WHAT ARE EPSOM SALTS?
Epsom salts look like large grains of salt, but are, in fact, different than traditional salt (sodium chloride). Epsom salts are a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate, and they got their name because one of the earliest discoveries of magnesium sulfate took place in Epsom in Surrey, England.
These minerals have very powerful health benefits that can enhance the detoxification capabilities of the body. In addition, magnesium and sulfate both play essential parts in the ways in which our bodies function.
WHY TAKE AN EPSOM SALT BATH?
- Your body absorbs sulfates from an Epsom salt bath
- Your body absorbs magnesium from an Epsom salt bath
- Epsom salt baths help detoxify your body
- There are many health benefits resulting from these three.
Sulfates play an important role in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins and the proteins that line the walls of the digestive tract. They stimulate the pancreas to generate digestive enzymes and are thought to help detoxify the body of medicines and environmental contaminants.
Most of us know about the importance of iron and calcium for our bodies, but what about magnesium? It is the second most abundant element in human cells and the fourth most important positively charged ion in the body. It helps the body regulate over 325 enzymes and plays an important role in organizing many bodily functions, like muscle control, electrical impulses, energy production and the elimination of harmful toxins.
But, most of us are deficient in magnesium!
According to the National Academy of Sciences, American’s magnesium deficiency helps to account for high rates of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, arthritis and joint pain, digestive maladies, stress-related illnesses, chronic fatigue and a number of other ailments. Who knew?!
Our magnesium levels have dropped by half in the last century due to changes in agriculture and diet. Industrial farming has depleted magnesium from soil and the typical American diet contains much less magnesium than that of our forefathers. And in fact, the modern American diet with its fat, sugar, salt and protein actually works to speed up the depletion of magnesium from our bodies.
Another factor in decreased magnesium levels has been our focus on getting enough calcium. It’s a delicate balance – calcium depletes magnesium yet calcium functions best when enough magnesium is present. Studies indicate that taking a calcium supplement without enough magnesium can increase the shortage of both nutrients. Researchers have found that many Americans have five times as much calcium as magnesium in their bodies (5:1), although the proper ratio for optimum absorption of both minerals is two to one (2:1).
With such widespread magnesium deficiency one might think that magnesium supplements would be called upon, but studies show that magnesium is not easily absorbed through the digestive tract.
This brings us to Epsom salt. Since Epsom is hydrated magnesium sulfate, it is rich in – can you guess? – both magnesium and sulfate.
Studies have shown that magnesium and sulfate are both readily absorbed through the skin. Thus, Epsom salt baths are an easy and ideal way to allow these minerals to enter the body.
The skin is the body’s largest organ and is a highly porous membrane that both absorbs what it comes into contact with, and eliminates toxins. Our skin is also a visible sign of the health of the body as a whole. When the skin has rashes, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, acne, or other problems, it is often a sign of deeper issues within the body.
As an elimination organ, the body pushes toxins out through the skin (as well as the kidneys an liver). Using a powerful mineral base such as Epsom salts in bathwater creates a process called reverse osmosis that actually PULLS toxins out of the body. Salt and harmful toxins are pulled out thus helping the skin do its job of elimination. (This is a real scientific thing.)
4. Benefits of Epsom salt baths
Researchers and physicians suggest these health benefits from proper magnesium and sulfate levels, as listed on the web site of the Epsom Salt Industry Council:
- Improved heart and circulatory health, reducing irregular heartbeats, preventing hardening of the arteries, reducing blood clots and lowering blood pressure
- Improved ability for the body to use insulin, reducing the incidence or severity of diabetes
- Improved nerve function and electrolyte regulation. Magnesium is necessary to maintain proper blood levels of calcium (the main conductor for electrical current in the body)
- Reduced stress
- Excess adrenaline and stress are believed to drain magnesium, a natural stress reliever, from the body.
- Magnesium is necessary for the body to bind adequate amounts of serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of well-being and relaxation
- Improved oxygen use
- Prevention or easing of migraine headaches
- Boosted immune system during illness, especially respiratory illness
- Reduced muscle pain after exercise, by helping the body to eliminate lactic acid, which builds up in muscle tissue during exercise and causes sore muscles
- Reduced inflammation to relieve chronic pain and muscle cramps
- Reduced joint pain
- Improved absorption of nutrients
- Improved sleep for children by helping with mineral absorption
- Quicker wound healing
- Reduced symptoms of athlete’s foot, gout, toenail fungus, chronic sprains, and bruises
- Reduced symptoms of acne, eczema or other skin problems
- Reduced symptoms of poison ivy or skin reactions
- Improved skin hydration
The use of regular Epsom salt baths is also good for anyone dealing with chronic disease or chronic pain to help detoxify and de-inflame while improving mineral and sulfur balance in the body.
All this from a bath? Amazing!!
Contraindications to Epsom baths would be if you are pregnant, dehydrated or have open wounds or burns on your skin. Individuals who are suffering with cardiovascular disease should always consult with a natural health physician who is familiar with the health benefits of Epsom salt baths before starting.
While there are many different brands of Epsom salt, they are all the same product chemically, and can be found at most drug stores – look in the digestive aid or first aid sections.
Set aside 40 minutes – 20 minutes to remove toxins, 20 minutes to absorb minerals from the water, and unless you have arthritic joints, an hour afterwards to rest is ideal.
Fill the bath with warm water and add Epsom salts in the following amounts (for a standard sized bath):
- Children under 60 lbs: 1/2 cup
- Individuals between 60-100 lbs: 1 cup
- 100-150 lbs: 1 1/2 cup
- 150-200 lbs: 2 cups
- For every 50lbs larger – use an additional 1/2 cup
Try adding 1/2 cup of olive oil – the polyphenols soak into the skin giving further antioxidant benefits. Adding 1 tbsp to 1/2 a cup ginger or cayenne increases your heat levels, helping you sweat out toxins. Both are packed with antioxidants to facilitate the detoxification process.
Remember too that using soap with an Epsom salt bath interferes with the action of the minerals and the detoxification process.
So enjoy the bath after heavy work outs or stressful events, or simply make it a part of your regular health maintenance routine!
OK – after reading all of these health benefits – I’m off to the bath …