Keep Healthy in Cold and Flu Season – Brrrrr!
When a knowledgeable friend of mine feels a cold or the flu coming on…. she takes a hot, hot shower – then cold – then hot – three times. I have never known her to be sick. It seems counter intuitive to get chilled fighting a cold, but consider those Finns and Swedes who launch themselves from sauna into snow or plunge into icy water. Romans took a hot soak, then a ritual cold bath. I can’t imagine that people have been plunging into cold water for thousands of years for fun – they must believe that it makes them healthy. I have done some research into the health benefits of hot-cold therapy. Here is what I’ve found.
Cold water can increase energy levels, ease stress, promote muscle recovery by stimulating circulation, reduce inflammation – and it is said to boost the immune system. Some doctors assert that cold induced stress (brrr) enhances the immune response at the cellular level, increases your body’s metabolic rate, boosts blood circulation (to warm up the body) and increases the number of white blood cells circulating in your body – hence your immune boost.
Hot showers and saunas are relaxing and relieve stress.
There are claims that hot-cold therapy releases toxins – and who doesn’t want to get rid of toxins? The idea is that when your body gets cold, blood rushes to your core to protect your organs. When you get hot, the blood goes to the surface of your skin and you sweat. The hot-cold change creates a rush of blood in alternating directions – producing healthy circulation and detoxification.
How do I subject my body to hot and cold? How long do I have to freeze? Most advice is to take a ‘temperature shifting shower’. Stand in a shower with the water alternatively as hot and as cold as you can stand it – in two minute cycles. Go through at least three cycles. One expert suggests going through seven, shorter hot-cold cycles. Hard to say which is more challenging. Brrr.
Alternatively, you can go from sauna to cold pool, from a hot shower to a cold bath, from cryotherapy to infrared sauna and it is even said to help to put your feet in ice-cold water for 10-15 seconds (There must be a better way!).
Finish hot or cold? At my hair salon, they often suggest a ‘cool rinse’. I am told that a cool rinse is good for both skin and hair. It closes pores in your skin and retains ‘good’ oils that protect your hair and make it shiny. When in doubt, finish with a cool rinse.
Note: Cold stress is not for everyone. We sometimes dive into cold water in Maine and the Pacific Northwest – and it is shocking. If you are not sure whether hot-cold changes would be good for you – take real medical advice.
ASE article with advice from a doctor for fighting off the common cold with Umka, Cold Care Sambucus and Zinc.
ASE Article with Ten Tips for Staying Healthy This Winter.