Keep it Real TV Episode 34

Video by Dr. Chad Larson

In episode 34 of his video series, Dr. Larson discusses: 

  • Cold baths and showers for good health is not a new concept, in fact, many ancient civilizations practiced cold therapy throughout the ages
  • Ancient Greece believed that cold baths and showers were critical for vitality and wellness
  • The Shinto practitioners in Japan would stand under cold waterfalls to "cleanse spirits," not understanding the physiology of why they knew that it made them feel better
  • Ancient Spartan warriors always took cold baths because they believed that it made them stronger and fiercer, and they were right
  • The Fins still spend time in hot saunas and then go straight to cold lakes and streams to increase their health
  • In the 1800s, there was a farmer named Vincent Priessnitz who not only understood the importance of "hydrotherapy" as a medical technique for many ailments, he opened up a sanatorium that became so popular in Germany that people from across the country would come to be cured
  • Dukes and Duchesses from far lands would go to the sanitarium, and eventually, the practice made its way to the US in the form of "cold therapy"
  • In 1800, John Henry Kellogg, the inventor of corn flakes, opened a sanitarium in Battle Creek Michigan that helped people with symptoms ranging from orthopedic injuries to erectile dysfunction
  • There are many physiological benefits to cold therapy, or cold showers and baths
  • When you take a cold shower or bath, it helps to improve your circulation
  • Blood vessels are responsible for pumping blood from the heart to other parts of the body and back
  • They are very active, and have muscles just like your skeletal system
  • The more demand you put on your muscles, including those in your blood vessels, the more the muscles grow
  • When you go from hot to cold, it causes your blood vessels to contract, which makes them squeeze due to the demand that is placed on them
  • That is why placing more demand on them helps to build your cardiovascular system's strength
  • So, in essence, the Spartans were right, taking cold showers and baths does make you "stronger" in a cardiovascular sense
  • Cold therapy also helps to increase your immune system
  • Taking cold baths and showers dramatically increases your amount of white blood cells
  • White blood cells are responsible for targeting pathogens in the body like viruses and colds
  • By increasing your white blood cell count, you are boosting your immune system
  • Cold therapy can also help to improve your metabolism by boosting brown fat
  • In the body, there is both white and brown fat
  • The fat that you can physically see, like the fat on your stomach, is "white fat, " and is much harder to target than brown
  • Adults are more prone to white fat; children have brown fat because it helps to regulate temperature
  • As you age, brown fat converts to white fat
  • Brown fat is metabolically more active than white fat, when you use cold therapy, it literally makes the brown fat "suck" out the white fat to use for energy
  • Cold therapy boosts testosterone for both men and women
  • Cold baths and showers are also important for brain activity; they work by increasing neurotransmitters
  • The body has a way to give you a little boost of good feeling when you do healthy things; they are called neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and noradrenaline, which are both naturally occurring anti-depressants produced in the brain
  • Cold therapy helps to boost a neurotransmitter by the name of dopamine
  • It was once believe that dopamine was a chemical that was released to make us feel good, but new research done by Jonathan Salamone at the University of Connecticut, is beginning to recognize that dopamine is more of a "motivating" neurotransmitter
  • Using rats to experiment, Salamone set up a course where the rats could get some food in the corridor, or they could go through an additional hurdle of having to go over a fence, to get more food
  • What he found was that those who went for the bigger load of food were higher in dopamine, leading him to the conclusion that dopamine doesn't just make us feel good, it helps to motivate us
  • When you have more dopamine in your body, you are more highly motivated to engage in healthier behaviors
  • Cold therapy all but disappeared in the US when the pharmaceutical company presented the option of taking a pill over the pain of hoping in a cold shower or bath
  • But many people are starting to realize the benefits of taking a cold shower and bath on a regular basis
  • Sanitariums were all but pushed out by the medical establishment, making cold therapy a second class alternative to medications
  • Cold therapy provides a plethora of advantages without any side effects
  • The good news is that even if cold baths and showers are hard to suffer through at first, the increased dopamine you get, will push you to want to engage in them more frequently
  • As Wim Hof says "the cold is really your warm friend"
  • Try cold therapy little bits at a time, until they become a regular and healthy routine


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