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Allergic to Magnesium?

3 August 2012 - Posted by Ashley under ,

I recently had a phone call with someone who told me that they were allergic to sea water.

At first, I admit, I was a bit skeptical – but then I realized, why should I be…our bodies being the strange, yet wonderfully complex, biological systems that they are. So, I sat back to listen to the background on this completely new topic for me, and it really had me wondering. If someone can be allergic to sea water – which contains high amounts of magnesium chloride, on top of the more well known sodium chloride – how would that affect them in terms of transdermal magnesium use?

As with most of these conversations, I was instantly crawling all over the internet seeking answers and details on how this could relate to magnesium chloride use, and finding some very interesting information to share.

So here is the question that I know is on your mind now – Can you be allergic to topical magnesium chloride?

The answer? Yes. Yes you can. But then again, you can be allergic to just about anything these days – even water!

To go further into the “hows” and “whys” of this, I’ll start by saying that a true magnesium allergy is extremely rare. After all, our bodies need magnesium to function. Not want, or like, or prefer – need. They require it like a car engine requires oil – no ifs, ands or buts about it. However, as our population becomes exposed to more and more toxins in our environment, less diversity in our food system, more antibiotics and gut-flora-disrupting pharmaceuticals, etc.,  we’re seeing a significant rise in corresponding health issues such as Auto-Immune Diseases and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

From what I’ve found, hypersensitivity to magnesium is relatively new in the grand scheme of things and wasn’t actually documented in medical journals until 1990. At this time, two pregnant women were treated with  a prepared solution of intravenous magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) to try and stave off premature labor. Both of these women developed an urticarial rash (hives) within a short period of time, which disappeared once the MgSO4 was discontinued. Although, to be clear, it was never deciphered whether it was indeed the MgSO4 that was the culprit as opposed to the dextrose, sulphur, leaching of chemicals from the plastic bag, or other contaminant in the IV preparation. Additionally, despite the fact that this occurrence was documented 22 years ago, clinical documentation of magnesium hypersensitivity remains difficult to find.

Why? Because a magnesium allergy is completely contradictory to everything that magnesium stands for – in fact, it’s biologically absurd.  In a healthy human body, magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory; it’s key in histamine metabolism and naturally reduces histamine production. Are you seeing the irony yet?

With a magnesium allergy, your body reacts to magnesium exposure as though it is battling a pathogen, resulting in the release of immunoglobulin E (igE) antibodies, histamine and other chemicals. This inflammatory response can manifest as a rash* (moderate – severe) or urticaria, difficulty breathing, rhinitis, dizziness, swelling of the limbs or throat, etc.. Although an extreme magnesium allergy may require you to carry epinephrine and wear a medical alert bracelet, the average allergic reaction should subside with the administration of a mild antihistamine.

*Please do not mistake the common itching sensation or slight redness from transdermal magnesium use for an allergic reaction. There is a vast difference between hypersensitivity to magnesium that causes hives and the normal itching sting of magnesium salts on your skin.

Also, keep in mind that magnesium is necessary in the body for proper detoxification, therefore, may cause detoxification symptoms with its use. Detoxification symptoms include headache, fatigue, brain fog, body ache, and other similar ailments. 

So, now that we know that this phenomenon exists, allow me to touch on some additional information…

Why haven’t I heard about this before now?

As I mentioned above, magnesium hypersensitivity is not just rare, but also appears to be a rather new and poorly documented affliction. Most of the information that you’ll find on this subject will be of the anecdotal variety, surfacing mainly in forum discussions, blog posts, and social media commentary. Alongside those, you may run into the occasional vague mentions in clinical studies & medical journals. In fact, this information is so very elusive, I’d almost call it Bigfoot if I didn’t know it to actually exist.

Is it possible to circumvent an allergy to magnesium?

To a certain extent, it may be possible to still supplement with magnesium despite a sensitivity. Many of the allergic responses to magnesium seem to be a result of simply getting too much magnesium at once. In essence, it’s your body’s way of saying “Whoa, slow down!”. I would liken it to feeding someone suffering from starvation – despite the fact that the body needs food to survive, pushing too much and/or the wrong types of food onto a sensitive digestive system can be extremely harmful and even fatal. The same consideration should be made when dealing with a sensitivity to magnesium.

Using smaller, more mild dosages, trying different types of compounds, and building up your internal magnesium stores slowly, are all things to consider if you are dealing with a mild allergic reaction to magnesium.

In terms of our Ancient Minerals line specifically, try diluting the magnesium further than what is suggested in the instructions – for the magnesium oil, you could try a dilution of 25/75 rather than the 50/50 that we suggest in the application guide. If that is still too strong, you can try diluting it further or simply stick to an application such our bath flakes.

If you are in the small group of people that are extremely allergic, however, use of magnesium even in small amounts would not be recommended (obviously).

If I’m allergic to one magnesium compound, does that mean that I’m allergic to all of them?

No, it’s very possible that you could simply be allergic to that specific compound. There are over 20 different forms of magnesium available as supplements – depending on your reaction, you could try switching to a different form. However, please consult with your physician should you decide to explore that route.

If I’m allergic to magnesium supplements, does that mean that I’m allergic to foods containing it as well?

No. The oddest aspect of hypersensitivity to magnesium is that, unlike normal allergies, it usually* does not include magnesium-rich foods. For this reason, those who have found themselves highly allergic to magnesium supplements are usually sent to a dietician to help them plan out meals geared specifically towards meeting their magnesium needs.

*I say “usually” because I have not found evidence that supports a complete negation on this, but neither have I found any to support a response to the positive.

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, feel free to call, email, or simply comment.

Please Note: If you suspect that you may have an allergy to magnesium, it is recommended that you see your doctor for allergy testing.

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  • Fairpoint is NOT Fair

    hahaha. Apparently I’ve always been here before!

  • drlechter

    Ditto on the nasty rash. The only place that it would not irritate terribly was the bottom of my feet and I could inhale it as per Dr. Circus.

    I do believe it is some kind of clearing or cleansing process.

    But I do wonder what is in the ancient minerals, as I can make an oil of Epsom salts and not have a problem with that on my skin.

  • Loren Morris

    I had a problem with taking magnesium. When I took it, it caused my ankles to swell and sluggishness. It turns out that my phosphorous was low. Since I have corrected my phosphorous levels I can now take magnesium with no problems.

  • Ashley (AJ)

    Hello Maruchan,

    Thank you for your contribution to the conversation – we fully advocate a gradual increase to magnesium levels, especially in cases of severe hypomagnesemia.

  • mariam

    I just used my magnesium oil I ordered from Ancient Minerals today. For some reason I feel like my heart rate has increased, feel very queasy and a little dizzy. Is that normal. I just used about two sprays on my forearm and rubbed it in.

  • JdF

    Hi Colette,

    I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I just saw your update. I was wondering if you have any issues with magnesium stearate. It is added to most supplements and does apparently contain some magnesium.

    Also, are your leg pains at night cramps? If so, taurine is really good for this. Anytime I wake with leg cramps if I just take 500 mg taurine, I can go right back to sleep with no more cramps.


  • JdF

    FYI, Ingredients are always listed in the order of percentages. So if magnesium is listed at the beginning, it is the strongest ingredient. The ingredients listed at the end will be much less.

    I was curious what your symptoms are? Whenever I have magnesium supplements I get edema (swelling) in my legs and feet. Sometimes I get little red blotches on them. Not a rash, but it looks like something under the skin.

  • Fairpoint is NOT Fair

    That’s what I always thought about the ingredients to, but for some reason, if it’s in the middle and titanium dioxide at the end, I’m fine. But if it’s at the beginning or end, I’m not. I know a few people who might know why. I keep meaning to ask them. Depending where it effects, I swell up, red, blotchy, itchy, painful. My arms, wrist and throat tend to stay flat and not swell UP as much as other areas. So I get them there, they are more flat, but anywhere else blows right up. I have several areas that get effected, it’s just a matter of where it feels like going that day. I always describe the pain as a day old burn, with a bee sting, mixed with poison ivy.

  • JdF

    Thanks for responding. I would avoid anything that includes the ingredient regardless of where it shows up on the ingredient list. I mean you could go into anaphalactic shock and die if your allergy gets worse. This is common with allergies. They only get worse with more exposure. It’s nothing to mess around with. If you just stop it altogether you will eventually get better.

    Have you found other ingredients in supplements that contain magnesium so I know what to look for?

  • Fairpoint is NOT Fair

    It’s in almost everything that is “pressed”, medicines and supplements. Pressed meaning it’s a powder they stick together into a shape. The magnesium is generally used to “lubricate” it whatever that means. It’s REALLY hard to find things without it. Usually soft squishy gel caps are safe and anything herbal in a regular clear gel cap are OK. I have found a few supplements without it thankfully.

  • JdF

    The magnesium is used to lubricate the machines so they can run faster and produce more supplements. It has nothing to do with improving the supplement for the consumer. I have been finding supplements more lately without it. Consumers aren’t buying the ones that have it as much anymore so it’s forcing them to change. Also, it looks like they may ban it soon. I think that’s another reason it’s getting easier to find supplements without it now. You have to go to Whole Foods or Sprouts or a specialty vitamin shop to find the best selection.

    Magnesium stearate can also be listed as stearic acid and vegetable stearate. It all has magnesium.

  • Colette Merchant

    Wow, Taurine! Thats us great to lnow, Im going to.try that! Thank you so much..

  • enzo

    After applying a topical magnesium I too broke out on the back of my legs, tops of my arms, hands, and by my Adams apple. I applied liquid bentonite clay and thank God the itching went completely away.
    I have since discontinued using the topical magnesium, but I’m trying Dr. Carol Deans, ReMag Magnesium. I’m adding only a couple of drops of her concentrated magnesium to a glass of water and thank God, I haven’t had any issues. As a matter of fact, it has giving me quite the energy boost!

  • bump

    My tongue swelled and I had difficulty breathing,and tingling numb tongue and lips almost immediately after applying to the soles of my feet,it’s hours later and still have symptoms,I’m afraid to go to bed….I will toss the oil in the garbage.

  • Lori

    I am having trouble with my fingers, they hurt, sting and the reaction they have when in water such as taking a shower. They are so wrinkled, numb and they hurt and once my fingertips dry out they are puffed up. This started when I started using the magnesium oil Ultra with the added sulfur. I didn’t notice the problem when just using the magnesium oil without MSM. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  • Bodhi B Wayne

    How did you correct your phosphorous?

  • Loren Morris

    I took phosphorous, available on Amazon.

  • Bodhi B Wayne

    Cool, Thanks. Did a blood test determine your low phosphorous?

  • Jose Ayala

    So the rash eventually just went away for you?

  • Jose Ayala

    What ended up happening? Is he okay?

  • Jose Ayala

    How did that turn out for you aftet all?

  • Jose Ayala

    Did it go away?