Epsom Salt Foot Soaks

*Why do I keep mentioning magnesium & Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)? Because many chronic physical and mental issues involve low intracellular levels of magnesium. Lab tests checking blood levels usually would miss the problem because the level in the blood is very low compared to the level in the cell fluid. Magnesium is needed to provide power within membranes to control flow of chemically active ions like calcium and sodium which are found in a larger amount in the blood and less inside of the cells. Too much calcium within cells can cause over-activity of the cell to the point of cell death.

Magnesium supplements as a therapy can be helpful but the research is mixed, it may not be absorbed well by enough of the subjects in research studies to suggest that it isn’t helpful on average – people are individuals though, not group averages. Epsom salt, crystals of magnesium sulfate, is a well absorbed form when used dissolved in water, too much can be harmful as magnesium can slow the heart-rate if levels within the blood stream become elevated. Safe use of Epsom salt baths, foot-soaks, or even dampened compresses held on sore muscles can be inexpensive and effective.

We need more health care that is inexpensive and effective. The planet needs healthy people and less medical waste. Treatment of illness can be costly in time and supplies for the patients and the healthcare team. Preventing worsening of chronic illness or symptoms mental illness improves quality of life for patients, saves time and money and supplies, and reduces the caseload of an overburdened healthcare system. Frequently there is a problem with accessing healthcare specialists or mental health care services, even if payment isn’t a problem.

Epsom salt foot-soaks – might be simpler than a full bath.

Previously I’ve shared an idea about a need for less expensive bathing facilities in urban areas, Public bathing facilities was an option in Rome. Apartments may have only a shower or there might be more tenants sharing space than is feasible to allow enough time for everyone to take turns in one or two bathrooms. The medicinal value of Epsom salt baths may also be difficult for those most in need to be able to enjoy as mobility might be limited. An easily transportable footsoak basin could be brought to a wheelchair or other seating arrangements.

Currently on the market there are various footsoak/pedicure chairs available for the spa market, prices range from $700 to over $2000. Portable heating and bubbling individual foot spa basins are available for home use that range from $40 to over $100. The disadvantages are size, they appear to be fairly small, meant to just cover the foot and the complexity of the shaped basin would make them difficult to clean. Smaller basins would also be easier to spill and difficult to transport from a sink area to a seating area. (example individual foot spa)

Residential facilities with many people who might benefit from the medicinal value of an Epsom salt bath or footsoak would have utility closets designed for easy use of wheeled mop buckets. A utility sink is equipped with a hose for filling buckets and a low rimmed drainage area is built into the floor for easy emptying and cleaning of the buckets. Some wheeled mop buckets have removable wringers to make the whole device easier to clean and may have different colors available to help identify which area the bucket is intended for use. (example color coded mop buckets) If the idea was found effective I imagine a company would be happy to make a product with a different logo on the side of the buckets and sell them without the wringer attachment. The wheeled buckets have handles on the side as well as the top to make emptying them easier.

Simple solutions are most practical for busy workers. In a residential facility diabetic foot care is a regular need to help prevent small sores from going unnoticed by a patient with numbness/neuropathy and then becoming large sores. Gangrenous infections in small sores are a common cause of amputations being needed for diabetic patients. Magnesium and sulfate from the Epsom salt both have healing value for diabetic patients and people with other types of inflammatory illness. Swollen feet may be improved by regular use of topical magnesium treatments.

Ease of use for workers is important as hauling buckets or basins of water around a facility is strenuous and potentially messy and dangerous. A wheeled bucket could be easily moved, used, emptied and sanitized between uses. After a footsoak it would be easy to inspect a patient’s feet for small sores, provide any toenail maintenance that is needed and possibly give a therapeutic massage.

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.” – W. Edwards Deming

Knowing that Epsom salt baths can be extremely healing is knowledge – proving that it could be feasible to help many people in a budget friendly way is the next step. Patient care requires safety and effectiveness in order to provide a service ethically that will do no harm and which can still fit within a facility’s budget. A study that tracked groups of patients over time could look at direct symptom relief type of criteria and look at overall health statistics – were there fewer health concerns or falls or mood problems in the group receiving weekly, biweekly, or monthly Epsom salt foot-soaks in comparison to the control group who continued to receive standard care? Or a study design might compare the health parameters of the same group of patients over six months without the Epsom salt foot-soaks and then six months during which foot-soaks were provided.

A review of what little scientific research is available regarding topical magnesium concludes that magnesium containing creams have not shown good absorption. Epsom salt soaks do lead to increases in plasma magnesium levels and urinary excretion of magnesium suggesting that the magnesium sulfate salt water solution does get absorbed through the skin, more likely through hair follicles (4) and sweat glands than the full surface of the skin. (1, 2) Absorption through mucous membranes is also likely, so a full bath would probably provide more absorption in less time than a foot and lower leg soak. More research is needed however and preferably with study subjects who have a chronic conditions that suggests they are magnesium deficient because excess magnesium is not needed and can be dangerous. People who are less deficient in the nutrient might not need as long of a soak time before achieving some symptom relief (may be helpful for muscle cramps, headache, anxiety, psoriasis).

Staying overly long in an Epsom salt bath or foot soak could cause relaxing of smooth muscles which can cause watery diarrhea for the next day (like a stomach flu, all day problem), and more severe can cause slowing of the heart rate, bradycardia, — the point being that Epsom salt soaks are medicinal, not just for relaxing or a spa beauty treatment. When more deficient you might stay in longer before noticing more relaxing of muscles or change in heart rate and as weeks of regular soaks continue you may notice that a shorter soak is now adequate. Foot soaks would be less likely to cause excess absorption that can cause diarrhea/slower heart rate, while falling asleep in a bathtub with Epsom salt might. Ten to twenty minutes is a typical recommendation.

A typical bath is about one cup of Epsom salt to a half bathtub of water, soak for twenty minutes, 1-3 times per week. I get muscle cramps and more anxiety when I take one per week instead of two and at a more severe level of colitis like symptoms I needed three per week, and marked it on a calendar so I wouldn’t forget. Substituting a foot-soak, I probably used a half cup of Epsom salt to a large bucket size plastic bin (rather than a short basin) and left my feet and lower legs in the water for about forty minutes, until the water was cool – I was working on a computer while soaking. Chronic illness is unpleasant, improved quality of life is more pleasant.

*This will likely get some revisions/additional links. It is a continuation of the last post on TRP Channels & magnesium. Food and supplement sources of magnesium and the additional need for protein and phospholipids as carriers for intracellular supplies of magnesium is available in a previous post: To have optimal Magnesium needs Protein and Phospholipids too.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. It is not intended to provide individualized health care guidance, please seek an individual health care professional for individualized health care purposes.

  1. Gröber U, Werner T, Vormann J, Kisters K. Myth or Reality-Transdermal Magnesium?. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):813. Published 2017 Jul 28. doi:10.3390/nu9080813 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579607/
  2. reference 13 from (1):
    Epsom Salt Council. [(accessed on 1 October 2015)]; Available online: http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/report_on_absorption_of_magnesium_sulfate.pdf.
  3. various links about magnesium and PTSD or other mood or brain trauma issues https://www.google.com/search?q=PTSD+brain+changes+calcium+magnesium+imbalance&rlz=1C1CHWA_enUS600US600&oq=PTSD+brain+changes+calcium+magnesium+imbalance&aqs=chrome..69i57.13101j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  4. Chandrasekaran NC, Sanchez WY, Mohammed YH, et al., Permeation of topically applied Magnesium ions through human skin is facilitated by hair follicles., Magnes Res. 2016 Jun 1;29(2):35-42.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27624531 (4)



To have optimal Magnesium needs Protein and Phospholipids too.

Good news and bad news – magnesium in the form of Epsom salt, magnesium sulfate, has been in use medicinally since the seventeenth century and written about in peer reviewed medical journals since the early nineteenth century. (1) That is both the good and bad news – it is helpful, but it still isn’t used for many conditions where it might be needed. It is not patentable as a pharmaceutical medication because it is a natural substance. It or magnesium chloride and some other forms are in use for a few conditions including preeclampsia, migraines, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. Minor athletic injuries may be treated with Epsom salt soaks (3) and some psychiatric care providers may also recommend the treatment. 

A textbook on the topic of magnesium use for medical conditions reviews the mineral’s role in the body during health and chronic illness or when genetic differences in metabolism are present. It is complex metabolically and just taking a supplement doesn’t always get magnesium to the problem area of the body. Magnesium is primarily found within cells, and most is bound to proteins or phospholipids rather than as free ions, in blood plasma or other extracellular fluid and not all forms can cross the blood brain barrier to help with migraines or other brain injuries.(1) Magnesium sulfate and magnesium chloride have been found helpful for those purposes (1) and both can be used topically which can bypass problems with poor absorption in the digestive system. (3 

Magnesium oxide is a form sometimes used in supplements that has been found to be very poorly absorbed even when the digestive system is in normal health. Only four percent of a dose is likely to be absorbed and the remaining 96% tends to cause loose stools by causing the intestinal muscles to relax too much if the supplement is in a larger dose. (1) Math – a 250 mg supplement of magnesium oxide might only have 10 milligrams absorbed and 240 milligrams pass through in the next bowel movement.  

Magnesium aspartate has been found helpful in some research studies, but the aspartate is an excitatory amino acid that can cause overactivity within brain cells possibly even leading to cell death, so it may not be ideal for people with some conditions such as headaches or brain injury. Other forms of supplements found to typically be well absorbed include magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate. More recent research is using magnesium threonate as a form that may be more likely to be absorbed through the blood brain barrier. (1) 

Summary points:  

Symptoms of deficiency may include:  

  • Headaches or migraines may be a symptom because magnesium is used within the brain to protect against excess calcium or glutamate entry into brain cells. It is involved in fluid balance so high blood pressure may occur; tiredness and easy weight gain may be symptoms of chronic deficiency as it may cause insulin resistance and is essential within metabolism to turn sugar into a form of usable energy. Muscle cramps are also a common symptom of magnesium deficiency and may include a twitching of the eyelids. Tinnitus, a constant dull ringing sound in the ears, can occur. (1) (2) 

Food sources of magnesium include: 

  • Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sweet potato, squash; fruit, bananas; dark chocolate; beans, tofu; nuts such as cashews & almonds; pumpkin, pomegranate and sesame seeds, tahini; peanuts; brown rice, whole grains; yogurt. (2) 
Magnesium Food Sources and Symptoms of Deficiency.

Topical sources of magnesium include:  

    • Epsom salt, magnesium sulfate, can be used in baths or foot-soaks, or in damp poultices placed on other sore body parts. For a bath, about one cup of salt in a half bath, soak for 20 minutes three times a week, no more than 40 minutes to avoid excess absorption.
      Symptoms of excess absorption can include slowing heart rate, an overly relaxed muscles which can cause loose stools, for up to a day if very excessive. (3)
      An advantage of magnesium sulfate includes the sulfate in a form that doesn’t need sunshine exposure to skin in order for the body to be able to transform sulfur found in foods into the bioactive sulfate form. 
  • Magnesium chloride is available for topical use in body lotions & as an oily feeling liquid solution.People with digestive problems may not be absorbing much magnesium from food or supplements. 
Topical sources of Magnesium and bioactive Sulfate.

Supplemental forms of magnesium may include: 

    • Magnesium citrate, Mg glycinate, Mg L-threonate, Mg lysinate, Mg orotate, Mg malate, and Mg taurate are all fairly well absorbed forms and generally don’t cause side effects when taken in smaller amounts a few times a day (200-250 mg) instead of in a large dose (more than 400 mg in a single dose). People using diuretics or with increased sweat or urine losses for other reasons may need extra magnesium intake to make up for increased loss of magnesium in urine or sweat. People with late stage kidney disease may need to avoid excess Mg intake. (1) (4) 
  • Magnesium sulfate can be taken in water in very small amounts (a few crystals, a very tiny amount) (3), & it or Mg chloride may also be available in capsule form.
    Magnesium aspartate is well absorbed but the aspartate is an excitatory amino acid and may cause headaches for some users. 
  • Magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed (~ only 4%) & may cause loose stools for more users than the other forms. (1) 
Supplemental sources of Magnesium.
  • Food Sources of Phospholipids and other phospho-nutrients: Hemp seed kernels and oil; Artemisia turanica/wormwood leaf; amaranth seed; asparagus; avocado fruit or the inner kernel, dried and powdered; beans/legumes; cardamom seeds and powder; carrots; celery stalks and leaves; cocoa beans and cocoa powder, baker’s chocolate, dark chocolate and to a lesser amount milk chocolate and chocolate syrup; coconut; cumin seed/powder; fennel seed, flax seed, pine nuts; sesame seeds, pumpkin seed kernels, squash seeds; butternut squash and pumpkin; gingko leaf; grapefruit and orange juice with the pulp; Jerusalem artichoke (this is a root vegetable rather than a green artichoke); lettuce, spinach and mustard leaves and other leafy green vegetables and herbs; nuts/peanuts, cashews, walnuts; oats; okra seeds; onion root, leek leaves, garlic;  parsnip root; pomegranate seeds and pomegranate peel extract;rice, white or brown but the bran is the best source; rosemary; sorghum;  sweet potato or yam; buckwheat (a seed botanically that is not wheat and is gluten free); wheat. (G.26)   

More information about protein and water needs are available in a post about kidney health: Make every day Kidney Appreciation Day.

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

  1. Robert Vink, Mihai Nechifor, editors, Magnesium in the Central Nervous System, University of Adelaide Press, 2011, adelaide.edu.au, free ebook pdf, https://www.adelaide.edu.au/press/titles/magnesium/magnesium-ebook.pdf  (1
  2. Rachael Link, MS, RD,Top 10 Magnesium-rich Foods, Plus Proven Benefits, DrAxe.com, https://draxe.com/magnesium-deficient-top-10-magnesium-rich-foods-must-eating/ (2
  3. Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) – Side Effects Dosage, Interactions, everydayhealth.com https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/magnesium-sulfate (3
  4. Magnesium Types Compared: What is the Best Magnesium for You?, swansonvitamins.com, https://www.swansonvitamins.com/blog/chelsea/magnesium-types-compared  (4
  5. Chandrasekaran NC, Sanchez WY, Mohammed YH, et al., Permeation of topically applied Magnesium ions through human skin is facilitated by hair follicles., Magnes Res. 2016 Jun 1;29(2):35-42. 
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27624531 (5)

Why should we care about demyelination?

This post is a summary of two recent posts:

  • Good News/Bad News about Multiple sclerosis Research (7/26/2018) 
  • Demyelination, continued. (7/28/2018) 

Why Care about Demyelination? 

We need to care about demyelination as a society because it may be a factor underlying many conditions that have been occurring at increasing rates. The high cost of health care is not just due to the cost of individual medications or the price of hospitalization but is due to the additive cost of increased numbers of individuals needing care. Autism care alone is estimated to likely reach $500 billion by 2025 for care in the U.S. alone, (link), demyelination or disordered myelin formation is thought to be involved. Our food supply may provide calories but it may no longer be supporting health due to imbalance in some nutrients and lack of sufficient amounts of other nutrients – in addition to personal choices for some people leaning toward convenient and tasty foods that provide very few nutrients besides calories.

The other reason to care about demyelination as a society is because the early symptoms can occur for years without clear reasons and may disrupt relationships or the ability to hold a job – personality changes including anxiety and anger, paranoia and a short temper – problems with impulse control and the ability to follow through on planned actions or with communication and the ability to tell the truth instead of substituting other statements that may seem illogical and obviously far from the truth. Problems with impulse control and a tendency toward mood problems may also include an increased risk for suicide or self injury or violence towards others.

The medical research is complex and I haven’t seen all the loose threads together yet, so I will summarize my summary points in a more concise list here and am working on a more organized document elsewhere. This list combines my tips from the previous post with the work of the other summary article (22) — I was also given the link to another summary article which also has tips which I have not incorporated here. It provides an excellent overview about myelin production and function –selfhacked/myelin – what I and the authors of (22) and {selfhacked} have in common is that we all got sick and sought information about regaining our health for ourselves and are sharing the information in case it might help others.

My personal goal is to not become paralyzed (post: ALS & CBD receptors), number of clicks on a website is not something I pay attention to. The loose threads that I’ve woven together in this series of posts which are not included in the excellent selfhacked article are that a) many of the herbs or phytonutrients found helpful for myelin regeneration are Nrf2 promoting which is also important for myelin regeneration and/or reducing oxidative stress that may lead to more degeneration of myelin. b) Foods that are good for promoting Nrf2 often are also good sources of cannabinoids or phospholipids which can be protective. c) And preventing excessive cell death or excess intracellular calcium may decrease the excess production of cytokines by decreasing release of cannabinoids from cell membrane storage and their breakdown into arachidonic acid and eventual transformation into cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals.}: 

Strategies to help prevent the breakdown of myelin or help promote regeneration of myelin:

{In the past at different points in time, I personally have experienced and improved with supplementation or diet changes physical and mental symptoms of vitamin B1, B5, B6, folate and B12 deficiencies; iodine, magnesium, calcium and zinc deficiencies; vitamin/hormone D and calcium excess at a different stage of health;  cannabinoid/phospholipid deficiency; inadequate protein and general malnutrition due to the zinc deficiency which can greatly reduce appetite at one stage and due to severe bowel mal-absorption more recently; omega 3 fatty acid/omega 6 fatty acid imbalance; and also lack of sleep/melatonin and lack of oxygen/excess toxins in the air; health requires all of the nutrients and adequate oxygen, exercise, sleep and stress coping.}

  1. Vitamin B1, thiamin deficiency, chronic, severe – Wernicke’s encephalopathy may be more of a risk for severe alcoholics and people with anorexia – severe lack of appetite or the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. 
  2. Vitamin B12 deficiency – may be more of a risk for people with low stomach acidity, due to older age or chronic use of calcium type antacids; or due to genetic reasons limiting production of Intrinsic Factor; or due to a vegan diet without supplementation of vitamin B12 or inclusion of Nutritional yeast flakes in the diet. 
  3. Zinc deficiency (22) or copper  excess (link). 
  4. Adequate but not excessive lithium may increase myelin production. (22) 
  5. Adequate but not excessive iron intake is needed for production of myelin. 
  6. Magnesium deficiency or poor intestinal absorption of magnesium, or lack of adequate protein and phospholipids in the diet for the body to be able to store magnesium in the normal manner within the intracellular fluid. 
  7. Inadequate calcium or vitamin D can be a factor but excessive intake of either can also be a factor in cell breakdown and risk of demyelination. If taking vitamin D as a supplement the vitamin D3 form may be most bioactive and taking vitamin K2 with it may help with myelin production (22) and protect against osteoporosis. Green leafy vegetables are good sources of vitamin K. 
  8. Adequate intake of cholesterol is needed as a building block for our own production of vitamin D and other steroid hormones and as a building block for myelin. (22) Pregnenolone is a steroid hormone precursor that may benefit some people when used as a supplement. It and other steroid hormones are involved in signaling increased production of myelin. Testosterone insufficiency may also negatively affect myelin production. (22) 
  9. Excessive intake of free glutamate or aspartate – excitatory amino acids that are commonly used as flavoring or sweetening agents in foods or may occur naturally in fermented foods or alcoholic beverages. 
  10. Adequate protein is needed to support a variety of body functions in addition to supporting magnesium levels. Uridine is a nucleotide base (part of DNA that is a combination of a type of sugar and an amino acid) that is also is involved in energy metabolism, fasting occasionally may increase our own production (more info). Insufficient amounts may negatively affect myelin production and use as a supplement may help some people. (22) 
  11. Insufficient calories to provide the body enough glucose to support mitochondrial health. They can use protein or fats for energy but it shifts the metabolism more towards oxidative stress. 
  12. Occasional fasting and/or a low carbohydrate diet may help promote autophagy due to increased use of ketones for energy (22) but may cause health problems due to excess oxidative stress or an increased burden of nitrogen waste removal for the kidneys when followed long term. 
  13. Lack of antioxidants due to lack of Nrf2 within the body to promote our own production of antioxidants internally; and/or lack of antioxidants within the diet, including vitamin C, (22), would decrease our ability to detoxify the reactive oxidative chemicals produced during normal metabolism or which are produced at increased rates when protein or fats are being used for energy instead of glucose. 
  14. Use of the herb ashwagandha or Gingko biloba (22) may help protect against oxidative stress and protect against demyelination by promoting Nrf2. (ashwagandha & Nrf2) (an overview of Nrf2 metabolism, its potential benefits for conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, and Gingko biloba and pomegranate are mentioned as promoters of Nrf2: nutricology/newsletter, see first article) (other Nrf2 promoting phytonutrients/foods and menu ideas: G10: Nrf2 Promoting Foods.) Flavonoids are one of the groups of phytonutrients that helps promote Nrf2; and also may help protect myelin production. (22) Medicinal mushrooms, including Hericium Erinaceus, Lion’s Mane Mushroom,(22), may also help protect myelin production and prevent breakdown by reducing oxidative stress (link) and promoting Nrf2. (link) 
  15. Having a healthy balance of omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids in the diet helps reduce risk of inflammation/oxidative stress and also helps us build healthy membranes which are necessary to control flow of minerals and other chemicals from the exterior to interior of cells and organelles such as the mitochondria. 
  16. Inadequate iodine for healthy thyroid hormone production, (22); may be a combined problem of excess presence of bromide, fluoride and perchlorate in the diet or environment. 
  17. Lack of oxygen due to poor air quality, or smoking, or health problems causing inadequate breathing function. Emotional or physical stress may also increase the need for oxygen or increase the tendency to hold our breath; Take ten deep breaths and think before you speak is good advice for any emotionally stressful situation because oxygen is needed to think rationally and we tend to hold our breath when we are upset. 
  18. Avoid extreme physical and emotional stress. 
  19. Avoid toxins. 
  20. Get adequate sleep at night, and a brief nap during the day may be beneficial for some people. Melatonin helps promote myelin production and inadequate sleep and having lights on at night can disrupt our production of melatonin. (22) 
  21. Adequate exercise (22) and stretching regularly helps move nutrients throughout the body and remove toxins in the lymphatic fluid for further detoxification and eventual removal from the body. 
  22. Wear a helmet for any activity that may cause head trauma and avoid sports which may cause frequent closed head trauma and especially when helmets are not used (sorry soccer, football, hockey, (link), and boxing fans). 
  23. Adequate phospholipid and other phosphonutrients or cannabinoids may be necessary to include from external sources if genetic differences or other health problems or age interferes with the body’s internal production capability. Dark cocoa products, cardamom powder, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds are a few legal dietary sources. 
  24. Use of ibuprofen and/or ginger (approximately 1/2 teaspoon per day) may help prevent breakdown of our body’s supply of cannabinoids, breakdown of which may then lead to increased breakdown of cells and may then lead to increased degeneration of myelin. 
  25. Lack of any B vitamins or genetic differences in the ability to remethylate folate and vitamin B12 may disrupt the ability of mitochondria to generate usable energy from glucose or proteins and fats, and may reduce production of myelin. (22) Inositol and choline may be particularly important for myelin production. They are considered to be in the B vitamin group but was discovered more recently than the numbered series of B vitamins. (22) 
  26. Low Level Laser Therapy – I am not familiar with this, see #10: (22), but I have read elsewhere that certain types of light can stimulate activity levels. (Haier) 
  27. Practice, practice, practice – new things. (22) Myelin is produced in response to learning [45] so remaining mentally stimulated with new experiences and learning new topics or techniques keeps signalling the body to produce myelin.  
  28. Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor, (BDNF), the brain’s growth factor, may help increase production of myelin by increasing production of brain cells, which include oligodendrocytes. (22) Ways to promote BDNF (link, from within 22) fortunately overlap with the strategies for protecting against demyelination already mentioned above or included in the list of Nrf2 promoting foods. 
  29. Reducing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) – energy leakage from laptops, smartphones, WiFi, televisions, and other strong sources of electicity may help protect against myelin degeneration. (22) 

References and more details for some of this information were included in the last two posts:  

  • Good News/Bad News about Multiple sclerosis Research (7/26/2018) 
  • Demyelination, continued. (7/28/2018) 

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./  

Average Autism and Alzheimer’s Rates Differ by Gender

Autism is more of a risk for boys than girls by a factor of four boys for every one girl or three boys for every one girl diagnosed with autism depending on the type of study and diagnostic criteria. There is some speculation that autism in girls presents with less obvious symptoms than in boys. Girls with autism may have less repetitive behavior and be able to fit in socially better than boys with autism and may have less obvious focus on one main topic of interest. (1)

At the other end of the age spectrum females have a greater rate of Alzheimer’s Disease than males. (13)

The difference has been shown to be significant, not just a difference in diagnostic criteria. Estrogen is a female hormone that may be protecting girls from the risk of developing autism but then in menopause is no longer protecting older females from the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Patients with Autism and Alzheimer’s have been shown to have a tendency to have increased amounts of protein clusters (amyloid beta) in the brain which in normal health would be cleared away. An animal based study found a genetic strain of mice with a clear gender and age difference. Young male mice developed autism like symptoms and older female mice developed Alzheimer’s like symptoms.

A different study found a gender difference in the amount of a protective protein (ADNP) in young male mice with autism like symptoms and older female mice with Alzheimer’s like symptoms. (6) Complete lack of the protective protein leads to very early death with neural tube defects in animal studies.  (7) The neuroprotective protein (ADNP) seems to promote autophagy (our body’s recycling method, it makes us more energy efficient and helps detoxify/remove old cells or material such as the beta-amyloid protein for reuse, read more:  14) and the deficit of it may also be involved in schizophrenia. (8) The protein is involved with control of the dendritic branching of brain cells which is typically found to be  different in children with autism. The protein also plays a role in regulating over 400 genes involved in embryo development including ApoE and the tau protein which is found to collect in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease in addition to beta-amyloid protein. (9)

The role of apoE involves membranes, cholesterol, cannabinoid receptors and lipid rafts – chemistry geeks have fun, three dimensional drawings and a discussion of cholesterol within the brain and its role in several neurodegenerative diseases is available online in full text, the brain includes 25% of the body’s cholesterol even though the brain only accounts for 2% of the total body weight, on average. (10).  A briefer description of the role apoE plays in the brain and with estrogen and Alzheimer’s risk is available with a discussion of the gene differences that are known to increase but not guarantee risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. (11)

Disclosure: a genetic screening suggests I do have one of the higher risk differences in the ApoE gene. (rs2254958)

Strategies to help increase autophagy may help reverse some of the risk factors associated with reduced ApoE/reduced ADNP levels –

  1. vigorous exercise,
  2. a ketosis promoting, low carbohydrate diet, regularly or occasionally,
  3. fasting for a day or a partial day occasionally. (14)

The activity of the apoE protein on other genes can be affected by cannabinoids, too little cannabinoids may be a problem or too much.

The take home point – magnesium and adequate cannabinoids seem to be involved in helping clear the protein clusters during normal health.

  • Nutritional strategies recommended to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease include increasing intake of magnesium. Research has found that low levels of magnesium promoted build up of  beta amyloid protein while high levels of magnesium promoted breakdown of the misshapen proteins.

“Lab studies show that magnesium modulates enzymes involved in amyloid beta production; at low levels, magnesium favors amyloid beta buildup, while at higher levels it favors amyloid beta breakdown.101,102″ [2]  (from a  2014 post)

Certain genetic conditions and chronic health conditions or older age can make the body less able to make cannabinoids endogenously/internally. External sources of cannabinoids have been shown to be helpful for clearing the protein clusters involved in Alzheimer’s Disease. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160629095609.htm)

An underlying infection with bacteria or yeast may be involved in the buildup of the protein clusters as they have a protective effect against some types of infection, so addressing low grade chronic infection may be needed to help stop the over production of the amyloid beta protein clusters in addition to providing adequate magnesium and cannabinoids. Note that there are non-euphoric cannabinoids and legal food sources in addition to medical marijuana. Pumpkin seeds are a good source, $200 billion per year is estimated to be spent on Alzheimer’s care annually at our current rate of the disease prevalence – that would buy a lot of pumpkin seeds. (15 )

That article also mentions that 192 pharmaceutical chemicals have been anticipated and tested in hope of a cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease but which have ultimately not been found to be successful. One hundred and ninety two chemicals tested, one hundred and ninety two chemicals found ineffective – magnesium and cannabinoids however have been found effective at helping the body to naturally break down the tau and  beta-amyloid protein clumps that lead to brain damage and later symptoms of dementia in Alzheimer’s Disease and a few other neurological conditions including traumatic brain injuries and autism. (15 ) (links re tau/amyloid in autism & Alzheimers) (links re tau/amyloid protein in traumatic brain injury)

Ibuprofen is a pharmaceutical that is no longer covered by a patent and it has been found to be beneficial in protecting against Alzheimer’s Disease (link: 16) and the underlying reason is likely that ibuprofen prevents the break down of cannabinoids (17)(Search term: “ibuprofen prevents break down of cannabinoids”) – but you need cannabinoids first and some people might no longer be able to make them after a certain age or state of health or may never have been able to make them as well due to genetic differences.

So celebrate protecting your brain today by eating pumpkin seeds, cardamom spice, the herb rosemary, chocolate, or leafy green vegetables. – and the brightly colored tiny inner part of a piece of corn that you can see when eating corn on the cob is also a good source.

  • The misshapen tau/amyloid-beta proteins have a protective effect against bacteria and the yeast Candida albicans so a chronic lowgrade infection may be an underlying cause of the accumulation of beta amyloid placques. [3] [4] (from a  2014 post)

There are many more legal food sources of cannabinoids or a precursor available, a longer list is included below. The progression of Alzheimer’s Disease can take twenty years before symptoms are obvious, so getting an early start on protecting against the tau/beta-amyloid protein build-up makes sense to me (Disclosure, I have a direct family history of the disease in older relatives and a genetic screening suggests that I am more at risk, so I am biased towards preventing the disease in my own brain or other family members.)

Phospholipids are part of cannabinoids and other phosphorus containing nutrients are important in energy production. The phospholipids and cannabinoids are important for the health and function of skin and other membranes lining cells and organs, and/or if you care more about having a good hair day than whether you might get Alzheimer’s Disease in several decades, then the phospholipids are also important for hair growth: *The phospholipid mixture in this animal-based study was applied on the skin surface for hair loss associated with inflammatory skin dermatitis: (18)

(Additional Discloure: I am also genetically at risk for Male Pattern Baldness which became visibly apparent when my autoimmune disease was more severe, however with my switch to phospholipid rich foods my hair has since grown back and my autoimmune condition is in remission as long as I continue with my new health habits).

Other nutrients including the B vitamins, vitamin E, and zinc are also important for healthy hair growth (read more) but many of the following list would also be good sources of B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc and other trace minerals and essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds are a good vegetarian source of zinc, otherwise the mineral is more commonly available in meats.

  • Food Sources of Phospholipids and other phospho-nutrients: Hemp seed kernels and oil; Artemisia turanica/wormwood leaf; amaranth seed; asparagus; avocado fruit or the inner kernel, dried and powdered; beans/legumes; cardamom seeds and powder; carrots; celery stalks and leaves; cocoa beans and cocoa powder, baker’s chocolate, dark chocolate and to a lesser amount milk chocolate and chocolate syrup; coconut; cumin seed/powder; fennel seed, flax seed, pine nuts; sesame seeds, pumpkin seed kernels, squash seeds; butternut squash and pumpkin; gingko leaf; grapefruit and orange juice with the pulp; Jerusalem artichoke (this is a root vegetable rather than a green artichoke); lettuce, spinach and mustard leaves and other leafy green vegetables and herbs; nuts/peanuts, cashews, walnuts; oats; okra seeds; onion root, leek leaves, garlic;  parsnip root; pomegranate seeds and pomegranate peel extract;rice, white or brown but the bran is the best source; rosemary; sorghum;  sweet potato or yam; buckwheat (a seed botanically that is not wheat and is gluten free); wheat. (G.26)

That topic took a walk around the block and picked some daisies along the way but the important message might be that eating well and exercising regularly may promote healthy hair, a fit body right now while helping maintain healthy brain function into the future. Genetic susceptibility may be involved in the rate of young males with autism and older females with autism and prevention might include more magnesium and phospholipid rich foods in the diet with a diet that is moderate in carbohydrates and regular vigorous exercise to promote autophagy to help promote the natural recycling of tau and beta-amyloid protein that tends to accumulate in the brains of people with autism and Alzheimer’s Disease. Lack of ADNP protein may lead to lack of ApoE or a genetic difference may cause reduced ApoE and the deficiency may lead to a reduced level of autophagy.

Fasting for a day or partial day occasionally or a low carbohydrate diet, even just a diet balance as low as 30% of calories, and vigorous exercise are three natural ways that may help promote autophagy – our body’s natural method for removing and reusing old cellular material. (14) Those strategies might help a woman with Alzheimer’s risk but for an infant or toddler may need to be adapted to simply allowing vigorous, safe play, and a diet that with a greater percentage of healthy fats than average. The list of phosphonutrient rich foods are generally healthy and safe for prenatal diets or other stages of life and would likely promote a fit body and healthy hair for a person of any age and gender – and what is good for the hair is good for other membranes throughout the body and is also good for the brain. The hair is a protein that is a modified form of skin tissue and so is fingernail protein – beauty is more than skin deep.

Some daisies.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes. Thanks.

  1. Sarah Deweerdt,  Estimate of autism’s sex ratio reaches new low, April 27, 2017,  spectrumnews.org https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/estimate-autisms-sex-ratio-reaches-new-low/ 
  2. Liam Hawkins, Nutritional Strategies and Alzheimers, March 2013 lifeextension.com, http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2013/3/Nutritional-Strategies-to-Combat-Alzheimers/Page-02
  3. Lisa Conrick, What is Causing Beta-Amyloid Production in Alzheimer’s and Autism?, Oct. 23, 2012, ageofautism.com, http://www.ageofautism.com/2012/10/what-is-causing-beta-amyloid-production-in-alzheimers-and-autism.html
  4. Molnar Mark, Alzheimer’s Disease Emerging Role of Infection,  http://miklossy.ch/
  5. Why women have more Alzheimer’s disease than men: gender and mitochondrial toxicity of amyloid-beta peptide. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 2:S527-33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20442496
  6. Activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP) exhibits striking sexual dichotomy impacting on autistic and Alzheimer’s pathologies. Transl Psychiatry. 2015 Feb 3;5:e501. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25646590
  7. Shmuel Mandel, Gideon RechaviIllana Gozes, Activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP) differentially interacts with chromatin to regulate genes essential for embryogenesis. Developmental Biology, Volume 303, Issue 2, 15 March 2007, Pages 814-824. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012160606013960

  8. Shlomo Sragovich, Avia Merenlender‐Wagner, Illana Gozes, ADNP Plays a Key Role in Autophagy: From Autism to Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease. BioassaysVolume39, Issue 11, November 2017, Pages 1700054 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/bies.201700054

  9. Gozes Illana, (2015) Activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP): from autism to Alzheimer’s disease. SpringerPlus. 4. L37. 10.1186/2193-1801-4-S1-L37.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282802744_Activity-dependent_neuroprotective_protein_ADNP_from_autism_to_Alzheimer’s_disease
  10. M Maccarrone, G Bernardi, A Finazzi Agrò, and D Centonze, Review: Cannabinoid receptor signalling in neurodegenerative diseases: a potential role for membrane fluidity disturbance. British Journal of
    Pharmacology, Themed Issue: Cannabinoids in Biology and Medicine, Part I, Nov. 16, 2010. http://files.iowamedicalmarijuana.org/petition/2012/bjp-aug-2011-1379-1390.pdf
  11. Hilary Lampers, ND, 5 Reasons to Know Your APOE:  Understanding Your Alzheimer’s Disease Risk. June 13, 2016 thenatpath.com
  12. http://thenatpath.com/body/5-reasons-to-know-your-apoe/
  13. Maxwell A. Ruby, Daniel K. Nomura, Carolyn S. S. Hudak, Lara M. Mangravite, Sally Chiu, John E. Casida, and Ronald M. Krauss, Overactive endocannabinoid signaling impairs apolipoprotein E-mediated clearance of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 23; 105(38): 14561–14566. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2567196/

  14. Nick English, Autophagy: The Science-Backed Way to Cleanse Your Body, July 4, 2016, greatist.com, https://greatist.com/live/autophagy-fasting-exercise
  15. Stuart W Titus, PhD, Dr. Titus’ Insights: Alzheimer’s Research and the Work of Dr. Schubert, Aug. 5, 2016, medicalmarijuanainc.com,  https://www.medicalmarijuanainc.com/dr-titus-insights-alzheimers-research-work-dr-schubert/
  16.  Neuroscientists say daily ibuprofen can prevent Alzheimer’s disease., March 26, 2018, sciencedaily.com,   https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180326140239.htm

  17. K. D. Rainsford, IbuprofenDiscovery, Development and Therapeutics. 
    John Wiley & Sons, June 25, 2015, page 134, https://books.google.com/books?id=CAcLCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA134&lpg=PA134&dq=ibuprofen+prevents+break+down+of+cannabinoids&source=bl&ots=oJ_cjSrWXr&sig=yQgwSrdZOkA1MNDkbf7EF7waItY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjf7ZKPrcnaAhVlneAKHeDyAuAQ6AEIlQEwCA#v=onepage&q=ibuprofen%20prevents%20break%20down%20of%20cannabinoids&f=false
  18. Seong-Hyun Choi, Jeong-Su Moon, Byung-Suk Jeon, Yeon-Jeong Jeon, Byung-Il Yoon, and Chang-Jin Lim, Hair Growth Promoting Potential of Phospholipids Purified from Porcine Lung Tissues. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2015 Mar; 23(2): 174–179. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4354319/
  19. ADNP related syndrome FTNW, *lack of ADNP genetically leads to reduced muscle tone and can cause eating problems in children. https://www.rarechromo.org/media/information/Chromosome%2020/ADNP%20related%20syndrome%20FTNW.pdf