Thursday, November 24, 2011

Health Benefits of Cold Showers

We all look for miracles. We all want to live and die healthy. We know that alternative medicine exists, but we do not trust it. When we are sick we go to the doctor.

But, there are sometimes amazing findings that can change your life with simple, easy to do, and powerful tricks. All people are different, and there are no solutions, which fit all. But if you are open to new discoveries, and you try, eventually you will find your keys to the happy and healthy life.

Gwendolyn Witherspoon, 54, of Baltimore, came across her stay-healthy secret—an icy shower—during a power outage. “I felt great afterward,” she says. A year later, she says her chilly regimen keeps her cold-free, her skin glowing, and her energy level higher than ever.

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I am not sure how about you, but cold showers for me were associated with lack of the proper industrial infrastructure in one of the socialist countries I was born, when frequently during the winter, the hot water supply has been interrupted, and taking a shower became a problem.

While we are considering the older people well-being, cold is considered as enemy with no significant relation in what country they live.

British professor Keatinge has for many years been studying the increase in deaths in UK during the winter. He has shown that some 30,000 people in Britain die each winter as a result of exposure to cold. These are mostly older people who go outdoors wearing insufficient clothing during cold weather when they may, for example, have to wait in the cold at a bus stop.

So, what we are talking about? Voluntary taking unpleasant and dangerous for health cold showers for the elderly people? Yes, to my surprise, there is significant amount of the data, suggesting that the cold showers can be considered as one of the best anti-aging solutions, which came to the modern people through the ages. As you understand, the history of the heated water in the humankind scale is quite short.

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Recent History

In the 1820s, a German farmer named Vincenz Priessnitz started touting a new medical treatment called “hydrotherapy,” which used cold water to cure everything from broken bones to erectile dysfunction. He turned his family’s homestead into a sanitarium, and patients flocked to it in the hope that his cold water cure could help them. Among his clientele were dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, and a few princesses to boot.

Priessnitz’s hydrotherapy soon spread to the rest of Europe and eventually to the United States. Celebrities and other famous folks took to it, like, well, a duck to water and helped popularize the cold water cure with the masses. For example, Charles Darwin was a huge proponent of hydrotherapy. The first hydrotherapy facility opened up in the U.S in 1843, right when the sanitarium craze hit America. By the end of the 19th century, over 200 hydrotherapy/sanitarium resorts existed in the U.S., the most famous being the Battle Creek Sanitarium founded by John Harvey Kellogg.

The popularity of hydrotherapy began to decline in the 20th century as many in the medical field moved to drugs to treat illnesses. As doctors concentrated on conventional medicine, more holistic methods began to be seen as quackery. While hydrotherapy was prescribed less and less to cure illnesses, doctors continued to use it to treat injuries such as strained muscles and broken bones. You’ll find athletes today taking ice baths to speed their recovery from injuries and intense workouts.

How it works?

As the temperature of a human body drops below the level required for health, various reactions occur to protect the core--that is, the abdominal organs and brain--from damage, even at the expense of the extremities. The brain is literally insulated against extreme cold, and it will begin to suffer symptoms of damage only at the point of advanced hypothermia, long after muscular symptoms such as shivering first appear. This assumes that the core temperature is not dropping very rapidly, as when a person is submerged in cold water.

The average healthy temperature of a human body is 36.1 to 37.5° C, or 96.9 to 99.5° F. Hypothermia is defined as any temperature below 35° C or 96° F. This is the beginning of stage 1 hypothermia. Brain function becomes noticeably impaired only during stage 2, which begins at around 33°C or 93°F. The person may exhibit confusion. Many of the symptoms, which may appear as potentially neurological (including lack of coordination, stumbling and labored speech) are in fact muscular in nature. As part of the body's effort to protect the internal organs, the vasomotor response constricts blood vessels in and near the skin. Consequently, the individual’s hands, face, and legs lose function, although the brain is largely unaffected.

Temperature jolts to brain may have a similar effect as the phenomenon of homeopathy, whereby small doses of something harmful may actually promote healing by stimulating the body’s repair and recovery systems.

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Therapeutic benefits of Cold Showers

Based on the multiple studies results, cold showers tout an impressive list of benefits, including:
  • Enhanced Immune Function. According to a study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, individuals who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to individuals who took hot showers. Researchers believe that the increased metabolic rate, which results from the body’s attempt to warm itself up, activates the immune system and releases more white blood cells in response. Cold water therapy has been shown to increase levels not only white blood cells but also cytokines in the body - two key players for fighting disease, infection, and inflammation.
  • Improved Mood. Your skin has far more cold receptors than it does heat receptors. So when doused with cold water, your brain receives a surge of impulses so strong, that many scientists liken it to old-school electroshock therapy. This, in turn, triggers a release of mood-lifting endorphins, including noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter considered crucial for battling depression. Aside from boosting your mood and energy, cold showers are said to clear the aura, revitalize one’s chakras, and were used by samurai warriors to cleanse the spirit.
  • Rejuvenated Skin. Unlike hot water, cold water preserves your body’s natural oils, preventing dryness, protecting your skin, and helping your body regulate oil production. Cool water also closes and tightens your pores, constricts capillaries to reduce under-eye bags, and reduces inflammation.  Finally, a free anti-aging technique!
  • Benefits Hair. Cold water seals your hair’s cuticles, making it stronger and shinier.
  • Increased Fertility in Men. We know that keeping the testes cool is crucial for fertility – that’s why testicles are located outside of the body. Not surprisingly, research shows that switching from hot showers to cool dramatically increases sperm count and mobility. Cold showers are also said to increase testosterone production in men.
  • Better Circulation. By increasing blood flow throughout the body, cold showers boost oxygenation of vital organs, work to strengthen the vascular system, and encourage detoxification.
  • Detoxification. Contracts the muscles to eliminate toxins and poisonous wastes.
  • Strengthening membranes. Strengthens the mucous membranes, which help resist hay fever, allergies, colds, coughs.

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Precautions and Guidelines

As for all therapies, the precondition is “first, do no harm”. Following these guidelines will help you receive maximal benefit from cold water therapy and avoid adverse effects. If you have specific health conditions, please consult with your primary physician to ensure safe application of the new procedure. 

  • When you exercise, you probably notice a point where you feel satisfied with your workout. Up to a point, exercising leaves us feeling energized throughout the day. But if overdone, it can cause persistent feelings of exhaustion and lethargy. Cold showers are the same way; a quick, cold shower should leave you feeling invigorated. But, too long and cold of a shower can leave one feeling chilled and sluggish. Always calibrate your application to invigorate, but not freeze yourself. Never force yourself to continue the procedure, if your body does not feel like it. In this case, longer does not mean more health benefits.
  • You do not want to overstress your system with excessively cold water. Sebastion Kneipp, one of the founders of naturopathic medicine, utilized water anywhere from 50 °F to 68 °F. However, note that a shower can feel colder than its actual temperature.
  • The proposed treatment procedure would last several weeks to several months. It would consist of one or two cold showers a day at 20 ° C (68 ° F) for 2 to 3 minutes, proceeded by a 5 minute gradual adaptation to lessen the shock.
  • Many practitioners recommend 2 or more cold showers a day. This is particularly essential if you are working on shifting a physical or emotional problem. The majority recommend at least 3 a day. First thing in the morning, when you get home from work and before you go to bed. Other therapists suggest that for some people cold shower and other water procedures y not be suitable immediately before bedtime and just after awakening. For these people, they are commended during the day, when the body is active. The reason is that cold water quickly affects the central nervous system, eliminating fatigue so these people will have difficulties to fall asleep.
  • Shower in cold water until your body temperature rises and no longer feels cold, but toasty and warm. Make sure the bathroom is heated. Never get out of a cold shower into a cold room.
  • If you find it difficult to start with the recommended procedure, start small and gradually work up to the recommended procedure duration of 2 minutes. Start with 15 – 30 seconds, and begin with your feet then move to your knees and legs. Gradually introduce the cold water to all parts of your body.  Some practitioners say it’s not absolutely necessary to get your head wet, just your face and back of neck (an important energy location).
  • Little and often is far more effective than eight minutes at once. Be mindful if you are feeling weak, listen to your body and start with small steps.
  • If you are not healthy, try progressively splashing water onto the body, or just applying cold water to one body part. Those susceptible to heart attacks should know that cold water can exacerbate stress on the heart, much like heavy exercise, and could potentially trigger heart attack or stroke. Only a doctor can say whether cold showers are compatible with your particular physiology.
  • Cold showers are not recommended for men immediately after ejaculation. At the moment, the male body is focused on making new sperm cells and semen, so cold showers can be a bit too stressful.
  • One more potential restriction is related to the people with eating disorders and substantially underweight. This usually goes along with having a low body temperature and a general metabolic weakness which might prevent your body from generating enough heat to withstand the cold temperatures.
  • Cold showers may be dangerous immediately after a vigorous workout. It is better to start with hot and finish with cold to avoid muscle cramping.
  • If you use contrast shower (cold-warm-cold-warm…), always finish with cold water. In general, take shorter applications of colder water, and longer applications of warmer water. Again, use your body’s response as your gauge. You may need to work your way up to longer applications if just starting out. You can also adjust the duration to compensate for seasonal fluctuations in water temperature.

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Sources and Additional Information:


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