When I first went to Naturopathic Medical School, I would stand on my soapbox and dispense information to any and all that would hear. This, of course, fell mostly on the ears of my family, who definitely grew tired of my preaching. Most of my advice was seen as weird for the time (homeopathy) or not widely known (the benefits of fish oil), and some of it made them roll their eyes at me, like the practice of Hydrotherapy.
Hydrotherapy is the therapeutic application of water to the body to promote healing. Can you imagine that being effective? Not only is it effective, it requires little to no equipment, everyone can do it, and it is really good for you. The amazing thing is it is super old, from the times of Kellogg’s health spas, and while it has fallen out of popularity, is very powerful medicine.
Daily Cool Bath
My favorite hydrotherapy is the Daily Cool Bath, also called an Irish Shower.
This is how I do it:
I enjoy my regular shower in nice hot water. At the end of the shower, I turn my water tap to cold. I do a final rinse in the cold water, making sure to get my lower back and all my extremities.
Easy as that!
It may seem like torture, but the Daily Cool Bath is actually quite invigorating. It improves my mood, energizes me, and actually makes me feel warmer getting out of the shower. In fact, it does more than just that!
Short duration exposure to cold heightens the activity of the entire body. The body recognizes the depressive action of cold and responds immediately by increasing the vital processes of the organs. This stimulation has been shown to increase hemoglobin (the cells that carry oxygen) and white blood cells (your immune cells).
The Daily Cool Bath reduces the pulse rate, and improves blood pressure by decreasing the systolic blood pressure and increases the diastolic blood pressure, netting in improved pulse pressure. This speeds up the circulation of the heart while decreasing the amount of work the heart has to do.
Short duration cold exposure stimulates mental activity, improves respiratory rate, improves heart rate and cardiac output, helps to contract the muscles of the bladder, bowels and uterus, improves liver function, stimulates lymphatic circulation, and improves overall muscle tone.
The greater the temperature extremes – the more extreme the benefits. But I generally recommend starting slowly and increasing the intensity as tolerated. In fact, some people prefer to slowly decrease the water temperature throughout their shower instead of suddenly going to cold. Whatever your preference, you should try it! It is an easy and greatly beneficial treatment you can give to yourself every day.
Traditions like a cold plunge in a river, polar-bearing, and rolling in snow during a sauna derive the same benefits. But you can take a Daily Cool Bath everyday in the comfort of your own shower.
When I first taught this to my family, my grandpa looked at me like I was crazy. I got ready to defend my stance on the Daily Cool Bath. Instead he simply said that he showers this way every day. He doesn’t know why, but this is how he was taught to shower. And he is 98 years old, spry and healthy. Maybe there is something to this after all!