Health benefits of salt water

By Rebecca Antsis
Staff Writer

Jane Austen raved about it. So did Hippocrates. In 2700 B.C., the Chinese wrote about it. The English, Japanese, Romans and Hungarians even built towns around it. Now, Prescottonians Zachary Dahlmer and West Howland want to submerge entire families in it.

The ancient remedy of saltwater has recently surfaced to improve the health of those afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis.

Although Cystic Fibrosis (CF), harms the entire body, the lungs are particularly affected. Due to a genetic mutation, build-up of mucus in the respiratory system causes lung infections so severe that, in the words of Dahlmer, “By the time they are my age [27], they can’t breathe anymore.”

In 2006, a group of Australian doctors treating CF discovered that a certain population of patients inexplicably experienced decreased severity in their symptoms. The doctors identified among those patients a common activity: surfing.

For their senior project at Prescott College, Dahlmer and Howland plan to work in conjunction with Panacea Adventures, a North Carolina-based adventure school, and create a three-day surfing and sea kayaking workshop designed to introduce teens with CF and their families to the benefits of natural salt water therapies.

“By breathing salt-infused air it allows the body to re-balance…and breakdown mucus build-up in the lungs by coughing it out.” After time out on sea, participants will literally breathe easier.

Besides being effective and accessible, salt water therapies are  also be free. Dunk into any briny body of water and one can reap the benefits. For those afflicted with CF, this relieves the double burden of the disease and the expensive antibiotics.

Since the release of the study in 2006, organizations have been established around the world to provide salt water-based therapies, such as surfing. Despite their success, Howland characterizes those programs “as more promotional than educational.”

Dahlmer added, “They’re doing a lot, raising a ton of money and stuff… They’re getting the kids in the water. But what we’re trying to do is to take that idea and extend it into something more educational, sustainable.”

For Dahlmer, the urge to help those with Cystic Fibrosis is not merely a case of altruism. His nine-year-old relative was diagnosed with the disease from birth. “[He is] just the sweetest kid you ever met.”

No stranger to the sea, as an avid sailor and surfer for more than 16 years, Dahlmer has experienced the ocean’s healing properties firsthand. “I grew up in the ocean. And that has always been my passion…. To find out that something that has been so therapeutic for me just has this physical benefit for this disease, for this kid… I knew I just had to do it, I knew I had to get involved in this.”

Albeit passionate, Dahlmer has realistic ideals. “You know you’re not going to cure them in three days but this workshop can help foster a positive lifestyle that will promote physical health and emotional well-being.”

Dahlmer and Howland will hold a fundraiser at The Raven Cafe to cover expenses for a workshop and the publication of a resource guide.
For more information on Panacea Adventures, please visit For inquiries, to make a donation or to find out more about the upcoming fundraiser, please contact or whowland@prescott edu.

This article appeared in the April 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.

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