Jumping into freezing cold water. . .Yes, go for it! It’s actually great for your health. Hippocrates, in fact, spoke highly of the health benefits of cold therapy, and it has been utilized as a medical practice since ancient civilizations.
When practiced on a regular basis, simply immersing yourself into extremely cold water can have quite a positive effect on your system, according to research. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits:
Reduce Inflammation, Pain and Support Recovery:
A simple way of assisting with muscle recovery is taking a cold shower, which helps reduce inflammation and swelling and even help take some of the pain away, as cold water can numb nerve endings and provide you with immediate relief.
Dipping into a tub of cold water can also help reduce lactic acid buildup in the muscles, which means less swelling and pain later as well as faster recovery. Damaged tissue benefits from blood vessels constricting due to cold water, promoting faster mending of injured muscles and tissue.
Your lymphatic system helps move toxins via lymphatic fluid throughout your system. When it is stagnant, you are more susceptible to illness and infection. Since the lymphatic system is not equipped with its own pump, it requires some assistance in getting lymph fluid moving through your vessels. One way to assist your lymphatic system is by exposing your body to cold water, which contracts vessels and forces fluids to move throughout your system, flushing toxic waste more efficiently.
Cold water plunging also supports your circulatory system by improving blood flow, therefore also reducing cardiovascular risk, impacting such biomarkers as blood pressure and lipid profiles. In a study of middle aged cold water plungers (aged 48-68), those who took the plunge had significant drops in triglyceride levels as well as reduced homocysteine, demonstrating that cold water exposure may have positive consequences on reducing such risks as developing atherosclerosis.
Since water forces blood to your vital organs, this means the heart is pumping blood more efficiently, allowing additional blood flow throughout the system--blood that is also rich in oxygen and nutrients. This translates to systemic benefits, as well.
Improved circulation equals glowing skin, so dip into freezing water if your goal is a dewy complexion and a mane of thick, shiny hair. Cold water tightens pores and may have anti-aging benefits due to improved systemic circulation. It also helps stimulate hair follicles, resulting in less hair loss and increased hair growth.
Taking the cold plunge can help balance hormones in both men and women. Cold water swimming translates to lower body fat percentages and reduction in insulin resistance in women who were exposed to cold water on a regular basis for six months.
In men, testosterone levels may increase with exposure to cold water, as seen in animal studies. Rats exposed to heat for as little as 15 minutes had significant drops in testosterone levels as well as over a 65% drop in testicular weight. Other animal studies show a relationship between heat and lowered testosterone secretion.
In a 3 year human study, semen samples of over 6,000 healthy men were evaluated for quality, motility and volume and seen to be elevated during colder months. It was found that cold temperature does increase serum testosterone! Based on the data, temperature can play a role in impacting spermatogenesis and testosterone levels. Exposure to cold water may help improve testosterone levels.
Support Immune Function:
Since cold water affects the lymphatic system, it is also triggering the immune system by stimulating white blood cells to do their job--destroy invaders. Exposure to cold water also helps regulate hormones that can influence immune function, such as TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and cortisol, the main stress hormone. Cold water plunging may assist the body tolerate stress more optimally, resulting in a more resilient immune system. Those who took the plunge showed 40% reduction in respiratory related illnesses, according to studies. It is speculated this is the result of stress hormone release in response to the cold exposure, which strengthens the body’s internal protective mechanisms.
Improve Mood and Mental Health:
Cold water stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and increases both norepinephrine and beta-endorphin, which can improve mood.
Case studies have demonstrated that swimming regularly in cold water can improve symptoms of major depressive disorder and anxiety, resulting in less need for medication over time.
Even taking cold showers can improve depression, according to a 2007 study. Cold water boosts dopamine levels, which is the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and uplifted mood.
For those feeling more ambitious, winter swimming in cold water daily has been shown to improve energy levels and mood compared to those who did not participate in this activity. Additional health benefits included improvements in joint pain, autoimmune disease symptom management, asthma and more.
Of course, if you are considering taking a cold water plunge and reaping the overall benefits, be sure to take a “low and slow” approach in order to build up your tolerance. Hypothermia is nothing to sneeze at! For additional information for safely taking the cold plunge, be sure to check out this guide.
To further support your immune system this winter, you might want to also provide your body with the proper nutrients.
The Role of Fat Soluble Vitamins To Immune System Health:
Our Vegan ADK is an excellent way to attain the fat soluble vitamins instrumental in supporting the immune system.
Vitamin A helps your body to produce white bloods cells that fight infection and cleanse the blood to support the lymphatic system. Studies have demonstrated that Vitamin A has positive effects on various respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia and measles as well as digestive diseases.
Vitamin D is responsible for regulating up to 2000 genes. It also plays a vital role in every bodily system: brain health, bone and muscles, nervous system, cardiovascular function as well as endocrine and immune activity.
It is estimated that 42% of American adults are vitamin D deficient. Sunlight and diet may not be enough—most people require supplementation.
Recent studies are pointing to vitamin D’s ability to fight upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold and flu.
Vitamin D is thought to boost levels of antimicrobial peptides in the lungs, which act like a natural antibiotic on lung tissue. Vitamin D has also shown promise against asthma attacks.
Supplementing with vitamin D is important for immune health throughout the entire year, but especially during winter months when levels are at their lowest due to less exposure to sunlight.
Low vitamin K2 levels can cause tissue fibers to break down, which is a symptom of pulmonary disease. It’s been evidenced that patients with severe respiratory-related illnesses are utilizing bodily stores of vitamin K2 to help protect and repair damaged fibers in the lungs. Vitamin K2 activates certain proteins, such as MGP (Matrix Gla protein), which is an inhibitor of vascular calcification, and there is evidence that it also protects elastic fibers of the lungs. Since vitamin K2 activates MGP, it’s providing the lungs with this additional protection.