The Doctor Is In: Medical Advice You May Never Take

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - Dr. Sonny Saggar returned to the studio for a discussion on good health advice that is often not put into action.

Dr. Saggar talked about suggestions that are offered to patients that they may never take advantage of, such as the importance of utilizing cold water.

Dr. Saggar discussed the importance of what a cold shower or splash of water can do for your health.

Many cultures incorporated a cold water dousing into their religious ceremonies.

Some Native American tribes would alternate between sitting in a sweat lodge and jumping into an icy river or snow bank.

Ancient Russians also took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing.

Japanese practitioners of Shinto, both in ancient and modern times, would stand under an icy waterfall as part of a ritual known as Misogi, which was believed to cleanse the spirit.

While most doctors may no longer instruct their patients to take a cold shower or bath, a shot of cold water can still impart real health benefits.

It improves circulation
Good blood circulation is vital for overall cardiovascular health.  Healthy blood circulation also speeds up recovery time from strenuous exercises and work. 

Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water reverses the effect by causing the blood to move towards the surface of the skin, sometimes even making you feel faint and light-headed.

Cold water is an anti-depressant
Depression is yet another thing that cold showers help and prevent.  It is caused by the stimulating effect the cold has on the part of the brain that sends noradrenaline for our bodies, a chemical that might be used to help alleviate depression.

You will notice that after having a cold shower, you will feel very happy, sometimes referred to as euphoria.  This feeling can be compared to the happiness you feel after exercise because of the endorphin released.

It accentuates one's breathing
What you will notice as an effect of cold showers, especially when you first start, is that you begin inhaling very deeply, while asking yourself if you're totally out of your mind.  This is to try and combat the stress of the shock, the vasoconstriction and the overall need for oxygen to respire and to keep yourself warm.

It helps you sleep
Another great reason to start having cold showers is that it aids sleeping.  Insomniacs are sometimes advised to try this, the physical stress and shock of a cold shower before bedtime really helps you to calm down after the exhilarating feeling of being extra alive under the water.

It augments your immunity
The most established benefit of cold showers is that they simply increase your chances of fighting off disease and infection.  Several studies have suggested that people who take regular cold showers have less chance of getting cancer, colds, flu, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.

According to a study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, individuals who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to individuals who took hot showers.

Researchers believe that the increased metabolic rate, which results from the body's attempt to warm itself up, activates the immune system and releases more white blood cells in response.

It improves your metabolism
Taking cold showers has been shown to help normalize a healthy human temperature, regulating the amount of sweat you produce in doing so.  As a result of the increased brown fat levels, blood pressure and body temperature, chemical reactions in your body will happen faster than they would have without regular cold showers.

An increased metabolism is what a lot of people seek out because it means that any process in the body will become more efficient.  This also means more weight loss because more calories are being burned to supply energy for more reactions.  It also means faster growth/repair of muscles and other cells so any exercise you do will result in better results leaving a fitter, leaner body.

It keeps one's skin healthy
Hot water dries out skin and hair.  If you want to avoid an irritating itch and ashy elbows, turn down the temperature of your showers.  In fact, itch receptors don't even work in the cold.  Also, cold water can make your skin look healthier by closing up your cuticles and pores.

Potency & Fertility
Cold showers appear to increase testosterone.  During the 19th century, many doctors and ministers recommended that young men take baths in cold water to reduce the sin of 'self-pollution'.  Cold water was thought to extinguish a man's burning carnal desires.  How wrong they were! 

The same study by the Thrombosis Research Institute cited above showed that cold water showers actually increase testosterone production in men.  Increased testosterone levels not only boost a man's libido, but also his overall strength and energy level. 

Trying to become a dad?  Cold showers are good for your little swimmers.  Your testes aren't meant to get too hot; that's why they hang outside your body.  Sperm counts decrease when the temperature of a man's testes increases. 

Experiments done in the 1950's showed that hot baths were an effective contraceptive.  Men who took a 30 minute hot bath every other day for 3 weeks were infertile for the next six months.  Perhaps this also explains why sperm counts drop when a country gets more running hot water.

Weight Loss
Brown fat, as opposed to white fat is heavily involved in burning energy.  Exposure to cold naturally stimulates the production of these brown fats.  These cells burn glucose (the calories you eat and the white fat that you store) to try and produces as much heat energy as possible. 

Having a higher amount of brown fat leads to more energy being burned per second and therefore, more weight is lost. Brown fat protects us from aging, fights obesity and fights diabetes.

It improves our lymphatic system
Unlike blood vessels, the lymphatic system does not contain blood.  Insteadit has lymph, which carries away waste products and white blood cells which handle infections.  Alsodifferent from blood vessels is that the heart does not pump lymph around the body like it does the blood.

The lymph relies on the contraction of muscles. This contraction squeezes the lymph up to the thoracic duct so that the lymph can mix with the blood and then be dealt with by our organs.

Cold showers causewhole-body contraction, and this works excellently with the lymph system, squeezing the fluid up through the body.  If the lymphatic system is compromised and inefficient, then the fluid pools at far away places (usually the feet). This results in what is known as lymphedema (a type of edema or swelling).  The pooling of lymph can result in serious health detriments.

Another result of the whole body contraction is that it results in the squeezing of toxins and waste products out of the skin.  This means that they do not stay inside the body and cause infection or put extra strain on the organs responsible for breaking them down into manageable pieces.  This detoxification can make you feel better and more 'fresh'.  It also has a good effect on the skin which appears cleaner and younger.

WARNING: Before Getting Started with Cold Water Showers

If you've spent most of your life taking hot showers, suddenly turning the dial in the other direction can be a big shock to the system.

Don't try this at home (or anywhere else for that matter), if you're not in good health to start with.  Getting into the cold shower thing might be too much, too soon if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or feverish.

Just like initiating a new work-out program, it's often a good idea to see your healthcare provider  to give you a clean bill of health, before you start the craziness.

How to start if you're healthy enough:

If you decide to start taking cold showers, slowly adjusting the temperature is best advised.

1. Start off with the warm water

2. Apply the body wash or soap all over, like you normally do. 

3. When you're ready to rinse, just turn it down tocold.  Spend a few minutes under the cold water, meditating about a lost love or on how awesome your life is.

However, many people decide to "throw themselves in at the deep end" of cold showering and start by simply throwing themselves under as much cold water as they can get their hands on.  

This is of course a much quicker way of reaping the health benefits of cold exposure but carries the downfall of much more discomfort and some initial risks to your health.  For those with potentially weak hearts, the gradual 'easing' method is strongly advised.

Perhaps not a direct health benefit, but taking cold showers also means using no energy while washing yourself (in the form of electric or gas usage).  This means less CO2 and other greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere, resulting in less global warming and a lower electricity bill.  So, if for no other reason, promote a healthier planet by taking a cold shower.

Final Note
After about a week of getting into these cold showers, you will find yourself dreading the shower, which you know is good for you.

Just don't quit.  Do it solidly for 30 days, and your early hesitations will transform into enthusiasm.

Drug companies will never promote this.  Think about it.

St. Louis Urgent Cares presently has 4 locations in St. Louis, and all 4 are active participants in Direct Medical Care: Downtown Urgent Care, Eureka Urgent Care and Creve Coeur Urgent Care, and North City Urgent Care.

Connect with Dr. Saggar, the Medical Director at St. Louis Urgent Cares at:
• Twitter: @DoctorIsInSTL
• Facebook: DoctorIsInSTL
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