, how calcium and/or magnesium deficiencies are created AND you can ask for a free sample to be sent. I got a free sample in the HFS and, if it is the same sample, it contains 3 full teaspoons, which is 1 serving. Although for a child you would give at least half and start lower. The price on the web site is the same as it is at my HFS.
Magnesium is supposed to help with pain, migraines, chronic fatigue, fibro and other conditions. This is supposed to be quickly absorbed. The literature says it can work "in minutes" and so I made some as soon as I got home. About 20 minutes later, my headache was significantly better. It is used by doctors and clinics according to the literature.
The Brainchild Night-Cal supplement contains the following, each 2 Teaspoon Dose of NightCal:
Calcium from Kreb's Chelates 450 mg
The direct link with description is:
Here is a link to a pretty thorough, but easy to follow, description of magnesium from HealthWorld Online.
"Magnesium chelated with amino acids is probably the most absorbable form. Less absorbable forms include magnesium bicarbonate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium carbonate. Magnesium oxide is probably somewhat better than magnesium carbonate (dolomite). The newly available salts of magnesium aspartate or citrate, both known as mineral transporters have a better percentage of absorption."
It also says that calcium and magnesium should be taken in between meals, on an empty stomach for best absorption.
"The many enzyme systems that require magnesium help restore normal energy levels. Because of this function and its nerve and muscle support, magnesium may also be helpful for nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and muscle cramps. Magnesium is also given as part of a treatment for autism or hyperactivity in kids, usually along with vitamin B6."
What are Epsom salts?
Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. Salts are just molecules that come together based on having a positive and negative charge. Magnesium has a positive charge. Sulfate has a negative charge, and they dissociate (or go their separate ways) in solution. Sulfate is a sulfur atom surrounded by four oxygen atoms and it has a negative charge. It has all sorts of unique biological functions. Epsom salts can be very beneficial for individuals with neurological conditions including autism spectrum, sensory integration disorder, and ADD/ADHD.
How do they work? Why do they work?
Dr. Rosemary Waring has found that most autistic spectrum kids, and lots of others with neurological conditions, are very low in sulfate. They may be as low as 15% of neurologically typical people. Sulfate is needed for a pathway in the body that processes salicylates, phenols, chemicals of all kinds (including food colors, artificial flavoring, and preservatives), and other things the body sees as toxins. This can include heavy metals. The body may have more toxins to process than it can because of a lack of sulfur. To alleviate the unpleasant reactions such as hyperness, aggression, tantrums, sleep problems, night sweats, irritability, eczema, other skin conditions, etc. you can unclog this "bottleneck" by:
1) getting rid of the amount of toxins that enter the body, or
2) supplying more sulfur to increase the amount of toxins that can be processed from the body. Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) supplies the needed sulfur. The body takes in more sulfur, more toxins are processed and you don't see the nasty behaviors and effects.
Some people may think Epsom salts work by pulling the toxins out of the body and into the water. Certainly you can sweat out certain toxins like you would in a sauna, but the role of sulfate in the water for that process is questionable. The way sulfate in the water is most likely to be working is by being absorbed into the body through the skin where it can become part of the biological process of detoxification.
Once in the blood, sulfate does not stay there for long. In fact, some studies have suggested that it does what it does and then ends up in the urine four to nine hours later. The Epsom salts left on the skin may continue to be absorbed as long as it is still on the skin, offering something sort of like "timed release" into the blood stream. For that reason, leaving the Epsom salts on the skin to dry may be beneficial for stretching out the effectiveness of this intervention, like medications that are administered through skin patches. None of this process of skin absorption has ever been quantified (as far as I know).
Here is a link to a group that provides a VERY LONG description (may "thorough" is a better description) of this detox pathway and sulfur... http://groups.yahoo.com/group/enzymesandautism
And, here is a link to a quick description on phenols and salicylates... http://autismawakeninginia.bizland.com/autismawakeningdietintervention/id10.html (I couldn’t get this link to work… maybe you can??... otherwise…)
If you do a search for PST or phenyl sulfotransferase system, you will find many, many references on this.
How to Give Epsom Salts:
There are several methods parents have used.
1. Epsom salt baths. Most people use about 1-2 cups per tub. Dissolve the salts in hot water first and then fill the tub to about waist deep, as warm as possible. The amount of salts that you may find works best will depend on the individual tolerance, the temperature of the water, and the size of the tub. The warmer the water and larger the tub, the more salts will dissolve. You may need to start slowly using as little as one tablespoon of salts and working up gradually. Some people have been deficient for so long that the full quantity is too much a shock, and you will see negative reactions. In the beginning, a person may react with hyperactivity, irritability or moodiness. However, at the right amount, most people find the salts very calming and relaxing. This works well before bedtime. Soak in the bath a good 20 minutes. It is okay to let the salts dry on the skin. They may leave a dry clear- white powder. If it is too itchy or irritating, just rinse them off. If the skin feels too dry, use lotion or oils to moisturize. Don't drink the bath water because it could cause diarrhea.
2. Epsom salt oil. I have been experimenting a bit with the Epsom salts. It would leave a salty film on the skin, which my two boys and I didn't like (itchy). Lately, I have been mixing some coconut oil in with the salts and water. Actually it is more oil than water. 3 tablespoons water + 4 tablespoons salts + 12 tablespoon coconut oil. The coconut oil is good for the skin anyway and it seems to counter the drying effect of the salts. I found that just mixing the salts and oil did not dissolve the salts, so I needed to add just some water. I apply this liberally on the skin and it soaks in plus leaves the skin smooth and soft.
3. Mix 1 part salts to 2 parts water (or more so the salts dissolve) and let the person soak their feet in it. My boys would soak their feet about 30 minutes while they did reading or homework.
4. Mix 1 part salts and 1 part water (add more water if the salts are not dissolved) and put in a spray-squirt bottle. Mist the child's chest and/or back and let it dry on. Works well in the summer.
5. Use one of those plastic squeeze bottles with a sponge on top that are used for dampening postal stamps, and fill it with the Epsom salts and water. A solution of 1 part salts to 4 parts water works well. This can be applied to the arms or leg or tummy or whatever is easily accessible.
6. There are some new Epsom salt creams available.
7. You can mix a salt and some kind of acceptable lotion into a paste. Put this paste on a large band-aid and apply to the skin. The salts will soak in.
A FEW ADDITIONAL NOTES:
As you can see, there is no exact ratio…just what seems to get the salts dissolved and on the skin. MSM powder or creams (many of these on the market) can help with the sulfur. However, some recent research shows that oral sulfur is not as well absorbed. Also, this won't supply magnesium.
Sulfate has an influence over almost every cellular function. Sulfate attaches to phenols and makes them less harmful, and sets them up for being excreted from your kidneys. A lot of these potentially toxic molecules are in foods, and since this is a capacity-limited system, those who are low in sulfate do well to eliminate exposures to foods and environmental things, which might put extra stress on this chemistry. That strategy is the focus of the Feingold diet, which restricts phenols from the diet. Your body also makes many different chemicals of this type, and they need to be cleared from the system before they get harmful.
If growth factors were bankers, sulfate would be their money. Growth factors use sulfate to do their business. That is why it is known that if you become VERY deficient in sulfate you will stop growing if you are a child, or you will start to break down (catabolize) your own muscle to make up for this deficiency. That means if your child has not been growing, and has very flimsy muscles, you should be concerned that his sulfate chemistry may be hurting. When this happens in very sick adults, it puts them into a state called cachexia, a wasting process that happens in Alzheimer's disease, AIDS, cancer, and an autism spectrum disorder called Rett Syndrome.
Sulfate is used to regulate the performance of many other molecules. Many systems in the body will not function well in a low-sulfate environment. One of the things it influences is the hormone that helps humans recognize faces and "socialize". Increasing sulfur in the body can improve socialization and related issues. Sulfur is so critical to life that the body will apparently borrow protein from the muscles to keep from running too low.
The autism community is learning that activating the immune system can put significant demands on this chemistry, and if that happens during infancy often enough and at critical stages, it may change or slow development. The body can start to waste sulfate into the urine: sulfate that it needs critically. If this happens, it could lead to the situation where the dietary sources of sulfur cannot be adequate to keep up with this drain. Dr. Rosemary Waring has found that autistic children tend to be dumping needed sulfate and related sulfur compounds into the urine. She has also found that the enzymes that make sulfate out of protein appear to be inhibited by one of the chemicals that is turned on by an activated immune system
Blood tests are not really adequate for measuring this, because the blood is a delivery system, and can be a compensatory system. Blood levels of sulfur-related compounds will actually go UP in the blood when the cells are starving, because the liver is trying to help out the rest of the body by exporting these materials.
Epsom Salt Ointment
Thanks to Dana (Please note: I got this recipe from a message board, and that person had got it from a list...you get the idea. I have not tried this myself, so it's not a personal endorsement)
I am sure that a handy person can come up with a cream/ointment in the same way I did but here is the formula I have been using for about a year now. We use it after a bath before bed and as a hand and foot lotion during PT and to soothe. It absorbs fine and leaves only a little powder type residue.
1 cup Epsom salts
a few drops lavender or other essential oils
This is like making real mayonnaise, you need to blend at high speed and add ingredients a little at a time. Boil water and add to Epsom salts and baking soda in blender, pulse till dissolved and not grainy (must be boiling). Add glycerin, then slowly add oils while blending to emulsify. Still blending add lotion, cream, or coconut butter a little at a time.
Pour into a clean container, preferably ceramic or glass (I use a wide mouth mason jar that I can sterilize).
If this separates into layers when cool, rewarm and add 2T guar gum dissolved into a bit of hot water, reblend and cool.
Mine separates almost immediately and I can't find any guar gum ANYWHERE. If anyone knows what could be used to stop the separation, please post a solution.
It should not get grainy and should smooth on well and be rubbed into warm open pores. If you like it more or less oily change that part of the recipe, I make mine kind of thin like a light massage oil rather than a cream.
The founder of this document and the BBB Autism support club contributors are not physicians.
This document may references books and other web sites that may be of interest to the reader. The founder and contributors make no presentation or warranty with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained on any of these web sites or in the books, and specifically disclaim any liability for any information contained on, or omissions from, these books or web sites. Reference to these web sites or books herein shall not be construed to be an endorsement of these web sites or books or of the information contained thereon, by the founder or contributors.
The founder reserves the right to make decisions as to whether contributions are appropriate with respect to content, length, etc. We will not publish offensive material using foul language, or contributions that are inflammatory or disrespectful to decisions by other parents (i.e. therapies). We do not generally accept contributions if they are ads for private service agencies/clinics. We reserve the right to edit content, but will inform you in advance if we are going to do this. J
(c) BBB Autism – October 2001
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Note: BBB Autism Support Network would like to thank the parents who contributed and Gabrielle who helped format this version of the document.
Michele’s related recommended links (no sense “reinventing the wheel”, huh?):
Epsom Salts.pdf (from files of SID-DSI_AllAboutKids yahoo group)
Also, if you have an email program that does not seem to format the links properly, so they are not "clickable", know that a day or two after the newsletter comes out, you can view it online by going to the back issues page (a link off of the newsletter sign up page which is the newsletter button on my site). Here's the direct link if you want to save it somewhere...
Take good care.
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