Do Cold Showers Have Health Benefits?

Does the idea of ​​taking a cold shower send shivers down your spine? You probably cringe at the thought of running out of hot water halfway through the shower, or getting a stream of cold water when you turn on the tap.

You may think you would never voluntarily take a cold shower, but hold on — before you rule them out completely, there may be some health benefits to cold showers. However, they should also not be painfully, uncomfortably cold.

“Coldness May Increase Vagus Nerve Stimulation” [which sends signals between the brain and internal organs]making one feel faint, nauseous, and breathless,” warns Bianca Beldini, a physical therapist and owner of Sundala Wellness in South Nyack, New York.

It’s a good idea to start with warm water and then lower the temperature little by little to give your body time to properly acclimate. In other words, avoid switching the faucet from hot to freezing cold altogether.

Here are some of the possible health benefits of showers with cold, or at least cooler, water.

They can soothe itchy skin

Soothing eczema, psoriasis, sunburn or allergic reactions is just one of the many benefits of cold showers. “Cool water can help soothe the itchy feeling,” says Florida-based board-certified dermatologist, Stacy Chimento, MD, of Riverchase Dermatology. “The cool water helps numb the itchy sensations and soothe irritated skin, while a warm shower can make the skin even more sensitive.”

It is important to note that while cold water usually helps relieve symptoms, it does not completely address the underlying condition. “So if you have eczema, psoriasis, or even sunburns that cause itchy skin, you should probably see your doctor about building a more complete regimen, including medicated treatments, more thorough hydration, and elimination of allergens in your environment,” she concludes. these tips on the best skin care routine for psoriasis do not.)

They can improve gut health

Your gut plays a role in more aspects of your health than was known in the past, meaning it’s important to keep it in tip-top shape. The human gut can affect the immune system, sleep, heart and brain function, and more. And, you guessed it, cold showers can theoretically help.

“Our bodies naturally respond to a cold shower by increasing the heart rate, which in turn pumps our blood faster throughout our bodies,” says Inna Lukyanovsky, PharmD, a functional medicine practitioner and author of Digestive Reset: Restore Your Hormones and Digestion by Balancing Your Gut Microbiome and Adrenal Glands.

“As the heart pumps more efficiently, our overall circulation is improved, even after showering,” says Lukyanovsky. “When the circulatory system is activated, detoxification is activated, along with benefits to the digestive system. In addition, switching from warm to cold improves smooth muscle cells, including the health of the stomach, gut and cardiovascular system.

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They can reduce pain after exercise

If you’re used to working out until you feel the burn, then you’re probably used to feeling the burn for the next few days. Recover faster with a cold shower. “Exercise — especially high-intensity training, heavy weight training, or eccentric movements — can cause microscopic tears in the muscle fibers,” Beldini says. “These microtears can trigger a focal inflammatory response in the tissue, leading to a delayed response to muscle pain, known as DOMS.”

Cold immersion, such as with an ice bath or cold shower, can help reduce the DOMS (delayed muscle soreness) response. According to a 2015 review in Sports Medicine, the researchers concluded that immersion in cold water at temperatures between 51 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit for 11 to 15 minutes produced the best results. Why does it work? “Microtrauma of tissue leads to edema, or swelling, and inflammatory responses in the tissue and the perception of pain,” Beldini suggests. “Cold immersion can reduce the edema, thus leading to a perceived decrease in pain.”

They can improve scalp health

Do you love to pour a torrent of hot water on your head after a long day? It’s such a relaxing sensation, but your hair follicles may quietly wish you would stop.

According to trichologist William Gaunitz – who studies the structure, function and diseases of human hair and has pioneered treatments for natural hair growth since 2002 – taking extremely hot showers, especially for long periods of time on a daily basis, can boost the scalp’s natural healthy oils. and exacerbate inflammatory conditions. (Here are the reasons why you have an itchy scalp.)

“Your skin and scalp have an inherent natural balance of oil and microorganisms,” he says. “When removed daily with utensils and extreme heat, the scalp can become unbalanced and become a host for fungi and bacteria that love a warm, wet environment.”

Constant exposure to hot water can also make your scalp dry and irritated, exacerbating inflammatory scalp conditions like dandruff (part of seborrheic dermatitis) and psoriasis.

“Any inflammation can lead to excessive hair loss and create a downward spiral of trying to get hair back,” says Gaunitz. “So, shorter, cooler showers are said to protect against inflammation, maintain your natural oil and microorganism balance for skin and scalp balance, and in turn help prevent hair loss.” Gaunitz has a caveat that he doesn’t say that cold showers prevent hair loss, but rather that they help prevent inflammation, which can lead to hair loss. (Here’s how to do a scalp massage for hair growth.)

Lavanya Kirshnan, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, founder and medical director of Arya Derm in San Francisco, also agrees with Gaunitz, saying that a hot shower can aggravate a sensitive scalp by further drying and irritating it, potentially causing a headache. can cause inflammation.

“Excess inflammation in the skin can exacerbate conditions like eczema and seborrheic dermatitis, which can cause hair fragility and hair loss,” she says.

They can reduce swelling and puffiness

Missed your beauty sleep after a late night? Consider taking a cold shower for more beautiful skin.

“For the skin, a cold shower will help reduce inflammation, swelling, and puffiness,” says famed esthetician Joshua Ross, owner and founder of Los Angeles medspa SkinLab. “You don’t have to worry about going to a cryo facility and can easily create the same effect at home. Towards the end of your shower, simply begin to gradually cool the water. At the very end, turn the heating off completely and try to keep it going for as long as possible, aiming for a minimum of 30 seconds or a maximum of one minute. This is a great way to reap the benefits of an ice bath without ‘taking the plunge’.”

the takeaway

Cold showers are not intended to cure health problems or replace current medical treatments. They can help reduce inflammation associated with exercise and are less likely to irritate skin conditions, among other health benefits. But this rule still stands: You should never shower during a thunderstorm.

If you have pre-existing conditions, it’s important to see your doctor to see if taking a cold shower regularly is best for you.

To get into the habit of taking a cold shower, Beldini recommends this method: “Starting with warm water, one can gradually lower the temperature over a period of time. Start with 30 seconds, then gradually increase in 30-second intervals until you can tolerate up to five minutes. Avoid showers that are too long to avoid water. (Next, learn some quirks and facts about body temperature.)

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