Although living beachfront can contribute to a certain “ocean zen” attitude, there is evidence that suggests the sea breeze does more than make you happy. It can make you healthier, too.
It’s far from a new phenomenon that people who experience difficulty breathing find relief near the ocean. For one, the continuous circulation of air over the water helps dispel air pollution. Wind is not the only reason the air here is better to breathe. The salt in the air relieves the lungs’ air ways.
Salt baths have been used as far back as the Ancient Greeks. For even longer it has been seen as a healthy undertaking. Still today, people are fascinated by the potential benefits. Salt lamps, particularly Himalayan pink salt from Pakistan, have seen a huge rise in popularity. Today they can be found at most retailers.
The theory is that salt changes the charge in the air. When heated, the salt lamp generates negative ions. Negative ions are created when air particles break apart. They are partially the reason the air feels so fresh around waterfalls or after a storm. Stressors like moving air, water, radiation from sunlight, and lightning in nature break up air particles and release negative ions. Breathing in these ions help to increase serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the chemical that makes us feel happy.
Salt lamps also draw water out of the air. Salt lamp owners might notice puddles form around it or that it sometimes appears to cry. This is especially true in humid environments. This use of salt, its ability to draw out water, is also what makes breathing it in ocean breeze quantities so beneficial.
Recently, researchers have been testing how salt water impacts breathing. Different studies have concluded that patients with Cystic Fibrosis, when treated with hypertonic saline, exhibited improvement in lung function. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder that impedes lung function because they are prone to mucus and liquid buildup. The hypertonic saline seemed to thin the mucus.
These tests focused on a population afflicted with a relatively rare disorder. The results are still applicable to larger demographics. Mucus is symptomatic of many respiratory conditions. When it becomes too thick it renders cilia, hair-like formations in the lungs that help prevent mucus from settling, immobile. Hypertonic saline is a cheap and easy way to break up stubborn mucus without damaging tissue.
All of us can benefit from a little salt on the air, though. Even the interaction with pollution in a normal day can strain the respiratory system. Keeping airways clean helps the body to fight off infection. It promotes a sharper mind. Understandably, the body’s ability to take in oxygen is fundamental to overall well-being.
Salty water and salty air have a long history of health benefits. Sometimes the impacts can seem fabled or are deliberately exaggerated to fit a trend. Scientists in the last decade have accumulated convincing evidence that suggests there are indeed health benefits.
We’re not guaranteeing that sea mist is a magic cure-all. But anything that makes you happier for breathing has a spark of the incredible in it.