If I had known last year that I would be getting in our ice-cold pool every morning for 5 minutes, my blood would have run cold. Do you suddenly experience a strong feeling of fear, panic or horror just thinking about it? I want to encourage you to not throw cold water on the idea. Coldwater immersion is not just cold comfort, it activates the body’s natural healing powers that can relieve symptoms of many medical conditions and promote a sense of health and well-being. When practised on a regular basis, long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems are noted that enhance the overall quality of your life. The best of all, it is absolutely free!
Where did it start?
This journey started out for me reading and hearing from Dr Ben Bikman about brown fat and white fat and that cold water can activate brown fat. Then Dave Asprey mentioned something about it as well as Dr Nasha Winters in her book The metabolic approach to cancer. It all planted seeds in my mind that maybe I have to try this. A few months ago, mid-summer in Africa, I started ending my hot showers with 30 seconds of cold water which was cold, but it was not such a mind-boggling idea since it’s hot outside. In the beginning, the kids laughed at hearing shrieks from the bathroom, but as time went on, it really was not an issue anymore, easy to do and I looked forward to it as it made me feel invigorated and full of energy. Ready for the day.
Well, autumn and cooler weather are here, and I kicked it up a notch. I convinced my husband to join me in this crazy quest after I stumbled on the Iceman, Wim Hof. I realized there is way more about cold water therapy and proper breathing than I’ve ever known. After writing the article The X-Factor fighting COVID-19, I just knew we had to embrace this cold water immersion idea to help build our immune systems in these uncertain times.
Why do you want to put yourself through this?
Improved Lymphatic System
Coldwater improves lymphatic flow dramatically. The lymph is a network of vessels that carries away waste products from immune-related activities. It removes stuff like bacteria and microbes from your cells, essentially cleansing your body. If the lymphatic flow is stagnant, fluid and toxins build up. That can lead to pooling and swelling in your legs and feet. The system relies on muscle contraction to be able to pump the lymph fluid through the system. Coldwater leads to whole-body contractions which squeeze lymphatic flow through the system faster. It also helps you to feel fresher and your hair and skin appear cleaner and younger because this process squeezes metabolic waste products and environmental toxins out of the skin.
Boost Immune system
When the lymphatic system is activated and pumps lymph fluid through the system removing waste products, it triggers the white blood cells of the immune system to attack, destroy and remove any harmful and unwanted substance in the system. Coldwater also helps your body to adapt better to sudden temperature changes which improve the body’s ability to adapt to cold weather in winter to not get sick. The cold water affects the lymphatic system, which in turn affects the immune system, which ultimately keeps you feeling happy and healthy.
Cold-water immersion also stimulates blood flow. Blood rushes to surround your vital organs when the cold water hits and your heart is then forced to pump more efficiently, pushing blood through all your vessels and supplying every part of your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Do this on a routine basis and you can help promote healthy blood circulation, and, ultimately, a healthy body.
Can help with weight loss
Cold water boosts metabolism which speeds up fat burning when practised routinely. The cold water activates brown fat which has more mitochondria than white fat. The brown fat creates more heat and energy is just naturally wasted without you having to do anything. Even the white fat can be activated to act like brown fat in the right conditions when insulin is low which results in improved metabolism and effective fat burning which causes weight loss.
Cold water helps to counteract the side effects of inflammation and sore muscles after a hard workout. The cold water lowers the temperature of the damaged muscle tissue, constricts blood vessels which help to reduce inflammation and can even numb the nerve endings which help with immediate pain relief.
Boost your mood
If you struggle to manage stress and even just feel winter blues, cold water triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, which make you feel happy. The next time you find yourself feeling down, consider a dip in the ocean, your pool or just a cold shower at home to keep your body and mind happy.
Increase mental toughness
Getting out of your comfort zone to face the cold and force yourself to do something you thought you cannot do on a regular basis can have a knock-on effect in all areas of your life. Growth happens when we push boundaries and step out of our comfort zone. If you can do this, you can do anything you set your mind to.
How to incorporate it into your life?
Take a shower as you normally would. Turn the water temperature to cold and stay in as long as you can. I started off with about 20 seconds and can now tolerate it for much longer. Remember to focus on your breath. Take deep controlled breaths. It gets a lot easier after a few days. If you feel brave enough after practising for a while, try a pool in winter or an ice bath.
You’ve got this!
It can be very challenging to condition your brain and body to endure and embrace cold water. The health benefits, in the long run, is well worth it. You will be able to activate your body’s own natural healing powers to support your physical and mental well-being. You will feel happier and healthier!