We live in a very contaminated world, and it contributes to the degradation of our health. For this reason, detoxification is a very important feature of the GAPS healing protocol. One simple way to detoxify is through regular bathing. The hotter the water, and the longer you stay in the bath, the more detoxifying it is to your organism. Substances also can be added to the bath water that provide additional health benefits.
The skin is not an inert impenetrable barrier, but rather is a large living organ that readily absorbs what contacts it. Dr. Campbell-McBride stated that if you are comfortable putting something on your skin, you should be just as willing to put it in your mouth. This was not meant in terms of taste per se, but rather that we need to recognize that substances are equally incorporated into the body via the skin as the mouth. She said this in the context of cautioning us about the potential toxicity of standard personal care products, and the importance of vigilance in terms of what we put on our skin.
This absorbent capacity of the skin can be used to promote health, and can be taken advantage of in terms of bathing. Magnesium is a mineral which is crucial to many important bodily functions. It regulates a myriad of enzymes and plays an important role in muscle control, transmission of electrical impulses, energy production and the elimination of harmful toxins. The depletion of the soil through typical farming practices and the standard American diet has resulted in magnesium deficiency states in many Americans.
In addition, the exclusive focus on calcium supplementation is another cause of a relative deficiency of magnesium in many individuals. There is a reciprocal relationship between calcium and magnesium metabolism in the body. High levels of calcium deplete magnesium, yet magnesium is necessary for the optimal functioning of calcium. Research indicates that taking calcium supplements without magnesium can result in a depletion of both minerals. Many individuals have five times the level of calcium in their bodies compared to magnesium, though the optimal ratio is two to one.
Bathing with Epsom salts, hydrated magnesium sulfate, is an easy and effective way to supply your body with more magnesium and with sulfate as well. Both minerals are poorly absorbed through the stomach, but easily absorbed through the skin. Sulfates are an important component for the formation of joint proteins, brain cells, and the proteins which line the wall of the intestine, and also play a role in detoxification of environmental contaminants.
For some individuals, regular bathing with Epsom salts also has a therapeutic impact upon insomnia, depression and anxiety. Magnesium sulfate has a sedative and relaxing effect upon the nervous system and the musculature. In addition, the cooling of the body after the bath induces a feeling of sleepiness in many people.
Another useful addition to the bath is baking soda, which also has detoxifying properties. Baking soda has an alkalizing effect upon the skin and is soothing to skin rashes and can even help chronic problems like eczema and psoriasis. Some also claim that it helps counter the negative effects of radiation, whether from sunburn or cancer treatment.
Essential oils can also be added for therapeutic benefit to the bath, and smell heavenly. They need to be chosen carefully, as those that contain phenols can be irritating to the skin. The art of aromatherapy classifies many essential oils as having specific psychotropic effects as well as overall healing properties.
For instance, research suggests that lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.
Rose Geranium oil added to the bath is purported to be useful for PMS, depression, stress, anxiety and tension, fluid retention, edema, and eczema.
Clary Sage essential oil is thought to be an over all tonic for well being, is warming and sedative, and can induce feelings of mild euphoria is some individuals. It is thought to enhance dreaming. These are only a few examples. There are many other wonderful oils with which to experiment.
I have a bath with epsom salts, baking soda and essential oil most nights before bed. It is a comforting and soothing ritual. I recommend it to all my patients as well.
Recipe for a GAPS Wonder Bath
2 cups Epson Salts (I order Epsom salts in bulk from a company called Salt Works. I like the fine grained variety. They offer free shipping)
half a cup baking soda
8 drops of an essential oil of your choice (Mountain Rose Herbs carries essential oils that I like)