Cold Water Dips for Vitality

Naturopathic MedicineThanks to naturopaths, like Sussanna Czeranko, who remind us of our naturopathic roots, such as the Nature Cure practitioners of Benedict Lust and Sebastian Kneipp of the early 1900’s.  She wrote an encouraging, yet provocative, article called “The Hardening of Our Children” in the 2011 Volume 7 Issue 9 edition of the NDNR journal.  This blog post highlights her article.  She says that “toughening” is a contemporary word equivalent to “hardening” and is an effective way to produce heat and increase vitality.  The prescription: cold water. 

The cold water in this type of treatment was considered to be 55 degrees Fahrenheit, yet these Nature Cure practitioners stated that 71-82 degrees Fahrenheit could also be beneficial.  This type of treatment was believed to develop the body’s power of immunity and protect children from the danger of chill and drafts, and reduce convulsions and infections including measles, scarlet fever, and diptheria.  It was the best security against illness, they stated.  This was a time when antibiotics and vaccination were not available, so the importance of strengthening the body was essential.  I argue that with the high rate of chronic disease prevalent today that the importance of strengthening the body is still essential. 

The prescription by these Nature Cure doctors was to take 3 cold water baths a week of a few seconds’ duration up to no more than a minute’s duration.  These baths could be anytime during the day but never within 2 hours after a meal, right before bed (because it prevents sleep), or when a person is feeling cold or has the chills (i.e. is sick with a cold or flu).  They believed that the best time to start this “hardening” was before conception with the mother-to-be and should continue from day one of a child’s life with 1 or 2 three-second duration cold water baths a day.  Once the child reached 3 years old, only 3 cold water baths a week was considered necessary.  To comfort the chill that this may bring to your ears, they stated that after 2 or 3 applications, the aversion to cold water goes away, even in children. 

Dr. Czeranko elaborates that hot water bathing, warm homes and minimal exercise that people have in their lives these days reduce resistance.  Kneipp advised that warm baths shouldn’t last longer than 5 minutes and that they must be followed by cold water and exercise.  Lust stated that “this cold water application will strengthen the body and counteract the effect of the warm water.” 

If you’re thinking of adding a piece of this old wisdom into your life, consider keeping your hot showers to a minimum and end them with a few seconds up to a minute of the maximum level of cold water.  If you’re having trouble going with the maximum level of cold water at first, consider lowering the temperature to what you can tolerate while each day continuing to get colder.  For those reluctant, you may be comforted in knowing that 55 degree Fahrenheit (or 13 degree Celsius) is “the same temperature that European spas administer the cold water plunge that follows the hot sauna or warm mineral baths.”

Comments are closed.