Today we are learning about Contrast Therapy, which is the practice of alternately applying both heat and cold to the body in order to reduce inflammation, release toxins, stimulate the lymph system, strengthen the immune system and help to speed recovery from injury.
WIM HOF AND COLD THERMOGENESIS
By now you have probably heard of Wim Hoff the Iceman, and I hope you understand that a lot of science has to be rewritten because of him
and that he has inspired a new wellness movement focused specifically around cold thermogenesis, as well as controlled oxygen deprivation breathing techniques. And these are strategies to greatly enhance cellular oxygenation & mitochondrial energy production, as well as to detoxify the body and support the immune system to effectively reverse all kinds of diseases and health conditions.
Wim and the many thousands of people now following the Wim Hoff Method are completely focused on the healing power of ice and cold, and they mostly choose to ignore using heat as a therapy. Instead they want to use cold to promote internal thermogenesis –which is the body’s ability to internally create heat.
Strengthening our “Inner Fire” is the real goal of the Wim Hoff Method, and both cellular oxygenation through breath work and cold thermogenesis go hand in hand together, as oxygen is essential to creating internal heat through thermogenesis.
Stimulating and strengthening our inner fire through combining specific breath work and cold exposure is not actually the goal itself, but rather, the capacity for our “inner fire” to withstand cold exposure is really more of a gauge of the strength of our immune system and the energy production capacities of all our cells. So the Wim Hoff Method is really not about being a daredevil, rather it is all about supporting and strengthening our immune system and every cell in our body.
Wim and his followers are leading the charge worldwide into experimentation with cold exposure as an effective method to stimulate cellular regeneration and support the immune system. But as can be evidenced by perusing the Wim Hoff Method facebook group, most people following the WHM have entirely dismissed the use of heat therapy at all and only practice cold exposure.
A lot of people who apply Wim’s method advance really quickly in their capacity for advanced breathing techniques, retentions and extreme cold endurance, and many people have healed themselves of extreme conditions like partial paralysis and even cancer.
DO DIFFERENT CONSTITUTIONS MAKE PEOPLE PREDISPOSED TO COLD OR HEAT?
But many other people do not advance in their ability to endure the cold or retain their breath for long periods. And while this discrepancy may be due to lack of practice or determination on the part of those who fail to progress, I think there’s also underlying factors which predispose some people to adapt to cold much more easily than others.
There are also examples of many people in the world who are able to tolerate extreme heat –even some yogis in India, you know, who can sit or lay down on top of raging fires and not be burned. And as most people have experienced in some fashion, extreme heat can also have a powerfully rejuvenating effect on the body, especially for people who are adapted to tolerate it.
Heat causes sweating which flushes the body of toxins, moves the lymph and stimulates the immune system in some of the exact same ways that cold exposure does.
There are many forms of heat exposure therapy that have been employed throughout the world for thousands of years, including some of the oldest known healing practices like saunas, sweat lodges and natural hot spring pools.
Its really hard to argue against the experience of so many millions of people who experience the benefits of soaking in hot springs, sweating in a dry sauna or even applying a medicated heat balm to sore muscles. There are many forms of heat therapy that –similar to cold exposure- are incredibly beneficial to our health for a variety of reasons.
IS BOTH HEAT AND COLD MORE EFFECTIVE THAN JUST ONE OR THE OTHER?
So there is plenty of evidence that both heat and cold exposure can have beneficial impacts on our health. But what about when you combine hot and cold exposure together?
This is what’s known as Contrast Therapy, and in my opinion, combining both hot and cold together is even more beneficial to our health than either cold or heat alone.
Now there’s a really easy and revealing experiment that you can do right now at home that will very tangibly demonstrate the healing effects of contrast therapy. Now years ago, I was in a week long advanced body work training course and the instructor was so adamant and passionate about us always applying this certain simple contrast therapy technique onto any client that had active inflammation from a recent injury, right? She was very adamant never to work on a recently injured area with direct manual manipulation, but instead to apply contrast therapy.
CONTRAST THERAPY DEMONSTRATION / EXPERIMENT
So here is the experiment:
this is really contrast therapy broken down to its most basic: you get two washcloths, a kettle with some boiling hot water, and some ice.
I really encourage you to get these out and do this experiment now. You can pick any area of the body to work on, and if you have active inflammation from an injury, then I encourage you to experiment with treating your injury if you want to. If not, then I will recommend you just use the middle of your forearm, and only apply the heat and cold to a small section, so that you can really feel the effects compared with the rest of your arm.
Now, this experiment takes 3 minutes. You first pour a little boiling hot water onto a washcloth and then hold it on your forearm for 30 seconds. Then you get some ice, either in a washcloth as well, or in a plastic bag if you like, and you hold this to the exact same part of your arm that you just held the heat to. You repeat this back and forth 3 times. So you will apply heat for 30 seconds, then cold for 30 seconds, then heat again, cold again, heat again and finally cold again. And that’s it, you’re done.
Just notice how your arm feels now. Or if you applied to an injury, see if it is relieved. If you used your arm for this experiment, you should notice that little part of your arm feels like it is absolutely glowing.
And this is but a small foreshadowing of the effects of contrast therapy applied to the whole body, especially by combining a dry sauna with an ice bath. I like to go back and forth slowly between the hot sauna and the ice bath several times over the course of an hour or more, always ending with an ice bath.
STOKING THERMOGENESIS WITH CONTRAST THERAPY
Another method for performing Contrast Therapy that is more aligned with the pursuit of stoking thermogenesis and our “inner fire”, that is to sauna only once at the beginning, and then afterwards lay in the sun, or do yoga or other exercise in order to warm back up naturally, and do not use the sauna or any other heater to warm up again.
Thermogenesis is being rightly hailed as an amazing way to boost the immune system and supercharge our cells… but my question is, why should that equate to ignoring the health benefits of heat exposure?
THERMOELECTRICITY IN THE BODY THROUGH CONTRAST THERAPY?
Thermoelectricity is the direct conversion of heat into electricity, based on temperature differentials. And there are many simple devices that can generate a small electric current from the contrast between heat and cold temperatures, and this is actually one of the most natural ways to produce electricity. So what if our bodies are also capable of harnessing electrical energy from temperature differentials, through alternating exposure to extreme heat and cold?
Now of course I’m just speculating here, but it makes a lot of sense to me and aligns perfectly with my experience of contrast therapy, which makes me feel amazingly charged up, energized and restored.
As always, my intentions in sharing this idea are not to try to prove anything one way or another, but rather to stimulate your curiosity by sharing my own, and to inspire you to experiment, in this case specifically with contrast therapy, to see for yourself how this simple wellness practice can help you to take control of your vitality from the comfort of your own home.
HOME TOOLS FOR CONTRAST THERAPY
To that effect, there are some great products on the market that can really help you most the most of contrast therapy. You can buy or build your own infrared sauna very affordably. Infrared saunas, especially one that uses not only Far Infrared rays but also Near Infrared, offers a variety of effective mechanisms which charge up your body with electrons, detox & move the lymph system and powerfully stimulate the immune system.
Taking a bath with real ice -either filling up your bathtub or a hard plastic container that is outside- is the definitely the best and most effective for home contrast therapy or cold exposure. But using real ice can get expensive and impractical, unless you happen to own a large commercial grade icemaker, which most of us don’t.
So there are actually a lot of innovative ways to more practically rig up an ice bath, or rather an ice-cold plunge. The cheapest and most low-tech way to accomplish this is to use reusable freezer packs and fill you bathtub with them before turning on the cold water. This is not quite as effective as real ice, but it works and its much more affordable and practical.
Many people have taken a big step up from this, buying a small deep freeze and filling it up with water. I haven’t tried this myself, but from what I gather, it’s an excellent method if you are doing ice baths regularly. But it will require some regular cleaning and perhaps even hot tub chemicals, ozone or hydrogen peroxide in order to manage to keep it clean over the long-term.
I recently purchased a very simple but honestly pretty overpriced yet also really smartly designed ice pack vest, which holds a bunch of ice packs. The vest is designed to put the ice where it will make the most impact for brown fat activation.
BROWN FAT ACTIVATION
Brown fat cells are completely the opposite of normal fat cells, in that they burn calories rather than store them. Brown fat cells not only burn calories, they torch them! …facilitating thermogenesis, boosting metabolism and bolstering the immune system.
SURGERY OR DRUGS TO ACTIVATE BROWN FAT?
Scientists have recently found a way to trigger normal fat cells to become brown fat cells in lab mice, causing obese mice to become thin and normal again without doing anything differently in terms of diet and exercise. So there may actually be a drug or surgery in the future that targets fat cells and is able to make the immune system turn them into brown fat cells.
But until this happens, the best and really the only way to activate brown fat is through cold exposure, and specifically along the neck, spine and shoulders, as this is where fat cells are most likely to be converted into brown fat.
So in conclusion, both heat and cold exposure really offer some amazing health benefits that really only increase in potency when combined together in synergy.
Thanks so much for watching this video about the benefits of cold and heat exposure. By exploring the Advanced Home Wellness website you can find other videos and articles on all kinds of interesting wellness topics. Also be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up on all our latest videos.
I’m Kevin Asher, thanks again for watching (or reading) and be well!