Well, it’s true that each of us is unique genetically, & our health history also shapes how our body responds to things, so that needs to be a factor in considering the best way to support it.
This implies that we let the body take the lead & do what it’s know to do best….to keep us in “Homeostasis”—a technical word for keeping the body in a stable, healthy condition. It does so by self-regulation of the inner equilibrium, or balance. For example, it adjusts our body pH (acidity/akalinity), temperature, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, amount of oxygen & carbon dioxide in the blood and so on, completely without conscious control, all of which is crucial to survival.
OVERVIEW OF BODY SELF-REGULATION:
The body fine-tunes itself through many feedback systems that operate through hormones, which are very powerful substances created by the body, operating to stimulate or diminish the action of a particular organ.
Examples of organs that are regulated this way are
hypothalamus and pituitary (master glands in the brain),
- muscles, ligaments, tendons
- liver & pancreas
Our normal regulation of body temperature is a complicated system which keeps our internal environment within close limits, to provide optimum health. But various environmental as well as physical and emotional stresses (seasonal changes, infections, worries, sleeplessness, etc.) are known to alter that careful balance.
This is the first of a series of articles describing simple, natural ways to support our body-mind, reduce inflammation, and derive peak vitality with which to face daily challenges—
Hydrotherapy has historically been an approach that was used to increase the body’s resilience and resistance to disease. Sebastian Kneipp, in the mid-1800’s in Europe, pioneered Kneipp baths to help achieve these goals. He also advocated eating wholesome foods, drinking spring water, exercising appropriately, and taking opportunities to calm the mind as well.
In its basic form, hydrotherapy works on these principles:
Hot water applied to the body calms and soothes it, slowing down the actions of the internal organs and promoting sleep. Cold water, on the other hand, stimulates and invigorates the body, increasing internal activities, such as increased muscle tone and vasoconstriction.
For those who like to understand the mechanisms—vasoconstriction (tightening up of the blood vessels), makes blood move from the surface of your body to the core, as a means to conserve heat. Not only does it conserve heat, it also reflexively bathes the brain and vital organs in fresh blood. This movement will bring nutrition, oxygen and also help gently detoxify all areas.
Warm water, on the other hand, will make the vessels vasodilate (relax) which will bring blood up to the surface of the body. This helps blood circulation move away from the core, detoxifying the internal systems through the skin & lungs.
LYMPH –Our natural drainage, detox system
A parallel system to the blood vessels is the Lymphatic system—the function of the lymph is to bathe all the cells in nourishing liquid and to carry away debris & wastes.
It also carries the infection-fighting components of our blood to the sites that needs these, so is an incredibly important part of the body’s defence system. So lymph fluid is directly impacted by hydrotherapy as well. (We will discuss lymph drainage in detail in future articles on self-care for the body).
Methods of Stimulating the Detox system & relaxing musculature:
Professional Hydrotherapy techniques, such as at health spas, involve both full and partial immersion in water. Quite often, as was the case for the original Kneipp therapy, herbs and minerals are added (such as, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and chamomile), which provide their own healing properties to the experience.
Therapists at Solace Wellness often encourage clients with chronic pain in their extremities to apply “contrast bathing” in a sink or Tupperware bin to increase circulation to the joints & muscles. The technique includes dipping the body partially or completely into hot water for 3 minutes, and then plunging the body (or limb) into cold water for 30 seconds for at least 3 alternating rounds. Showers can also work well as a contrast medium, starting with hot, and finishing off with cold, if that is more convenient.
It works best if the difference in temperatures is at least 10 degrees Celsius, although a greater difference generally produces a greater benefit—this is called “Vascular Training” and the experience is completely invigorating, with effects lasting the whole day!
Scientific validation of these techniques:
Research on this topic by Toda et al., in 2006 was reported by Dr. Peter Bongiorno (Naturopath) in Psychology Today, showing that many of the therapeutic effects of hot & cold water contrast treatments are achieved by the mechanism of lowering of the body’s Stress Response.
Additionally, a randomized study in 2010 by Dubois et al. working with 237 patients with anxiety showed that daily bath treatments using warm natural mineral waters (sodium, calcium, magnesium and sulfates) followed by specific kinds of massage, daily for 21 days were effective at reducing anxiety rates. These therapies were also shown to be safe and free from side effects.
Other research by Schevchuk, in 2008 suggested that exposure to cold water activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood levels of adrenalin, the “get-up-and-go hormone”, which can help people feel uplifted naturally. They reported that hydrotherapy can also modulate the production of Beta-endorphins (the “feel-good hormones”) to give us a deep sense of well-being.
Why not try this simple, no-cost approach to supporting your body’s homeostatic balance by invigorating and/or soothing it, providing exceptional vitality—the results will be worth the effort!
Ask the massage therapists at Solace Wellness for their personal recommendations for doing these procedures at home, if you are feeling motivated.