Late on a Sunday afternoon a few months ago, I found myself dragging. It had been a long, busy work week and a weekend that felt just as long with house cleaning and repairs. I felt sluggish and not at all prepared to start a new week. My solution? A soak in an Epsom salt “detox” bath and a bottle of mineral water. Twenty-plus minutes later, I felt totally renewed, physically and mentally.
Epsom salt baths are something you have probably heard of, or done, to relieve sore muscles or simply relax. I had used them for these purposes here and there for many years before reading about using a combination of Epsom salt, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar as a post-airplane travel detox.
Epsom Salt Detox Bath
This suggestion came from The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Fallon Morrell and Thomas Cowan, MD. I hate airplane travel and, until I learned a few tricks to mitigate the impact, I always felt out-of-balance and slightly sick on travel days. During my year as a naturopathic resident, I began travelling every 4-6 weeks to my hometown in California. This meant a long day of travel I never looked forward to. Discovering this recipe for Epsom salt “detox” baths was key in helping to make the travel manageable. Taking one within a few hours of arriving at my destination would make all the difference in the world.
There are many variations on this bath. Here is my recipe:
1 pound (or 2 cups) of Epsom salt
½ -1 pound baking soda (1 pound = 1 small box)
A big splash of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar
Soak for 20-30 minutes in a full tub. Using a bath water filter to remove chlorine is ideal. If you are bathing close to bedtime, the water should not be too hot, just warm. Hot bathing before bed can disturb sleep. I like to have the water quite hot and don’t mind at all if I work up a sweat.
How often and when should Epsom Salt Baths be done?
This depends on what your goal is. For patients with chronic disease who need more detox and rest, I often recommend 3-7 times per week. There is no problem, for most people, taking these baths daily. In addition to airplane travel, other good times to take these baths are after intense physical activity, when you are feeling over-worked or sluggish, after medical procedures that require contrast or anesthesia, after x-rays or MRIs, and if you have been working with or cleaning with chemicals. Those with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic constipation, and low magnesium often benefit from taking these baths regularly. There are many who recommend and even swear by Epsom salt baths for aiding in weight loss.
Admittedly, there hasn’t been any formal research on these baths. Lack of formal research doesn’t mean something doesn’t work; it just has yet to be studied. When that is the case, it is good to consider expert opinion. Aside from myself and Dr. Cowan, who else is recommending Epsom salt baths?
- Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple, a well-known early proponent of a paleo lifestyle, recommends Epsom salt baths.
- Dr. Mark Hyman, MD suggests Epsom salt baths to specifically help those with constipation when switching from a standard american diet (or SAD) to a whole foods-based diet (this switch helps the body to detox by lightening the load).
- Dr. Aviva Jill Romm, MD recommends them for headaches during pregnancy.
- And for Dr. Oz followers, baking soda and Epsom salt are a part of his rapid weight loss plan.
- Dr. Jenna Henderson, ND focuses her practice on patients with chronic kidney disease. When kidney function has declined significantly, the body has trouble removing uremic waste. One recommendation Dr. Henderson gives to these patients is to bathe in 2 cups apple cider vinegar and one cup Epsom salt for 20 minutes several times each week. Both she and her patients report good clinical results. (See the May 2016 issue of the Townsend Letter for more details.) Please note that those in kidney failure can have levels of magnesium that are too high and should consult their doctor before implementing the baths.
How do these baths work?
Since there have been very few studies on any type of Epsom salt baths, how they work is mostly speculation. We do know that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin when bathed in and this can result in an increase in blood levels. Magnesium is essential to hundreds of enzymes used by your body and perhaps the answer is simply that the baths give a boost to the function of these magnesium-dependent enzymes and subsequently to hundreds of important biochemical reactions in the body. However, the clinical use of the baths if different than those for oral magnesium, which leads me to suspect the mechanism of action is different.
If you plan to take quite a few baths, you might want to stock up on some larger quantities. Epsom salt is readily available at almost every store that has a pharmacy (including most Costco’s) and baking soda is at any grocery store. Sometimes you’ll have better luck finding an unfiltered apple cider vinegar at a health food store.
I highly recommend that you try a series of these baths for yourself and feel the impact first hand. Please share your experiences! I would love to hear from you.
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