Ask anybody if they have heard of hydrotherapy and you will probably get a negative response. They may even look at you strangely. It is a pity that hydrotherapy (water therapy) is not yet widely accepted in mainstream medicine.
According to the statistics from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 5% of the Americans suffer from depression. To address this increasingly common and pressing problem, medical scientists endeavour in looking for alternatives to prescriptions for antidepressants.
Now imagine if taking a cold shower was the answer. I can picture you shuddering if you live in the northern hemisphere and detect a certain amount of interest if you live near the Equator! You may think I am talking nonsense. But some interesting studies show that patients suffering from anxiety and depression were actually helped by simply taking a cooler, I mean cold, shower.
Cold water is beneficial for overall health
From winter swimmers and people taking part in properly organized medical trials, we realize an interesting fact–our bodies react to cold water and love it. People with the habit of swimming in cold water and taking cold showers coincidentally reported improved mood, less stress, more energy and pain relief from rheumatism.
How does cold water help with depression?
According to Dr. Nikolai Shevchuk, we need to be exposed to more thermal stress. He states that we need to be exposed to cold water shock treatment because that activates beta-endorphin and noradrenaline in the brain. The latter is used in many anti-depressant medications. Here we have a natural process doing the same job without any side effects.
The shock of the cold water is similar to electrical shock treatment in many ways. The electrical impulses travel in large quantities from the nerve endings of the skin to reach the brain. Dr. Shevchuk’s hypothesis is that this reaction can have a beneficial effect on depression. However, more research needs to be done to confirm this.
As an extra bonus, one research study found that cold showers helped to reduce uric acid levels. If these levels are not kept in check, you might suffer from painful gout and kidney disease.
Another bonus mentioned by Dr. Neil Schultz, a dermatologist, is that our skin will benefit enormously from taking cold showers. By first washing in warm water followed by cold water, you will get rid of redness and puffiness around the eyes. This will definitely put you in a great mood!
The same study found that exposure to cold water also had the effect of increasing gluthathione which is a super antioxidant and helps the other antioxidants to keep performing at the best possible levels. This sort of oxidative reaction can strengthen our resistance to physical, emotional and mental stress.
How can cold showers help with anxiety?
Researchers from University of Osaka found that cold water bathing had a beneficial effect in reducing the cortisol hormone. This usually kicks into action when stress and anxiety are taking over. Some studies show that it can improve our resilience to stress.
If you are still not convinced, watch the entertaining video on all the health benefits of taking cold showers (7 mins). This should motivate you.
Here are some tips to help you get started
As with most new activities, you can ease your way into this one. Have your normal shower at a lukewarm temperature. Then start to reduce the temperature gradually for a few minutes. Ideally, you will want to get the temp at 68° F (20° C) and try that also for a few minutes and see how you get on. Remember that you should not abandon the cold shower immediately as that will defeat all the hard work you have done in getting accustomed to that temperature. Once you start getting used to this, remind yourself that you are on this mission for at least a few weeks.
If you suffer from migraines, pain or a heart condition, check with your doctor that it is safe to do this procedure.
If you find that your depression and anxiety are markedly better and your overall health has improved, you will never have a hot shower again. Great savings on meds, water, electricity and there are no side effects at all!
Featured photo credit: Hugh Lunnon/Flickr via flickr.com