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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

People’s Pharmacy: Is milk of magnesia safe to control body odor?

By Joe Graedon, M.S., </p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Q. Over the past couple of years, for some reason, I have noticed a strong underarm body odor. Deodorant no longer works for me.

I tried stopping some of my medications for a couple of months, and that doesn’t seem to be the cause. I basically went from zero body odor to a 5 out of 10 with 10 being the worst.

After I read your article about using milk of magnesia topically as a deodorant, I tried it. To my surprise, it does work. My daughter-in-law who is an RN says that milk of magnesia is hard on the kidneys. Would a person using it as a deodorant absorb enough into the bloodstream that it would harm the kidneys?

A. What a great question! We wish we could find a really good answer, but this topic has not been studied adequately.

The best review we could find is titled “Myth or Reality - Transdermal Magnesium?” (Nutrients, August 2017). The authors reviewed the medical literature and found that the evidence of magnesium absorption through the skin is limited.

Some studies used 20-minute foot soaks in magnesium oil. Others involved a full-body Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath for two hours. A study conducted by the Israeli army utilizing a magnesium-rich lotion did not detect significant absorption of this mineral through the skin.

All that being said, people with limited kidney function should avoid extra magnesium, especially in dietary supplements or laxatives. You may want to ask your doctor to monitor both your magnesium levels and kidney function periodically.

Q. My husband’s uncle was healthy until four years ago. He had taken omeprazole for years for heartburn. Suddenly, he became very ill.

After he spent two weeks in the hospital, the doctors finally realized he was severely deficient in vitamin B12. The worst part is that he can no longer absorb it, so he needs to get regular shots just to be able to walk and think straight. Is this consequence of the drug appreciated?

A. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec) can make it harder to absorb vitamin B12. These acid-suppressing drugs can also lead to other nutrient deficiencies, such as calcium, magnesium, iron or vitamin C.

Vitamin B12 is essential for many organ systems. A deficiency can result in symptoms such as trouble with balance, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, loss of appetite, weakness, constipation, confusion, memory problems and burning tongue.

You can learn more about the pros and cons of PPIs and ways to manage heartburn in our “eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders.” This online resource is available under the Health eGuides tab at It also describes how to discontinue PPIs without horrible rebound heartburn.

Q. I have had yellow, crumbly toenails for years and assumed it was nail fungus. Nothing worked, though.

After reading about using Neosporin, I tried my over-the-counter three-antibiotic cream. What amazing results!

I had major improvement surprisingly fast. I apply three times a week before bed and put on socks to protect the sheets.

A. Thanks for sharing your story. Some “nail fungus” actually may be bacterial. That could explain why a number of cases respond to antibiotic ointment.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Fla., 32803, or email them via their website: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”