Dr. Jodi Vingelen, ND
The Goal of Loving the Application of Cold Water
Most people cringe at the idea of a cool to cold-water bath whether it is a foot soak, sitz bath (that is submersion of the lower half of your body), or a full immersion bath. This goes especially true for those women who are already reporting being chilly. My goal is to have you appreciate and come to love the application of cold water.
A Common Mistake is Applying Cold Water to Cold Areas
One of the first mistakes made often is applying the cold water to an area that is already cold. When you submerse a part of your body in cool water be sure that you are physically warm.3 There are a few ways you can do this. Exercise (move your body – jog/run, jumping jacks, stairs, etc.), take a hot shower or sit in the sauna or perhaps all you need is a hot cup of tea to appropriately warm your body. The reason behind doing so, is that if you are cold and apply cold it can be depleting to the body and leave you feeling worse off. For an enjoyable and effective experience, make sure you are warm before you apply the cool to cold water.
Cold Shower or Bath is Multi-Stimulating
The cold shower or bath is invigorating, stimulating, and brings about a feeling of internal strength and comfort. The benefits of bathing in cold water have been known for quite sometime. To quote Hufeland, a distinguished professor of the 19th century, editor of a medical journal and advocate of hydrotherapy, bathing in cold water “…purifies not merely the skin, but freshens and exhilarates soul and body; it strengthens and preserves against the changing influences of air and weather, keeps the solid parts supple and the joints pliable; it preserves the vigor of youth, and keeps off the debility of old age. It is a precious means for preserving health, when used with the necessary precautions.”1
What is happening physiologically when you immerse your body in cold water?
First, the blood vessels on the surface of the body constrict, thus increasing internal circulation.2 This has the benefit of increasing circulation to internal vital organs. After you emerge from a cold immersion whether that is a shower or bath, the circulation returns to the periphery and you feel quite warm and invigorated. This is as long as the duration of the shower or bath is kept brief (a few minutes). Otherwise, a long application (more than 5 minutes) can be numbing.
For one week, on a daily basis when you have taken your warm to hot shower end the shower with 30 to 60 seconds of cool to cold water shower. Note how you feel afterwards and throughout the day. Note: Contrast hydrotherapy is where you alternate the warm to hot water and cool to cold water. Try three rounds in the shower, 60 seconds warm to hot water then, 30 seconds cool to cold water. Be sure to end on cool to cold water.
If you are having trouble falling asleep because your mind is racing with thoughts, apply a cool – cold wet well wrung out towel the back of your neck or tummy area. If you find yourself not asleep and the towel is warm, re-cool the towel.
Special thanks to the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center For Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas Austin and The Todd – McLean Library for whom I have the privilege to access their extensive collection of materials on this topic for which I am so passionate about.
Passionately, I utilize nature cure methods personally and professionally. One of my favorite “treatments” is the cold plunge. After a nice long walk or run, there is nothing more rewarding than to come up to a beautiful alpine lake or a flowing river to take a quick dip in the refreshing cold water. It is a stimulating experience. I hope that by reading my short essays on nature cure that you will be enticed into this lifestyle that my patients and I find to be re-vitalizing.
Graduated from Bastyr University (Kenmore, WA). Dr. Jodi Vingelen is a WA state licensed ND*.
*Currently Texas does not license Naturopathic Doctors. Naturopathic Doctors are NOT Medical Doctors (MD/DO); therefore, Dr. Vingelen, ND cannot legally prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, administer injections, diagnose, treat or cure any illness.
- Graeter, Francis, and Vincenz Priessnitz. Hydriatics; Or, Manual of the Water Cure, Especially Practised by Vincent Priessnitz in Graefenberg. New York: W. Radde, 1844. 32. Print.
- Graham, Robert Lincoln. “Chapter IV: How the Blood and Nerves React to Water.” Hydro-hygiene, the Science of Curing by Water. New York City: Thompson-Barlow, 1923. N. pag. Print.
- Johnson, Edward, and Howard Frederick. Johnson. The Domestic Practice of Hydropathy: With Fifteen Engraved Illustrations of Important Subjects from Drawings by Howard Johnson. New York: J. Wiley, 1849. 3, 50-51. Print.