Vitamin Sea: Well Being and Vitality
“The sea doth wash away all human ills” - Euripides, 480 B.C.
Throughout history, civilizations have found comfort in the sea. Seawater soaks and marine plants have been regarded as mentally and physically healing by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, just to name a few. You may have even heard about people bathing in the Dead Sea. There are varying dates and locations stating to be the origin of thalassotherapy, but the effects are similar regardless - heated seawater allows for minerals to easily pass through the skin barrier, and provides a healing benefit in one way or another.
The term thalassotherapy itself was first coined in the late 1800’s by Dr La Bonnardière, and was further popularized in 1899 when the first thalassotherapy center opened in Brittany, France. Thalassotherapy is the practice of using seawater and marine substances in a medically supervised environment as a form of health care. A thalasso center is similar to a spa in that it focuses on beautification as well as healing, while only using marine products, such as Phytomer. Thalassotherapy centers will provide varying treatment options, from targeting cellulite and weight loss, to programs for new mothers and anti-stress.
France has a long history of researching the healing properties of water, so it is no wonder that even today the country incorporates this practice into their daily lives. For example, the French healthcare system covers a portion of medical care when attending thalasso centers, giving credibility to this natural approach. I bring this up in order to demonstrate how routine this practice has become in different parts of the world. Because of the ideal conditions for thalassotherapy centers, it is no surprise that Phytomer started in the famous Emerald Coast of Brittany, France. Regardless of where the practice began, modern thalassotherapy was developed in France.
“The living organism is a sea aquarium in which a few billion cells are bathing” - René Quinton
Thalassotherapy’s conception started when French physiologist René Quinton proved that seawater contains all naturally occurring trace elements and minerals. This discovery was further developed in the 20th century when scientific studies were able to prove sea water’s effective therapeutic qualities.
Did you know? The only other fluid with all natural trace minerals is our blood plasma. The quantities of elements and density of blood plasma is nearly identical to seawater.
This is just one of the reasons why Phytomer has invested 50 years into marine biotechnology. A series of studies carried out by René Quinton in the 1800s proved that the blood of a mammal could be replaced with seawater without consequence. Another paper concluded that since “seawater is so close to our bodies’ internal environment” that white blood cells could maintain normal cell function for up to five weeks after being removed from the body and placed in a sterile seawater solution. This paper also noted that this is the only solvent that will accommodate continued cellular activity. Further development occurred in 2008, when a study on patients with fibromyalgia found aerobic exercises done in seawater decreased muscle pain and improved overall health and emotional wellbeing. This supports the fact that seawater is more beneficial than fresh water, regardless of temperature.
There is a caveat to using seawater for thalassotherapy though; not all seawater is created equal. Thalassotherapy requires unpolluted seawater (which contains antibacterial plant life) in order to benefit the skin. The body is able to absorb the warm seawater with its living organisms, minerals and trace elements via osmosis. I will go more into depth on the effect these minerals have inside the body in the next section.
This seawater must be drawn up from over 40 feet offshore and at least 40 feet deep in order to ensure its purity. Then, the water must be used within 48 hours in order to utilize the microorganisms. These factors are one of the reasons why there are so few thalassotherapy centers in America - the waters are just too polluted to use widely. But, there are still resources for utilizing powerful marine remineralization! The negative ions in Phytomer’s Marine Mist replicates sea spray to alleviate respiratory disorders and reduce stress, which you can use on-the-go and anytime - regardless of how far from the ocean you are!
Once the pure seawater is siphoned to the centers, it is heated between 96 to 98 degrees fahrenheit (34-35 degrees celsius). At a similar heat to our body, seawater is better able to pass through our skin than using cold seawater or freshwater. For example, a 20 minute soak in heated seawater provides the body with minerals equivalent to a 10-hour seawater soak at a natural ocean temperature. This is because the minerals become negatively charged, which amplifies the attraction to our positively-charged skin.
Our body is made up of cells. These cells need energy in order to live and carry out tasks. Studies have shown that trace minerals and elements kick start the majority of our body’s tasks (chemical reactions). There are a variety of steps involved for each chemical reaction to occur, but the basic process is as follows:
- A catalyst is needed to signal a specific enzyme to activate
- An enzyme causes a chemical reaction to occur, cell activity occurs
Seawater has been found to contain a perfectly balanced amount of trace elements and minerals responsible for activating cell activity in our body. Increasing cell activity is beneficial in reducing fatigue and insomnia, as well as increasing metabolism and microcirculation to name a few. In addition to cell energy, both seawater and thalassotherapy stimulate the body's blood cell production and blood circulation. This not only reduces inflammation, but also quickly moves toxins into the lymphatic system. We will have a post dedicated to the lymphatic system, but for now just know that this is an incredibly important process that helps clean out our body. Stagnant cells increase the likelihood of imbalances in the body, because cellular energy is used to expel waste and toxins processed through our metabolism. The benefit of absorbing minerals directly through your skin is that they are immediately transported to the bloodstream, and can avoid the complex digestive system entirely.
A stay at a thalassotherapy center can range from a single day to a two-week vacation. All client visits are treated as healing outings, and thus everyone is given a specialized treatment schedule to best suit their needs. Hours of treatments are organized with breaks between them so minerals can get to where they need to go (aka the bloodstream).
Thalassotherapy centers are not just oases, they are feats of engineering. Bellini’s recently traveled to Saint-Malo and Dinard, France, to visit several thalassotherapy centers. Underlying each center are separate plumbing systems pumping seawater into the spa (see figure 1.1 below). From there, seawater is heated to varying temperatures and distributed to numerous rooms. For example, Saint-Malo has 60 separate rooms that focus on any number of treatments – from mud and seaweed wraps to vichy showers.
We honor this practice at Bellini's by providing a seaweed detox for the spine. Our Seaflexology is a hand-mixed Phytomer seaweed mask applied to your back during a facial. Once applied to the skin, it immediately begins to bubble and react. The chemical reaction begins to heat up your skin and seaweed, and toxins are pulled from your body over the 90-minute facial. Afterwards, our clients report much less pain in their backs, if any at all.
Before clients can enter the facility, they must clean themselves in a separate seawater shower and footbath in order to remove any possibility of contamination. Saint-Malo’s Aquatonic course features 14 separate areas of seawater at varying temperatures. One of our favorites was section 2, which features a river rock texture on the floor of a curvy pool. The water is pushing against you while you walk through and strengthens your feet and leg muscles. The water in these centers is changed out daily if not hourly. Most thalassotherapy centers also have a large central pool filled with heated seawater that can be used for aquatic exercise as well as relaxation.
A key differentiation between a thalassotherapy center and a jacuzzi is that jacuzzi jets push out air, as opposed to water, which does not create the same result. Water jets not only massage the muscles, but can also reduce cellulite and tone the lymphatic system.
The large aquatic course rooms feature a variety of jets, obstacles, and temperatures to experience. Some of the features can include tall, swan neck jets that tower above you and pour heated seawater onto your shoulders. The pressure and pounding water relaxes the muscles, and the skin absorbs the minerals. Another area may include stone seats submerged in water with an intricate grid of water jets. The hydromassage jets are programmed to dispense seawater at varying pressures depending on the location of the back and height of the client.
Even if you can't travel to France for your thalassotherapy (we wish we could, too), you can experience this treatment from the comfort of your own home! Phytomer's seawater concentrate Oligomer Pur is freeze dried sea minerals that you can use to relax in a bath. If you don't have a bath, you can also use the Oligomer for foot baths! Each sachet will get you three to four foot baths, so can be easily incorporated into your week as self care.