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10 April 2020 Posted by 


Gradual exposure improves immune system
THE idea, that to improve your immunity you should take cold showers or swim in cold water, sounds counterintuitive, if not outright wrong.

After all, most of us grew up believing that being cold increased our chances of getting sick. But increasing evidence shows there is real benefit to gradually increasing your exposure to the cold.
But how?
Cold immersion increases the body’s metabolic rate both during, and after, the immersion. Increasing your metabolic rate plays a dual function.
Not only does it help burn a few extra calories but also activates the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells which, you may remember from high school science, are the body’s “soldiers” in the fight against viruses and bacteria.
The benefits of cold therapy are well known in many Nordic countries, as well as in Russia, where thousands of people participate in weekly cold-water plunges during winter.
Most notable in the area of cold therapy is Wim Hof, whose program the Wim Hof Method (WHM), claims to improve your health and immune system using gradual exposure to the cold.
In 2013, a research team at Radboud University in The Netherlands set out to see if Hof could prove his claim.
Over a period of 10 days, Hof trained 12 volunteers in the WHM which included a specific breathing technique as well as gradual exposure to cold conditions. When the 10 days of training were over, the volunteers all received an injection containing E-coli bacteria.
Normally, exposing the body to this bacteria would result in the individual experiencing flu-like symptoms. However, this didn’t happen.
In fact, the volunteers showed far less signs of influenza than the control group who were not exposed to gradual cold training.
The researchers of this study concluded that the breathing techniques and cold exposure taught in the WHM had a positive impact on the immune system.
Getting cold also has other benefits. When we expose or bodies to short bursts of stress, like 5-10 minutes of cold immersion, we release a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine.
In short bursts, norepinephrine can play a role in reducing inflammation in the body. Indeed, studies have shown that cold stress, such as short cold showers or a quick dip in the cold sea, can increase norepinephrine levels five-fold.
This increase in norepinephrine has been shown to reduce inflammatory proteins in the blood. Due to the increasing number of people claiming that cold therapy has helped them alleviate symptoms of conditions such as Rheumatoid
Arthritis, researchers are starting to explore this benefit these claims.
However, a word of warning: having too much norepinephrine can also be detrimental to your health as it increases heart rate and blood pressure.
Therefore, it is important that people with heart conditions do NOT undertake cold therapy without talking to their doctor first.
So how often should you undertake cold therapy?
The advice from Wim Hof Method advocates is to gradually increase your exposure to the cold. Certified WHM instructor, Asher Packman, recommends starting with just 10-20 seconds of cold in the middle of your normal shower and then turning back to warm again.
Eventually, you can increase the time of your cold shower to 10 minutes and then start including two-to-three-minute ice baths, with the ultimate aim of being able to swim in cold water in nature.
Cold therapy is a simple, natural, at-home measure that most healthy people can try.
It only takes a few minutes a day, doesn’t cost a thing and, if you really can’t handle it, there’s no reason why you can’t turn the tap to the left and finish your shower nice and warm.


Michael Walls
0407 783 413

Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) covers the business and community issues of the Greater Western Sydney region of Australia. WSBA is the popular media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities and networks.