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I was recently asked by a client for my opinion regarding a system she had heard about from another health practitioner that involves ingesting a combination of certain essential oils along with sea salt to in order to balance minerals in the body to resolve hormonal issues. I’d like to offer my thoughts on this particular system as well as generally on any “one size fits all” type of approach to resolving a health concern.

Putting on my nutrition therapy practitioner hat, let’s start with the approach of using essential oils and sea salt to balance minerals and ultimately hormone function. There are a number of factors to consider in this equation. First of all, mineral balance, specifically when it comes to calcium, is a game of co-factors. Most people get sufficient calcium in the diet (even in cases where the diet is not optimal). However, we need the proper cofactors to digest this calcium and utilize it properly in the body. Although there are a number of important cofactors, possibly the most important of these is digestion. We could be eating the healthiest foods in the world but if we are not properly digesting and absorbing the nutrients from these foods, mineral absorption will also be insufficient. Another basic yet very important cofactor is sufficient hydration. Drinking enough pure water is critical to giving the body a means to transport nutrients, including minerals in and out of the cells and body tissue. Many, many people do not drink nearly enough water, which not only impacts mineral status, but also impacts a whole host of other important processes in the body. As a rule of thumb, we need to be drinking at least our body weight divided by two in terms of number of total fluid ounces of water each day. We cap this number at 100 fluid ounces, and this would be the mark for anyone weighing 200 pounds or more.

Secondly, while certain essential oils such as oil of oregano have been traditionally ingested to support the body in killing off pathogens (viruses, bacteria, yeast, parasites), the therapeutic use of most essential oils was limited to topically or aromatically. Essential oils are not only extremely concentrated, but it is also important to know that many of the essential oils found at the local supermarket or health food store are diluted with carrier oils of questionable purity. This brings up an entirely separate topic of how important it is to know the quality, purity and processing methods of the oils we ingest for cooking or otherwise that I won’t take the time to go into here. However, suffice it to say that ingesting impure and rancid oils can cause damage and irritation to our body’s cells and tissues. Even if the oil is of high quality and is combined with a pure carrier oil that is safe to consume, I would still be cautious as, compared to medicinal herbs, traditional cultures did not appear to ingest essential oils for therapeutic purposes. In terms of modern research as well, much has been studied on the aromatic benefits of essential oils but the jury is out on the safety of consuming essential oils.

Thirdly, although some of the plant components of certain oils like cinnamon, support the body through actions like helping to regulate blood sugar, and sea salt contributes a number of beneficial trace minerals, optimal mineral balance comes with addressing other health foundations first, namely digestion, blood sugar regulation, adrenal functioning, and essential fatty acid levels. If there is dysregulation in the body in any of these areas, especially digestion, it will be very difficult to achieve optimal mineral levels. Taking this one step further, healthy hormone function depends not only on optimal mineral balance in the body, but again, on proper digestion, sugar handling, adrenal function, vitamin needs, pituitary and thyroid function. Any one or a combination of these areas may need to be addressed in order to support healthy hormone function.

This brings me to my next point about a “one size fits all approach.” Nutrition therapy and Chinese medicine recognize bio-individuality. This means that there is no one universal approach to restoring a particular health imbalance. Using hormone function as an example, in nutrition therapy, one person might express blood sugar regulation and adrenal functioning as priorities to be addressed first in order to restore balance, while in another person it might be digestion and nutrient absorption. Using essential oils and sea salt as a starting point to address hormone regulation in both of these cases is not likely to yield a good result as these are not optimal tools to support digestion and adrenal functioning. The beauty of an approach that combines the analytical thinking skills and nutritional knowledge of the practitioner in evaluating a client’s symptom presentation and dietary habits with an evaluation that taps directly into the innate wisdom of the body is that it offers a unique, customizable and unequivocal plan to support the body that is directly tied to and verified by the body’s unique expression of what it needs for support.

If nothing else, I try to encourage all of the clients I work with to become healthy skeptics and critical thinkers when considering any one stock approach, protocol or methodology that doesn’t allow for individual consideration and flexibility, no matter which condition or area of health they are seeking treatment in. This individual expression of imbalance in health and the ability to use adaptive evaluation methods to achieve a unique plan of treatment are characteristics underlying any credible traditional health approach and most definitely still hold true today.

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