Oh, those tired feet! We never know when they become a part of our busy lives, do we? And, does a woman really need to wait for pregnancy to experience it? Be it the long hours cooking in the kitchen or running those marathons to balance our career and home, we all have been there. However, swollen feet during pregnancy does call for some self-love, doesn’t it? While hacks like putting a few pillows underneath to raise our feet or lightly massaging the area with warm oil seem to help, we always look forward to soaking them in warm water. Better still, with some Epsom salt in it. And, poof! The swelling seems to ease like magic!
But what is it about Epsom salt that gives such magical results? Is there any scientific proof for it at all? Pregnant women swore by this practice for years. Yet, not many scientific studies were conducted in this regard for the longest time. But, the positive results of the practice became increasingly hard to ignore. Eventually, health care professionals started recommending them to their clients without waiting for any scientific evidence. However, all this is now set to change. Science has finally woken up in support of the good effects of Epsom salt on swollen feet. And by doing so, it simply gave a much-needed nod to a long-known truth.
Now let’s see how Epsom salt works. Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate in an inorganic form. Recently a research was conducted to study the effectiveness of oral magnesium versus transdermal magnesium (1). Thanks to this study, we now know that magnesium can be absorbed into the body transdermally too. This simply means that magnesium can penetrate through the skin’s connective tissues. The sweat glands, skin pores, and hair follicles act as catalysts in absorbing this salt. We all know that the skin pores and follicles open up when exposed to hot water or steam (2). The most common way women use to clear their acne-prone skin is by opening the pores. Similarly, when you put your feet into a hot water tub containing magnesium salts, the pores of your skin open up. Then the magnesium salt water gets absorbed into the skin tissue. This helps in treating the affected area.
Many scientists still argue about the skin penetration abilities of the magnesium salt solution. It is true that the magnesium salt solution does get absorbed by the skin’s pores and hair follicles. But, it is also a fact that it cannot penetrate the stratum corneum layer inside the skin. Stratum corneum is the barrier that acts like a water-repellent to protect the underlying tissues from dehydration, infection, mechanical or chemical stress (3). However, according to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a magnesium expert and Medical Advisory Board Member at the Nutritional Magnesium Association, an increase in magnesium intake helps in reducing inflammation (4).
But oral intake of magnesium has a big side effect – diarrhea. Innumerable visits to the loo for frequent urination is anyways tiring for a pregnant woman. So increasing those rounds due to diarrhea is definitely a big NO. Since magnesium does work at a cellular level to reduce the inflammation, even if a small amount of it enters the tissues (via the solution), then it is probably sufficient.
While the jury is still out regarding the scientific reasons for the Epsom salt’s effects, it’ll never discourage people from recommending it to every pregnant woman with swollen feet. Scientific facts aside, no one can deny that it is damn relaxing when you dip your tired feet into that hot bubbly water. But do consult your doctor should you feel like extending that favor to the rest of your body – with a hot steam bath!