“Traditionally, cold sitzbaths — also called happy half baths — have been recommended against hemorrhoids, varicose veins and infertility (of both sexes),” says board-certified internist and expert in European Natural Medicine Alexa Fleckenstein, MD. “Taken in the evening, they work against insomnia. Done regularly, they promote immune health and disease resistance, similar to cold showers. I take mine because I want to emulate the wonderful feeling I have when I swim in the cold waters of Maine in the summer; my cold sitzbath in the morning leaves me with the same elation and freshness, geared for another strenuous day.”
The name “sitzbath” is a halfway translation from German into English: The original word is “Sitzbad”. “Sitz” means “to sit” and “bad” is “bath”. Dr. Fleckenstein advises that a cold sitzbath should not be done for more than a few seconds. You should not feel cold afterward – just energized and really warm within a few minutes. And never do any cold water treatment on a cold body – Rule Number One in all hydrotherapy. “Let cold water run into a clean bathtub – two to three inches is enough,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “Sit. Don’t forget to splash – it’s fun! Get out and towel off. That’s all. Some hardy people recommend skipping the toweling in the evening and going into bed wet, promoting sleepiness.”
While sitzbaths have a long tradition in European Natural Medicine, there is not much sound research evidence. “However,” says Dr. Fleckenstein, “my patients have benefited. As is the case with many natural therapies, studies have not been done because there’s no money to be made. Nobody can make a buck if I sit for a few seconds in cold water in my tub!”
Contraindications from Dr. Fleckenstein: “Don’t do a cold sitzbath during an acute urinary tract infection, acute back pain and any acute disease. And always check with your doctor first.”
For more information on cold, warm and hot baths, see her book, Health20.