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Magnesium & Asthma

Published on March 1, 2011


The vast majority of us take our breathing for granted and do not consider individuals that have asthma and how they feel when they have an attack and cannot breath. It can be quite terrifying to say the least for it quickly brings on the feeling of suffocating. Despite the importance of magnesium in lung physiology, its efficacy in helping asthmatics control and even eliminate their symptoms is typically and tragically ignored.

Typical Asthma medications may have saved a person’s day many times but their actions come with a steep price. The more you use these medications the more a person becomes subjected to their side effects. It should be obvious that when magnesium deficiencies are not addressed the need for pharmaceutical asthma medications will increase leaving a person or child even more vulnerable. Magnesium losses are notorious for occurring as a result of the drugs used specifically for asthma that open airways and reduce inflammation.

A very recent study published in the Journal of Asthma (Kazaks et al, 2010), studied the effect of six months of magnesium supplementation (170 mg taken twice daily with food) on pulmonary function tests, asthma control, and quality of life in patients with mild to moderate asthma. The authors found that 6 month supplementation with magnesium improved objective measures of asthma (PFT) along with subjective measures of quality of life and asthma control.

Increasingly we see evidence of the effects of magnesium deficiency in childhood with epidemiological studies showing that patients with asthma with lower levels of magnesium than healthy controls. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2002 showed that when the diets of 2,566 children ages 11-19 were studied, less than 14 percent of boys and 12 percent of girls had adequate intakes of magnesium. Low magnesium intake was associated with lower measures of several lung functions (including lung capacity and airway flow).[1]

In a study conducted at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, researchers found that laboratory animals severely deficient in magnesium had much higher blood levels of histamine when exposed to substances that trigger allergies than animals getting sufficient magnesium.[2] “The flow of calcium into and out of a cell helps regulate some cell function,” explains Dr. Kay Franz, one the study’s authors. “So it’s possible that a magnesium deficiency changes the permeability of mast cell membranes, allowing calcium to more easily enter cells. When that happens, histamine is released. In animals, magnesium deficiency causes the release of substances that can act on immune cells such as mast cells and basophils and make them hyperactive—more likely to release histamine,” he says. Magnesium deficiency also causes other immune responses in the body that can lead to severe and sometimes lethal consequences.[3]

A person suffering an Asthma attack has certain characteristics that nearly all suffers will have including inflamed walls of the lungs which get filled with sticky thick mucus which makes breathing a difficult act. This respiratory problem is an inflammatory condition and magnesium is the most basic anti-inflammatory.

Many asthma sufferers use two types of asthma medication routinely – one to deal with the inflammation over the long term and the other is an everyday asthma intervention like an inhalator for more immediate use but neither addresses any of the causes of asthma meaning they do not offer any cure.

Asthma and Allergies

The relationship between asthma and allergies is a strong one. Asthma is often triggered by allergies of all kinds—food allergies, pollutants, dust, mold, chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs. “Magnesium deficiency definitely accentuates the allergic situation,” says Terry M. Phillips, D.Sc. Ph.D., director of the immunogenetics and immunochemistry laboratory at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and author of Winning the War Within.

People with the digestive disorder known as celiac disease are more likely to develop another disorder involving the immune system: asthma, according to a new study. Specifically, a group of European researchers found that people with celiac disease were 60 percent more likely to develop asthma, relative to those without celiac. Indeed, for every 100,000 people with celiac disease, 147 will have asthma that would not have occurred in the absence of the digestive disorder. Those diagnosed with asthma were also more likely to eventually develop celiac disease, the authors report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Pediatric Concerns

Dr. Allan Becker at the University of Manitoba looked at 14,000 boys and girls born in 1995 and found that as many as 14 percent had asthma. “We’re talking about one in seven children—that’s a huge proportion of the pediatric population,” Becker says. “It’s in every classroom, every school, and many, many families. It’s huge.” This reality is reflected in the population at large. Asthma affects about three million people in this country, six out of 10 of whom do not have control of their disease, according to the Asthma Society of Canada. It kills 500 people in Canada each year and 5,000 in the U.S. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says 150 million people around the world have asthma and over 180,000 die annually as a result of it.


By employing transdermal and oral magnesium, and glutathione mixed with sodium bicarbonate via nebulization an asthma sufferer will need less medication for these medicinals will diminish the lung inflammation and help natural breathing. Acupuncture is another approach that often yields good results even in the middle of an asthmatic crisis. Increasing magnesium levels can help prevent allergy and asthma attacks. Increasing a person’s or child’s magnesium intake can make a big difference in not only overall heath but also prevent allergies and asthma. Maintaining proper levels of magnesium in the body helps by relaxing airway smooth muscle and dilating bronchioles in the lungs. It also reduces histamine release and inflammation of the airways and lungs by stabilizing mast cells and T- lymphocytes.

In an asthma attack, the airways (passages to the lungs) narrow from muscle spasms and swelling (inflammation). Bronchodilator drugs (reliever inhalers) can be used to relax the muscles and open the airways, and corticosteroid drugs to reduce the inflammation. But magnesium sulfate or magnesium chloride are also considered drug when administered in hospitals via injection or IV drip. Magnesium also affects muscles and reduces inflammation as well but without the dangers and side effects of these pharmaceuticals. Among asthmatics with acute exacerbation of asthma, intravenous (IV) administration of magnesium sulfate may improve bronchodilation and improve airflow. For patients with the most severe airflow obstruction, IV magnesium sulfate appears to provide important clinical benefits, including a lower rate of hospital admission from the emergency department. Magnesium has been used in hospitals to help relieve the symptoms of life-threatening, drug-resistant asthma attacks and to diminish the effects of the asthma drugs used.[4],[5]

Special Note: Some research has found that inhaling glutathione in mildly asthsmatic people may cause bronchospasm due to sulfite formation. The connection to good glutathione levels is crucial in asthsma, but needs to be weighed against the risk of bronchospasm when inhaled. Caution must be used at all times and glutathione levels may be more safely raised in asthsmatic people by oral or other means. Proper medical supervision is advised at all times when athsma is a risk so as not to cause undue stress on this very sensitive bronchial tissue.

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[1] Gilliland, F.D. et al. Dietary magnesium, potassium, sodium and children’s lung function. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2002; 155: 125-131.

[2] A synergism of antigen challenge and severe magnesium deficiency on blood and urinary histamine levels in rats.Wei W, Franz KB. J Am CollNutr. 1990 Dec;9(6):616-22. EntrezPubmed

[3] Crit Care Med. 1995 Jan;23(1):108-18. EntrezPubmed

[4] Oral magnesium supplementation helped to reduce bronchial reactivity to methacholine, to diminish their allergen-induced skin responses and to provide better symptom control in pediatric patients with moderate persistent asthma treated with inhaled fluticasone. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition advance online publication, 21 June 2006; doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602475. EntrezPubmed

[5] Studies clearly show the efficacy of intravenous administration of magnesium, and use of inhaled (nebulized) magnesium, either added to other inhaled asthma drugs, or independently, are being considered. More data is needed. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005;(3):CD003898. Inhaled magnesium sulfate in the treatment of acute asthma. EntrezPubmed

Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Professor of Natural Oncology, Da Vinci Institute of Holistic Medicine
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine
Founder of Natural Allopathic Medicine

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