Why You Should Be Taking Cold Showers This Winter
by Brittany Wolfe, ND
In light of the current climate, most people are interested in supporting their immune system. There are many opportunities to be found beyond the reach of vitamin D and sleeping better, although both are great options. There is a lesser-known body system that is crucial for a healthy immune system—the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is composed of vessels and the lymph nodes that house various white blood cells. These white blood cells cleanse the blood and then return them to the bloodstream. Found within the lymphatic fluid (or lymph) are proteins, foreign particles, viruses, bacteria, and dysplastic cells. Essentially, the lymphatic system removes debris from the body.
Since the lymphatic vessels are a one-way transport system, they can easily become stagnant. It is certainly common for lymph to become stagnant in the cooler months, as we tend to decrease our activity levels and seek warmth to avoid the sub-zero temperatures looming outside. When we make an effort to move our lymph, we encourage circulation of both lymph and blood within the body. Ultimately, with increased circulation, we promote healing.
If you have enlarged lymph nodes, please make it a priority to visit your healthcare practitioner before you begin any of the methods below. Otherwise, feel free to partake in one or more of the following techniques to support your lymphatic system.
Hydrotherapy, or the use of water as a form of therapy, has a long history of use in naturopathic medicine. A more modern and time-savvy use of hydrotherapy is through contrast showers. Contrast showers involve the rotation of hot and cold usually at the end of the shower. Ideally, the water should be as hot as one can handle (caution: do not burn yourself) followed by as cold as you can handle. The blast of hot water should be approximately double the time of the cold water and you should always end on cold. The rationale for this is that we want your vitality to warm your body to room temperature. The alternation of hot and cold has many health benefits, but mostly it causes vasodilation and vasoconstriction of vessels resulting in increased circulation. Proceed cautiously and mindfully with contrast showers.
Dry Skin Brushing
Dry skin brushing is another method to move your lymph at home. You can use a dry skin brush found at many health food stores, or you can simply just use your towel as you dry off post-shower. It is recommended that you begin at the feet and work towards the direction of the heart in long, broad strokes. Do not forget to brush your armpits; there are many lymph nodes that require attention in that area. Please do not dry brush over frail or damaged skin.
A D-I-Y salt scrub can be both a luxurious and healing form of self-care throughout the winter months. Traditionally, coarse salt is added to a base of oil (avocado oil, sesame oil, etc.) and then you scrub this mixture on your body vigorously. Ideally, we always begin low and work towards the heart in short circular motions. We expect that the skin would turn slightly pink, which is an indication that blood has been stimulated and is coming to the surface of the skin. Feel free to add some of your favourite essential oils to the mix. Afterwards, you can either shower off the excess or soak in a warm bath to complete the home spa experience. Please do not apply a salt scrub over frail or damaged skin and be mindful of your allergies when choosing an oil.
Dr. Brittany Wolfe is a naturopathic doctor practising in her hometown of Regina, SK. She maintains an eclectic practice, but gravitates strongly towards herbal medicine and acupuncture to support women’s health. She regularly has cold showers. For contact information see the display ad on page 30 of the 26.3 November/December issue of the WHOLifE Journal.