View Full Version : Cold showers for Health, Immune, Fat Loss

Mike ODonnell
03-30-2007, 11:04 AM
From Devanny's site....just a reminder of the importance of cold showers...plus I was reading about the enhanced fat burning due to released norepinephrine and increased circulation to those hard to get fat areas (aka the trouble spots with the A2 receptors)

"I don't know if I ever mentioned this before, but about 4-5 years ago, I started taking cold showers to prepare for adventure races and 24-hr orienteering races. Having access to only what was in my backpack while in the middle of the woods at night, I had to find a way of increasing my tolerance to cold (I nearly dropped out of my two first races because of hypothermia). Having once read that polar explorers prepared by taking cold showers, I decided to try it. Though it's hard to tell if it was the cold showers, I never became hypothermic in any subsequent race.

Knowing my experience was purely anecdotal, I did some research to see if this was ever scientifically documented. What I found was much more interesting however, as it suggested that cold showers could increase resistance to oxidant stress.

The first article I found showed that people who took cold swims had higher levels of endogenous antioxidants (superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase). Though I was sold, there were no other papers out there supporting these results, or showing that the increase in endogenous antioxidants conferred a survival benefit. Being a medical resident, I considered writing a proposal to perform a few experiment on rats or other short-lived mammal, but I didn't think anyone would be interested in funding or supervising me given that most people wouldn't take cold showers even if they knew it would buy them an extra 20 years of health. Apparently, someone thought the idea was worthwhile, because I recently came across a paper which described an experiment in rats with similar results plus a survival benefit when the rats were injected with lethal doses of epinephrine. Still, it doesn't prove longevity benefits, but certainly does help support the idea.

There's a lot of anecdotal stuff out there with respect to cold showers and longevity. In fact, my mother had once told me about a very youthful and healthy russian patient of hers in his 90s, who told her his secret to longevity was that he never took a warm shower. Apparently he had to take care of all of his younger siblings, none of which shared his health in old age despite sharing 50% of his genes. Here's another anecdote from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/04/24/living.well/.

Anyway, all this to say that you should read these two interesting articles - I know you have mentioned that you spray cold water on your legs following a shower to increase fat burning. There's also a body of work out there on cold shock proteins, but I haven't looked into it extensively enough yet to comment."

Pierre Auge
03-30-2007, 11:17 AM
Yeah read that on Devany's blog earlier - interesting stuff, I've been taking cold showers for a while and my recovery is always top notch when I do,currently since I can't my recovery is shit!

Robert Allison
03-30-2007, 11:39 AM
I do contrast showers (back & forth between hot & cold; ending on cold) every day. It seems to boost my recovery, and, at a minimum, it is very "bracing," you might say. I am wide awake after that.

I believe there is some research related cold water immersion to the formation of heat (not cold) shock proteins. I think Dr. Eades might have had something on his blog a while back on this topic...

Ron Nelson
03-30-2007, 11:44 AM
I tried cold water dousing for about 4 months when I was doing CF on a 3-1 day schedule (or as close to 3-1 as possible). I don't think it helped my recovery all that much. It also did not trigger fat loss as promised. Finally, someone mentioned that it could stave off colds and flu.

I stopped doing it right after I got my first cold of the year.

Side note: Mike Yukish mentioned that he experimented with hot tubs and cold beer and was having phenomenal results.

Mike ODonnell
03-30-2007, 01:51 PM
Mike Yukish mentioned that he experimented with hot tubs and cold beer and was having phenomenal results.

The bastard stole my research......probably when I was passed out.....but did he have to take my bathing suit too?? That was a cold and awkward walk back into the ski lodge at 7am......

Ken Urakawa
03-30-2007, 02:32 PM
I seem to recall something from the early 90's looking at cold water immersion (swimmers, i think) leading to higher levels of brown fat (?) as opposed to yellow.

Am I talking out of my fanny here? Anyone?

-Ross Hunt
03-30-2007, 03:41 PM
Cold showers are good, but dousing is better.

It's a pain to do it all the time unless you have a freezing lake nearby or something. Filling up+refrigerating tubs of water is a chore...

Eva Claire Synkowski
03-30-2007, 03:59 PM
dumb question here - so whats the word on how cold does "cold" need to be to get some benefits?

ive tried cold cylces and i guess im a wuss, but cold showers in january in boston = hell. theres realistically 4 months i could do ice cold cycles.

Danny John
03-30-2007, 05:14 PM
I have an outdoor shower that I can only use from about now to November. It causes shrinking, that's for sure, but I'm not sure about the other benefits. It really helps me, though.

Dave Van Skike
03-30-2007, 07:40 PM
I have been taking warm showers for 38 years now and let me tell you, they are awesome. Bring a beer, bring a friend, bring a funny hat and boots- whatever your into....you can play in a hot shower for hours.

Seriously. Dude. When Pavel says Cold Water Dousing, I think-


When Steve Maxwell says it, I say-

"Well..... maybe"

When Burgener says it , I think-

"Yup, must be something to it"

When El Vain One says it, I think-

"Nope. must be crap."

Not to be combative or anything...I just can't take De Vany seriously. must be the pungent reak of self love... not that there's anything wrong with that.

Mike ODonnell
03-30-2007, 07:49 PM
Cold showers have the following positive effects:

*Brings blood to the capillaries, therefore increasing circulation throughout the body.
*Cleans the circulatory system.
*Reduces blood pressure on internal organs.
*Provides flushing for the organs and provides a new supply of blood.
*Strengthens the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
* Contracts the muscles to eliminate toxins and poisonous wastes.
* Strengthens the mucous membranes, which help resist hay fever, allergies, colds, coughs.

from http://www.earthclinic.com/Remedies/showers.html
what I find interesting are the 79 readers comments below the main article....

Besides the whole detox and increased lymphatic system....for fat burning, most fat cells (white not brown) do not have access to alot of blood flow and rely on delivery through capillaries, so if a cold shower can increase adrenaline/noradrenaline....increase blood flow to capillaries/fat cells , increase fat cells response to adrenaline/noradrenaline...can therefore increase the fat burning affect....just a scientific stab in the dark....from a person with an engineering degree....so don't publish it or anything...

Robb Wolf
03-31-2007, 08:24 AM
I think another example of hormesis. You are right, the comments on that page are interesting.

Dave Van Skike
03-31-2007, 10:20 AM

Any sesen of what the scale of the responses (to cold water) listed above are when compared to teh scale of teh same reposens from an intense bout of excercise?

The whole lyphatic thing has always been confusing to me. It's primary limb movement and hydrostaic pressure that move lymph isn't it? ergo, how is a boot up in BP and circualtion going to impact that system compared to the day to day activities that keep it operating?

Mike ODonnell
03-31-2007, 11:22 AM
I'm going to take an uneducated guess and say something like contrast showers are able to get more down to the cellular level widespread for contraction and stimulating lymph flow while exercise may or may not depending on what you are doing, what muscles are involved, etc.....I know they say "rebounding" is the best exercise for lymphatic system due to the gravitation force on the cell level going up and down....

-Ross Hunt
03-31-2007, 12:33 PM
There was a lot of discussion about this on the dragondoor board way back when.

Someone floated the notion that cold water dousing (sudden immersion or large-volume dousing with near-freezing water) causes a 'flash fever' or brief elevation of core temperature to something ridiculously high, as a mechanism to prevent organ failure in response to extreme cold. The upshot of this is, if you dump a very large tub of water over your head-- cold enough that you have to break the ice before you douse-- or, likewise, if you jump into a freezing cold lake, your body temperature spikes and you barbecue any nasty viruses or hostile bacteria that are making a nuisance of themselves.

Is any of this true? I have no idea--but I know that whenever I've come down with a fever, dousing cures it within 24 hours.

Chris Forbis
03-31-2007, 01:19 PM
Finally started taking cold showers again. I'm far too much of a wimp to keep them up during the winter.

Nothing like having your hands (and scalp) go numb while washing your hair!

Sam Lepore
03-31-2007, 01:47 PM
I have recently started the contrast showers in the past month. I really like them and it does seem to help with recovery. "Seem" is the operative word though---It is very tough to tell what is causing recovery at times.

I agree with Chris-- I tried a contrast shower back in January. WOW! Cold. Much better in March.

Greg Davis
04-09-2007, 04:04 AM
I'm also sold on cold showers BUT my #1 problem right now is not sleeping so well and I'm starting to think it might be because I've been taking cold showers in the PM (usually a few hours before bedtime). It feels great to be showered before bed but I keep waking up at night / just not getting a great sleep. Might be the stress response to the cold shower?

I'm going to have to try to switching to showering in the morning and see how that goes.. thing is I was loving the time it saved it the morning not having to shower! Ideally I would just shower mid-morning or after a workout but working a 9-5 its either when I wake up or before bed.

Mike ODonnell
04-09-2007, 06:13 AM
Yeah I'm thinking due to increased blood flow and any kind of arenaline response that a cold shower before bed is prob not the best thing....if you want to keep it PM try the contrast version where you end with a hot water cycle.

I think in the AM is ideal especially after a night of fasting your body is ready to dump out toxins...hence why you have the "morning mouth"...toxins released through the tongue.

Ken Urakawa
04-09-2007, 01:23 PM
Finally got around to poking around the www wilderness to look at the cold water immersion and Brown Fat thing. Some intriguing stuff, even if much of it is being extrapolated from rats:

A review: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-201X.2005.01464.x

As it effects obesity in humans:
"Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a specialized thermogenic tissue, which is highly vascularized and richly innervated with sympathetic nerves. Due to the high thermogenic capacity (500 W/kg) even very small quantities such as those found in adult man can significantly influence heat production. As little as 50 g BAT could make a contribution of 10-15% to energy turnover in man. This would be more than sufficient to cause large differences in fat deposition between individuals with active or inactive dietary induced thermogenesis. Recent research has revealed the presence of an atypical beta-adrenoreceptor on BAT, tentatively designated as beta 3-adrenoreceptor. The development of beta 3-agonists offers an opportunity to treat obesity without the cardiovascular and other undesirable side-effects of conventional adrenergic agonists." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?itool=abstractplus&db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=abstractplus&list_uids=2560467
& http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=12004574&query_hl=4&itool=pubmed_DocSum

Related and unrelated changes in response to Exercise and Cold Exposure:
“Cold-specific changes included increased food intake, an increase in both mass and metabolic activity of brown adipose tissue leading to an increased capacity for nonshivering thermogenesis, and maintenance of the stores of ascorbic acid and muscle glycogen during cold exposure. These changes were associated with an improved resistance to cold with which the rats were able to maintain their body temperature in both cold air and water were typical of rats previously exposed to cold." http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/57/5/1489

And, BAT activity increasing Slow-wave sleep: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=12633889&itool=iconabstr&query_hl=4&itool=pubmed_docsum

Dave Van Skike
04-09-2007, 07:44 PM
I have expressed some skepticism in this thread re: the cold shower thing but recently f'ed up my back. Been alternating hot and cold showers after foam roller work. Can't say it's a cure but it "feels" like I'm getting more mileage out of the foam work. FWIW.