When treating the mind and body with massage therapy, it's important to understand massage's impact on the body's fluids. Increasing the circulation of these liquids enhances their ability to nourish, detoxify, and cleanse our organs, muscles and nerves. We also see that the flow of blood and other fluids corresponds with our overall energy flow (qi, chi, prana, etc.) which further enhances our holistic health. Taking care of our body's fluids can therefore lengthen the effects of massage therapy in-between sessions, improve our sleep and mental health, and help soften stubborn trigger points that don't respond to massage.
It's impressive just how intricate and delicate our circulation systems are. When they become out of balance, we see global symptoms such as fatigue, confusion, irritation, muscle spasms, migraine, and many more vague maladies that affect most adults. With so many types of fluid in the body, what can we do to ensure their quality? One method is maintaining electrolyte balance, and it's easily achieved through nutrition and self-care.
The Milieu Interieur
To understand the importance of electrolytes, it helps to gain respect for our body's internal fluids, and understand how they came to be. Here's an interesting philosophy on their creation: since the dawn of time, life has gradually evolved from an aquatic life to land mammals. During that transition, we carried the sea with us as life adapted to survive without the support of the ocean. The water flowing through our cells that once came from an external ocean moved its way inside of us to find a constant temperature and pH. This is known as the internal sea, or milieu interieur, and is where the Inner Tide health blog gets its name.
The milieu interieur shows us how important our circulatory systems are to our livelihood. This is the essence of the life-giving flow of the ocean that once surrounded us, and now is carried deep within us. This flow consists of not just our blood, but also our lymph, intra- and extracellular fluid, synovial fluid between our joints, fascia surrounding every muscle in our bodies, and cerebrospinal fluid bathing the central nervous system.
For our inner tide to function properly, it needs to transport oxygen, carbon dioxide, proteins, and other nutrients and waste products. Transporting these products requires energy, which is where electrolytes come in. Electrolytes are chemicals (usually salts) that conduct electricity when they break down in water. By lending ions to water and other molecules, they allow nutrients and fluid to flow into and out of the cells in the body, creating a constant ebb and flow.
Countless chemical reactions in the body involve electrical energy, from muscle contraction to nerve impulses. This is just one of many examples of the electrical, energetic, spiritual aspect of our anatomy. Eating foods containing these life-giving compounds can maintain the proper electrical charges necessary for efficient chemical reactions. When we function effectively at the cellular level, we experience the benefit at the holistic, mental level as well.
Eating Your Electrolytes
The most essential nutrients you need for electrolyte balance are potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. Adequate nutrition from this group of salts strengthens bones, enhances nerve signaling, and benefits the heart due to its support of muscle function. Several supplements are available for these electrolytes in the form of capsules, dissolving tablets, and even flavored beverage powders. The most ideal way to add electrolytes to your diet, of course, is through plant-based whole foods. Good sources include:
Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard)
As you can see, healthy snacks and tasty meals can easily be made from good sources of electrolytes!
Other Electrolyte Sources
Himalayan salt is also a fantastic source of trace minerals and electrolytes. You can incorporate this ingredient by simply using it as a table salt replacement for your seasonings. Another fun way to benefit from Himalayan salt is by drinking solé. Solé is a mixture of water saturated with Himalayan salt. Adding a tablespoon of this to 2 cups of hot water (with some lime juice and honey for taste) can increase feelings of calm and improve hydration with regular use.
Epsom salt can also be used in different ways to absorb its key electrolyte, magnesium. One popular application is mixing it with bath water. Soaking for 20 minutes in warm water mixed with two cups of epsom salt absorbs the magnesium through the skin, and enhances feelings of relaxation while reducing muscle tension and spasm. One may also create a bedtime foot spray by mixing equal parts epsom salt and boiling water. Adding lavender or rose essential oils to the mixture after it cools can make the spray even more effective. Spraying it on the feet and hands before bed lets the magnesium be absorbed through the skin and soothe the nervous system without the need for a bath.
Take Great Care
As with most natural self-care methods, it may take anywhere from several days to several months to see results from your efforts. But with these tips, you can slowly incorporate electrolyte enhancement into your daily diet, morning and evening routines, and weekly self-care habits. With time, you can enjoy the calming and strengthening effects they have on the body and mind!
Alison, S. (2004). "Fluid, electrolytes and nutrition." Clinical Medicine Journal, 4(6): 573-578. Nov/Dec 2004. https://www.rcpjournals.org/content/clinmedicine/4/6/573.
Healthline. (2019). "25 foods that replenish electrolytes." Healthline, 29 October 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-nutrition/electrolytes-food#takeaway.