July 2, 2016

Epsom Salts, Safe for People with Diabetes? - Part 1

Foot problems are a complication of diabetes. Too much glucose in the bloodstream can lead to nerve damage and poor blood flow, which can result in serious foot problems. Nerve damage can cause tingling, painful burning, or stinging in the feet. It is important that people with diabetes take good care of their feet and are gentle with them.

The tools and products that people use on their feet can significantly affect the overall health of their feet. This is especially true if they have nerve damage or the blood flow to their feet is greatly reduced. Many people commonly soak their feet in Epsom salt to soothe aches. For people with diabetes, however, soaking feet in Epsom salt is not ideal.

The scientific name for Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. It is a mineral compound that has many different uses.

Epsom salt has become a common home remedy for various problems and has several claimed health and beauty benefits. For many years, people have recommended soaking the feet or taking a bath in Epsom salt for various reasons. Potential reasons for doing so include:
  • To soothe muscle aches and pain
  • To provide relief from itches caused by sunburn and poison ivy
  • To help remove splinters
  • To decrease swelling in the body
  • To boost the body's levels of magnesium and sulfate

The theory behind this product is that the body absorbs the magnesium from the Epsom salt through the skin. However, there are no studies that support this claim. While there is no evidence to support the benefits of Epsom salt, simply soaking in warm water can help with many of the issues listed above.

To understand why people with diabetes should not soak in Epsom salt, it is important to know how diabetes can affect the feet.

High blood sugar levels can cause damage to the nerves of the body. This is commonly referred to as neuropathy. The most common type of neuropathy for people with diabetes is peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves that serve the legs and arms.

As a result, people with diabetes may lose feeling in their feet. It is not uncommon for people with diabetes to be unable to feel pain, heat, or cold in their legs or feet. Some may not notice when they have a sore on their foot or have developed a blister.

Open sores on the feet can easily become infected. Raised blood sugar levels help to feed the infection in open wounds making it worse. Poor circulation makes healing these sores difficult.

Common foot problems that can cause infections in people with diabetes include:
  • Corns and calluses
  • Blisters
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Bunions
  • Plantar warts
  • Hammertoe
  • Dry and cracked skin
  • Athlete's foot
  • Fungal infection

Continued in next blog.

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