I know, I know..."sitting is the new smoking". But i'm pretty sure NONE of that research refers to sitting in water! Because, it's the best.
The usefulness of hydrotherapy has been know for centuries. Hydrotherapy being the use of water as a preventative or treatment for general health or specific disease states. Think of Roman baths, Finnish saunas, Indigenous sweat lodges - all of these use the power of water at various temperatures to support vitality. The roots of naturopathic medicine actually begin with practitioners of hydrotherapy in the 1800's!
And so now I am going to tell you about my favourite hydrotherapy practice, which I recommend to a good number of my patients. Epsom salts baths! Here are the instructions:
- Fill a bathtub with warmish/hot water - as hot as you can manage while still feeling comfortable
- Add 2 cups epsom salts, mix well - available at a pharmacy or bulk store
- Dim the lights/light candles/turn on calming music - create a peaceful space
- Soak in the bath for 15-20 minutes
- Drink a large glass of water while in the bath - epsom salts will make you sweat
- Drain the bath, while remaining sitting in the warm water as long as possible
- Stand up and turn on the shower, as cold as you can stand. You should gasp at the cold, but also be able to tolerate it for short bursts. Rotate on the spot in circles can help! Count to 60 then turn off the shower
- Dry off and bundle up warmly
Tadaa! It's that easy!
Now. WHY I would recommend epsom salts baths is a very long list, but includes any of the following. If you see yourself in any of these statements, then get thee to the bath, ASAP.
"I don't have any time for myself".
"I'm overwhelmed and exhausted".
"I have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep".
"I get headaches on a regular basis".
And in case that didn't convince you, here is a list of common conditions I see in my practice that would benefit from regular epsom salts baths:
- Fatigue - prior to bedtime, promotes a more restful quality of sleep
- Depression/Anxiety - self-care, when you need it most; Also signals to your nervous system that you are safe, which turns off the "fight or flight" mode which may be ever-present
- Sleep difficulties - My top recommendation for insomnia, along with sleep hygiene (ie. no screens before bed)
- Weight management - Once again, proper sleep is more important for healthy weight management than we give it credit for. Additionally, any stress-related eating and hormonal concerns can be targeted
- Hormone Imbalance ie. painful/irregular periods/breast tenderness/PMS/infertility - the HPA axis communicates - the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. These are all endocrine glands that secrete hormones. When one is out of whack, likely the others are affected. Baths target the adrenal aspect of this axis, reducing your body's perception of stress and reducing cortisol production.
- Back/neck pain - relaxes muscles
- Restless leg syndrome - relaxes muscles
- Hypothyroidism - Low body temperature is often associated with low thyroid function, and regular alternating baths (using hot and cold) can help to raise this
- Chronic indigestion ie. gas/bloating/nausea/heartburn - relaxes muscles - see below!
Some of the reasons why I might recommend a bath may seem obvious such as for back pain, because epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is one of the best minerals for relaxing muscles. But did you know that our entire digestive tract is also comprised of muscles?! So magnesium helps to promote healthy movement and action of those digestive muscles. Additionally, generalized muscle tension is associated with any/all conditions that have a stress component, which include depression, headaches, brain fog and fatigue.
Get in the bath (aim for 3x/week) and transport yourself to your own peaceful oasis. Your body (and mind!) will thank you.
~Dr. Nicole Rush, ND