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Magnesium sulphate (epsom salts)


About Epsom Salts

This week I am going to discuss magnesium as magnesium sulphate, also known as Epsom Salts.

Magnesium itself plays an important role in the structure and function of the human body. It is involved in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions, such as energy production, synthesis of essential biomolecules, cell signalling and migration, in nutrient interactions and in bone, cell membrane and chromosome structure.

Magnesium is often cited as the element most deficient in modern diets.

Within the body sulphation pathways are used in liver detoxification (phase II), for the transformation of many drugs, hormones, phenols, amines, and a variety of other toxic molecules produced in the body (even those produced in the gut by bacteria, yeast, and other fungi), as well as food dyes and chemicals. The addition of a sulphate group increases the water solubility of these molecules in preparation for their excretion in urine.

The PST Issue

Dr Rosemary Waring has done extensive research into what she refers to as the “phenol-sulphotransferase (PST) issue” – PST is a phase II detoxification enzyme. The PST enzyme links the oxidised sulphur molecule (a sulphate) to various toxic substances in the body to solubilise them so they can be disposed of via the kidneys (as mentioned above).

Obviously, if sulphate is low or missing, this can’t happen efficiently. Sulphate may be low or missing due to a lack of protein and/or sulphur carrying raw vegetables in the diet or poor absorption of sulphur from the diet, failure to metabolise sulphur into the sulfate form, and/or an increase in urinary excretion of sulphate.

Dr Waring’s research showed that a lack of sulphate may be a primary problem in many autistic children (as many as 73%), however all of those Waring checked also had a low PST level. Similar sulphate deficiencies have been reported in people with migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, jaundice, and other allergic condition all of which are anecdotally reported as common in the families of people with autism.

B vitamins are key!

Adequate sulphation requires sufficient supplies of B vitamins (especially B6), and a limited consumption of chocolate, bananas, orange juice, vanillin and food colourings (such as tartrazine), as the PST enzymes are inhibited (or overloaded) by these products. A largely carbohydrate diet, which is commonly consumed by autistic children, may also affect sulphation.

Removal of these products from the diet and supplementation with sulphate may well relieve some of these symptoms. When PST enzyme activity towards something is low, you are able to boost it by increasing the amount of sulphate available.

Another common cause of sulphation interference is swimming in chlorinated water. Chlorine is a biological “substance of choice” to block sulphation and is know to inhibit the making of new blood cells (hematopoiesis). In addition chlorine (as hypochlorite) reportedly combines with any phenolic compound (even in very dilute solutions) to form a new compound which is very toxic to susceptible individuals.

Children and adults should bathe in Epsom Salts

A magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) bath (using two cups or more in a tub of hot water) immediately following a session in a chlorinated pool has shown to greatly improve the “problem” behaviour seen in some children after swimming. The skin must be soaked in the Epsom salts bath for at least 20 minutes, and not rinsed off afterwards. Drinking a little of the bath water (as many children tend to do) is also ok.

These baths have been shown to increase the sulphur content of blood up to four times. Parents also report that sleep is improved, since the child is relieved of pain and calmed. Magnesium supplementation in general has shown to possess a calming effect.

For those times when a bath is not convenient or when you want to increase the amount of magnesium but the bowels are sensitive to it, an Epsom salts (25%) transdermal cream can be used to achieve a similar result.

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