Could Magnesium deficiency increase Asthma symptoms?

This was a question recently posed to Karen Davis, Chief Pharmacist at Westlab in the run up to Allergy Awareness Week and World Asthma Day.

Read her full interview below to find out more:

Q. So what’s the link between Magnesium and Asthma?

In several studies magnesium deficiency has been linked to impaired lung function. This makes sense as Magnesium in the body is known to help relax the airways and reduce bronchial inflammation. The most common symptoms of Asthma are wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and tightness of the chest.

Let’s break it down.

  • Extrinsic Asthma: Usually triggered by an allergic or sensitivity reaction to common allergens such as pollen, dust, mould, animal dander and chemicals. This results in an often overactive histamine release to attempt to rid the body of the allergen. An unwanted side effect of too much histamine can also result in the tightening of the bronchial tubes, which causes wheezing, mucous, coughing and shortness of breath.

Magnesium’s Role: Magnesium has the similar properties to an antihistamine, in that it naturally helps reduce the levels of histamine in the body.

  • Intrinsic Asthma: More commonly triggered by an infection, exercise or emotional episode. This results in Bronchial spasms which cause a tightening of the chest, wheezing and difficulty taking breath.

Magnesium’s role: Magnesium works as a bronchodilator, so helps dilates the lungs and reduces airway inflammation. It also helps to reduce anxiety and tension, which can exacerbate panic during the attack, tightening things further. Magnesium’s role as a muscle relaxant, can help reduce the tightness in the chest being caused by tension in the muscles.

Q. How do you know if you’re Magnesium deficient?

A. There’s no quick, easy way to tell if you’re deficient in Magnesium, but there are things you can do. One of the simplest ways to find out of you are Magnesium deficient is to see if you display any of the physical or mental signs.

Q. What causes Magnesium Deficiency?

A. It has generally been acknowledged that intensive farming methods have depleted the Magnesium in our soil. In addition, our lifestyles have increased our need for Magnesium, so it’s possible the combination of these two factors has increased our need for Magnesium supplementation.

Q. What is the best way to supplement Magnesium?

The most effective way to boost Magnesium levels is transdermally (through the skin). It is the most efficient way of absorbing Magnesium into the body.

Regular salt bathing is a wonderfully relaxing and easy way of boosting your Magnesium. At Westlab we offer the widest range of products in the UK for different Magnesium requirements.

Q. Would a dietary supplement help?

Low doses of oral supplement can be useful alongside transdermal and dietary intake, but need to be introduced gradually as they can often cause a laxative effect even in fairly low doses. Also, they are not always readily absorbed in the gut, and these factors can prevent the daily requirement being reached through dietary supplements alone. Always use a high quality, trusted supplement and follow instructions from the manufacturer.

Q. Will Magnesium supplementation interfere with my Asthma medication?

A. Interestingly, it is the other way around. Commonly used Asthma medication such as salbutamol and corticosteroids can significantly deplete the body’s levels of Magnesium, especially as they are often used on a regular, ongoing basis. More acute treatments such as Prednisolone and Aminophylline not only strip Magnesium but also can suppress and waste essential vitamins from the body which work alongside Magnesium.

Therefore if you are taking medication for Asthma, we would never advise discontinuing or reducing any prescribed or recommended asthma medication. But it may be sensible to supplement your Magnesium intake as you could suffer increased Magnesium deficiency.

Q. What can I do as part of my diet?

A. Of course a diet high in Magnesium-rich foods helps, such as raw spinach, chard and beet greens, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, black, butter and haricot beans, as well as reducing intake of Magnesium-depleting foods such as refined sugar and alcohol.

Q. Are there any other salt based treatments for Asthma?

A. Magnesium-rich salt can also be taken directly into the airways at home with a salt pipe inhaler.

The Himalayan Salt Inhaler helps flush impurities from the nasal cavities and sinuses and can also cleanse the lungs. The micrograms of salt air can penetrate and clean the entire respiratory system, and the amount of salt is so small it does not affect blood pressure or cause problems with thyroid conditions sensitive to Iodine. Recommended usage is 15-25 minutes per day, but as the individual gets accustomed to the cleansing effects, that may be increased.

Click HERE to read more or purchase a salt inhaler.


Dean, C. (2007) The Magnesium Miracle. Ballantine Books:New York.

Disclaimer: As with all information provided by Westlab Ltd, this information is provided in good faith and from reputable sources. However this does not replace the need to consult healthcare professional where appropriate as each individual will have different medical conditions or health issues. Always take your own health seriously and see advice when needed.