Epsom Salts, Magnesium Deficiency and Sensory Integration Disorder

Years ago, an occupational therapist mentioned using Epsom Salts in the bath when my daughter was being evaluated for sensory integration disorder. Unfortunately, she didn’t explain why so I thought it would just be calming. I didn’t realize it would be treating a mineral deficiency and that the sensory issues she was having were a SYMPTOM of a chronic magnesium deficiency. Epson Salts contain magnesium sulfate and the magnesium is absorbed through the skin in a bath.

Magnesium is a trace mineral that is required for several hundred different functions in the body. Many common, chronic conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Asthma, Allergies and Migraines have all been linked to magnesium deficiency. Dr. Natasha McBride explains in her book: “Put Your Heart in Your Mouth” why magnesium deficiency is such a problem today: We have too much sugar in our diet today. Because it takes 29 molecules of magnesium to digest one molecule of sugar, this sugar overload eventually leads to a magnesium deficiency.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include agitation and anxiety, irritability, abnormal heart rythms, muscle weakness, insomnia and poor nail growth. Severe cases of magnesium deficiency can result in seizures. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center: “Some experts believe that children with ADHD may be exhibiting the effects of mild magnesium deficiency (such as irritability, decreased attention span, and mental confusion). In one study of 116 children with ADHD, 95% were magnesium deficient. In a separate study, 75 magnesium-deficient children with ADHD were randomly assigned to receive magnesium supplements in addition to standard treatment or standard treatment alone for 6 months. Those who received magnesium demonstrated a significant improvement in behavior, whereas those who received only standard therapy without magnesium exhibited worsening behavior.”

According to a paper on the benefits of epsom salts by Susan Owens: “Given over time, the ES baths may help reduce sensory integration symptoms. Some of this effect may occur due to benefits of detoxification, but it is much more likely to come from direct effects on the nervous system.” Her in depth article about the benefits of epson salt baths on neurological function can be found at speechvilleexpress. Reuters had an article on a surprising study in the US and in Australia showed that magnesium sulfate given during labor can protect against cerebral palsy in infants born prematurely. This study points not only to the importance of magnesium to the brain and neurological development but also how little we know about it’s function.

Foods that are high in magnesium are: Almonds, Cashews, Buckwheat Flour (which should be called Buckcorn because it is gluten free and more like corn than wheat!) Artichokes, Black Beans, Navy Beans, White Beans and Pumpkin Seeds.

WHAT TO DO: If your child has sensory issues or anxiety try using 1 cup of epsom salt in their bath before bedtime. If it seems to relax them, increase to 2 cups in a large bath. I pour a cup of salt for each of my children to play with. They end up getting the nutritional benefits from it while they are playing with it.

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  • Dinner Mom - Thanks so much for posting this! We did Epsom Salts for a while when I first learned about the boys having SPD. I haven’t done it in a while and you’ve inspired me to do it again! They also take Calcium/Magnesium every day. And fish oil…and Juice Plus!
    -Erin (Therapy Mom) and now ($5 Dinner Mom…I’m planning on getting GFCF labels onto the meals that are GFCF…as soon as I can!)ReplyCancel

  • noreen - This is a great article ! I will be sharing it with the readers on my Facebook page : I'll Tell You Why (Talking about Tactile Defensiveness).
    Best regards,
    Noreen O'Sullivan.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - Epsom salts…do they need to be special ones or can I just get the ones they sell at Walgreens?ReplyCancel

    • samtunes - Any generic kind will do. If it says ma magnesium sulfate on the package you're good to go. Paying extra for pretty packaging will not make the chemical more effective.ReplyCancel

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