Last Updated June 13th, 2021
What is halotherapy?
Diseases have demanded cure since the beginning of man’s known existence on the Earth. And man has been endeavoring to treat them suitably ever since. His earlier explorations made him seek out remedies for all such maladies in nature itself. At times, he would discover a herb that would be a boon, at times it would be toxic or poisonous. The discovery of chemical compounds led to man using them for the treatment of diseases.
Ongoing research has unearthed the benefits of alternative therapies for the treatment of several diseases. A number of studies have proven the benefits of herbs and other natural minerals for the treatment of diseases of the heart and the lungs.
A trend that started in the 1800s was the use of salt for the treatment of respiratory diseases. It had been popular in Europe for a long time. It used to happen in cases where the glaciers would melt to reveal the salt crystals in the caves. Its popularity spread with the news of Siberian salt mine workers having fewer respiratory illnesses as opposed to others. People with respiratory diseases began to flock to salt caverns with the hope that they would be rid of their ailments.
Halotherapy is a kind of salt therapy where the subject finds himself in a salt cavern inhaling saline aerosol that is dispersed at high concentrations. A machine called the halogenerator generates the saline aerosol. It also monitors the temperature, humidity, air pressure, and the air content in the room. Each person undergoing the therapy sits in the room for 45 minutes. There can be variations to this setting. According to a study, the therapeutic effects of halotherapy will vary with the environmental settings and the therapeutic method.
Halotherapy: The result of a scientific study
A study was conducted in 15 patients with respiratory disorders in a chamber set up to recreate the environment of a salt cavern. It was observed that there was an irritating cough initially in seven of them. In addition, it took between 5-10 days for the patients to be fully adapted to the environment that they were placed in.
After about 10 days in the halotherapy environment, it was observed that there was a regression of the dry cough. The severity of the symptoms was also reduced in two-thirds of those who had bronchitis and related problems. It was also observed that during the treatment period there were no cases of severe asthma or additional infections.
However, the process was interrupted for a person suffering from duodenal ulcer after the third session. In addition, another person reported digestive issues on the seventh day of the treatment before the therapy began for that day. This study, therefore, points to the importance of assessing if the patient has other chronic pathologies in addition to the respiratory disorder present.
According to the study, the benefit of halotherapy came from the process of stimulation of phagocytosis. Phagocytosis is a process by which living cells in the body ingest bacteria and other disease-causing microbes. This means that halotherapy actually increases the anti-infection resistance of the body. This was particularly the case in those with bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis. However, the study must be extended to a larger population for a thorough understanding of how effective halotherapy can be. There was also a reported decrease in the body’s sensitiveness to allergens.
Advantages of Halotherapy
Halotherapy has several benefits:
- Halotherapy is known to have little allergic or inflammatory effects in people.
- Salt is readily available and scientists can now create the microclimate of a salt cavern in any given chamber with ease.
- The chamber also offers a stress-relieving relaxation benefit.
Benefits of halotherapy
Halotherapy has several health benefits for the body. Some of them are:
- It alleviates smoking-related issues such as wheezing and cough
- It reduces the severity of skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
- It is also known to reduce depression and anxiety.
Risks of Halotherapy
Halotherapy actually increased the risk of cough and shortness of breath in those with asthma. It also caused severe headaches in some people. As mentioned in the study earlier, it could lead to an increase in the symptoms in those with duodenal ulcer, leading to digestive issues.
Another factor that increases the risk in halotherapy is that there is no standardization. Being a relatively new form of treatment, there is no established quantity for the salt content in the air. There is also no standardized number of times the treatment must be administered. This brings inconsistencies in observations as well and across studies. This is another reason why the benefits of halotherapy are yet to be fully substantiated by science.
Finally, yet importantly, halotherapy is generally carried out in a spa or wellness clinic. There is no trained medical staff to handle any medical emergencies, should they arise. If you have a serious medical condition, it may serve you well if you avoid this therapy.
Who should not go in for halotherapy?
Halotherapy is not recommended if you have any of the following conditions:
- Existence or suspicion of cancer
- Cardiac insufficiency (heart not pumping as much blood as it should)
- Chronic or acute kidney disease
- Tuberculosis at any of its stages
Halotherapy and Pregnant Women
There are no specific studies conducted to determine if it is okay for pregnant women to undergo halotherapy. And sitting in a salt cavern by yourself inhaling salts unsupervised by qualified medical professionals may not be a good idea at this time. Though it might seem safe, it is best to avoid it for these two reasons. If you do have any respiratory diseases that could be managed at home and are pregnant, you could use wet halotherapy methods. Some of these are taking a salt water bath or using saline water for nasal irrigation.
Halotherapy and Children
Summer is the time for allergies because it is the time when most people venture out to enjoy the pleasant weather. Children are more likely to contract allergies in the summers. Be it a wheeze, a sneeze, or a cough, it sure can be irritating. Halotherapy can definitely help clear the nasal passageways and reduce the cough. It has proved beneficial for children as little as three months and it has been conducted on children as old as nine years of age. However, halotherapy also has side effects. If the child has a medical condition that might pose a risk, it is advisable to avoid halotherapy. However, according to a 2008 study, it was shown that inhaling a 3% saline solution proved beneficial for infants suffering from bronchitis.
Other methods of salt therapy
Halotherapy is also done using a mixture of salt and water. As opposed to inhaling the aerosol, in these instances, it is just the saline solution that is used. These are also referred to as the wet halotherapy methods. Some of the methods of salt therapy in use are:
Gargling salt water
Gargling salt water is a home remedy for sore throats, coughs, and sinus-related issues. It involves gargling a mouthful of salt water that is having a moderate amount of salt. It is known to provide relief from these conditions after a gargle of two or three times. It can also provide relief in mild cases of allergy.
Drinking salt water
Drinking warm salt water is part of the Master Cleanse detoxification program. It is believed to rid the colon of parasites and other waste material that may have been stuck there for long. But there is no scientific evidence for this. It is also believed to have other benefits such as providing relief from constipation and stress as well. This is because the salt water, according to studies, acts as a laxative. So try a salt water flush when you are feeling constipated or have irregular bowel movements. It might just help.
Taking a salt water bath
People have been using Himalayan salt water baths for several hundreds of years to rejuvenate themselves. Taking a salt water bath helps in many ways. Using Himalayan bath salts in your water is believed to improve circulation, increases moisture retention and assists in cellular regeneration. Bath salts such as Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) help to improve blood circulation in the body, reduces stress, and relieve aches and pains.
Many believe that the benefits of bath salts arise from the fact that they can be absorbed through the skin. This may not be true. Most of the evidence that points to its benefits are anecdotal than scientific. But it has been around for a very long time, and probably further research will shed some light on how it is actually helping us.
Using salt water for nasal irrigation
Salt water can be used for nasal irrigation using a neti pot. A neti pot is a pot-shaped apparatus that is used to guide saline solution into your sinuses when you inhale through one. It helps to provide relief from a stuffy nose and also reduces the swelling and redness of the nose. Research has also proven its efficacy.
When you use a neti pot, make sure you use sterile, distilled, or boiled water. This is because otherwise, you would be inhaling microbes present in the water that might be harmful. Some people also use readily available nasal sprays with neti pots. This is another way of making use of neti pots for saline irrigation.
Should you consider halotherapy?
Of course, you should. The dry method does not have much scientific evidence. Most of the evidence in support of it is still anecdotal. However, one of the studies that do support it finds evidence that it is able to treat respiratory diseases with quite a high efficacy. The study even suggests how halotherapy might actually be working based on blood tests. But halotherapy is not just about the dry method.
There are wet methods that are equally useful or could prove more useful to you. The wet methods, particularly that of nasal irrigation have more scientific evidence to support them. They could prove extremely useful for the treatment of simple colds at home. Even if you have chronic sinusitis, halotherapy could provide much-needed relief. Do not miss out on the goodness of salt because you are skeptical. If you do not have any medical condition that might necessitate that you do not go in for it, then you should give it a try.
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