In my previous post about toxicity, I discussed how heavy metals get into our systems. Now we turn to how we might manage to get some of them out. There are four channels which the body generally employs to rid itself of toxins:
- The digestive tract
- The urinary tract
- Mucus membranes
- The skin
Obviously, this post deals with the last of that list.
The skin is the largest organ of the body, and it offers an immense surface area to facilitate efficient removal of toxins from the body. (It also offers an immense surface area through which to introduce toxins to the body as well! If you’re putting things on your skin that you wouldn’t ever put in your mouth, you might want to rethink that practice. Substances placed on the skin can show up much more quickly in the blood stream than when those same substances are ingested.)
Detox baths give the skin an opportunity to release toxins into a water, which the skin can use much more readily than air to effectively transfer toxins out. Furthermore, detox baths incorporate substances which will readily absorb toxins, or which provide the body with additional nutrients needed to release toxins.
I try to take a bath every night, altho sometimes it ends up being every other night. It helps calm me down and rest my mind before sleep. I light candles and sometimes read a light book, or just think. How do I have time to do this, you ask? Well, for one, I don’t take showers hardly ever, just every week or two to wash my hair. And I make time. Maybe in another life I wouldn’t be able to, but at this point in my life, my health is pretty close to my number one priority. And baths make me feel good.
I find that I don’t need to use soap hardly ever if I’m keeping up with taking regular baths, and aside from really hot days, I don’t need deodorant either (and when I do, I can use natural deodorant effectively — and it used to be that that stuff didn’t make a swill of difference whether I used it or not! Sometimes I think it even made the stench worse, actually!!). And as far as I know, I don’t stink offensively — J would tell me if I did, he’s not shy about that, and he knows I don’t get offended!
First off: Water preparation
In an ideal world, we’d have pristine water coming out of our tap, and I wouldn’t have to worry about any substances lurking therein. Unfortunately, we don’t, but we’re also not about to buy a whole-house filter. I do use a chlorine-filtering ball when I run the tub water. (I don’t know if it really does much good, but I figure it can’t hurt.) And we don’t use any harsh chemicals to clean the tub, just baking soda, vinegar, a Magic Eraser sometimes. As it goes, I feel generally better when I’m taking regular baths than when I’m not, so I figure that if I’m absorbing some toxins from the water, it’s probably fewer than I’m getting rid of, so the balance is in my favor.
Second: Skin preparation
To be honest, I don’t often do this, but it’s probably a good idea to give your skin a quick dry-brushing with a loofa or a relatively stiff-bristled brush prior to bathing. Dry brushing invigorates the skin, removes dead cells, and draws blood (and any toxins that it’s carrying) to the surface. There’s a lot more too it, but basically it’s just a matter of going over your body with the brush/sponge in a quick vigorous brushing. Like I said, I don’t overdo this, I always feel like it takes too much time (‘cuz I’m lazy and just want to get into the relaxing bath!). I should really get more in the habit of it, tho.
In the winter months, I need to get my bath water as hot as I can handle, because I just get so chilled over the course of the day, and there’s no way I’m climbing into a cold bed when my body feels so cold! Taking a nice hot bath can help the body sweat out some of the toxins, which is a useful thing. However, too hot is not a good thing, because I find I can get very woozy when I get out of a too-hot-bath. And even though I’ve read that this can be beneficial, I’m not of the opinion that potentially passing out near a full bathtub is healthy. So I have to be careful, because I like HOT baths.
In the summer, tho, I try to take cooler baths. Not cold cold, per se, but just slightly above — or if it’s really hot, below — body temperature. Supposedly taking a cool bath or shower before bed can help you sleep better. Or at least that’s what my brothers told me. I don’t know that I’ve noticed that much of an effect; my sleep is screwed up by so many other factors anyways!
If I want to try to take a particularly hot or cold bath, I’ll often fill the tub halfway with a comfortable temperature of water, get in the water, and then gradually add extra hot or cold water to change the temperature. The gradual change is less of a shock to the body. Altho this is also a good way to get a way-too-hot bath temp without noticing — along with the attendant passing-out factor!
I like to take as much time as I feel comfortable in the bath; I don’t like to feel like I’ve wasted the hot water. Some places I’ve read say you should stay in a detox bath for at least 40 minutes. I’d say mine probably average 30-4o minutes, but sometimes I get antsy and feel like I need to get out earlier, so I respect that. Every once in a while I luxuriously watch a movie in the tub, so then I take quite a bit longer, and usually have to add extra hot water! I do think that the longer you stay in, though, the more good it’s going to do.
Fifth: Detoxing Supplements
You can add all sorts of things to your bath to help your body rid itself of toxins. It’s a good idea to vary what you use, and taking an Epsom Salt bath one night, then a Sea Salt one the next, etc. Options include:
- Epsom Salts, the prime bath additive. I use about a cup/tub, altho I used to use about twice that. Epsom salts are a form of magnesium, and if you’re at all magnesium deficient, they are a really good idea to incorporate into a regular bath routine. Many heavy metal toxins attach to cells at the receptor sites for magnesium, in part due to magnesium deficiency, and in part preventing correction of that deficiency. Offering your body regular immersion in magnesium-rich waters can help it with the detox process in part because all biological functions require magnesium, but also because the magnesium can retake some of those receptor sites from their toxic interlopers. However, even with Epsom salts, you can overdo the detox bath thing; I’ve found that even tho I am still magnesium deficient, Epsom salt baths, if I take them too often, make my eyes very dry. That kind of a cue is something I need to listen to, and respect my body when it says, “too much!”
- Sea Salts, like Dead Sea Salts. 1/2 – 1 cup per tub. Just like sea salt is great for cooking because it contains all sorts of trace minerals, it’s equally good for the skin. Effectively, using sea salt is like taking a trip to the ocean, but in the privacy of your own (landlocked) home! Ocean bathing has been renowned for centuries for helping restore health. Make sure your salts come from a reputable source, tho, as even oceans have nasty stuff in them these days.
- Seaweed. (As much as you can handle, I guess?) So this is one that I’ve read about, but haven’t managed to pull off myself so well. I tried adding kelp powder to my bath once, but the smell about took me out. Since I don’t generally eat sea vegetables, tho, I really should probably try to make this work again — so that I can absorb some of their nutrients through my skin instead.
- Baking Soda or Vinegar. Anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup of one or the other. Supposedly these substances can help the body realign its acid/base balance, tho I don’t know so much about that. Also, if the vinegar has live active cultures in it, and the bath water’s not too hot, it can help repopulate the surface of the skin with beneficial bacteria–because they hang out on the skin too, not just in the gut! I suspect there are other benefits to these substances, but I’m not too familiar, as I don’t use them all that often. (I do use them to wash my hair tho, and they work great for that!)
- Kombucha. 1 cup or more per tub. I know, crazy talk here. Why would you use perfectly good, drinkable kombucha to add to a bath? Well, maybe not perfectly good — but what about the stuff that has sat around too long and is way to sour to drink anymore? That stuff is great to add to baths. Similar to vinegar. It helps with PH balance, adds probiotics, and has a nice smell too. (I actually use kombucha more often these days as my hair conditioner than I do vinegar.)
- Clay. 1/2 cup dry sprinkled very thinly on the water, or reconstituted to a spreadable consistency and used as a skin “mask” prior to getting in the tub. I specifically use Bentonite clay, but there are many other therapeutic-grade clays available. It is important to get therapeutic-grade clay, tho, and not just art supply clay, which can contain its own problematic toxins. But good quality bentonite clay should be have a very low heavy metal content when you get it, and is particularly known for being able to latch on to — and take away — heavy metal toxins that it encounters. I find that when I use Bentonite for a detox bath, I often sleep better that night. I’m going to have to write another whole post about the procedure I use for clay “masks” — I started to write it here but it took over the post!
- Ginger. 1/2 cup freshly grated, or 1 tablespoon of powder. Supposedly this is an additive to bring on a good sweat, as ginger is a heat-promoting spice. For whatever reason, though, ginger in baths, either this way or simply using the essential oil, really upset my stomach. I suspect that someone better versed in Chinese medicine could explain why this happens … perhaps I should ask my acupuncturist.
- Raw Honey. It seems I’ve been seeing a number of people talking about using raw honey as a face mask, and I thought to myself, why not use it as a full-body pre-bath mask, like I often use the clay? I tried out this sticky experiment for you, dear readers! I have to admit, my first attempt was not the smoothest … our honey has been sitting around all winter in our cold house, and so it had quite a few crystals in it. Possibly good for a skin scrub with some other ingredients, but it didn’t work so great for rubbing alone on the skin. So in the future I will gently warm the honey ahead of time. Also, I’ll lightly dampen my skin before using it, which is a good tip from the blog referenced above, which I think will help with applying as well. Lastly, I’ll let the honey soak in to the skin a bit longer next time before climbing into the bath; I only waited a couple of minutes, but it probably should have been closer to 10 or more. Unlike the clay, the honey doesn’t really stay on the skin at all after you get into the bath, it dissolves immediately. So it’s important to be patient with my sticky self and wait!
- Activated Charcoal. I use 2-3 tablespoons/tub. Yes, it will leave a black ring around your tub, but that should scrub off. I’ve already talked about how useful activated charcoal can be for adsorbing toxins. It may not work all that well for heavy metals, per se, but the body is dealing with lots of toxins besides heavy metals that activated charcoal can make quick work of. And it can be particularly healing and soothing for troublesome skin conditions and poison ivy outbreaks.
- Coconut Oil, or olive oil if you prefer. 1 spoonful/tub. If you’re using hot water, you shouldn’t need to pre-soften if your coconut oil is generally solid at room temperatures. Although oil can leave a bit of a film on the tub — so be careful the next morning if you’re showering! — it’s worth it for the softness it gives to the skin. And coconut oil in particular may be very helpful with removing heavy metal toxins. Although the oil floats on the surface of the water, it gently coats the surfaces of your skin as you move through that surface. As you get out of the bath, it will leave a light layer on your skin, at which point you might want to air dry rather than towel-off in order to best absorb the oil.
I always add 5-10 drops of essential oils to my bath, because I love the smell, and it makes my skin smell nice afterwards. I enjoy a number of different fragrances, but some of my favorite are palma rosa, lavender, clary sage, rosewood, lime, and tea tree. Essential oils have many therapeutic purposes, far more than I can get into here. Although I sometimes use them for specific therapeutic reasons, I often just smell a few bottles until I find one that smells good to me that night; I figure my nose knows what my body best needs. As with the additives above, if you’re using a chlorine-filtering ball, essential oils should be added after the tub is full and you’ve removed the filter, as all these things can inhibit the effectiveness of the filter. Also, if you have particularly sensitive skin, you may want to dilute essential oils with a “carrier” oil such as coconut, olive, or sweet almond, as they can be bothersome to some skins at full strength, even in a very thin film over the surface of the bath water. Personally, tho, I just drop them straight into the bath!
Unless I’ve put coconut oil in my bath, I usually towel off immediately, and then spray a solution of half-magnesium oil, half-filtered water all over my skin. Some people like to apply coconut oil immediately after getting out of the bath, without toweling off. If I’m going to moisturize with coconut oil, or a coconut-oil-based lotion, I usually do so after the magnesium spray, tho, because the spray can be a bit drying to the skin.
Who knew taking a bath could be so complicated?! (Other than the parents of toddlers!!) Do you have any detox bath rituals? What are your favorite essential oils for baths?
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