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Chilling Benefits of Ice Baths: Exploring Cold Therapy, Contrast Hydrotherapy, and Mental Wellness

Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, involves the application of cold to the body to help reduce inflammation, improve recovery time, and reduce muscle soreness. Here are some potential benefits of ice baths:

  1. Cold Shock Proteins Production: The liver produces cold shock proteins in response to cold therapy. These proteins play a vital role in cellular protection and adaptation to stress. Beyond their physical benefits, they contribute to the body's overall resilience and can also positively impact mental well-being. Reducing inflammation: Cold therapy can help reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels and decreasing blood flow to the affected area.

  2. Boosting Dopamine Levels: Cold therapy can lead to an increase in dopamine levels for up to four hours. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure, reward, and motivation. This increase in dopamine levels can have a significant impact on mood and motivation, boosting mental well-being.

  3. Improving recovery time: Cold therapy may help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, which can help improve recovery time after exercise or injury.

  4. Reducing muscle soreness: Cold therapy may help reduce muscle soreness by decreasing inflammation and numbness in the affected area.

  5. Reducing swelling: Cold therapy may help reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels and decreasing blood flow to the affected area.


It is important to note that cold therapy is not suitable for everyone and can be harmful in certain circumstances. For example, cold therapy should not be used on individuals with certain medical conditions, such as Raynaud's disease or cold urticaria, or on areas of the body with reduced sensation or circulation. It is also important to follow the manufacturer's instructions and use caution when using cold therapy.

I would recommend doing cold therapy with hot therapy such as taking a sauna or hot bath. This practice, known as contrast therapy or contrast hydrotherapy, is thought to have a number of potential health benefits, such as improving circulation and reducing muscle soreness.


Benefits on Immune System and Brain Function

Hot and cold therapy can also support the immune system. It has also been shown that it may stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are important for fighting infection. Cold therapy may also stimulate the production of antibodies, which help the body identify and attack foreign substances.


Cold therapy may also help improve alertness and focus by increasing blood flow to the brain. Still hesitating? I get it. I don't necessarily love the cold either but the benefits outweigh the brief moment discomfort you experience.


Benefits on Sleep

Here is yet another benefit. Did you know that the parasympathetic nervous system is one of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system, which controls the body's unconscious functions, such as heart rate, digestion, and respiration. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for promoting relaxation and rest, and it is often referred to as the "rest and digest" system. Cold therapy may have some effects on the parasympathetic nervous system. For example, cold therapy may stimulate the release of the hormone vasopressin, which is involved in the regulation of blood pressure and can help promote relaxation. Cold therapy may also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are chemicals that help improve mood and reduce stress. So if you are having a tough time relaxing and getting a good night sleep you may want to try doing some hot and cold therapy so your parasympathetic nervous system gets activated and your body goes into a deep restorative state.


Getting Started

Well first I would recommend watching a few videos of the Ice Man or better known as Wimhof. He also has an app which has some exercises, breathing techniques and he walks you through different ways of getting the benefits of cold therapy.


Once you have your breathing technique identified then start taking some cold baths in your bathtub or a cold shower. I wouldn't use ice unless your water is above 58 degrees. The first couple of times don't worry about getting the water super cold. The point is just to get in, do your breathing and stay in for 4 or 5 minutes. Maybe you can only do one or two minutes. That is ok.. The point is just do it. I promise you will feel amazing.


*Please note I personally do not like taking cold showers but can easily do a cold bath. not sure if it is the shower effect mixed with air but I like being immersed fully in the cold water. For each person it will be different but wanted to let you know that if you don't like the shower maybe try the bath instead. Do it at least once a day for three consecutive days in order to really get acclimated to it. After the third time most people say they have fallen in love and mentally feel stronger and better about the whole cold dip.


I recommend always have someone around so if there is anything that goes wrong you have someone there that can help.


Up and running... what to buy?

Ok so you have fallen in love with cold therapy or at least you have fallen in love with the benefits of it and now you want to take it to another level and buy something.


Consider the following:


Budget

There are lots of options out there. Some are inexpensive and others are super cool but pricey. You need to determine what your budget is, where do you want to put it and what do you want the final product to look like.


Location, Power, Plumbing

I would look at putting it next to your sauna so it is easy to go from hot to cold and cold to hot. It will need power most likely if you are using one that keeps it at a certain temperature and if not you will need power for a freezer to make ice nearby. You will also need plumbing. I actually have a separate filter and ozone water machine next to mine so that the water going in is super clean and ozonated. You will also need to think about cleaning and draining your cold plunge.


I have opted for a super simple option and it was relatively inexpensive. I have a stainless steel tub usually used for physical therapy so it has a jacuzzi function and temperature gauge built in as well. It is nice and deep and easy to clean and drain. I have it next to my sauna in the basement so there is really no need for ice in the winter months but I do have a freezer next to it so during summer I can make ice to throw in. With everything it cost me $250 since I bought it used and the plumbing was already set up.


Happy Cold Plunging!


Disclaimer:

The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice, and the information shared here should not be used as a substitute for professional medical guidance, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new treatment, including cold therapy, to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your individual health and medical conditions. Cold therapy may not be suitable for everyone and can be harmful in certain circumstances, especially for individuals with specific medical conditions. Please follow manufacturer's instructions and exercise caution when using cold therapy.

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