At first, it sounds crazy – can a cold shower really prevent colds and flu? But Dr. Alexa Fleckenstein, author of HEALTH 2 0: TAP INTO THE HEALING POWERS OF WATER TO FIGHT DISEASE, LOOK YOUNGER, AND FEEL YOUR BEST (McGraw-Hill 2007) says that a few seconds of cold water after your hot shower is scientifically proven to make you healthy – even if you’re in the cold water for less than 30 seconds a day.
Here are 6 ways that a short cold shower protects you from colds and flu:
1. A brief cold water shower will decrease your body’s “reaction time” to cold. The cold shower “teaches” the blood vessels in your skin to clamp down faster, so you are losing less warmth in draft or cold exposure. Especially, during the winter months while it’s cold outside, you’ll stay warmer, longer.
2. Gamma interferon and interleukin-4 are two important virus-fighting cytokines (immune system proteins) A new German study has shown that cold water exposure helps these two disease-fighters work better together, resulting in fewer viral colds.
3. A cold shower increases lymphocytes in the blood. Lymphocytes produce antibodies, which help fight germs.
4. A cold shower makes you breathe deeply. (A big gasp when the cold water hits the skin!) A deep breath opens closed or clogged alveoli (small air sacs in the lungs) which are then less prone to bronchitis and pneumonia. And deeper breathing means more oxygen for the whole body.
5. A cold shower increases blood flow in all organs, especially skin, heart and lungs. The pharynx/larynx ( organs of the throat) also benefit from the increased blood flow, and are better able to kill viruses.
6. And a cold shower lifts your mood. Depressed people get more colds – probably because depression lowers immunity. A brisk cold shower has been proven to lift the mood and lower stress, both of which jumpstart the immune response – which kills flu and cold germs!
Remember that cold water therapy works only if done regularly, and also needs a few weeks (about six) to work. Start with just your feet and hands in the cold water, and gradually work your way up to your whole body. It feels great!
IMPORTANT: Check with your doctor first. Contraindication include uncontrolled high blood pressure, and narrowing of the arteries.