Asthma is a common lung condition in the industrialized world, one that impacts the lives of adults and children alike. Asthma threatens one’s essential ability to breathe, to take in oxygen, our most basic and urgent survival need. We cannot live without air for more than a few minutes. Choke off our air supply, and we quickly become frightened and desperate, to the point of panic. It is easy to understand why asthma is one of the most taxing, debilitating health problems a human being can face, both physically and mentally. Wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing are the major symptoms associated with asthma.
Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses, muscular activity, temperature regulation, detoxification reactions, and for the formation of healthy bones and teeth. It is involved in energy production and the synthesis of DNA and RNA. A U.S. Department of Agriculture survey revealed that approximately 75 percent of Americans do not ingest the RDA of magnesium. Sub-optimal magnesium intake compromises cellular activity, especially in tissues of the heart, nerves, and kidneys. Magnesium influences many of the activities associated with a wide variety of cardiac medications. For example, magnesium inhibits platelet aggregation, thins the blood, blocks calcium uptake (like calcium channel blocking drugs), and relaxes blood vessels (like ACE inhibitors). Magnesium also increases oxygenation of the heart muscle by improving cardiac contractility.
Severe asthma can be difficult to treat even with the use of several medications, which include parenteral corticosteroids. During a severe asthma crisis intravenous magnesium sulfate is used, but its inhaled use is controversial. A recent study sought to evaluate whether inhaled magnesium sulfate could improve lung function, oxygen saturation level and reduce hospital admissions as an adjunct therapy to standard treatment during a severe asthma crisis. The placebo-controlled, double-blind trial included 60 asthmatic patients over 18 years of age with asthmatic crisis and FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second – lung airflow measure). The patients were given 125mg of IV methylprednisolone followed by nebulization with the combination of albuterol (7.5mg) and ipratropium bromide (1.5mg) diluted in 3ml of isotonic saline solution (as placebo) or 3ml (333mg) of magnesium sulfate. The patients then waited 90 minutes and if their FEV1 or SpO2 (measurement of oxygen being carried by the red blood cell) or symptoms persisted they were admitted to the emergency department. The results revealed that adding inhaled magnesium sulfate to standard treatment during a severe asthma crisis improved FEV1 and SpO2 and reduced the rate of hospital admissions.1
1 Gallegos-Solorzano MC, Perez-Padilla R, Hernandez-Zenteno RJ. Usefulness of inhaled magnesium sulfate in the coadjuvant management of severe asthma crisis in an emergency department. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. Apr2010.