Cold temperatures offer a variety of benefits. Research not only suggests that exposure to the cold slows the flow of blood, decreases inflammation and, thus, often works to minimize pain, but that it can sharpen the senses, help the body burn fat more effectively, and energize us for increased activity long after temperatures have again risen. At The Institute of Natural Health, we rely on both fundamental and clinical studies, often using their results to recommend controlled exposure to cold (via a treatment called “cryotherapy”) to many of our patients as a way to promote better health. Take a look at how cryotherapy promotes bodily healing:
Initiation of “Fight or Flight” Response
Cryotherapy is a type of medical treatment that exposes a person to freezing temperatures. Patients enter a small chamber that envelopes the body (except for the head). Dry nitrogen vapor is released within the chamber for three minutes, which causes the body to initiate a natural defense mechanism known as “fight or flight.” In this, the first of three cryotherapy stages of healing, adrenaline and other hormones, as well as immune cells and chemicals, are released as the body prepares to attack or flee (and possibly encounter injury). Vessels constrict the flow of blood and direct it mainly to the body’s core in an effort to protect vital organs and maintain a normal core temperature. The combined effect of these physiological changes has been shown to trigger a reduction in inflammation (a result of heightened immune activity) and to amplify energy, mood, and focus (a result of increased levels of cortisol, adrenaline, endorphins, and other hormones stimulating metabolic pathways), factors that all contribute to overall improved health.
Continuation of the Body’s Natural Defenses
Of course, the body’s natural defenses continue to work in other ways after exposure to freezing temperatures. For instance, being cold activates the body’s stores of “brown fat,” signaling this special type of adipose tissue to create energy by revving up metabolism in an attempt to keep the body warm. This causes the body not only to burn more calories, but to become more efficient at harnessing glucose for various metabolic processes. Studies even indicate that the cold actually helps the body create brown fat, not just make better use of what’s already there! Thus, even after the body warms up, it is still better prepared to burn calories, control blood sugar and improve insulin levels since its supply of brown fat has been activated and primed to better propagate in the future. This cryotherapy stage of healing helps ensure enduring protection against certain metabolic disorders and also frequently results in sustained weight loss success.
The third cryotherapy stage of healing occurs as the body enters recovery. As exposure to the cold treatment ends, the body seeks to return to a normal core temperature. Vasodilation begins and circulation improves. Freshly-oxygenated blood is quickly pushed throughout the body, bringing with it the ability to more quickly and effectively repair damaged tissues and other cellular structures. This nutrient-dense blood also contains anti-inflammatory properties that boost the immune system and help protect against chronic inflammation and disease. Indeed, following a cryotherapy session, it is not uncommon for patients to feel immediately refreshed and energized, to have glowing skin and be visibly less swollen around affected joints and injuries and to have those effects persist for days or even weeks!
Learn More Today
The cryotherapy stages of healing have the potential to render immediate and lasting benefits. To learn more about cryotherapy and how it can influence metabolic processes that contribute to improved health and mental well-being, please contact our clinicians at The Institute of Natural Health.