Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body and is essential to good health. Approximately half of the magnesium in our body is found in bone. The other half is predominately inside the cells and only about 1 percent is found in circulating blood. Magnesium is essential for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, as well as cardiac health, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and helps keep bones strong. Magnesium is even involved in energy metabolism (production of ATP) and protein synthesis. Simply put, we must have it to have good health.
Epsom salt is Magnesium Sulfate Heptahydrate (MgSO4·7H2O). It is most commonly mined from the earth. People have been taking Epsom salt baths for centuries. We absorb Epsom salt wonderfully through our skin. In fact, our absorption of both Magnesium and Sulfates are significantly higher when soaked through the skin rather than ingested. The “float tank” makes a perfect tool for people to absorb the magnesium that we need. By spending a session in a float tank these elements are allowed to bypass our digestive track, which both saves us energy and is especially important in helping our body process sulfates well. Besides it’s naturally relaxing effect, we have hundreds of uses for Magnesium and Sulfates throughout our body. Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral, and the second most prevalent electrolyte in the human body. A deficiency increases blood pressure, reduces glucose tolerance and causes neural excitation.
Early signs of magnesium deficiency also include loss of appetite, anorexia, fatigue, weakness, insomnia, poor memory, reduced ability to learn, apathy, worry and confusion. Magnesium deficiencies are common in the western diet because grains are poor sources of magnesium. Other prominent sources of magnesium, like nuts and leafy vegetables, are not eaten as often. It is possible to fix a magnesium deficiency through dietary changes. This would be the optimum way to achieve the greatest balance between nutrition and floating. Soaking in an Epsom Salt bath is one of the most effective means of making the magnesium your body needs readily available. Epsom Salt also delivers sulfates, which medical research indicates are needed for the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins and the mucin proteins that line the walls of the digestive tract. Studies show that sulfates also stimulate the pancreas to generate digestive enzymes and help to detoxify the body's residue of medicines and environmental contaminants. Studies indicate that sulfates are difficult to absorb from food, but are readily absorbed through the skin.
Maintaining healthy magnesium levels is also associated with a protective effect against depression and ADHD. The intestinal absorption of magnesium varies depending on how much magnesium the body needs, so there are not very many side-effects associated with supplementation *Do Not Confuse With Manganese.
Things to Note
Low magnesium levels are associated with:
Poor regulation of enzymes
Poor calcium absorption
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) severity
Low Sulfate levels are associated with:
Poor pancreatic function/detoxification
Leaky gut syndrome (bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivities, and aches and pains).
Sulfates play a vital role in the formation of brain tissue and in the formation of joint proteins.
If deficient, high acute doses of supplemental magnesium can be slightly sedative. This reaction explains why after a float, people experience a well-rested night of sleep, and arise feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. One other study has reported synergism between B6 and Magnesium in regards to anxiety reduction, when the subjects were women experiencing PMS; it is theoretically possible that the ZMA formulation enhances the actions of pyridoxine allowing some extent relief for those going through their own cycle of PMS. *individual and special cases call for the advice of a qualified medical/wellness practitioner.
What is ZMA and does it cause “Weird” Dreams?
ZMA (Zinc Monomethionine Aspartate, Magnesium Aspartate and Vitamin B6) is a supplement used primarily by athletes, gymnasts, and bodybuilders. It is most often used as a recovery aid; notably, studies show that ZMA helps the body achieve deeper levels of REM sleep. Is it possible that ZMA can cause weird dreams? Zma is a proprietary blend of Zinc bound to monomethionine, Magnesium bound to aspartate, and the vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). It is sometimes reported to give users weird, vivid dreams.
As of this posting, research has not yet been completed in regards to dosing ZMA, and having it in a person’s biological system while they float. As some people are searching for ways to dream, mind travel, astral project, and basically just explore their own minds, ZMA may hold the hope to assist in reaching these places of lucidity.
One other study has reported synergism between B6 and Magnesium in regards to anxiety reduction, when the subjects were women experiencing PMS; it is theoretically possible that the ZMA formulation enhances the actions of pyridoxine allowing some extent relief for those going through their own cycle of PMS.
Human Effect Matrix
The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (excluding animal/petri-dish studies) to tell you what effect Magnesium has in your body, and how strong these effects are. *The listing of percentages denotes the collaborative scientific consensus.
Blood Pressure – 60%
There appears to be a significant reduction in blood pressure assuming one of two conditions is met, either the subject is low in magnesium levels in the body (deficient) or if the subject has elevated blood pressure (140/90 or above), with the latter not requiring a deficiency to precede the blood pressure reducing effects.
Asthma – 75%
There appears to be a reduction in asthmatic symptoms associated with magnesium supplementation to a low degree. There may be a role for magnesium in aiding untreated asthma, whereas already medicated situations are not certain.
Blood Glucose – 42%
There appears to be some reduction in blood glucose in diabetics and persons with elevated glucose with magnesium supplementation, which may be secondary to better insulin functioning from the pancreas.
Insulin – 60%
Decreases in fasting insulin appear to occur over long term supplementation with magnesium in persons at risk for diabetes or already with the disease state; decreases in insulin may not occur in normoglycemic persons.
Insulin Sensitivity – 75%
There appears to be increases in insulin sensitivity as assessed by HOMA-IR, which is thought to be secondary to aiding pancreatic function.
Aerobic Exercise – 100%
The one study to assess aerobic exercise capacity noted a significant improvement during extreme physical stress, which is notable and needs replication.
Muscle Oxygenation – 100%
The one study to measure muscle oxygenation in high-intensity exercise noted quite a remarkable increase in oxygenation in healthy athletes.
Bone Mineral Density - 100%
An increase in bone mineral density has been noted with magnesium supplementation.
Migraine – 100%
One study has noted a reduction in symptoms of migraines associated with oral magnesium supplementation.
*A migraine is an intense and prolonged headache that may or may not be preceded by an aura. Supplementation for migraines either reduces the severity of a migraine or, when taken daily, reduces the monthly frequency of migraines.
Sleep Quality – 100%
An improvement in sleep nature has been noted in persons with poor sleep quality, no studies assess persons with normal sleep function.
Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy – 100%
A reduction in symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy has been noted with magnesium supplementation.
Depression – 100%
Reduced depressive symptoms have been found in diabetics.
Symptoms of PMS - 100%
A slight reduction in symptoms of PMS has been noted with magnesium supplementation.
Symptoms of Tinnitus – 100%
Decreased symptoms associated with tinnitus have been noted following magnesium supplementation.
Biological Significance of Magnesium
Magnesium is used in the body primarily as an electrolyte and a mineral cofactor for enzymes. As an electrolyte it serves to maintain fluid balance, and as a cofactor it serves a purpose in over 300 enzyme systems, most notably ATP, Adenyl Cyclase, and required for the activation of Creatine kinase as well as many of the enzymes in the glycolysis pathway. Body stores of magnesium are approximately between 21-28g (in a reference 154lb adult male), of which half is deposited in bone tissue. The majority of the rest of magnesium is located inside of cells. Non-bone and extracellular magnesium stores make up 0.3% of overall body magnesium stores, and exist as 55% free form magnesium, 33% bound to protein (such as enzymes) and 12% in anion complexes.
Deficiency of Magnesium
The state of obesity may induce a Magnesium deficiency, which can be treated with injections of Vitamin D and may be more reflective of abnormalities in Vitamin D metabolism of which low Magnesium is a symptom. Diabetic persons (Type II) appear to have a greater risk of deficiency, approaching 25-38% of all persons.
Magnesium’s effect on Sleep
Magnesium appears to have some role in sleep due to sedative-like actions, and being significantly but weakly correlated with the late midpoint of sleep independent of dietary energy composition. This may be more of an effect than a cause, as intentional sleep deprivation (sleeping 80% of normal length) for 4 weeks has been shown to reduce erythrocytic Magnesium levels by 3.5%. In a study on 12 healthy elderly persons, effervescent Magnesium (10mmol, working up to 30mmol) over 20 days led to an increase in slow-wave sleep (63.3%) and reduced sleeping cortisol levels, which acted to normalize age-related changes in sleep patterns. Benefits to sleep have also been found in persons aged 59+/-8 years who consumed less than the EAR for magnesium via their diets (265-350mg) where 320mg Magnesium Citrate over 7 weeks improved sleep quality and some inflammatory parameters additionally; interestingly, magnesium supplementation did not increase serum magnesium any more than placebo overall, but only when looking at deficient persons.
Magnesium and Depression
Magnesium is associated with depression due to persons with depression having lower erythrocytic Magensium levels than healthy controls (75-77% of control in Major Depression), with some anti-depressants (amytriptiline and sertraline) increasing Magnesium stores in erythrocytes. However, this correlation is not noted at all times, and there doesn't appear to be a good relationship between serum Magnesium and depression. Additionally, removal of Magnesium from the diet of rats appears to result in anxiety and depressive-like symptoms. One review notes that increased rates of depression in society coincide with dietary reduction of Magnesium, with the beginning phases of wheat processing reducing Magnesium content of breads to 19% of their former (wheat) value and reducing the 450mg average intake in the 19th century to 250mg or less in subsequent centuries. When looking at the diets of persons suffering from depression, there appears to be an inverse relationship between dietary Magnesium intake and depressive symptoms. One hypothesis notes that a Magnesium deficiency, causing NDMA receptors to be chronically active, may lead to a form of neuronal injury misdiagnosed as treatment-resistant depression based on the phenotype.
Magnesium and PMS
If deficient, high acute doses of supplemental magnesium can be slightly sedative. This reaction explains why after a float, people experience a well-rested night of sleep, and arise feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. One other study has reported synergism between B6 and Magnesium in regards to anxiety reduction, when the subjects were women experiencing PMS; it is theoretically possible that the ZMA formulation enhances the actions of pyridoxine allowing some extent relief for those going through their own cycle of PMS.
Measurement of Magnesium in Humans
Measurement of Magnesium can be done in serum (from the blood) but does not tend to correlate well with bodily stores of Magnesium ions. Better measurements are erythrocytic (red blood cell) and mononuclear (white blood cell) with the latter correlating best with intramuscular Magnesium stores; muscles themselves can be subject to biopsy and measured.
Magnesium and the Brain
Magnesium is critical to preserving neuronal function during periods of downtime, when the neuron is not firing. A deficiency of Magnesium in the brain (which tends to only occur during chronic deprivation of dietary magnesium) makes cells have more activation during periods where they are not intentionally activated.
Magnesium and ADHD
Currently, there is some evidence for Magnesium being of use to children with ADHD as ADHD may be related to Magnesium deficiency. There is not enough evidence to assess the potency of Magnesium in this regard, but it may have value as adjunct therapy alongside standard drug therapy. Magnesium deficiency may be more common in children with diagnosed ADHD, with one study of 116 children noting a deficiency rate of 95% and another study noting a reduced Magnesium content in the saliva of children with ADHD relative to control children, where control saliva had a concentration of 0.70+/-0.2mmol/L and ADHD had a concentration of 0.23+/-0.06mmol/L. At least one study dividing children into subgroups of ADD and ADHD (with the difference being the presence of hyperactivity) noted that Magnesium deficiency only occurred in the hyperactive subgroup and not the inattentive group or control. Subsequently, an intervention of 50 diagnosed children (7-12yrs) with ADHD and dietary magnesium deficiency, there was a significant improvement in hyperactivity (relative to baseline) as assessed by two rating scales in response to daily ingestion of 200mg Magnesium over 6 months. These benefits may be augmented by Fish Oil omega 3 fatty acids, as evidenced by one cohort of 810 children followed for 12 weeks that showed benefit to symptoms as assessed by SNAP-IV (a rating scale different from the one in the previous study).
The preceding information pertaining to Magnesium and all other useful findings within this document has been collected, edited and used from data found at Examine.com