Sunday, December 29, 2013

Benefits of Hot Baths and Epsom Salt for Autism


As I mentioned in last week’s blog entry, Alex was eagerly anticipating getting an iPad Mini electronic tablet for Christmas. Knowing that once he opened that desired gift, he would likely ignore any other gifts, I decided to hide the gift-wrapped iPad so that it would be the last present he would open. After he had opened all of his other gifts on Christmas morning, I asked him if he had gotten everything he had wanted for Christmas, thinking that he would comment that he was hoping for an iPad. When he told us no, we asked him what else he was hoping to get, and he told us, much to our surprise, “A hot tub.” Before he could feel cheated out of a hot tub, which he was definitely not getting this year, we quickly gave him his iPad to unwrap, and he was delighted that he had received the gift he’d been requesting for several weeks.

While the request for a hot tub seemingly came out of nowhere, we really shouldn’t have been surprised that Alex would ask for one. The past several weeks, his current obsession has been soaking in a bathtub filled with hot water and Epsom salt (as I also mentioned in last week’s blog entry). While Alex has always liked taking baths, recently he has wanted to take a bath two, three, or even four times a day, and he wants Epsom salt in the bath water. When he was younger, I put Epsom salt in his bath water after reading about the benefits of this inexpensive compound found in the first aid section of most stores. Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, helps children with autism in two primary ways. First, the magnesium soothes and relaxes, while the sulfate rids the body of toxins. In fact, some doctors recommend that children with autism take nightly baths with Epsom salt to help calm and detoxify before bedtime. [To read more about the benefits of Epsom salt baths for children with autism, please click here.] Over time, we didn’t see any particular need to continue using Epsom salt until Alex started requesting them specifically a few months ago.

Recently, when Alex asked for Epsom salt in his baths, I thought he was just being nostalgic about when he was little, as he likes to do. However, in doing some recent research while trying to find something to eradicate the stubborn yeast that has inhabited his digestive tract for many months, I ran across an interesting comment from an autism mom who is also a medical doctor. In Healing Our Autistic Children, Julie A. Buckley, M.D. describes the battle she fought to help her daughter, who has autism and chronic yeast infections. In a chapter entitled, “Mommy, I Have Fleas,” she explains her daughter’s itching and agitation when she has yeast flares, which she describes as “fleas.”  Along with yeast-fighting antifungals, Dr. Buckley also recommends that parents help ease the symptoms of yeast overgrowth with water by encouraging their children to drink filtered water and bathe often. As she suggests on p. 92 of her book, “Draw him lots of baths and pour a cup of Epsom salts in the water, sometimes several times daily.” Once again, Alex’s amazing intuition about what he needs to improve his health has medical validity. After consulting with his doctor, who concurred with this recommendation, we have been allowing Alex to take baths whenever he asks, and we have been buying Epsom salts in the giant economy-sized package.

To reinforce the value of Alex’s tub time, new research that appeared in the news two weeks ago highlights the benefits of hot baths for children with autism. At the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, research was presented to support the theory that autism is caused by an overly active immune system, causing inflammation that affects behavior. Specifically, the report states, “This theory is supported by the fact that about a third of autistic individuals show clinical improvement when they have a fever. In response to high body temperature, the immune system may release protective anti-inflammatory signals in the body, which may explain the effect on autism symptoms.” To test this theory, Dr. Eric Hollander and his colleagues placed children with autism in hot baths, trying to recreate the effect of fever on the body. When the children were placed in baths of 102 degrees Fahrenheit for a half hour, parents reported improvement in autism symptoms, namely repetitive behaviors and social communication. [To read this article, click here.] Since Alex has always shown improvement the few times in his life when he has run a fever, this research intrigued me. Moreover, we have noted that we have seen improvements in his behavior after he takes hot baths. Not only is he calmer and more relaxed after baths, but his conversational skills also seem to improve after he soaks in the tub. Consequently, we have supported Alex’s requests for long, hot baths in Epsom salt because we think they are truly helping him. However, we won’t be buying him a hot tub anytime soon.

Even though Alex didn’t get his hot tub, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy this Christmas season, from listening to Amy Grant’s Christmas CD repeatedly to shuddering with delight as he sang his favorite carol, “Joy to the World,” at the Christmas Eve church service. At one point, he showed a little confusion about the holiday when he asked us, “Who is God’s baby?” Nonetheless, he reminded us that we celebrate Christmas “because it’s Jesus’ birthday.” After the various struggles autism has presented our family through the years, Ed and I were very thankful to enjoy probably our best Christmas ever with Alex, filled with peace, joy, and love—gifts we truly treasure.

“For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17

4 comments:

frtchr said...

Epsom salt baths are amazing! I had no idea that there were such benefits for people with autism. How wonderful that Alex's instincts are telling him what he needs.

Pam Byrne said...

Hi K.C.,
I love when solutions--like Epsom salt baths--are not only simple but inexpensive!
Love,
Pam

Vivek said...

My 17 Yr. old son is on Neuroprotek from last three months. 6 tablets per day.
To address phenol issue , I started him epsom salt footh bath ( Putting legs in a bucket filled with warm water with epsom salt )
for half an hour daily. He sleeps deeply and is happy through out day.

Pam Byrne said...

Dear Vivek,
Glad to hear that the Neuroprotek and epsom salts are working so well for your son! I'm not familiar with Neuroprotek. Is it a supplement or medication? I'd love to know more about it and your experience if you'd be willing to share.
Thanks,
Pam