Anyone who is a regular fan of the CSI franchise will be familiar with this. Someone get’s shot – or stabbed, or strangled, or suffers any one of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that flesh is heir to. And suddenly everything goes into slow motion.
Then the camera focuses on the body, and we go inside the skin, seeing in graphic detail what is happening to the cells and organs. And we know that someone is in serious trouble, because we can see it in microscopic detail.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this in reality? Not be stabbed, but understand what is going on in our body, both when it goes wrong, and when we are doing something right. Unfortunately life is not a cheesy TV show. We can’t do the graphics. But we can tell you what is happening when you lie down in our floatation tanks.
As Jennifer Aniston said: Here comes the science bit.
There are so many science bits, but we will look at just one. What’s the deal with the salts we use?
We use Epsom salt to make our water more ‘floaty’ than the Dead Sea, so that you will ride high and safe in the tank. You have probably heard of Epsom salt. But did you know it is not real salt? Salt is a generic term for a number of chemical compounds, made up of one negatively charged bit, and one positively charged bit, which come together to produce a neutral compound. Table salt is an example, as is monosodium glutamate. But there are hundreds.
Epsom salt is actually a mineral. A mineral is a chemical compound that occurs naturally and has a crystal structure. Epsom salt is made up of magnesium and sulfate. There, that’s the science bit over.
It gets its name from a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England, and has been known for centuries to be good for you. We know that when we get out of the floatation tank – or out of a salt bath at home – we feel the salt sticking to our body with a soapy feel. But what is happening beneath the bonnet?
Numerous studies have shown that both magnesium and sulfate are readily absorbed by the body through the skin. Magnesium is vital for your health, regulating the activity of over 325 enzymes. It eases inflammation, helps muscle and nerve function, and prevents artery hardening. Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients, and flush toxins from the body.
Magnesium is depleted by stress. But in the tank Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin and replenishes the magnesium levels, helping produce serotonin, a mood-elevating brain chemical. That leads to a feeling of calm and relaxation.
Many people report feelings of deep relaxation and meditative states during their floats. Espom salt is one of the contributing factors.
Magnesium also increases energy levels, which is why we feel ready to take on the world after a float.
Epsom salt is known to ease pain and relieve inflammation, making it great for sore muscles, bronchial asthma, and migraines. Other benefits include improving blood circulation and protecting the elasticity of arteries; making insulin more effective and reducing the severity of diabetes; preventing constipation; and eliminating toxins.
Sounds wonderful. So how do we get it into the body?
It’s called salt, but you don’t want to put it on your chips. It turns out that the most effective way to take in Epsom salt is through the skin. Experts recommend a bath, with the water warm but not hot. And they recommend that your skin should be in contact with the salt for at least twelve minutes.
What they are describing is a float. The water is body temperature, and you are in there for an hour, plenty of time for the skin to absorb all the goodness from the mineral water.
We tend to see the float in very surface terms. We are in a very relaxed environment, with all sensory input reduced to a minimum, so that we can relax and revitalise. And that surface understanding is true. We are allowing ourselves to let go and unwind.
But it’s nice to know that beneath the surface, great things are happening to our body. It is not just a little oasis of calm in a busy schedule. While you are enjoying the downtime, your body is working tirelessly to replenish precious minerals, which will remain in your system long after the other benefits of the float are just a pleasant memory.