Hydrotherapy and the use of hot and cold has a long history of use in medicine throughout the world. Hot and cold water (immersion baths, foot baths) as well as saunas and sweat lodge, temazcales are all ways to enhance the innate immune system.
The research literature suggests that those who undertook hot baths followed by a final brief cold bath had lower viral infection rates and lower mortality rates during the 1918 pandemic. Its application to COVID-19 is just now being explored but it is posited to have similar, positive effects.
This physical response is theorized to be a result of enhanced immune function in response to hot and cold applications. The use of hydrotherapy is to be used for prevention; and then if one falls ill, conduct it daily and intensively during illness.
Frequent use of sauna has been found to reduce the risk of pneumonia. Roger Seheult, MD., a pulmonologist is one of the physicians working in this area of clinical application and research. Those of you who have studied with me, recall me sharing about the practice of applying a hot mustard fomentation to the chest during bronchitis and pneumonia.
The use of sauna is nearly universal in Finland and may contribute to a lower number of COVID-19 cases and lower mortality compared to neighboring Nordic countries who have similar stay-at-home and testing strategies. This article discusses the reduction of sick days among people who use cold showering methods and has an excellent review of the physiological and neuroendocrine responses to cold showering.
In my analysis, the differing immune responses by individuals identified in various research papers suggest that, like many natural methods, these hydrotherapy techniques serve to bring balance to the individual’s specific needs, rather than a one-type-response-fits-all. Remember the root word of medicine comes from the ancient Sanskrit MA, which means to measure, to balance. True medicine helps restore balance and sustains resilience to fight off stressors.
Hot showers ending in a splash of cold, or saunas followed by jumping in the snow or dipping in icy lakes are all excellent ways to enhance immune health, boost mood and help avoid quarantine-depression.
This concept of heat also applies to the healing function of fever by the body and why management of temperature up to 102-103 degrees (and not suppression of fever) is generally a safe (patient-specific) approach to enable the body to fight infection.
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