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Massage Today
April, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 04

The Danger of Hidden Toxins

By Ann Brown, LMT

As a massage therapist, your job is hands-on wellness. Every client that comes to your massage table wants to feel better, and as a massage therapist, you are trained to use your time with that client to their benefit. If you do your job well, that client will want to come back, but there is always competition ready to turn your client's head. You have to be different – better in a memorable way – than your competition.

As you consider how you develop your brand and what you are known for in your client's mind, think about how the wellness service you offer can go beyond the massage table. Think about how your focus on holistic, natural health can help your client to lead a life of wellness. Sharing knowledge of how to lead a cleaner, non-polluted life at home will give added benefit to your client and may be the differentiator you need to build even tighter guest loyalty and more repeat business.

Hidden Dangers

When the client comes to the massage table, you connect with the guest through the skin, the body's largest organ. The strokes and techniques you apply may provide immediate relief and lingering benefits, but what happens after the massage session is over? Do you ask your client about what is coming into contact with his or her skin? Many hidden toxins linger in everyday products. By educating yourself on research and risks, you can share valuable information on how to avoid toxicity with your clients who seek a higher level of wellness.

poison - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The quality of drinking water is a common concern, and you may already be using a filter to eliminate pathogens or contaminants. Your bathing water, however, may also have a negative impact on your health. A chemical commonly used to disinfect public water supply, chlorine reduces the level of pathogenic bacteria in the water we drink, but it may also damage beneficial bacteria in our bodies. Several studies connect chlorinated drinking water with toxicity issues. According to Chris Kresser, an internationally known integrative medicine practitioner, chlorine in your water supply can combine with organic matter to form compounds called trihalomethanes (THMs), also known as disinfectant byproducts. A common THM, chloroform is a known carcinogen. THMs are toxic when consumed, inhaled, or applied to the skin.

Several studies of communities with chlorinated drinking water show concerning results, such as increased risk of bladder, kidney and rectal problems, poor birth outcomes, spontaneous abortion, birth defects and low birth weight, among others. More studies are needed to provide substantial research, but Kresser argues that it is reasonable to assume a harmful relationship between chlorinated water and beneficial intestinal flora. For example, a strong connection exists between asthma, acne, autoimmune disorders and the health of our intestinal flora.

While you may try to protect yourself with filtered water, your daily shower or bath may be allowing the chlorinated water to adversely affect your body's systems via skin absorption. Kresser cites studies from Rutgers University and Kyungpook National University in South Korea to provide supporting evidence that the health risks of chlorine may be related to dermal and inhalation exposure. A single, 10-minute shower equates on average to ingesting two liters of water. Chlorine-filtering shower heads and bath filters will remover chlorine from your water, but be aware that another toxin, chloramine, may not completely be removed by such a filter. Very potentially damaging to the lungs, chloramine may also release ammonia. Whole house water filters address chlorine, chloramine and other toxins, or look for a Vitamin C shower filter – an effective and inexpensive way to remove up to 99 percent of the chlorine and chloramine in your water.

Educating Your Clients

Suggest that your clients check with their local water supply company and ask about the disinfecting agents used in the community water supply. Advise them to pay attention to the toxins that may be entering their bodies via skin absorption and to limit their chlorine and chloramine exposure.

Laundry detergent is also another very common and hidden source of toxicity for many households. A 2008 University of Washington study found that 99 percent of laundry detergents released cancer-causing chemicals – substances deemed as hazardous and toxic by the Environmental Protection Agency. Among the most damaging of these chemicals, nonylphenol ethoxylate is also used as an ingredient in pesticides and, through your skin, can enter your blood stream and cause serious damage to heart and muscle function.

Formaldehyde is also a cancer-causing ingredient found in many detergents and those pleasant fragrances many consumers enjoy are phthalates, which can build up in your skin and body. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, phthalates are linked to liver cancer. In addition, the chemicals in laundry detergents may damage your reproductive systems and interfere with your hormones.

You can find simple recipes for homemade laundry detergents on the web (check out www.motherearthliving.com, for example). Making your own detergent saves money, the environment and your health. Make up a batch and give small packets of the powder to your clients as a gift, reinforcing your dedication to their health and your expertise as a wellness provider.

More studies are needed on the subject of toxins in our water and common household products, but based on what we do know, it is wise to protect ourselves from toxicity risks as much as possible. Share your own passion for natural, toxic-free living with your clients and solidify your position as a true wellness provider in their minds.


Ann Brown, a licensed massage therapist, is a member of the International Spa Association's board of directors and serves as spa director at Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Mo. She also provides management consulting services through Spa Insight Consulting.

 

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