By Chris Pepitone, D.C.
As the temperatures drop, the idea of plunging into icy water might seem less than inviting. However, ice baths have been gaining popularity in recent years for their incredible health benefits. Athletes, celebrities, health enthusiasts, and the sick left with no other recourse are using this practice to not only enhance their physical and mental well-being but bringing themselves out of chronic illness. While it may appear daunting, the rewards of ice baths are plentiful and have been supported by scientific research. In this article, we will explore the amazing health benefits of ice baths and why you might want to consider taking the plunge.
1. Helps with Weight Loss (Burning Fat) and Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Ice baths, when practiced on a regular basis, will convert yellow or white fat to brown fat (BAT). Brown fat is heat-generating which helps you tolerate the cold better, speeds up your metabolism, clears blood glucose, and increases insulin sensitivity (valuable for Type 2 Diabetes). Cold water immersion can increase the metabolic rate by as much as 16%!
2. Boosting Mood and Helping Depression
Ice baths stimulate lots of beneficial biological cascades. Some of these include the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine.
A study published in 2021 demonstrated that low levels of norepinephrine (NE) are associated with depression and other mental disorders, and concluded that “therapeutic agents which specifically increase NE activity are effective antidepressants, and there is evidence that those acting simultaneously on 5-HT and NE neurotransmission may have an antidepressant action superior to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).”
One study has shown that an hour-long exposure to neck-deep cold water at 57 degrees Fahrenheit increased norepinephrine by 530% and dopamine by 250% whereas just a 20-second whole body dip in 40 degrees Fahrenheit water increased norepinephrine from 200% to 300%. As an added bonus there were tendencies for cortisol concentrations (primary stress hormone) to decrease.
3. Boosts Your Immune System
Ice baths have been found to increase the concentrations of glutathione in the blood plasma. Glutathione is a key antioxidant in the body. It plays a key role in the proper function of T-Cell lymphocytes and activates natural killer (NK) cells. T-Cells fight off infections and may help kill cancer cells while NK cells kill tumor cells or cells infected by viruses. There is also an added benefit of increasing red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet levels in the blood. All of these combined make the body much more efficient and capable of fighting off infections.
Does Temperature Matter?
Short answer.... Yes. The colder the stimulus the greater the physiological reaction and therefore the greater the benefit as long as it is performed safely.
At Pure Health Services we offer the Morozko Forge. A true ice bath not just a cold plunge. This is to offer the best hormonal response and optimize every benefit that the cold can offer.
For more information about all of the benefits that ice baths can provide you call us at 732.747.0083.