The Second Half: Ease pain and more with Epsom Salt

March 2, 2011

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

I have been working out at the gym quite a bit lately and noticed some soreness that lingers, sometimes for days, after a workout.

“It isn’t like I’m in screaming pain,” I tell Dr. J (Dr. Jarrod Kerkhoff of Loves Park Chiropractic). “It’s just that I’m achy and uncomfortable.”

My real question remains unspoken: “Is this the best I can expect in my Second Half?”

“This could be the result of your low-carb diet,” Dr. J tells me, “in which case, you could try adding carbs on the days you work out. Otherwise, you might try soaking in Epsom Salt.”

Epsom Salt?! Maybe I could try leeches or a voodoo doll, too, for cryin’ out loud!

Dr. J is my “go-to” guy for all things outside the parameters of conventional medicine. I don’t expect him to tell me to take two aspirin and call him in the morning, but I also don’t expect him to get too “far out,” either. He would never say: “Chop off the head of a chicken, sprinkle the blood in a circle while dancing around a fire at midnight under a full moon.”

But his reference to Epsom Salt set me back. “Isn’t that an old wives’ tale? Isn’t it really just the soaking in warm water that eases my muscles?” I asked.
“No, it is the magnesium sulfate that helps with muscle pain,” Dr. J said. “Let me show you some studies…”

The studies he gave me were pretty technical, but the results were the same: soaking in Epsom Salt baths raises magnesium levels in the body. Obviously, I needed to find out more about this mineral.

Much to my surprise, there is a website completely dedicated to this interesting nutrient by the Epsom Salt Council. Here’s what they say about magnesium:
“Magnesium is the second-most abundant element in human cells and the fourth-most important positively charged ion in the body…a major component of Epsom Salt, (it) also helps to regulate the activity of more than 325 enzymes and performs a vital role in orchestrating many bodily functions, from muscle control and electrical impulses to energy production and the elimination of harmful toxins.”

According to researchers and physicians, the average American is magnesium deficient; reports indicate that raising our magnesium levels may benefit us in the following ways:

• Improve heart health by reducing irregular heartbeats, hardening of the arteries, blood clots and blood pressure;

• Improve the body’s ability to use insulin;

• Flush toxins and heavy metals from cells, easing muscle pain;

• Improve nerve function by regulating electrolytes; and

• Maintain proper calcium levels in the blood.

They claim regular soaks may reduce inflammation, ease muscle and joint pain, and prevent migraine headaches. Another benefit—my favorite—is stress relief. Magnesium helps the body produce serotonin, a mood-elevating brain chemical that stimulates relaxation and a sense of well-being.

“Whoo-hoo! Sounds great,” I think. “Two cups Epsom Salt and soak in a hot bath.”

But that ain’t all, folks. Epsom Salt also adds sulfates to the body, which are difficult to get through food but readily absorbed through the skin. Sulfates are important in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins and mucin proteins in the digestive tract. They also stimulate the pancreas to detoxify our body of contaminants.

I couldn’t wait to tell Hubby that I need to luxuriate in the tub several times a week, for my muscles and my brain. His only concern was, “Why exactly do they call it Epsom Salt?”

“It was discovered back in Shakespeare’s time in Epsom, England,” I report smugly—sometimes I can be such a know-it-all.

I got distracted by the need for a spa treatment several times a week—Hey, Dr. J said I should!—but the Epsom Salt Council tells us there are even more uses for the magical stuff. As a lazy gardener, I was surprised to find Epsom Salt aids in seed germination and the production of chlorophyll. The website claims:
“…roses fertilized with Epsom Salt grow bushier and produce more flowers, while the compound makes pepper plants grow larger than those treated with commercial fertilizer alone.”

Then, there are the beauty benefits: exfoliates skin, cleans pores and can even be used as a hair volumizer—combine equal parts of your favorite hair conditioner and Epsom Salt, work through hair, leave on 20 minutes, then rinse.

I especially like the fact that Heidi Klum uses Epsom Salt baths to reduce puffiness and bloating before getting in front of cameras—who knew?! It seems that magnesium sulfate draws excess fluids from your body, too. How many times have I had to squeeze into my jeans, wishing for just such a miracle?

The website has a lot of information, everything from crafts made with Epsom Salt to treatments for stings, bites and poison ivy. Bathing in it is reported to help calm children before bedtime, and is often used by parents of children with autism. The list goes on and on. Frankly, I think it’s worth trying at about the cost of a cup of diner coffee.

The Epsom Salt Council invites you to learn more by visiting their website at www.epsomsaltcouncil.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/epsomsalt, or contact Peter Smolowitz directly at (704) 916-6163 or e-mail him at psmolowitz@mower.com.

So, before my next workout at the gym, I’m scrubbing out my bathtub. A couple cups of Epsom Salt, a little lavender oil, and a Yanni CD are rounding out my medical treatment. Here’s to a mellow and pain-free Second Half!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the March 2-8, 2011, issue

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