There are strong natural remedies you can use to enhance your immune system and shorten the duration of a cold or flu. Two simple and powerful at home methods you can do to increase your vitality are contrast showers and magic socks.
Both of these treatments utilize hydrotherapy, one of the oldest and primary methods of treatment in Naturopathic medicine. By utilizing hot and cold water, the body strengthens its response to changing temperatures and increases circulation and system functioning.
Contrast showers are a simple way to promote detoxification and boost your immune system. The method is simply to alternate between hot and cold water in the shower as described in the steps below. This temperature contrast helps the body adjust to stress and strengthens the nervous, circulatory, endocrine (hormonal), musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, and immune systems.
- After your normal shower, gradually turn down the hot water to cool water, and rinse for about 1 minute, focusing on areas of pain or soreness if they are present.
- After 1 minute, switch the shower back to hot water for 3-5 minutes.
- Repeat this cycle 3-5 times and end with cool water.
Keep the hot phase longer than the cold and be sure to finish with cool water. You will gain more therapeutic benefit with sharper contrasts in temperatures, but start with smaller changes and gradually work up to sharper contrasts. If you are in a crunch for time you can still get benefits from simply turning one blast of cold water for 30 seconds at the end of your shower.
When to do this?
Contrast showers are a preventative method, meaning you can do them every day even when you are not feeling sick. Since these contrast showers are energy boosting, take them in the morning or early evening rather than right before bed. And because your body is already heated, after sauna or exercise are also ideal times to do contrast showers.
How does this work?
Increases blood flow aiding in detoxification and reducing inflammation
When exposed to cold temperatures the blood vessels constrict, known as vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow. When exposed to hot temperatures, the opposite process occurs, vasodilation in which the blood vessels open and blood flow increases.
Alternating between temperatures increases blood flow, essentially tones and strengthens the blood vessels by forcing your tissues to adapt to changing temperatures. Increasing blood flow aids the lymphatic system and helps the body in the detoxification process.
Boosts the Immune System
One study showed that contrast showers resulted in a 29% decrease in sick days, indicating that contrast showers can lessen the frequency of colds and viruses (3).
Exposure to cold water has also shown to stimulate white blood cells, particularly lymphocyte cells which attack bacteria and viruses. (4)
Some medical conditions to note that contradict with contrast showers:
- Heart disease or vascular disease, including hypertension, high blood cholesterol, intermittent claudication, weak connective tissue (relating to high risk for plaque rupturing), etc.
- Vascular insufficiency or stasis, including blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, phlebitis, etc.
- Cold urticaria or cold-induced hemolysis
- Raynaud’s syndrome or pneumonia
Start with low intensity speed and degree in temperature change and discontinue or decrease intensity if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, or excessively chilled. Other things that can limit your tolerance for contrast showers are acute illness, menstruation, dehydration, decreased vitality, and poor nutrition.
If done correctly, contrast showers can be a powerful tool to help your body detox, reduce inflammation, and boost your immune system. This simple at home method only requires a few extra minutes at the end of your shower and can provide a number of benefits, increasing your circulation and strengthening your body’s response to a cold or virus.
Magic Socks are another easy hydrotherapy you can try at home for relieving colds and flus. Similar to the contrast shower, the cold water on your feet will increase circulation, calm the nervous system, and aid your immune system, but the real magic is the way pain and congestion are relieved in your sleep!
- Warm up your body by taking a hot shower or foot bath. You can also exercise or sauna.
- Run a pair of cotton socks under cold water and wring out. You can place them in the freezer for a few minutes if you want. Put them on your feet, making sure they fit snugly.
- Layer these with heavy dry wool socks and sleep with both pairs of socks on.
- In the morning socks will be warm and dry and you will be feeling a lot better!
(Note: You will want to be thoroughly warm before putting on the socks. If you can not take a hot shower to get warm before putting on the socks or already have the chills, skip this method)
When to do this?
Use the magic socks method when you are feeling sick or congested to relieve symptoms. Repeat for 3 nights or until your symptoms are alleviated.
It can help relieve:
- Sinus, nasal, ear and chest congestion
- Colds and flus
This is a safe method for children and adults of all ages, including infants.
How does this work?
The magic sock method creates a “vascular pump” shunting blood away from painful and inflamed areas in the upper body down to your feet. The process releases excess heat in fevers and also also relieves nasal, sinus, and chest congestion so that you can breathe better.
The mechanism: In response to the cold wet socks, blood flows to the feet to heat them up. This makes the water evaporate which cools the socks and feet. This in turn stimulates blood flow to the feet again to warm, igniting the whole cycle again. This cycle will repeat overnight until the socks are dry. If you wake congested you can wet the socks again and re-apply.
The Power of Contrast Showers and Magic Socks
Best of all, both of these methods are simple and easy to do with resources at home. Next time you are feeling a bit under the weather or simply want a preventative boost to help strengthen your vitality, try a contrast shower or the magic socks method!
- Bieuzen, François, et al. “Contrast Water Therapy and Exercise Induced Muscle Damage: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Plos One, vol. 8, no. 4, 2013, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062356.
- Buijze, Geert A., et al. “Correction: The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Plos One, vol. 13, no. 8, 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0201978.
- Hayes, K.W. Manual for Physical Agents, 4th ed. 1993. Norwalk, CT. Appleton & Lange. Pp. ix, 169.
- Helal, Omar, et al. “Changes in the Great Saphenous Vein Diameter in Response to Contrast Baths and Exercise: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Journal of American Science, Feb. 2013.
- Jasper, M.G. “3 Benefits of Contrast Showers.” Medium, firstname.lastname@example.org/3-benefits-of-contrast-showers-619bc0dcd12d
- Lindlahr, H. and Poesnecker, G.E. Nature Cure 2000: Philosophy and Practice Based on the Unity of Disease and Cure. 1998. Quakertown, PA. Beverly Hall Corp. Pp. xxii, 360.
- “Magic Socks Treatment.” Innate Wellness and Medical Center, 11 Jan. 2018, innatewellnessaz.com/magic-socks-treatment/.
- Mooventhan, A, and L Nivethitha. “Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body.” North American Journal of Medical Sciences, vol. 6, no. 5, May 2014, p. 199., doi:10.4103/1947-2714.132935.
- “Therapeutic Contrast Shower” Bastyr Center for Natural Health.