Epsom Salt Baths
By Susan Sanders Fort Pierce Chiropractor
Epsom salts have been used for generations to help with pain/soreness and illness. The primary ingredient is magnesium, an essential element the body requires for energy. We cannot live without magnesium. An easy source of this life saving element is Epsom salts. Those who use them know they work!
RECIPE: Some of you don’t want the details on how they work. You may just be here for the “how to use” Epsom salts in a bath. It is very simple. Run your bath. Room temperature has proven to be the best for absorption of magnesium, but a warm to hot bath will work fine as well. Whatever you like. Add 2 cups of Epsom salts OR add 1 cup of Epsom salts and 1 cup of Baking Soda (Arm and Hammer brand is fine). Soak up to your ears for about 20 minutes. We don’t recommend opening your eyes due to the salt content and the sting factor that comes with salt water. When the time is up, get out of the tub. That’s it. More than 20 minutes is typically not recommended. You may repeat this bath a few times a week, as necessary. We don’t recommend it every day, but in cases of injury it may help. You can check with your physician for advice if you have a condition or disease process.
The 5 W’s:
Let’s discuss the 5 W’s of Epsom salt baths: who, what, where, when and why.
Who discovered/utilized Epsom Salts: Until we researched it, we thought there was a Dr. Epsom who discovered the benefits of these salts. No such doctor exists.
Who Can benefit?
Don’t use if:
Who can benefit from an Epsom Salt Bath: Let us start first by saying who should not use Epsom salts. Anyone with an allergy to magnesium or magnesium sulfate must avoid Epsom salts. According to WebMD people with the following conditions should also avoid using these healthy salts:
- high amounts of magnesium in the blood
- low amounts of calcium in the blood
- people with myasthenia gravis
- people with progressive muscle weakness with carcinoma
- those with kidney disease or reduced kidney function including severe kidney impairment. Being a salt, magnesium can increase your blood pressure which may affect your kidney’s ability to filter and produce urine.
Now that we know who should not use Epsom Salts, let’s concentrate on the people who would most likely benefit from the use of Epsom Salts:
- Diabetics to improve glucose levels and improve the production of many hormones and chemicals the body has to produce daily. The body naturally runs better if it has all available resources. The body of a Diabetic does not function optimally. Mineral depletion is prevalent in those with digestive issues and sugar imbalances.
- Athletes/people who work out. Magnesium reduces soreness which is created by lactic acid build up in the cells. Magnesium and Potassium (another salt used strongly by the body) as well as calcium work to balance each other out and transport cell trash out of the cells via a pumping mechanism. Too much lactic acid build up in the cells will make you sore.
- Electrolytes: Magnesium is one of the minerals the body uses all day long. It is a very important part of electrolyte powders and drinks. A simple indication of electrolyte depletion may be expressed by the constant need to urinate, i.e. if your water runs right through you after you drink it. If this is you, pick a good electrolyte powder to add to your diet. Avoid sugar drinks with electrolytes, especially if you are diabetic (due to the sugar, not the electrolytes).
- People with too much calcium in the blood. According to the Mayo Clinic “Hypercalcemia is a condition in which the calcium level in your blood is above normal. Too much calcium in your blood can weaken your bones, create kidney stones, and interfere with how your heart and brain work. Hypercalcemia is usually a result of overactive parathyroid glands [located at the thyroid/throat area].” When calcium is high, magnesium gets lower. When magnesium is high, calcium gets lower. They balance each other out.
- Pain and swelling reduce in the presence of magnesium which is responsible for pumping muscles and cells to remove extra water/inflammation.
- Constipation. Taken internally, magnesium is a laxative. It is very difficult to take in water, dissolved, but it can be done. We recommend if you choose to take Epsom Salts internally that you do so in pill formation. These are readily available in most health food stores. If you soak in a tub, you will still receive some benefit to the abdominal region. The pills are quicker acting for this purpose.
What is in it?
What is the purpose of magnesium: We mentioned some very good uses of magnesium above. What we didn’t mention is your energy producing system (ATP production by the cells via the Krebs cycle). Without getting into detail, you could not get off the couch to do your chores if your body is not producing a chemical called ATP. Low energy regularly may be an indication that you need more magnesium.
Why is it that the salts from Epsom work so well: The simple answer is that the body must have this mineral for many body functions. It is considered “essential” as a mineral because the body does not make it. The body must absorb it via the skin or the gut. yes, Epsom salts are not just for baths, which is the most common use. They can also be ingested in a capsule form for internal benefits which include reversing constipation, promotion of sleep, reducing stress, soreness and increasing exercise performance. Magnesium intake is a critical component of helping our body make chemicals and to keep our muscles pumping, literally.
Most of us are low in Magnesium. Weekly or even daily baths and or supplementation will help most people (see note above on the contraindications to use of Epsom salts.
Where can you find:
Where can you get Epsom salts? If your store has a drug section, then the Epsom salts will be there, probably on a bottom shelf. Ordering online is also easy to do. There are blends you can purchase which include lavender (a calming agent), or menthol (which will give you a cooling sensation if you bathe in it and help with pain). Feel free to explore what works for you.
When to use it?
When is the best time to take an Epsom Salt bath? We recommend before bed or if you have pain from an soreness, anytime. So go forth and enjoy a higher level of energy, digestion, or less pain and suffering with a regular “dose” of Epsom salts.
Why use Epsom salts?
In general, they are quite safe and can be used often. Warm water is actually better for absorbtion of the magnesium than super hot water, which used to be a common recommendation. Our office currently recommends a 20 minute soak with warm water and let the water soak up to the ears. We do not recommend salt baths if you are severely acute until the swelling or heat is reduced. Usually this means after the first 48 hours post-injury. That being said, always check with your physician before using this form of therapy.
Yours in health,
Dr. Susan Sanders (the ChiroMama)