Although it has become just part of the routine, showering has the potential to be not only an enjoyable and invigorating treat, but also a revitalizing therapy. By simply alternating the faucets, you can boost your immune system, increase metabolism, enliven healthy circulation of blood and lymph, and promote detoxification.
The procedure is simple and easy to remember: just think three minutes, thirty seconds, three times – three minutes hot, followed by thirty seconds cold, repeated three times. Time it accordingly so the shower ends on cold. Start out with mild differences in temperature, working your way towards greater extremes at your own pace. You should never feel sick, uncomfortable, burning, or pain during this treatment. If you begin to feel any of these, immediately return the water to a neutral temperate or end the shower and slowly sit down.
Move the Blood and Lymph
Hydrotherapy heals through the fundamental nature cure concept of balancing and moving the blood and lymph. It might be hard to see why such a basic concept could be so rewarding, but in fact, blood is responsible for approximately 1/13 to 1/12 of our total body weight, and lymph fluid is an amazingly approximate 1/4 to 1/3 of the total body weight. Purifying and moving the blood and lymph is essential to restoring and maintaining proper health and harmonious vibration of the body. As the blood flows in, it brings with it nutrients to nourish our vital tissues. Then, as it leaves, it carries out toxic and inflammatory byproducts to cleanse and detoxify.
How Water Heals
Ever wonder why you can tolerate a 120°F sauna but not a 120°F hot tub? Or why winter waters are so much more dangerous than winter air? Water has a profound ability to transfer heat, carrying it heat rapidly to and from the body over 25 times faster than air. Water has the ability to both absorb and expel large quantities of heat because it has a high specific heat. Water’s fluidity also allows it to contact all surface areas easily.
Short sessions of hot, 98-104°F and lasting less than five minutes, is intrinsically stimulative to the circulation. Short heat causes direct dilation of blood vessels. It increases the metabolism, oxygen absorption, carbon dioxide excretion, and blood glucose levels while decreasing tissue tone and red and white blood cell count.
Short sessions of cold, 55-65°F and lasting for less than a minute, is reactively stimulative. It has an immediate, momentary, and insignificant vasoconstrictive effect followed by a direct reactive vasodilatory effect. This vasodilatory effect increases circulation, metabolism, detoxification, oxygen absorption, carbon dioxide excretion, and nitrogen absorption and excretion to the skin and organs. It boosts immunity by increasing white blood cells and promotes nutrition by increasing red blood cells. Short cold sessions also increases tissue tone and peripheral white blood cell count and decreases blood glucose. Cold temperatures are a great difference from our normal body temperature, making it seem more of a threat and therefore reacted to more quickly than hot temperatures. On days when you can’t do the full treatment, try to still end with cold!
When alternating hot and cold, each subsequent application is magnified by the application prior to it. The hot application magnifies the effects of the cold, the cold magnifies the effects of the hot and so on. Alternating applications acts a pump through the tissues, magnifying the movement of blood and lymph, maximizing the peripheral heart function, decongesting, and acting as an analgesic.
The greater the temperature differences between the body, the water and the two alternating temperatures, the greater the treatment intensity. In other words, strive for temperature extremes but always do so within your own limits.
Sources for this article include:
Boyle, W., & Saine, A. 1988. Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy. Eclectic Medical Publishing. Oregon.
Kneipp, S. 2010. My Water Cure. Kessinger Publishing.
Priessnitz, V. 2005. Cold Water Cure. Kessinger Publishing.
Lindsay Chimileski grew up in Newtown, Connecticut. After graduating high school in 2005, she received her bachelor’s in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut in 2009. Then she found her true calling, naturopathic medicine.
Currently, Lindsay is attending University of Bridgeport’s College of Naturopathic Medicine with anticipated graduation in 2013. She is studying Chinese Medicine and becoming a licensed acupuncturist as well. Lindsay also studies bush medicine with shamans and Rastas in the Jamaican jungle each spring. The naturopathic and acupuncture clinic at UB serves the community with affordable health care. It also reaches out through several satellite sites, including one in the greater Danbury area.