Late last December one of my posts focused on an experience a family member of mine had had with magnesium. He had suffered from long-standing intermittent epigastric pain (pain felt in the middle of the abdomen just beneath the ribs), and I wondered whether his problem may be a condition known as ‘oesophageal spasm’. Because magnesium tends to work for things in ‘spasm’, I suggested magnesium. He got more-or-less instant relief, and he remains symptom free to this day.
Because magnesium tends to help things that are related to muscular spasm, I’ve found it generally useful for a range of problems such as leg cramping, ‘irritable bladder’ and migraine. Another condition that might, in theory, respond to magnesium therapy is asthma. Asthma is, essentially, a condition characterised by constriction in the airways in the lungs. It can lead to restricted breathing (especially exhalation), wheezing and breathlessness. The condition can be debilitating and can even prove fatal.
Constriction in the airways can be due, at least in part, due to constriction in the muscles that can be found in lining all but the smallest airways in the lungs. Because magnesium effectively relaxes muscle, there is the possibility that increasing magnesium levels will reduce airway constriction and help relieve asthma.
Magnesium therapy was tried in a study published recently in the Journal of Asthma . In it, 55 adults with mild-moderate asthma were treated with magnesium (170 mg, twice a day) or placebo over a period of 6.5 months. Individuals had their lung function tested using peak expiratory flow (the maximum speed air can be expelled from the lungs) as well as something known as the methacholine challenge test. Metacholine causes constriction of airways. In this test, subjects breath in metacholine and the dose of this drug required to induce constriction in the airways. The higher the dose of metacholine required, the less ‘reactive’ the airways would be judged to be.
Compared to those taking placebo, those taking magnesium saw significant improvement in both their peak expiratory flow rate and metacholine challenge results.
In addition, the participants in this study underwent subjective measures of the state of their asthma, in the form of what are known as asthma quality of life and asthma control questionnaires. Asthma quality of life scores improved significantly in the magnesium-taking group compared to those taking placebo. Asthma control scores also improved in those taking magnesium, though this was of borderline statistical significance.
Taking these results as a whole, what they show is that asthmatics taking magnesium saw significant improvement in both subjective and objective measures of their disease activity.
1. Kazaks AG, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on measures of airway resistance and subjective assessment of asthma control and quality of life in men and women with mild to moderate asthma: a randomized placebo controlled trial. J Asthma 2010;47(1):83-92.