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Autism Coach

Epson Salt Study

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January, 2008.  Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) are cheap, widely available, and according to a study can cut the risk of cerebral palsy (CP) in half for prematurely born infants.  Epsom salt baths have been widely used for years by parents of autistic children to help calm children, promote better sleep, and to elevate levels of sulfur and magnesium.

Doctors should consider giving an infusion of epsom salts to women about to deliver an extremely preterm infant, said one of the researchers, Dr. John Thorp of the University of North Carolina.  "It's cheap. It's readily available. It doesn't harm anybody. I think it will be widely adopted," said Thorp.

The research was led by Dr. Dwight Rouse at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and was presented Thursday at a meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Dallas.

Cerebral palsy is a serious complication of premature birth. It's caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls movement and results in poor muscle control and coordination.

Thorp said it isn't clear how magnesium sulfate works, but it is thought to open up blood vessels in the newborn's brain.  One could extrapolate that there is the possibility that epsom salt baths might benefit individuals within the autism spectrum by providing similar neurological protection and support. 

In the government-funded study, researchers gave an infusion of magnesium sulfate to women about to give birth to a premature baby to see if it would reduce the risk of cerebral palsy. Enrolled in the study were 2,241 women who were 24 to 31 weeks pregnant. Infants born before 37 weeks are considered premature.

Most of the women were in early labor because their water broke. They were given either the compound or a fake solution. The infants were examined for signs of cerebral palsy at birth and over the next two years.

Of the babies who survived, moderate or severe cerebral palsy occurred in about 2 percent of those in the treatment group compared to about 4 percent of those whose mothers didn't get the compound.