Water Therapy - It's cool! (and warm)

By: Dr. Kamala Sivasankaran, ND

As fall descends upon us, we can often start to feel a bit under the weather. Sniffles and coughs start to pop up, fatigue sets in, and before you know it - BAM! You're feeling awful and reeling with a cold that takes days to recover from. During this cold and flu season, it's important to continue hygiene practices that prevent spreading of germs, like washing your hands often with soap and water, and covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing.

But did you know there's an easy way to boost your immune system just by changing the way you shower?

The contrast shower is a an effective water therapy treatment that is great for preventing colds and flus and can be done easily at home!

How does the contrast shower work?

Contrast showers use alternating water temperatures for short intervals of time. The use of  hot water brings more blood to the surface of your skin as your blood vessels warm up from the water. The cold that follows then does the opposite – it initially shrinks your blood vessels, sending blood away from the area being showered. During the cold interval, however, your body sends more blood to the cold area to warm it up. Cycles of hot and cold water create this “pumping” action which boosts your blood circulation and immune system, and promotes natural removal of bodily toxins. When done regularly, the result is improved resistance from infections and quicker recovery times when you do become sick.

Alternating hot and cold showers can also improve the following:

  • Edema (swelling in the body tissues)
  • Appearance of varicose veins
  • Appearance of cellulite
  • Arthritis
  • Infections such as ingrown toenails, bacterial skin or lymph node infections
  • Sprains, strains, bruises (treatment done 24-48 hours after injury)

How to do a Contrast Shower:

  • Always begin the shower with very warm or hot water that is tolerable for you. Turn on the shower and let the water run over all parts of your body for 3-5 minutes. You can complete your regular shower routine throughout the treatment.
  • After 3-5 minutes of hot water, switch to cold water and again let it run over all parts of your body. Do this for about 30-45 seconds.
  • Switch back to hot water again and try to get a temperature of 1 or 2 degrees higher than the first cycle.
  • Complete 3 to 5 hot-cold cycles and finish off with a cold rinse. Dry thoroughly.

Tips:

  • Set a timer to alternate hot-cold cycles easily. Phone apps like Gymboss and Seconds Pro let you create your own intervals for easy timing and can be used for workout intervals as well!
  • Practice contrast showers daily throughout the fall and winter to prevent getting sick.
  • Coming down with a cold or flu? Take a contrast shower to shorten the duration of your infection and lessen the symptoms!
  • The greater the contrast between hot and cold intervals, the greater the benefits you will experience from the treatment. If you are just starting out, try alternating between warm and cool water for the first few treatments, and slowly build up the contrast as you become more comfortable.

Important - Consult your naturopathic doctor before starting treatment if you have any of the following:

  • Skin affected by moisture (e.g. open wounds, eczema, etc.)
  • Any decrease or loss of sensation in the body
  • Any abnormal bleeding or bruising concerns
  • Cancer

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