Arthritis has been one of the most common medical conditions in the elderly people. However, this disease is not specifically related to age as there have been reports of young people suffering from this condition. Arthritis occurs when the joints between the bones become inflamed due to some medical conditions.
The main causes for different type of arthritis include autoimmune response, wear and tear of the cartilage due to age, external infection, lack of fluid between the bones and degeneration of joint tissues. The patients complain of pain during mobility of the joints, stiffness in the joints and redness around the affected area.
There are many types of arthritis based on the causes the condition like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. The treatment offered usually includes drugs which reduce the inflammation and relieve the patient from the pain and stiffness .
Epsom Salt for Arthritis
Epsom salt has been named after the bitter salt spring found at Epsom, England, where it was produced in the springs. The name of the compound can be misleading at times as it is not an actual salt. Instead it is a type of mineral compound which is made up of magnesium and sulfate. Epsom salt has been used for a long time for various health benefits and other purposes like beauty, gardening etc. It has also been used for treating various types of diseases and ailments.
The main components of Epsom salt are the magnesium and sulfate which play an important role in its unique healing properties. The most common form in which Epsom salt is used is the Epsom salt bath in which the salt is mixed with the bath water. The person should take this bath for some duration and the magnesium sulfate compounds get absorbed into the skin.
Magnesium is one of the major compounds required by the human body for everyday regulation of numerous pathways. It is known to regulate more than 325 enzymes and pathways. It is also required for other vital function like proper functioning of muscles and nerves, preventing the arteries from hardening and reducing the amount of inflammation caused due to numerous health conditions including arthritis.
The sulfate found in the Epsom salt also plays a vital role in imparting medicinal properties to the compound. These sulfates promote absorption of the nutrients, treat headaches caused due to migraine and also detoxification of the toxins by flushing them out of the body .
Magnesium sulfate comes under the category of inorganic compounds. The heptahydrate sulfate mineral epsomite is another name for the Epsom salt. When the Epsom salt bath is taken it has been observed that the heat generated in the water helps increase the circulation of the blood and reduction of the swelling caused in arthritis. Magnesium in the Epsom salt is known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties. Epsom salt can also be consumed as a part of the treatment .
Magnesium is the second most abundant element required in the cells of the human tissues. Deficiency in magnesium is very common among individuals who can lead to various types of arthritis, pain in the joints, osteoporosis and many other problems. The changes in the diet over the past few years have mainly led to increased deficiency of magnesium in the body. The industrial farming is one of the major causes of depletion of magnesium from the soil where plants are grown.
Other important element which can lower the magnesium in the body is calcium. If calcium is taken when there is not enough magnesium in the body, it can lead to shortage of both calcium and magnesium in the cells. In such cases, many prefer taking supplements of magnesium to overcome the deficiency.
However, it has been reported that magnesium is not easily absorbed into the digestive system if taken in the form of supplements. The acid present in the stomach makes the supplements of magnesium ineffective. The advantage of taking the Epsom salt bath is that it is more readily absorbed into the body .
In case of rheumatoid arthritis the patients experience soreness and stiffness in the tissues of the joint. The magnesium in the Epsom salt helps in the relaxation of the skeletal muscles but releasing the lactic acid which is accumulated in the muscles.
In addition to this, magnesium helps in increasing the rate of absorption of the vitamins in the body. Moreover, it plays a significant role in functioning of the muscles and nerves. All the above helps in reducing the soreness and stiffness in the joints and muscles .
It has been reported that magnesium is one of the required for normal functioning of the cells and tissues. In case of inflammation caused due to arthritis, there is a depletion of magnesium in the cells and tissues.
Intake of Epsom salt provides the body with sufficient magnesium to combat the inflammation and lessen the swelling in the joints .
A study done on rat models triggered with magnesium deficiency, found that this deficiency led to increase in the inflammatory components in the cells and tissues.
It was observed that there was an increase in the overall amount of inflammatory cytokines after three weeks of magnesium deficiency. These inflammatory cytokines included interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a). The neuronal tachykinin was noted to be produced from the neural tissues which led to production of these inflammatory cytokines .
Another study carried out by Lee et al. studied the effect of MgSO4 on the rat models artificially induced with the condition of collagenase-induced osteoarthritis. They had based their study on the reports stating that magnesium reduces the requirement of analgesic in knee surgeries.
After artificially induction with collagenase it was observed that there was destruction in the cartilage of the knee joints and there was inflammation in the synovial tissues. In addition to this, there was also an increase in the degeneration of the cartilage. Subsequently, there was an induction of the osteoarthritis condition in the rat models which lead to the formation osteophytes in the joints. It is known that during the condition of osteoarthritis there is an inflammation in the synovial fluid .
These animal models were then treated with intravenous MgSO4 and there was an observed reduction in the degradation of the cartilages. In addition to this, there was a significant decrease in the inflammation of the synovial fluid of the joints. Another point that was noted by the authors that most people suffering from osteoarthritis experienced pain near the joints, however there were numerous cases of people experiencing pain in adjacent and other parts of the body due to osteoarthritis.
The other characteristic conditions of osteoarthritis included mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia. Allodynia is a term given to the pain which occurs in other places then the stimulated area while hyperalgesia means increase in the sensitivity to pain which can be due to damage in the nerves .
However, all the symptoms for allodynia and hyperalgesia decreased after treatment with MgSO4. Moreover, this study reported increase in the concentration of glutamate in the synovial fluid in the arthritic condition of the inflamed knees. When the amount of magnesium is less in the body, this glutamate binds to the NMDA (N-methyl-o-aspartate) receptors which lead to allodynia and hyperalgesia. On treatment with Mg 2+ it was observed that these ions had preventive effect on the binding of glutamate to these receptors .
In addition to thus, the researchers reported that the deficiency of magnesium ions can lead to up regulation of the interleukins 1 and 6 (IL-1 and IL-6), cytokines and inflammation in the joints. It was reported in a study that increase in the IL-1 can lead to bone cancer in animal models by up regulating a factor known as p-NR1.
he scientists found that when given the treatment with magnesium ions, there was a down regulation of the p-NR1 factor, thus reducing the risk of bone cancer in the patients suffering from osteoarthritis .
Lastly, the study also reported that progression of osteoarthritis is also signified by increased apoptosis of the chondrocytes. The collagenase induced the apoptosis or cell death in the chondrocytes which when treated with MgSO4 was suppressed in the rat models. Thus, addition of magnesium to the body slowed down the progression of the osteoarthritis in the body .
How to take Epsom salt?
Epsom salt is most commonly available in the form of salt like crystals in the market. It is can be taken orally or in the form of Epsom salt bath. If it is taken orally it is highly recommended that it one should consult a doctor or a health advisor before taking it. The dosage should be taken as per prescription of the doctor. Since oral consumption of Epsom salt can give a bitter taste, it can be mixed with lemon juice to improve its taste.
However, it has been observed that Epsom salt is not easily absorbed into the elementary canal and into the blood vessels. In such cases many people prefer to take Epsom salt bath in which the salt granules are dissolved in the bath water while bathing. It has been reported that Epsom salt is readily absorbed into the skin making it easier for magnesium and sulfate to enter the body.
The label of the product should be referred to for the amount of salt to be mixed into the bath water. It is considered highly beneficial for people experiencing pain due to arthritis. It tends to relax the tissues and reduce inflammation if the bath is taken regularly .
The doctors recommend that Epsom salt should not be taken without doctor’s prescription or under guidance from a health supervisor. It is not recommended to consume this salt in high dosages as it can be harmful for health. In case of Epsom salt bath one can consult about the amount to be added by the doctor or as mentioned on the label .
Epsom salt is highly beneficial for arthritis however, as mentioned above; it should not be taken under supervision of the doctor. The doctors advise that one should not take Epsom salt orally if the person is suffering from stomach pain, constipation, colitis and nausea. It is also not recommended for pregnant women to take Epsom salt.
Other side effects of consuming the salt include diarrhea, allergic reaction, swelling of lips, tongue and redness .
In the end..
Not many people are aware of the numerous benefits of Epsom salt as a treatment for arthritis. This salt has been reported in many studies to reduce the inflammation and swelling in the joints in many types of arthritis.
The main component of Epsom salt is magnesium and sulfate which play an important role in treating inflammation and prevent the degradation of the cartilages.
There is very few studies done on the benefits of Epsom salt for arthritis and there is scope for more studies to study its effect on various inflammatory diseases.