Archive: Skin Health

Take the Plunge: Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Whenever I tell a patient what I do in the shower daily, they shoot a disturbed look my way and cringe: “How could you do that?” they ask, followed by: “I couldn’t imagine willingly putting myself through that torture every single day!” hydrotherapy

You might be wondering what I am talking about. You may be surprised by the answer: Cold Water Immersion, a form of Hydrotherapy that dates back to ancient times.

In its simplest form, ending your shower with 30-60 seconds of a cold water spray stimulates immunity, energizes and revitalizes the body and mind, improves: circulation and detoxification, skin and hair vibrancy and overall wellbeing.

On days that I have a little more time, I alternate hot and cold sprays in the shower using 3 minutes of hot water, followed by 1 minute of cold water and I repeat that for a total of 3 cycles.

Cold water immersion is now all the rage, with top-levels athletes, executives and even Tony Robbins on board.

Is there proof that it works? Yes. I swear by it for myself and my patients to ward off colds and the flu and to jump-start each day.

Immunity and the Common Cold

According to the Natural Standards Database, preliminary clinical evidence shows that taking alternating hot and cold showers, at least five times per week, decreased the frequency of the common cold. It works by increasing not only the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, but also by increasing the number of white blood cells to fight off infection.

By increasing the flow of lymphatic fluid and white blood cells, alternating hot and cold showers support detoxification, reduce joint pain and boost immune function.

Muscle soreness and inflammation

Cold water soothes sore and achy muscles post-workout. It reduces inflammation and can decrease the need to take pain-killers.

Happiness Levels, Energy and Mental Alertness

Those that took cold showers for at least 2-3 minutes daily for several weeks reported an improvement in mood and a reduction in pain. Cold water activates cold receptors in the skin, which in turn activates our sympathetic nervous system, increasing the release of our natural endorphins and brain-boosting neurotransmitters.

Try it – you just may be surprised at how invigorating it is. And, for the morning-afters when you polished off most of the wine, it can be a life-saver.

Note: Those with heart conditions, diabetic neuropathy, nerve or sensation loss or other serious medical conditions should always consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner before starting cold water therapy.

To Sunscreen or Not to Sunscreen

It felt like it would never come, but it is finally that time of year again! The sun is shining, the days are long, and your skin colour is starting to turn a fire-engine red…

Wait! That isn’t supposed to happen!

If you want to avoid looking like a lobster, prevent skin damage and wrinkles, and decrease your risk of skin cancer, it is time to start practising safe sun.

We do need some sun exposure for our body to produce vitamin D. About 10 minutes in the summer sun is usually enough for fair-skinned individuals to produce sufficient levels from UV-B rays (see below). Better yet, taking a vitamin D supplement throughout the year – especially during the wintertime – has been shown to help prevent osteoporosis, seasonal-affective disorder, respiratory tract infections, multiple sclerosis, and breast and colon cancer.

But too much sun can be harmful and increase your risk of cancer.

There are three types of UV rays.

  1. UV-A rays contribute toA  These do not cause burns, but are present even on cloudy days. Almost 99% of the UV rays that reach the earth are UV-A. They increase the production of harmful substances that damage our DNA and lead to skin cancer.
  2. UV-B rays contribute toB These rays directly damage DNA, leading to skin cancer. These rays also increase the production of melanin in our skin, which gives us a tanned or burnt look (which is a bad sign).
  3. UV-C rays lead toCancer and are the most harmful. Fortunately, the ozone layer prevents these rays from reaching us.

Follow these practical tips to protect yourself from the sun:

  • Cover up: Wear a hat and sunglasses (that protect against UV-A and UV-B rays), and use a sun umbrella on the beach and in your backyard.
  • Avoid the mid-day sun as much as possible from 11am–4pm when the rays are the strongest.
  • Check the UV index daily at www.theweathernetwork.com/uvreport/interpretation/caon0696. Plan outdoor activities on low-risk days and exercise extra caution on high-risk days.
  • Increase your consumption of antioxidant-rich foods. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2001 showed that daily intake of lycopene from tomato paste (1/3 can per day), along with olive oil (2tsp per day) for 10 weeks reduced the degree of sunburn by 40% as compared to placebo. Lycopene is an antioxidant found in high amounts in tomato paste, sauce and juice. It is the primary antioxidant for the skin. Also consider increasing your consumption of these antioxidant-rich foods:green tea, turmeric, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, pomegranates, artichokes, broccoli, red cabbage, walnuts, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, oregano, cocoa, pecans, raw ginger, elderberry, acai and rosehips.
  • Use an appropriate sunscreen:
    • Avoid ingredients such as octybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and octocrylene. These all can increase cellular damage. Octybenzone and octinoxate are the most harmful, as they may act as hormonal/endocrine disruptors, have reproductive and developmental toxicity, and have a high risk of allergy and phototoxicity.
    • Choose sunscreens with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
    • Avoid sunscreens in spray or powder form to prevent inhalation of harmful substances.
    • Avoid purchasing products that have sunscreen and bug spray combined because the harmful substances will have increased absorption.
    • Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website at www.ewg.org.  It is constantly updated with the newest safety information on sunscreens, moisturizers, cosmetics, etc.
    • The EWG lists the following sunscreens as the safest options: Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Unscented Sensitive Skin/Children Sunscreen SPF 30+, Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick SPF 50, Badger Baby Sunscreen SPF 30+, Green Beaver Company Certified Organic Kids Non-whitening Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30.

Now get out there and enjoy the nice weather, but be careful!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.