Thursday, July 22, 2010

Magnesium Bicarbonate Water

I've always had a bit a of trouble maintaining even minimal mineral levels, such that when I was a kid during the (very very hot) summers in southern Spain, I would habitually get to be in so much muscle pain that I would be relegated to a wheelchair or have to use a cane when my ankles inevitable gave out. Of course, nobody really knew what was causing this, but since it was always spurred by hot weather everyone assumed I just needed salt, and I was forced to drink cupfuls of horrible table salt infused tap water. I do continue to like and need salt on food (at least, I find it palatable at higher levels than the hubs, and felt less well overall when I cut it out on an experimental basis) so I keep it in our diet by using sea salt with most meals. I'd like to give Redmond's Real Salt a try, but we have to finish our current container of sea salt first. I really feel like it is a bad direction the way everyone is jumping on the anti salt bandwagon, looks a lot like low-fat did a couple of decades ago...

I have been wondering what other minerals I would do well to consume more of and in what quantities/ratios. Obviously calcium is important for pregnancy and nursing, which I have been doing for 5 years straight so far, and it is showing in my teeth. I eat canned whole sardines and oysters which have calcium, but maybe not enough? Calcium is not absorbed properly from many sources and it is crucial to have enough magnesium with it for it to be used in bones rather than scatter throughout the body haphazardly and leave deposits.

Anyway, since calcium and magnesium are the big ones I have the most immediate need of (as far as I know) I looked into supplements, but found that most magnesium tablets are not well absorbed and are pretty much a waste of money. There are some promising bone meal calcium pills that I might pick up, but they are a bit pricey, and quite frankly taking huge handfuls of supplements all the time gets old fast. The best bet for magnesium seems to be transdermal through magnesium oil for example, and also in water as magnesium bicarbonate which leads me (finally) to the main topic of this post.

I have the philosophy in general of "leave it alone" and avoid dicking with or otherwise interfering with natural processes, but if I can engineer the situation/intake/etc to more closely approximate the natural conditions my body evolved to handle without risking collateral damage I will go with it. For example, it is generally accepted that most people are pretty deficient in vitamin D, especially since heeding the advice to avoid sun exposure, etc. I feel very comfortable taking a much larger dose of vit. D than the label suggests b/c I am pretty sure it will help, and at least the amount I take will not harm me. (I'm not talking super megadoses, just 5000 iu or so, if I were to go significantly higher I would get a blood test to double check that my levels indicated the need) Likewise with magnesium, it isn't going to hurt you, eg, if you take too much your body will excrete it and you will remember not to take so much again! However if you are deficient you can have all kinds of problems that could really make you miserable.

Anyway, the theory is that there were much higher mineral levels in the soil (and thus water) back in paleo days, and people swear by the healing properties of ancient mineral baths or springs with uber high levels, so why not just make your own? It's hella cheaper than buying cases of water from California or traveling to the Baltics every year. Plus, you can be really specific as to the concentration and variety of minerals in the water. (and taste, btw) I have been using the "recipe" from (I guess they are a group dedicated to atrial fibrillation sufferers, a muscle spasm of sorts btw, often helped by correcting your magnesium levels!) which is:

3 Tablespoons (45 ml) plain milk of magnesia, active ingredient should say magnesium hydroxide [Mg (OH)2] (I don't use Phillips brand but that is a standard that would work)

1 liter plain seltzer water (cases from cash 'n carry are pretty affordable) get it cold by leaving in the fridge overnight

open the seltzer w/out agitating, you want to keep as much fizz in as possible, and pour in the milk of magnesia. Close the bottle tightly and shake it up. let it sit fir a few minutes until the water looks clear and the sides may have caved in (no longer bubbly). If there is any residue at the bottom just shake it up again and let it sit, I've never had any residue remain after 2 shake ups. Keep it in the fridge and dole it out into whatever containers you prefer to drink/carry water in. The 1 liter seltzer bottle of concentrated magnesium bicarbonate will dilute into 12 liters of drinking water. Or, you can do as I do and just keep a measuring cup near the fridge to pour 1/3 cup of the concentrate into an empty 1 liter water bottle and fill it up the rest of the way from the fridge filter. Repeat as necessary, and make a new bottle of concentrate when you run out.

I really like the taste of our homemade mineral water, but if you don't you can add a squeeze of lemon (will alter the ph of the slightly basic water) or even try a minute bit of salt. (I'm interested in trying the Redmond's as I mentioned, but also black lava salt sounds interesting)

I have read that one way of checking if you need more magnesium is to check the ph of your urine, if it is 5 or lower you are in trouble, and theoretically drinking the magnesium bicarbonate water will lessen the acidity (which can cause calcium to leach from your bones, etc, etc...) and can be checked by subsequent urine tests. I'm not really worried about the ph level quite frankly b/c if it was highly acidic I would expect it to be lessened by the mineral water, and if it wasn't whats the harm in drinking it anyway? I think that any step you take in changing your diet or lifestyle should be predicated by research and consideration, so even if you don't buy in to all the snake oil sounding claims of a certain supplement or diet, is it what you are physically able to process in a healthy way? I mean, maybe fish oil (for example) will turn out not to be the magic nutrient it appears to be, but even so, are you harming yourself by eating fish several times a week? (don't start on the mercury levels, they are negligible in stuff like sardines...)

The greatest benefit I have found since starting the mineral water routine (well, if I'm honest, only benefit, other than enjoying the taste) has been a bit surprising. Baby Ben has had some symptoms of reflux in the past and recently was having extremely acidic pee, but I was at a loss as to anything I could do about it. I've already cut out all dairy and grains, almost all soy (save the small splash of soy sauce every few weeks to season pork) and legumes, most fruit, and I just don't eat much other than meat, fish, apples, blueberries and coconut, so what to do? This is exactly what happened with my older 2 at the same age as well, and I always figured it was something I was eating (it seemed to correlate with eating bell peppers with my middle child and tropical fruit with the oldest) and all I could do was comfort them  and change diapers quickly. I remember even getting burns on my nipples from breastfeeding through this with my middle child who seemed to have it the worst. Her breath smelled like vinegar it was so bad. The various pediatricians never had anything much to say, and I couldn't find anything else to try after massive food elimination. The older 2 grew out of it by age 1 or so, and it just seemed like a typical miserable few months of colic/teething/who knows why fussy baby.

Anyway, within hours of finishing a cup or two of the first batch, Ben was happy. No vinegar breath, the pee burns on his bottom cleared up the next day, and he's been great the past 2 weeks. Even the really very bad heat rash (or so we thought) under his neck fat (yes, he is adorably chubby...) disappeared. Keep in mind that it has been much hotter this week than it was when he had the razor burn looking rash, and I suspect it was the acid in his saliva that was soaking his chin and neck since he started teething. Mind you, he is still teething, so it's not all sunshine and rainbows over here, but the change was startling and remarkable. I wonder if my breastmilk was deficient in magnesium previously and that led him to have too low a ph of saliva and urine? I have even been feeling kind of shitty about my middle child breaking her elbow when she was just over a year old, if she had been getting optimally mineralized breastmilk would her bones have been stronger? I remind myself that all along I have been doing the best I knew how to, I didn't know what I didn't know about vitamin and mineral deficiencies a couple of years ago. This is going to be an ongoing process obviously.

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