Bathing In Magnesium, How Healthy Is It?

Magnesium salts and oils for the skin have been very popular for a while now. I have recently become a fan myself. Because a magnesium bath seems to be an effective way in which to replenish your magnesium levels, reducing complaints such as tiredness, migraine and muscle cramps. A salt bath can also help with certain skin complaints. How does that work?

What does magnesium do?
Magnesium is an essential mineral for the body. A chemical which, as with iron, zinc or calcium, we need to obtain from our diet, as our body doesn’t make it. Magnesium plays a key role in many processes within the body. These include bone development and the transmission of impulses within our nervous system. The mineral is also fundamental to efficient muscle functioning, including that of the heart. Apart from the heart beat, magnesium regulates the blood pressure and has a role in the functioning of the immune system. In fact, magnesium also makes relaxation possible; not only for muscles, but also for the brain.

Where is it found?
There are enough foods in our menu for us to obtain enough magnesium in our diet. The mineral is found in bread, grain products, green vegetables, nuts, milk and meat. According to the Nutrition Foundation there is no reason for there to be a deficiency. There are, nevertheless, factors which have put the intake of magnesium under pressure. Netherlands soil is not magnesium rich. Along with this farm land is, through the use of fertilizers, depleted of magnesium. The mineral is also sometimes lost through different types of food processing and medicine use.

Symptoms caused by magnesium deficiency
A blood test doesn’t always reveal a deficiency in magnesium. In fact: a magnesium deficiency is by no means always accompanied by a reduced level of magnesium in the blood, as the mineral can also release itself from the bones in order to bring the blood levels up to standard. There are, however, symptoms set out which can indicate insufficient levels of magnesium. The most important ones; lethargy, insomnia, fatigue, muscle cramps, tired legs and migraine. An insufficient intake of magnesium increases the risk of a range of chronic illnesses, including osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and heart and vascular diseases.

Supplement: ingest or bathe
There are, of course, all sorts of supplements available enabling you to obtain your daily amount of minerals. Many of these supplements, however, work with magnesium oxide, a form which the body absorbs less readily. Furthermore, an overdose can cause stomach problems such as diarrhoea. Instead of ingesting it, you can bathe in or apply it onto the skin. Research has revealed that magnesium in salt flakes and oil form absorbs easily into the skin and can reach the bloodstream sufficiently.

The ancient salt baths
Bathing in salts for health purposes is not a new invention. Therapies in the Dead Sea or with Dead Sea salts have, in fact, been used for many years for all sorts of health issues, in particular, skin problems such as eczema and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and arthritis. The healing effects of these therapies are mainly anecdotal, however, over time have become largely attributed to minerals from the sea and, in particular, magnesium. There was also an interesting thesis, by an Australian biotechnologist, into the practical effects of magnesium on the skin barrier functioning and the immune system. One of the primary and fundamental questions here was: does magnesium actually pass through the skin?

Through the skin barrier
You would think that magnesium – or any substance for that matter – could not pass easily through healthy skin which has a normal functioning skin barrier. But that does indeed seem to happen under certain conditions such as an increase in temperature or a change in moisture conditions (e.g. a high concentration of salt in the environment/water) or with the aid of penetration promoting chemicals. In the case of damaged skin, such as eczema, the magnesium particles pass into the skin more easily. The researchers also demonstrated that magnesium provided a protective response by the skin.

The impact on inflammation
The Australian investigation not only demonstrated that magnesium can pass through the skin, but subsequently looked at the effect the mineral had on the immune system. It is a well-known fact that a shortage of magnesium plays a role in certain inflammatory processes. The reason that a bath with Dead Sea Salts can alleviate inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and psoriasis is possibly to do with the direct effect magnesium has on certain inflammatory factors in the immune system. Perhaps here lies the explanation for success stories about magnesium with rosacea.

From the bath to the blood
When I later came across an investigation into blood levels being measured after magnesium baths, I was convinced. A jar of magnesium salts now has its place on the side of my bath.
By the way, magnesium is also available as an oil which can be rubbed or sprayed onto the skin. This oil is obtained from one of the purest sources in existence, ie the Zechstein Sea. This million year old shallow epi-continental sea lies below our own country.

Relax!
Good magnesium chloride salt flakes have the same pH value as skin (between 4.5 and 5.5) and will not affect the acid level. Always check this before you buy a product. If your skin feels slightly dry after having a salt bath or after spraying magnesium onto your skin, then use a moisturiser or body lotion. Preferably apply this on skin that is still damp, so that you can lock in the water.

Kind regards,

Jetske

Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology

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