Halotherapy: Is it worth it’s weight in salt?

There are halotherapy centers cropping up all over the US and EU. I had been asked about the effectiveness of these centers in casual conversation, had no idea what it was, and honestly never gave the topic a passing thought….until I passed one in a strip mall in Florida. The sign outside the center offered that it could fix just about every respiratory and skin ailment one could dream of having: asthma, headaches, allergies, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Flu, smokers cough, chronic bronchitis, psoriasis, eczema….and the list goes on! But does it work or is it just a trend?

What is halotherapy?

Halotherapy is a type of alternative therapy, in which you go into dry salt mines (or a replicated version of a dry salt mine from the EU) and breathe in the air around you which is a microclimate of a salt aerosol treatment. It is claimed that the created climate with the correct amount of humidity and salt in the air, can not only cleanse your respiratory tract but also your skin and help to basically detoxify you.

halotherapyDoes it work?

People with cystic fibrosis, who get significant build up of mucous in their lungs, do very well, when medically treated, with high salt concentration nebulizers. A nebulizer treatment is basically when you create an aerosol treatment out of oxygen flow and a treatment fluid of your choice, and for cystic fibrosis patients, some very strong studies have shown an improved lung function after these treatments….in hospitals.  Also, patients that are smokers, with smokers “coughs” have been found to have relief of their coughs, temporarily and a decrease in mucous production, with high salt aerosol treatments, in a hospital setting. Basically inhaling the high salt treatments, dries out your lungs and mucous production decreases.  It is probably a very similar experience to people who live in humid climates go to a desert or somewhere with minimal humidity; breathing feels SO much easier if you have a chronic lung disease (I have asthma and can speak from experience on this end!)

What’s the verdict?

Much like many new alternative treatments, halotherapy has not directly been studied, but because these treatments have been successful with certain subsets of patients, the assumption is that it will work on many more patients, diseases, disorders, etc. People who regularly go for halotherapy treatments seem to report feeling better and they obviously return for treatment.  And halotherapy centers like to point out that they are wellness centers aimed at helping people lead healthier lives, which I can totally be on board with, and if you are someone who has quit smoking but can’t get rid of that cough, or has some sort lung disease where you have an overproduction of mucous, it may be worth a shot.  That being said, you should see your HCP if you have symptoms (such as a chronic cough or mucous production that are not going away) because it may be something serious, but if you want to alleviate symptoms, at this point, I do not see it doing any harm….it just might not help you a whole lot and cost you a few $.  My biggest fear would be sick people coming into this humidified air to cure their bronchitis (or whatever issue they have) and spreading it to others, but you would have to check out the halotherapy center nearest you and see if you are solo in treatment or with others, and how they prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria in their microclimate.  Use your best judgement, and be sure to tell your HCP if you are using this alternative therapy….then maybe we can get some real research on it!

Yours in Good Health


Breathe Better in 2013

I know smokers hear a mouthful from us non-smokers all the time, between the dirty looks, the coughing as we walk by, the comments that people feel the need to shout out….I get it, it’s annoying, but your habit of smoking, affects us non-smokers! We are exposed to the carcinogens that you are burning, inhaling, and then exhaling into airspace that we are also using. It seems trite, I totally get that, but you are not only exposing me as an adult, but children, animals, and other innocent people who may already have some health issues (think about a child with asthma; they should be able to walk down the street without having an increased risk of an asthma attack because someone is smoking near them).  But it’s a new year, and a great time to make a commitment to yourself and to better health! If you won’t quit for anyone else, quit for you!

Why should I quit? 

-443,000 people die a year from smoking related deaths, which is more deaths than from suicide, alcohol, illegal drugs, motor vehicle accidents, and murders combined!!!

– It increases your risk of lung cancer by 23 times (versus non-smokers)

– Heart disease and stroke risk increases by 2 to 4 times

– Increases you risk for other cancers: oral, larynx, skin, gums, cervix, bladder, kidneys, pancreas, stomach, esophagus….among others

– And specifically for women, smoking can cause: low weight births, stillborn births, infertility, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

AND, in case no one else has noticed, tobacco products are EXPENSIVE!!  I couldn’t afford to smoke a pack or more a day.










What are the immediate benefits of quitting?

Within 12 hours of quitting, your blood oxygen levels increase back to a “normal” (pre-smoking) baseline and your carbon monoxide levels drop down to normal.

In 24 hours your chemical withdrawal symptoms will start (and will peak in 72 hours.)

Within 48 hours your nerves that have been damaged will reverse, and your sense of smell and taste will start to return.

Within 2 weeks your anxiety levels reduce (anxiety will be higher right after you quit in a response to stopping nicotine) and your blood circulation has restored to your gums and teeth.

At around 8 weeks, your risk of heart attack/disease starts to decrease significantly, and your lungs start to work better and more efficiently.

After 1 year of quitting, your risk of heart attack and stroke are at around 1/2 the risk of a smoker, and when you reach that 5 year milestone your risks are that of a non-smoker!!

The effects reverse, and your body starts feeling better so quickly after you quit, you just have to get through the cravings!

How do I quit?

Quit with a friend/buddy/significant other: it makes it easier if you keep each other in check. Or get support from help groups (1-800-QUIT-NOW, for teens Smokefree Teens, and women Smokefree Women) that can coach you through cravings, or talk to you about what you might be feeling every time you reach for that lighter and that pack of smokes.

Use nicotine replacement gum, inhalers, patches, etc and slowly wean yourself off of the nicotine so you just have to deal with changing your behavioral patterns, not the physical chemical cravings. There are also some medications and other treatments your Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) can prescribe for you, but there are quite a few side effects so you should be under the care of an HCP if you choose to take that route.

Make some lifestyle changes (just like when you are trying to lose weight) that you can stick with.  If you normally smoke when you drive to work, change routes. If you light up after dinner, go for a walk, get up and do something active that will change your “smokers routine”.  If you smoke when you hang out with certain people, don’t hang out with them for a while. I am NOT saying that it is easy, but it is hard work that you are putting in to make yourself healthier, and to live a life free of disease.  Life is hard enough, why add medical issues that you don’t need/want to deal with? And, again….the cost just blows my mind; wouldn’t you rather buy something cool that you’ve coveted with the money you save from not smoking??

Talk to your HCP, get a baseline physical, and then a year after your successful cessation of tobacco use, and you will see a HUGE difference in your health, all for the positive.

Yours in Good Health