By: Melissa Cugliari
Bathing is a part of our daily routines and is an excellent time to implement some health boosting techniques. Hot-Cold showers, also known as Alternating Showers, are an easy and cost-effective way to promote health. I have seen countless individuals report improved energy, skin quality, digestion, along with countless other benefits through the regular use of Alternating Showers. Here are the ins and outs of why an alternating shower a day may help keep the doctor away.
For millennia, cultures have utilized hydrotherapy to improve health and vitality. Hydrotherapy refers to the application of water internally or externally to treat disease and support health. Hydrotherapy works by modifying circulation. When we shift the circulation, we begin to see shifts in our physiology.
Health is proportional to normal flow of healthy blood and lymph, also known as our vital fluids. The better the vital fluid flow and the more nutrient-rich the vital fluid is, the healthier we are. Naturopathic Hydrotherapy assists in this process - it supports flow of blood and lymph to the tissues and the quality of the vital fluids that are circulating to the tissues - and therefore, supports health.
In other words, Naturopathic Hydrotherapy improves health by optimizing the quality of vital fluids and enhances their circulation.
One transformational way to include Naturopathic Hydrotherapy in your day-to-day is via Alternating Showers. This involves using short bursts of hot / cold water to stimulate circulation. The hot bursts will cause vasodilation, or an opening of your blood + lymphatic vessels and the cold will cause vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of your blood + lymphatic vessels. This stimulates the pumping action of the vasculature and increases circulation.
In using external applications of hot/cold, we can change the temperature + circulation of the superficial blood vessels, which translates to a change to circulation internally, which can be incredibly beneficial. Enhanced external circulation leads to an increase in circulation to our ‘organs of elimination’; these organs (skin, liver, kidneys, and bowels) allow the body to detoxify. Balanced detoxification is key to the quality of our vital fluids -- it keeps our blood and lymph free of material that does not nourish the system.
Treatment with hot/cold applications can also help increase desirable elements like oxygen, nutrients, red and white blood cells, etc. in the blood by tonifying the digestive and lung function -- two organ systems which bring nutrients (via digestion and respiration) into the system.
Overall, this stimulation via contrasting temperatures increases oxygen absorption, carbon dioxide excretion, and metabolism. The short bursts of cold improve tissue tone, white and red blood cell count, and decreases blood glucose. All of these functions are health promoting.
At the end of your usual shower, begin the treatment with:
60 seconds of warm/hot
30 seconds of cool/cold
Repeat this three times, always ending with cold.
This treatment is best done away from meals, upon waking or after exercise.
To determine what ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ means for you, remember that the hot portion of the shower should be tolerable but cause some rosiness to the skin. The cold portion to be tolerable, but uncomfortable. I suggest patients begin with their usual shower temperature for the ‘hot’ portion of the treatment followed by as cold as they can handle for the cold portion.
If you are short on time, you can simply end your regular shower with a burst of cool/cold water for 30 seconds. This will still confer some benefit.
Be cautious not to scald your skin with overly hot water. If you are leaving the shower feeling chilled or feeling a sensation of cold for the rest of the day, this means that you have gone too cold, and to scale back. If this does not improve, this treatment may not be for you and it is recommended you speak to your Naturopathic Doctor prior to continuing.
Do not perform this technique if you are menstruating, pregnant or if you have pre-existing vascular or circulatory disease, arrhythmias, high or low blood pressure. Avoid when ill and exercise caution if elderly. As always, seek the advice of your Medical or Naturopathic Doctor prior to beginning this technique.
Dr. Melissa Cugliari, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and member of the Canadian and Ontario Associations of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND, CAND).
Dr. Melissa practices under the premise that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to healthcare. She recognizes the complexities of each individual and seeks to treat each patient according to his or her distinct needs. Her treatments integrate modern evidence-based techniques and diagnostic testing with the ancient healing wisdom of herbalism, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and other naturopathic modalities to create comprehensive, individualized treatment protocols addressing the unique needs of each patient.
Dr. Melissa focuses her practice in dermatology and digestive, and is the creator of Renouveau Health—a company dedicated to botanical skincare and natural facial treatments. Her practice is located in Toronto, Canada.