Take a Bath to Feel Better
A warm bath can do more than just help you relax when you’re not feeling well. Known as a hyperthermia treatment, warm water baths are used by naturopathic physicians to artificially induce a fever.
Although high fevers can be damaging to the body, a fever of a few degrees can actually be quite helpful. A fever is one of the body’s most powerful defense mechanisms against infection. When the body increases its internal temperature, immune cells work faster and more efficiently, putting the body’s systems into overdrive. In addition to this, many bacteria and viruses are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. A change of just one degree may be enough to kill off the infection. Here are some tips to getting the most out of your bathtub soak:
- The temperature of the bath should be hot enough that it causes you to sweat but is also comfortable enough to sit in for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Keep a cold glass of water next to the tub as well as a cold washcloth in a bowl of ice water to press to your face and head as needed to stay comfortable.
- After your bath, quickly dress in warm clothing such as sweatpants and lay down. Trapping in the heat from the bath will allow you to maintain an elevated temperature for an additional 30-45 minutes.
Another water therapy commonly used by naturopathic physicians is something called contrast hydrotherapy. Exposing the body to alternating cycles of hot and cold water has a variety of beneficial effects on the circulatory and lymphatic system. Hot water causes blood and lymph vessels on the surface of the skin to dilate, opening pores on the skin and promoting detoxification.
Cold water has the opposite effect, contracting superficial vessels and pushing blood and lymph contents into the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver where it can be filtered and cleansed. When alternated back and forth, this process has a pumping effect, moving inflammation and damaged cells away and out from the body while moving healing nutrients and immune cells to areas of infection. To perform contrast hydrotherapy in your own shower complete the following steps:
- Start with warm water at the temperature you typically use for bathing.
- Soak your head, hair and front of your chest.
- Rotate 90 degrees and lift your arm to expose the side of your chest and armpit to the warm water.
- Rotate another 90 degrees, allowing the water to soak the back of your neck and back.
- Complete the rotation by soaking the other side of your chest and armpit.
- Spend about 10 seconds or two full, deep breathes at each point in the rotation.
- Once you’ve completed the warming cycle, turn the water to cold (you’ll know you’ve got the correct temperature when it takes your breath away!).
- Repeat the cycle again with cold water.
You can complete as many rotations of hot and cold as you wish, just be sure to end on a hot cycle.
From sleep to nutrition and the mind-body connection, the trick to keeping colds and flu at bay is to implement some simple yet powerful practices into your daily lifestyle. If you do get sick this season, don’t despair, just re-focus on behaviors that support your body and mind and give your system the support it needs to heal quickly and return to health.