Many people seek out massage therapists to enhance their well being and help better manage a variety of health issues including anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, depression, digestive disorders, headaches, muscle pain and more.
Because you help people feel better and get healthier, it’s important you understand the role minerals play in keeping the body functioning at its best. Knowing about minerals is an excellent complement to your knowledge about relaxation, exercise, meditation and healthy living.
The combination of massage therapy and optimal mineral levels may enhance the benefits your clients receive from your therapy. It also increases your value as a massage therapist.
A growing body of research from established and credible sources, such as the National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, to name a few, show that minerals, one of the six nutrients our bodies require, play a key role in maintaining a healthy body.
Minerals are important in addressing a wide variety of common, chronic health problems—many of which you, as a massage therapist, also address in your day-to-day work. Let’s look at some of these in more detail.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) affects more than a third of people in the United States. You probably are aware reducing sodium intake can help lower high blood pressure.
However, you may not know a good balance of sodium and potassium may be more effective than reduced sodium consumption alone in reducing blood pressure. Increasing potassium intake while reducing sodium intake may offset the adverse health effects of sodium.
These two minerals act as antagonists, with increased intake of one tending to reduce the amount of the other. Because sodium is often the culprit in high blood pressure, having enough potassium often helps counter the negative effects of the former, which may help improve hypertension.
Studies show the ideal ratio of sodium to potassium should be less than one. Unfortunately, only around 12 percent of the U.S. population has this ratio. And while the American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily intake of 1,500 mg of sodium, many people consume much more than this recommendation.
High levels of potassium are found in figs, dried fruits (prunes and dates), nuts, avocados, potatoes, citrus fruits, bananas and kiwi.
Another important mineral for combatting high blood pressure is magnesium. This well-known and popular mineral is widely touted and promoted for its calming, relaxing properties. Because of this, many people take it regularly to reduce stress and to help them sleep.
A nice bath with magnesium flakes or Epsom salts is also a great way to keep muscles loose and relaxed in the days after a massage.
What is not as well known, however, is this same relaxing property may help treat hypertension by relaxing the arterial walls, which in turn, helps reduce blood pressure.
Food sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables (such as spinach), legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Foods with fiber are also good sources of magnesium, and many cereals are fortified with it.
Depression and Anxiety
Reducing depression and anxiety are two of the more sought-after benefits of massage. But consuming adequate quantities of certain minerals can enhance these benefits.
These minerals, including magnesium, selenium, zinc, manganese and calcium, may help better manage both depression and anxiety. Chromium, iron and copper can also be useful for dealing with depression as well.
Specifically, copper can play a role in battling depression because it is a component of one of the enzymes that helps metabolize the brain chemicals that help the body respond to stress, feel happy and be alert.
Results of supplementing with these minerals under medical supervision have been truly impressive. Several studies, for example, showed rapid recovery from depressive symptoms, including irritability, insomnia and anxiety when study participants took magnesium with each meal and at bedtime.
In fact, one of the symptoms of low magnesium is having anxiety and depression, so it makes sense that addressing this deficiency would improve these issues.
Other studies have shown selenium, a powerful antioxidant, can help improve booth mood and anxiety. It’s been shown people with major depression also have lower levels of zinc in their bodies than those who are not depressed. So, it’s important to get enough zinc in the diet.
Low levels of iron have been shown to result in apathy, depression and fatigue. In fact, many women are depressed during their reproductive years. One reason for this could be they lose iron during menstruation. So, this is something women of childbearing age need to keep in mind.
Minerals can also help with digestive health. The balance of the right minerals is critical for keeping the digestive system healthy. Perhaps the most important mineral for keeping this system healthy and combatting disease is magnesium.
It helps to ensure proper motion of the gut, relaxing the muscles of the intestines so food can pass through.
In fact, not getting enough magnesium is a frequent cause of constipation. This mineral may also help prevent colon cancer.
Headaches and Muscle Pain
Headaches and muscle pain, two other common ailments that can be helped with massage, also respond well to specific minerals. Magnesium, for example, has been shown to help prevent pain receptors in the body from overreacting which, in turn, can both reduce pain and make pain medication more effective.
Another benefit of magnesium is in reducing muscular aches. It is so effective, in fact, that many people use magnesium gels or lotions as a safe alternative to ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Magnesium is also popular for post-workout recovery for athletes who want to reduce muscle soreness time. Magnesium may also help fibromyalgia.
Other minerals that should be in the pain arsenal are potassium, which reduces muscle cramping; zinc, which can impact how pain signals are transmitted through the nervous system; and copper, which some studies indicate can also help with pain.
Test, Don’t Guess
While it may be tempting to believe simply taking mineral supplements will complement or enhance the benefits of a massage, this is not the route to take. Like most things in life, too much of a good thing is just as harmful as too little.
The best thing to do is to test mineral levels. This is because each person is different with different needs. It is also important because symptoms of imbalances or deficiencies can be vague and nonspecific. Only testing can confirm what may be going on.
The best way to do this is to talk with a healthcare provider about getting full-spectrum mineral testing.
Ongoing Education about Mineral Levels and Other Health Issues is Key
It’s amazing to learn about the many ways minerals affect health, even beyond what we’ve just discussed.
People may come to you for a variety of reasons. But without the right nutrition, the full benefit of your work may not be realized.
Minerals affect so many areas of health! Whether avoiding pain, reducing blood pressure, losing weight, having more energy, experiencing better moods or just having a deeper understanding of overall health, minerals are critical nutrients for staying healthy.
About the Author
Joy Stephenson-Laws is the founder of Proactive Health Labs, a national non-profit health information company that provides education and tools needed to achieve optimal health. Her most recent book is Minerals – The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy, available through Amazon, iTunes and bookstores.
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