Bathing is as essential as anything we do as humans, yet baths frequently get overlooked in any list of healing habits. When prepared for and taken properly, a bath can relieve your toxic load — as well as mental and emotional stress — easily and at very little expense. The bath is your missing tool to better health.

As a longtime practitioner in the field of wellness and longevity medicine, I’ve found that empowering people to take conscious care of their physical bodies helps to ensure that their health care program succeeds. Yet there is one area, as essential as anything we do as humans, which frequently gets overlooked in any list of healing habits: bathing. I don’t mean merely washing your face, underarms and private areas; but more specifically the act — and the art — of total cleansing, by soaking and renewing the skin in the bath.

I come to the wisdom of bathing culturally as well as medically. I am Korean by birth. In Asia, the bath has an ancient heritage as a purification rite that is both practical and remedial. Growing up in Korea, my first experiences of bathing were of going with my grandmother to the local communal bath house. She had no bathroom of her own, and wouldn’t have thought that she needed one. I learned about bathing and hygienic skills from her at two years of age, with all the ritual attached to that journey: carrying my own bucket, towel and scrubbing cloths; the stages of cleansing; and the beautiful act of generations coming together, without vanity or inhibition, helping to take care of each other.

The key steps of traditional Korean bathing are easy to adopt, but they change the bath completely. The norm today, or at least the standard, in many Western countries, is to wash our bodies a lot — and not in the bath at all, but in the shower. Past the age of childhood, taking a bath is typically seen in terms of indulgence more than hygiene. A bath is virtually a psychological act. It is about stealing time away from the daily rush, for the sake of relaxation, solitude, sensuality, retreat or luxury. Still, a really phenomenal amount of health benefit gets lost in the migration from bath to shower, and from the spirit of cleansing to the behavior of clean.

The medical truth is that bathing is one of the most systemically corrective things that you can do for your body. When prepared for and taken properly, a bath can reduce real toxic as well as mental and emotional stress. The warm water in which you submerge gently stimulates detoxification through the skin and other organs of elimination (the kidneys, liver, colon and lungs) by inducing lymphatic flow, improving circulation, calming inflammation and encouraging sweating. Add scrubbing to the process as your dead skin layers naturally slough off in water, and you remove innumerable pollutants and metabolic waste products that have been collected there. Remember, the skin is the largest organ for detoxification and therefore a first line of defense for your body.

And we need to purify our skin more than ever in modern life. Toxins that are found in the skin include, but are not limited to: benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, styrene, deodorant, car exhaust, hydrocarbons, smog, household chemicals, perfumes, cosmetics, heavy metals including mercury, cadmium, aluminum, arsenic, lead, and nickel, dust mites, dust mite droppings, fungus, mold, bacteria, virus, parasites, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and hormones. It makes sense to rid the body of these elements as regularly as possible, in order to manage the toxic load we all carry to varying degrees.

Bathing has always helped our bodies do that, easily and at very little expense. In effect, a proactive bath once a week can replace certain types of doctor’s treatments, spa visits or other more invasive detox modalities.

I’d like to share some basic principles to help you transform bathing into a healing resource. All you need at home is a bathtub, a scrubbing mitt or cloth, a bucket and gentle, organic soap. Another option would be to find a local Korean sauna/bath house to visit on a regular basis, where you can soak and be scrubbed by an expert in the traditional manner. I’ve visited wonderful Korean bath saunas in many cities, and many offer hot rooms and pools of different temperatures, to intensify the ritual of cleansing. Following custom, these are communal places where you will have to let go of modesty. Most offer different sessions for men and women. Check your local city guide for information, or, you can visit my website for a list of reputable, classical Korean bath saunas across the country that I personally have experienced and highly recommend.

One note of caution: Bathing in this way is a form of mild detoxification, which involves raising your body temperature and increasing your metabolic rate through the steps of skin purification. For any bath or detoxifying regimen, get your doctor’s approval first if you have a physical condition or you are in a weak state. Contraindications may include, but are not limited to, diabetes, low or high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney or liver disease, adrenal exhaustion, recent illness, pregnancy, nervous system deficiencies and severe fatigue. Also, if you have just been out in the sun and gotten a burn or even a tan, scrubbing is not recommended.

1. Wash your body first. This is when to take that shower! It doesn’t make sense to enter a clean bath with dirty feet and a sweaty body. The bath is not for washing, but for soaking in fresh pure water in order to open the systems of the body and exfoliate old layers of skin. Plus, in order to exfoliate properly in your bath, all oils and creams need to be completely removed from your skin first. Washing first can also reduce contamination and prevent possible bladder infections when in the bath. Not cleaning before bathing is a major omission in the Western concept of the bath.

As part of a general skin care regimen, I recommend that my patients use a probiotic soap for best cleansing. Like oral probiotics and cultured foods for your digestion such as Korean kimchi or yogurt, this type of soap is naturally anti-microbial and works on the skin in a similar way: The presence of good bacteria helps to diminish the ill effects of the bad. In his book, “Life on Man,”bacteriologist Theodor Rosebury estimates that 50 million individual bacteria live on the average square centimeter (5×107/cm2) of human skin! Probiotic soap will optimize healthy skin flora and help remove harmful pathogens as well as dirt and sweat.

2. Make sure your bathtub has been cleaned with natural, nontoxic products. Draw your bath at a comfortably hot, but not scalding temperature. You want to feel very warm, to the point that you may be perspiring from your face, but not so hot that you want to get out of the tub to cool off. If you have a Jacuzzi tub with jets, you can use them for soothing muscles.

3. Stay in the bath for at least 20-30 minutes. You can stop here after your soak, and still derive beneficial, passive healing from the bath. Dry yourself vigorously with a clean towel to add a light amount of lymphatic stimulation.

Do not scrub after 8 or 9 p.m., as it may keep you awake. If you do choose to exfoliate, check your skin after about 15 minutes of soaking. Can you feel some debris sloughing off? If so, your skin will be ready soon to be scrubbed, to remove all the toxins which are embedded in the dead outer layers. Sweating also brings these toxins to the surface.

4. To begin exfoliating, finish your bath and jump back in the shower. Keep your body wet; the room should still be warm enough from your bath that you should not feel chilled or uncomfortable. If you do not have a separate shower, drain your bathtub and sit inside the tub to scrub there. It is best if you have a stool to sit on. You should have your small plastic pail or shallow bucket to fill with fresh hot water, a scrubbing mitt or cloth, and your mild or probiotic soap at hand.

5. Scrub each section of your body and then fill the bucket with hot water and splash it clean. However, do not scrub: all genital and rectal areas, eyelids and lips, or your whole face if you have sensitive skin. You can start from your feet and go up or from the arms and work down. Use linear strokes, back and forth: do not make circles. Practicing will show you how much pressure you need to use. Notice areas where you will always find dead skin, such as the back or inside of your forearms. Be aware that rinsing in the traditional way with a bucket is gentler on your skin and body than using a shower spray. Never use cold water before or during scrubbing. This will cause the skin to tighten so that it will not slough off, and may cause pain. You may be perspiring during the scrubbing process, or you might feel a bit of energy releasing. This is all normal. It just means your body is at an elevated metabolic state to aid in the detoxification process.

6. After one sweep over the entire body, you can go over any area again with a lighter touch to ensure you have removed all the dead skin. Your skin should feel baby soft, slightly pink with color, and vitalized. Wash your body one more time with soap, and rinse. Dry yourself well, and liberally apply a nourishing moisturizer to both body and face.

7. Lay down if you can for 15 minutes to relax and return to your regular temperature and heart rate. You will feel invigorated, clean, fresh and ready to go!

I often prescribe additional types of bath therapies for specific health conditions, using different medicinal salts, herbs and detoxifying agents. In future articles, I will discuss how to create bath programs for healthy and preventive skin care, chronic illness, injury, heavy metal toxicity and other ailments, as well as ways to assure that your bath water itself is pure and clean.

Happy bathing!

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-susanne-bennett/a-bath-a-week-for-better-_b_775696.html

While November brings holiday preparations, turning of leaves, and colder weather, it also has a penchant for bringing the period of time season America dreads the most—flu season. Every year from the end of November to late March, 5% to 20% of Americans suffer headaches, fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, the chills, and muscle or body aches from seasonal influenza.    Swallowing the overgrowth of the common respiratory virus can cause the stomach flu, which brings on additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Colds are caused by different types of viruses such as rhinoviruses, adenoviruses or corona viruses. They are much milder in symptoms, staying in the upper respiratory system- runny nose, cough, sinus headache, post nasal drip.

To stay healthy and prevent illness, taking active steps to protect your immune system is essential. In general, the immune system should be able to defend our body against viruses and other pathogens. Every once in awhile though, when our defenses are down due to stress, not sleeping well, eating poorly, a virulent bug can deplete our energy stores and weaken our body.

In my clinical practice, I observed that patients often complained of a sore throat after eating salads, cheese, dried fruit and nuts. I have theorized that when the patient ingests foods contaminated with molds and fungi, the pH in the throat changes and give the viruses (that we all have) the opportunity to thrive in the oral and respiratory cavity. I believe this is why soreness in the throat precedes the main symptoms of the cold and flu.

My first tip is to stop eating foods that may be contaminated with molds- raw salads (eat cooked veggies), dried and over ripe fruit, moldy nuts such as peanuts, cashews and pistachios, all types of cheese and packaged snacks such as potato and tortilla chips. By preventing the mold exposure, you will reduce the likelihood of “catching a cold or flu”.

I recommend a few different remedies to protect against colds and flus, all of which are completely natural. The first is garlic extract (allicin), for its antimicrobial properties against viruses, fungi and bacteria. Garlic extract has been known to reduce the duration and severity of the flu. Not only is it a powerful antiviral agent, but it also bolsters the immune system. Similarly, olive leaf extract contains disease-fighting potential because it contains a bitter compound called oleuropein, and many anti-viral, anti-inflammatory properties.

I also recommend a good dose of Vitamin C taken 3-4 times throughout the day. It plays an excellent role in fortifying the immune system because it increases the production of white blood cells needed to fend off disease. Make sure the Vitamin C supplement also includes bioflavonoids such as quecetin, hesperin and rutin- the combo provide as an excellent anti-histimine and anti-inflammatory agent.

To ease the soreness of the throat, gargling with ½ a teaspoon of sea salt in 8 ounces of warm water is an easy way to moisten the back of the throat and relieve irritation.

Natural remedies offer us a lot of great ways to prevent and reduce the symptoms, frequency and duration of the seasonal cold and flu. I personally do not ever get the flu vaccine, prevention is best the best medicine- eat “clean” food, sleep well, and reduce stress!

References:

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/12-tips-prevent-colds-flu-1

Do you find yourself feeling more depressed, sluggish and non-motivated year after year during the fall to winter months? If so, you may be experiencing a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that affects roughly 14% of the population. Statistically, as you move further from the equator, the likelihood of an individual to experience SAD increases incrementally, as days become shorter and nights longer.

Typical symptoms of SAD include heightened anxiety, depression, weight gain, increase in appetite, trouble sleeping, loss of energy, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms usually begin at the end of fall, with winter just on the horizon, and tend to dissipate at the start of spring. In my practice, SAD is much more prevalent when it’s the time of year for “trick or treating” or when you have to turn the clock back for daylight savings time, whichever comes first (even in “sunny” Los Angeles, we have mild to moderate cases of SAD).

So if you’re one of the 14% of people in the U.S. suffering from this seasonal slump, what can you do to help yourself feel better during the colder months? While there are several ways to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder, including various medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy, one of my personal favorite ways to reduce SAD symptoms is to use artificial or natural light therapy.

Light therapy involves using light boxes emit a full spectrum of artificial white light in order soothe symptoms of anxiety and insomnia associated with SAD. Sitting or working near such a box can simulate the calming effect of natural, outdoor light. I personally use and recommend the Sun-A-Lux light box. Due to its intensity and effectiveness, only 15 -20 minutes is necessary to enhance your well being, and turn off the pineal gland from secreting excess melatonin. The extra level of melatonin at inappropriate times is what causes you to feel so sluggish and depressed. The light turns off the pineal gland’s function in the morning. Light therapy works best if you use it in the morning to early lunch time. Please do not use it during the night, it will cause insomnia!

In addition to using light therapy, I would recommend spending some time outdoors daily, to help eliminate the winter blues. Half an hour in the morning outside in direct sunlight (not under an umbrella or shade) eating breakfast, drinking tea, reading or taking a short walk, even on a cloudy day, is sometimes just what you need to lift your spirits, and send your SAD packing.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195

http://www.sunalux.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_therapy

sleep insomniaFrom time to time, many of us have trouble falling to sleep. For some, the problem can be chronic and can effect all aspects of our health and wellness, In order to correct this, we have put together a short list of tips and changes for your nighttime regiment to help put an end to those sleepless nights:

  1. Dim your lights at sundown.
    Our natural circadian rhythms are affected by artificial light sources and keep the brain active telling us to “stay awake.”
  2. Turn off the TV.
    Television, the computer and games (video, crossword puzzles, board games, cards, etc.) keep you stimulated and don’t allow you to relax and unwind.
  3. Exercise in the morning.
    This tip will jump start your day, boost your metabolism and energize you for anything that comes your way. On the flip side, working out at night would also give you energy, thus not allowing you to fall asleep easily due to the increase of cortisol production stimulated by vigorous physical activity.
  4. Eliminate any external light and sound sources
    Ambient light, street sounds and lights, loud clocks, electronic devices (tivo, etc.) can emit some form of light and sound that does not allow our bodies to be at rest. Purchase blackout shades for your windows, a mask for your eyes and plugs for your ears. You will get plenty of REM sleep and wake up refreshed and renewed.
  5. Do not consume stimulants after 3pm.
    Avoid alcohol, sugar, coffee, caffeinated beverages, chocolate, etc. These food items are loaded with stimulants and will keep you up and awake. Also, try to avoid eating large meals before bedtime.

Give these tips a try and let us know your results. Please leave a comment at the post below. Sweet dreams and nighty night!