Hydro Healing a Sea Change

Georgie Gordon reveals the healing power of the ocean. Not only is it good for the soul, it’s a food source rich in vitamins and minerals, soak it up!

February 27, 2019
Rebecca Murphy

Rebecca Murphy

February 27, 2019

The sea has been recognised for its mysterious healing benefits long before 16th century physicians recommended a dip in the cold ocean as a remedy for ailments varying from melancholy to contracting tumours. Classical texts of Hippocrates and Celsus reveal the custom of drinking seawater for health, a practise that was revived by 18th century doctors to treat leprosy.

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way from drinking pints of seawater but what do we know about the ocean’s power to heal? There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of how a surf or a dip in the ocean goes beyond the invigorating and restorative effects of cold sea water. Australian musician and surfer Xavier Rudd said “For me, surfing is as close a connection I can have with Mother Nature. To surf, you’re riding a pulse of energy from Mother Nature. And it’s strong. It’s real. It’s there. And you’re dancing with that. You’re connecting with that. You might be the only person in the history of the universe that connects with that particular pulse of energy.”

In addition to wellness advocates professing a multitude oceanic benefits, scientists have been studying it for centuries and the results are far reaching. From why a beach environment alleviates stress to the ‘food as medicine’ healing properties of marine life, we are slowly unlocking the secrets of the sea.

Meditative benefits

Just by being in (or on) the ocean, swimming, water-skiing, surfing or even diving, you are doing yourself a favour. Exercise is the first step to optimal health, but the ocean can lead us to better mental health too.

Lapping waves, soaring skies and the fresh smell of salt water, it’s no wonder the beach is a popular place to clear one’s head, however, it seems there is a bit more to it. Recent studies show that being by the coast can have a profound impact on our brain and mental health.

The repeated crashing of waves has a meditative effect, the white noise of which people try to replicate in deprivation floats and play to newborn babies to get them to sleep. Orfeu Buxton an associate professor in biobehavioural health at Pennsylvania State University says the slow whooshing noises calm people as our brains interpret these sounds as non-threatening, and the state this induces allows our brains to heal and strengthen.

Also, studies show when we are exposed to certain colours they can have different psychological, emotional and physical effects. Blue, the colour of the ocean, has a particularly calming effect. According to some clinical psychologists staring at the ocean can actually change the frequency of our brain waves and put us into a mild meditative state.

A rich source of vitamins

Then there’s the negative ions. Salty sea air is made up of oxygen ions with an extra electron attached from the water molecules and they can have a profound effect on our state of mind. In 1932 American researcher Dr Clarence Hansell documented that negative ions made his colleagues’ mood upbeat and, conversely, positive ions promoted malaise. Since then many studies have been conducted, particularly around SAD (seasonal affective disorder) proving a positive outcome on the brain.

Another way the ocean can boost our health is by eating from the rich and varied menu of marine life. We know that fish is exceptionally good for us. Not only is it an important source of protein, it is packed with essential fatty acids in the form of omega 3 oils – crucial for body and brain function and strongly linked to the reduced risk of many diseases. Fish is also rich in vitamins D and B2 and a good source of calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

And not forgetting the ocean’s plant life, kelp is one of the most nutrient dense foods available to us. Naturally high in antioxidants which help fight disease causing free radicals it is also a veritable multi-vitamin with A, B1, C, D, E to name but a few. The myriad health benefits of sea vegetables include anti-inflammatory properties, virus protection, blood clot reduction and blood sugar regulation.

So, however you choose to harness the ocean’s positive health benefits: swimming or surfing in it; taking advantage of the calming nature of the sea; or committing to more seafood in your diet, you’ll be feeling and looking better for it. Just don’t drink the sea water.

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