Halotherapy, or dry salt therapy, has been consistently recommended to me as part of my ongoing wellness treatment for healing my body from exposure to toxic mold. Both my medical and holistic practitioners have touted the benefits of inhaling the salt vapors and of the salt’s negative ionization effect on the entire body.
(Note: The more negatively charged ions that are in the bloodstream, the more efficient a cell’s metabolic processes. Contrarily, the more positively charged ions, i.e., free radicals from computers, air pollutants, mold, processed foods, etc. there are in the blood, the slower and less efficient a cell’s ability to get rid of waste. An overabundance of free radicals or positively-charged ions causes cells to become weak; therefore, the body will get sick more easily and age faster.)
Because I have been so busy overhauling our home to make it safe for me and my family, I neglected searching for a place to experience halotherapy here in Memphis. Luckily, for me, as soon as things slowed down, I found the Salt Caves at Better Bodies Yoga Studio. When I reached out to the owner, Karen Moss, she was not only happy to have me come in to experience The Salt Caves, but was willing to answer any of my questions.
Now, I’m going to “take you with me” during my experience of halotherapy. I’m also going to let you in on my conversation with Karen, so that you can get an inside look into why dry salt therapy is so helpful for, not only people with upper respiratory issues, like asthma, sinusitis or allergies, but also for chronic inflammatory response syndrome, environmental illness and mold patients, like me. In other words, anyone interested in increasing immune function, resistance to disease, clearing unwanted particles from the respiratory tract, balancing nervous system function, or just in search of a healthy lifestyle can benefit from time spent inhaling the salt vapors.
The Salt Caves are inside a totally separate building, 2 buildings down to be exact, from Karen’s first business, Better Bodies Yoga Studio. The building consists if the “main” salt cave that offers a group experience of halotherapy, a salt therapy yoga studio, where yoga is practiced while the salt vapors are pumped inside the room, and a private salt room (coming soon), complete with a salt bed, where you can actually lay in the salt while inhaling the salt vapors. The salt bed can be angled or inverted, and the room’s privacy can better accommodate people with small children or babies, or those who seek a more solitary experience. The building also houses a beautiful locker room, showers, and a retail area where salt lamps, therapeutic lotions and soaps and other products are sold to complement a regular yoga or halotherapy practice.
When I arrived, I was given a tour of the facility and an explanation of how the halogenerators work to pump the salt vapors into the air to best benefit the clients. Each of the 3 rooms actually has its own halogenerator, so that concentration and saturation of the salt in the air can be managed. Since I was going to experience the main salt cave, I had to put on booties over my shoes and a cover over my hair to protect the salt from contamination. Inside the salt cave are zero gravity chairs, where you can relax and listen to soothing music, sleep, or mediate for the 45 minute session. Once a session begins, the halogenerator is turned on to micronize and disperse medical-grade salt into tiny dry aerosol particles that saturate the air. Once the air is saturated, the room becomes a sterile, allergen-free environment.
It is important that this therapy not be confused with detoxification, though. Detox can be extremely taxing and hard on the body. Toxins are being cleansed from the body’s systems, tissues and organs. Most times, detox requires pacing and medical support to be both safe and effective. Halotherapy is restorative. It supports, rather than depletes the body. The healing properties of salt have been touted since ancient times. In pure form, salt is naturally anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal and has been used for thousands of years to preserve, flavor, and add mineral content to our food supply. Himalayan salt in particular and its rich mineral content—it contains 84 of the minerals that the human body is comprised of—has been explored, because of its proven ability to restore the body at the cellular level.
During my experience, one of the first and most profound things I noticed was the purity and cleansing feeling of each breath. The air in the salt cave is so clean and refreshing that you notice it. The best way that I can describe it is to compare it to standing beneath a waterfall and actually smelling the air as it pounds off of the rocks. It invigorates you and clears your airways and mind. You find yourself consciously breathing and taking deep, restful breaths.
While I was in my session, I actually thought about Dr. Dennis telling his “Ah ha moment” story when he first connected chronic fungal sinusitis with indoor mold. As he tells it, he had a very difficult to treat sinusitis patient, who had undergone multiple sinus surgeries and maximum treatment, but who kept getting sick with sinus infections. Then, one day, the patient came for a routine visit and displayed no sinus symptoms or swelling and was feeling “better than he had felt in a VERY long time.” Nothing had changed in his treatment. When Dr. Dennis dug a little deeper, he discovered that this patient had been at the beach for 2 weeks, away from his home, inhaling the salt air and inadvertently healing his body. It was at this moment that Dr. Dennis realized that environmental triggers, namely mold, played the key part in keeping this patient sick. He realized that he was going to have to start treating the mold both in the patient’s body and inside his home to get him well.
So, why am I thinking of this in my halotherapy session? Well, because the salt air was so incredibly healing and beneficial to this patient’s body at a time when he was very infected and compromised by mold. Many mold patients experience the greatest relief from ALL symptoms in beach environments. This cannot be coincidental. There must be something inherent to the salt spray and air that helps their bodies get a leg up on the mold and that jump-starts and speeds healing.
When I was done with my session, I actually mentioned this story to Anna, the office manager. She smiled and said, “45 minutes in the salt cave have the same healing benefits for your body as 3 days at the beach.”
No kidding. I walked out tasting a little saltiness on my lips and feeling like my entire respiratory system had been made anew. I was eager to talk with Karen to discuss my experience and to get her input.
Me: Could you tell my readers a little about why you were interested in opening the Salt Caves as an additional arm to your yoga studio?
Karen: I only invest in and offer to our patrons services and alternative modalities that I have experienced myself and have found to be beneficial. I wanted to bring the healing benefits to the community and was fortunate to have the means to add this to our offerings.
The two main reasons I sought out dry salt therapy was because I suffer from environmental allergies and chronic sinusitis, which I take sublingual drops for that are as effective as the allergy shots I used to receive. I take multiple antihistamines and use a nasal spray on a daily basis in addition to rinsing my nose with a netipot and salt solution as often as possible to manage my symptoms. I’ve undergone two sinus surgeries, and still suffer from both conditions on a regular basis. In an effort to avoid taking more antibiotics and because regularly rinsing my nose isn’t always possible when trying to teach yoga since water runs unexpectedly out of my nose, I decided to give dry salt therapy a try. I was not expecting to solely use it to manage these symptoms; I was merely trying to find something that would work in conjunction with my regular protocol. Even though I am not inhaling the dry salt as frequently as I would like, sitting in the relaxation room for a 45 minute salt session at least once a week, teaching classes in the yoga salt room at least once a week, and maintaining the halogenerators has helped me tremendously. I have been able to reduce the amount of antihistamines I take and reduce the days I use my nasal spray. I can’t wait to see how much more I will improve when I can get myself in the salt caves consistently.
The second reason I sought dry salt therapy was for an immune condition I suffer from that affects my skin. My condition probably began from an allergic reaction I had in my 30’s to the antibiotics Biaxin and Keflex. I managed to keep the severe rashes at bay over the next decade until my father of blessed memory got cancer when I was 38 years old (now 58). The stress associated with his demise must have sent my immune system plummeting in a downward spiral that weakened my body much more than I realized. I ran the Chicago marathon in memory of my father when I was 41 and came home only to find crazy symptoms happening to me. In a nutshell, I would get a severe rash from being too cold which was termed as Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria. The doctors here wanted to keep me on low doses of steroids, which I would not agree to. I tried the path of holistically altering my diet, taking specific immune supplements from my doctor in California, and acupuncture to control the rashes and itching, none of which helped me enough to continue. I found a doctor at New York University whom I saw two times annually for 8 years who’s protocol was to use high doses of antihistamines, which worked well until my mother passed away in 2006. It was then that I acquired a Vascular Skin Immune Disease that keeps my skin from normal healing. I’ve since been on homeopathic sublingual tablets that control my rashes to a certain extent. Thus, was the second reason I wanted to try halotherapy. I was scratched on my face by one of my Italian Canine Corso dogs over five years ago and the dry salt therapy has helped tremendously to heal my face.
Me: What is your take on halotherapy and its benefits for environmental illness and mold patients?
Karen: I have not researched anything about how dry salt therapy would help people who are suffering from mold, but I know 100% that environmental allergies are greatly helped by it. From hearing about how mold has affected you, I would assume that your symptoms would also be relieved with regular dry salt therapy, because like you stated, the internal therapy and ionic cleansing effects of medical-grade salt work on the systems in the body that you too are affected from.
Me: Do you have many clients with mold or environmental illness?
Karen: Not that I know of, aside from you, however, I think that you are raising awareness about mold and more people are affected by it than we know about. I think that more people will be diagnosed from mold-related illness in the future and should look to your website for symptoms and prevention strategies.
Me: What stories can you tell my readers about clients who have had marked improvement in a chronic issue or ailment from halotherapy sessions?
Karen: Patrons who have positive results from regular dry salt therapy sessions have experienced subtle to dramatic and immediate effects. We have seen both sides of the coin.
Me: Have you seen it dramatically improve anyone’s health?
Karen: One patron who has not been into the studio in about five years ended up in the salt cave one day while I was teaching class. When my class was over the receptionist asked me if I remembered this person and told me how rude and impolite she was when she came into the salt caves, and asked me to please get the group up out of the session that she was in. I opened the door to the salt cave and kept wondering what had happened to this once lovely patron who used to be my student? Why was she so rude now? I went over to her, and she was in disbelief by how she felt. She said that after inhaling the salt, she didn’t have a headache for the first time in several days. She went on to tell me how she had been barely able to walk into the studio due to the sinus headache and pressure she was experiencing, and that the prescription drugs she was on weren’t helping any longer, and she figured she had nothing to lose by coming in. She bought a salt package that day and has continued to come in for sessions as needed.
Me: How regularly do most people need to attend salt sessions to experience results?
Karen: Some patrons come almost daily, others several times per week. It seems that the longer someone has lived with a condition, the longer it takes to get it under control. Everyone is different, and I do not think there is a definitive answer to that question. The other variables involved are things such as the person’s level of stress, their lifestyle, and the amount of sleep they regularly get, just to name a few. All of this affects the rate at which they improve. For example, if someone who has an allergy to smoke comes into the salt cave to get relief and feels better, but then goes back home only to inhale smoke from their significant other, they are not going to make too much progress in cleaning all of the toxins out.
Me: Your facility is absolutely beautiful and meticulously kept. I also observed that no fragrance or chemicals were allowed—which I appreciated, because I am very chemically sensitive.
Karen: As am I. We have several patrons who have COPD. I don’t want to take a chance with their health since scents can be deadly for that population. We are very strict about not letting patrons who smell like smoke, wear perfume, or have other strong scents into the studio by politely and privately asking them to not return until they are scent free. If we lose patrons, so be it, and I am sorry, but I will not sacrifice the health and wellbeing of others or myself because of patrons who are not considerate of others.
Me: The more I write and learn about other people out there who have struggled with conventional medicine, the more I find patients embracing alternative or holistic methods to heal. How do you feel about that?
Karen: I am passionate about passing on the benefits of both modalities, and of course mainly promoting and teaching alternative mind-body-spirit methodology. I have been blessed to work with many messed up people and have seen the profound benefits they have gained from practicing yoga, meditation, acupuncture and breathing, etc. I earned one of my main therapeutic certifications from Duke, because they are in the forefront of using both eastern and western modalities. Western medicine is now recognizing the benefits of eastern thoughts and incorporating alternative therapies into their protocols, instead of fearing they will be put out of business. It’s a wonderful partnership and I believe we need both to make us a whole person.
Me: Do you feel that people are increasingly open to at least trying salt therapy as new modality for wellness?
Karen: Yes, and we get a lot of skeptics who have crossed over to become regular patrons, mainly because there isn’t much one has to do but sit in the salt cave and breathe. There is nothing invasive or physical that has to be done to gain some benefit.
Me: What are 2 things you do on a daily basis to help you lead a healthy life?
Karen: Breathe diaphragmatically, practice what I preach and attempt to get even 5 to 10 minutes of yoga in my life on a daily basis, if I don’t have time for a full practice. I read positive affirmations and put them around in my view to remind me of the gifts of my life. Negativity is not an option. It doesn’t mean I always achieve it; I too have to work hard not to be my worst enemy. I also try to eat healthy foods, not processed foods 90% of the time and allow myself to have my favorite, not so healthy foods in moderation. Too extreme in either direction is not a healthy state of balance in any aspect of our lives, in my opinion.
Me: What is something that you know would benefit your health, but that you have not been able to try or implement yet? For example, mine would be getting more sleep and used to be halotherapy.
Karen: Definitely more sleep would be helpful, as there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to complete my to-do list. A regular yoga practice has had a profound and transformational effect on me. I recommend it to anyone who can breathe, which is all that is required to practice. Spending time alone and making time for self study and introspection without the distraction of the computer, cell phones, electronics, or in the company of others is one of the most important things a human can do for themselves. Learn to be still and quiet in both the body and mind and to be at ease in one’s own body. If we can’t get to know ourselves, our likes and dislikes, then we will not be able to have a harmonious relationship with ourselves or with others.
If you are in Memphis and interested in The Salt Caves, call 901-767-YOGA (9642) to schedule a session.