Epsom Salt – Magnesium Sulfate
One of the earliest discoveries of magnesium sulfate, the scientific name of Epsom salt, occurred back in Shakespeare’s day in Epsom, England, which explains the first half of the name. The term “salt” probably refers to the specific chemical structure of the compound, although many people mistakenly assume it refers to the crystalline structure of Epsom salt, which has an appearance similar to that of table salt. (Table salt, of course, consists of sodium chloride, so it’s an entirely different substance than magnesium sulfate.)
The Science of Epsom Salt
Most people know about the importance of calcium and vitamin D, but many South Africans are also magnesium deficient. Doctors say it stems largely from the increasing prevalence of processed foods in our diets. More and more adults consume less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium.
Epsom salt is made up of naturally occurring minerals magnesium and sulfate, which can help improve health in numerous ways. A lack of magnesium—which helps regulate the activity of more than 300 enzymes in the body—can contribute to high blood pressure, hyperactivity, heart problems and other health issues, doctors warn.
Sulfate is essential for many biological processes, helping to flush toxins and helping form proteins in joints, brain tissue and mucin proteins.
Doctors and researchers say that soaking in an Epsom salt bath is a safe, easy way to increase the body’s levels of both magnesium and sulfate.
Many people worsen the problem by loading up on calcium, which flushes magnesium out of cells. The general ratio is 1 milligram of magnesium for each 2mg of calcium.
How much do you need?
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 320mg for women, 400mg for men. Many authorities take a 400mg magnesium supplement daily. Avoid magnesium supplements if you have kidney disease. You need extra magnesium if you drink alcohol or if you take diuretics or high doses of calcium. Those all deplete magnesium.
If you have a medical condition please consult with your doctor first, just to be safe.
Sulfate and Sulfation
Sulfate is needed for formation of proteins in joints; low levels of sulfate are found in plasma and synovial fluid from patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Sulfate is needed to start the cascade of digestive enzymes released from the pancreas. Without proteases, lipases and amylases, food is not digested efficiently.
Sulfate is essential in forming the mucin proteins which line the gut walls. These have 2 main functions- they stop the gut contents from ‘sticking’ and they block transport of toxins from the gut to the bloodstream. Low plasma sulfate has been found in patients with irritable bowel disease.
Sulfate is necessary for formation of brain tissue. Before birth, the functional units of the brain, ‘neurons’, are laid down on a scaffolding network of sulfated carbohydrate chains. Reduced sulfation can lead to faulty neuronal connections and later dysfunction.
Sulfation is a major pathway in detoxifying drugs and environmental contaminants.
Sulfate is not easily absorbed across the gut wall. Recent research has shown that it can be absorbed across the skin. It is also formed in the body by oxidation of the aminoacids cysteine and methionine. However, this pathway is often sub-optimal and many people benefit from sulfate supplementation.
Sulfate is essential for many biological processes.
Related Links: Report on absorption of magnesium sulfate
Credits: Epsom Salt Council