Heat is effective for combating viral infections and over the past 600 million years, fish, insects, reptiles, birds and mammals have evolved increasingly complex ways to raise their body temperature. All mammals use fever as the primary immune defence against viral infection and countless generations of humans have outsourced the energy required to raise body temperature to the environment via hot springs, hot baths, steam rooms, saunas, poultices and sunshine.
Despite authorities denying, discounting and discrediting the health effects of heat, the positive effects of raising body temperature are well supported by scientific evidence. In addition to anthropological, cultural and historical evidence for the health benefits of hot spring bathing, there are epidemiological studies that show sauna bathing on most days reduces all-cause mortality including deaths from heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and respiratory infections. Regular sauna bathing is also associated with a reduced risk of respiratory infections and pneumonia and randomised controlled trials show sauna bathing can prevent and treat viral respiratory infections and reduce the symptoms and course of disease. Research also shows regular sauna or hot springs bathing induces relaxation, enhances sleep and, has positive effects on mental health.
The health benefits of raising body temperature are enhanced by ‘contrast bathing’, which is taken for granted in cultures where saunas or hot spring bathing is alternated with dips in snow or icy water. Contrast bathing exercises the entire vascular system. Raising core body temperature increases cardiac output, induces peripheral vasodilation and sweating, and boosts natural immunity in a similar way to fever, while cold exposure induces vasoconstriction that forces blood through the liver and kidneys thereby detoxifying metabolic waste. A typical protocol is: Rinse, Hot, Cold, Rest, Repeat, ensuring you spend as much time resting as you do in extremes of temperature.
Saunas operate at temperatures that destroy viruses and there is extensive data to suggests saunas are the solution to good health and hydrothermal facilities are safe havens during a pandemic. Yet, if you don’t have access to a sauna, you can still do contrast bathing easily at home through hot and cold showers, baths or foot baths. The Cold Water Hokey Pokey is an easy, fun way to gradually introduce cold water immersion into your daily shower schedule with little cost, time, training or special equipment.
COMMON SENSE SAFETY WARNING!
Heat is a powerful force (it can move a train) and like any powerful intervention can either hurt or help you.
COMMON SENSE SAFETY INCLUDES:
DRINK and stay well hydrated with Beautiful Water.
TAKE CARE to avoid dizziness or fainting due to sudden changes in posture and to avoid burns near sources of heat.
TUNE IN to your senses, focus within, and use comfort as a guide to safe physiological limits. Enjoy ‘forced mindfulness’ induced by extremes of hot or cold, and relaxation induced by thermal comfort.
BE AWARE heat tolerance varies between people and within the same person at different times. Don’t go beyond being ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ and avoid extremes of temperature if impaired by drugs or alcohol.
REST: Spend at least as much time resting and coming back into balance as you spend in extremes of temperature. Explore the blissful state of thermal homeostasis between temperature extremes, and enjoy cooling down when hot, and warming up when cold.
By Marc Cohen
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Dr Marc Cohen is a medical doctor, university professor, author, poet, entrepreneur, wellness trailblazer and perpetual student of life, trying to coax the world towards worldwide wellness.
He bridges scientific research and traditional wisdom to provide practical tools to help people gain mastery over their mind and body, tame their toxic load and live happy, health and long.
Dr Marc has spent nearly 40 years practising and researching holistic health and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and many books, texts, poems and memory aids. His latest publication, Extreme Wellness – Pandemic Survival Guide (2021), is the culmination of many thousands of hours collating and condensing information into simple, bite-sized chunks that promote health and wellness.
Dr Marc has spent years developing business interests that promote wellness and he’s currently an owner of Beautiful Water, Extremely Alive Wellness Tonics, Maruia Hot Springs, the Extreme Wellness Institute, and Pronoia Press.