When I first heard about the benefits of cold showers, I was a bit skeptical. As an Ayurvedic therapist, I traditionally use warmth as therapy in about everything; food, drinks, the oil for massage, steam baths, warm baths.
Too much cold aggravates Vata dosha, which can cause imbalance in the nervous system, digestion, mental state and breathing. Thus affecting the whole body mind system in a negative way. In the old Ayurvedic texts there are 80 different Vata diseases clearified, but actually Vata is the energetic movement that brings all diseases to the surface. So how can more cold improve Vata?
How can cold showers benefit your health
About one year ago I got intrigued about Wim hof's method of cold therapy, especially because he practices yoga and breath work all with proper scientific research. When I got deeper into it, I started to understand the difference between cold and cold therapy, where an important part of it is exactly gaining control over the mind fluctuations, or Vata.
During my training as an orthomolecular therapist we repeatedly learned about the benefits of cold therapy too, so I got totally convinced.
Reboot your thermoregulation system
In fact, we should always understand ancient knowledge, like Ayurveda and Yoga, in their timeframe and the living conditions of that era. Human beings have always been exposed to natures varying weather and temperature conditions and our thermoregulation system should work pretty fine for that.
Only recently people started living mainly indoors and the central heating found its way into daily life. This makes our body thermoregulation system completely lazy. We aren't acustomed to cold anymore, thus a part of our human genetic code isn't working properly.
Taking regular cold showers can reboot this thermoregulation system, resulting in an overall better cold resistance and less prone to catching a cold with the least exposure to cold.
This is actually a logical consequence of the previous benefit. Let's look in to this closer.
What does our body use to create inner heat when the outside world is cold?
Preferably fatty tissue, more specific the brown fatty tissue, which contains blood vessels and mitochondria to generate energy out of fatty acids and glucose. When the body is in warm conditions the brown fat is inactive, exposed to cold it becomes active. Our white fatty tissue is fat stored in the body for 'hard times', let's call it the wood stock for winter times. Yet these 'hard times' seldom come, while we eat large amounts of sugar, carbs, unhealthy fats and keep ourselves warm day and night.
Hence an epidemic of obesity and an incapacity to use our wood stock or fat storage. This phenomena is called evolutionary mismatch. The evolutionary ability to store fat for hard times, which was once very beneficial, has now become maladaptive due to the rapid changes in our environment.
Cold showers have the ability to activate the brown fat again and when done frequently, use up the storage of white fatty tissue too.
So if your looking for an easy way to lose some weight, this is your trick!
Boost the immune system
'It's all about energy'. This was the slogan of my teacher at the school of KPNI Belgium.
And it is so true! There's a constant battle going on between our metabolic system, our brain and immune system. A battle for energy!
Cold showers increase our metabolic rate, making it more flexible to produce energy when needed. There will be more energy available for the immune system to tackle unwanted viruses, microbes and the lot. Research has shown that cold showers also increase the amount of white blood cells in the body. They protect our body from illness.
Feel more alert
A cold shower in the morning stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and brings the brain in fight-flight-freeze mode. Blood pressure rises, breathing becomes deeper and CO2 levels drop. This results in a super alert state, which vibrates throughout the day.
Note: If you are suffering from cardiovascular diseases, don't expose yourself to cold therapy without consulting a doctor or proper guidance.
Cold therapy is a great prevention measurement for cardiovascular diseases. The cold makes the muscles around the blood vessels contract, giving them their daily fitness routine!
Reduced stress levels
Regular cold showers expose the body and mind to small amounts of stress, which creates a process called hardening. This means that the nervous system becomes stronger and you'll be able to stay cool in other stressful situations too.
Our personal experience
We are living mostly outdoors for almost 2 months now. 'We' being my husband Ward, myself with a 5 months pregnant belly, our 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter. Outdoors meaning, we have an indoor kitchen without heating, an outdoor shower and a yurt which still lacks a stove. Working on that before winter comes though!
One of the most clear changes I've noticed since we take cold showers is an increased energy level and some weightloss(mainly fat), eventhough I am pregnant and not restricting calories.
The easy part is that we simply don't have any hot water for now, so we can't make any excuses. My children aren't very fond of the cold, but they are getting used to it and have to admit it feels extremely great afterwards.
Our overall cold tolerance has increased and up until now our immune system is doing great.
I can say Wards skin tonus has improved. I don't look in the mirror that often, but I do see the skin of my legs becoming more firm.
When winter comes we want to have our bathroom finished, which will have warm water as to balance for the constant cold outside. I don't want to torture my kids with cold water when it's cold outside.
Still I will finish off my shower sessions with cold water and who knows, maybe I'll dare to take cold showers altogether. I'll let you know how it goes!