How cold exposure can boost immunity
We usually strive to remain warm while it’s cold outside. But what if I told you there were advantages to exposure to the cold? Cold exposure occurs when your body is exposed to chilly or cold temperatures. This may be accomplished by having a cold shower, going for an open water swim in a lake or ocean, or even sitting in an ice bath. Some individuals, though, just stand in a basin of frozen water to get some of the advantages without getting their entire bodies wet.
Why would someone want to do anything like this? There are certain advantages to exposing your body to frigid temperatures. Cold showers, for example, can assist in improving circulation, reduce muscle and joint discomfort after exercise, promote metabolism, and even alleviate sadness and anxiety. However, for the sake of this essay, we will concentrate on how full-body immersion in cold water may strengthen your immune system.
You may be wondering how cold water might help your immune system. I’m sure you recall your mother telling you as a youngster to “wrap up warm or you’ll catch a cold.” To begin with, being exposed to the cold does not increase your chances of getting a cold, flu, or any other infection. It may appear that way since we do acquire more of these ailments during the colder winter months. However, it has nothing to do with the climate; it is because we spend considerably more time indoors, with the central heating on and the windows closed, with our entire family passing diseases and illnesses from one another. That being said, while being cold will not cause you to develop a cold or weaken your immune system, it is essential to dress adequately during the winter months if you are at risk of hypothermia or frostbite! Let’s look into how cold water exposure enhances our immune.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is elevated when we are stressed. Cortisol levels may be controlled by exposing oneself to cold regularly, which lessens stress. Reduced cortisol is excellent news for our immune system since reduced cortisol leads to an increase in white blood cells called lymphocytes over time. Lymphocytes are vital in immunity because they help combat bugs, pathogens, and diseases.
Frequently swimming in cold water has also been shown to boost the number of lymphocytes and monocytes. Monocytes are a sort of white blood cell that plays an even more vital part in human immunity and disease resistance. They are the immune system’s security guards, produced in the bone marrow and always on the watch for intruders such as germs that cause illness. When they come into contact with these invaders, they attack and eat them while also producing antibodies. These antibodies then circulate in the circulation, ready to attack the specific bacterium if it re-enters the body.
A six-week study of males who swam in cold water three times a week found that an increase in monocytes and lymphocytes strengthened their immune systems. Other types of cells and proteins were also up, indicating that the immune system had been stimulated. Despite the fact that the study is nearly twenty years old, the findings have been supported by a recent study that indicated cold water exposure increased immune-boosting factors. Even better, this study focused on merely staying in the water for a few minutes after exercise to strengthen the immune system. So you don’t have to stay in the cold water for too long to gain the benefits.
People who are habituated to being cold, such as regular open-water swimmers, have lower lipoproteins. What does any of this have to do with immunity? Lipoprotein contributes to the formation of cholesterol, which can lead to problems with the heart and blood vessels or the cardiovascular system. However, not part of the immune system, lower levels of lipoprotein indicate lower cholesterol levels and, as a result, a lower risk of sickness and heart disease. Cholesterol can also create long-term inflammation, lowering immunity and making you more susceptible to illness.
Oxidative stress is a primary contributor to inflammation, leading to various disorders, including cancer. People who swim in cold water daily have reduced levels of oxidative stress. The essential term here is “regularly.” To reap the maximum health advantages from cold water, you must be exposed to it regularly and consistently.
On the negative side, another study discovered that troponins were increased in the blood of competitive cold water swimmers. Troponins are a warning indicator of heart muscle injury, which is mainly caused by an inconsistency in the amount of oxygen required during exertion. However, whether this is due to cold exposure, high-intensity exercise, or both is unclear. It has been advised that further study be conducted, particularly on persons who are only exposed to cold on an infrequent basis rather than daily.
Another immune-boosting effect of cold water swimming is the presence of antioxidants in the blood plasma. These antioxidants appear to be generated by the body in reaction to the body becoming used to or toughened to, the physical stress induced by the low temperature. Antioxidants play a crucial role in protecting the body against the effects of inflammation, which may lead to various health issues such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
Regular exposure to cold water has been demonstrated to help the body adapt not just to physical stress but also to mental stress, both of which assist in enhancing the immune system and promote resistance to sickness, particularly respiratory disease.
It is clear from what we have learned that exposing yourself to cold water is advantageous to our immune systems. The advantages extend to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, providing protection against a wide range of ailments and disorders. So, what are you holding out for? Dive in, the water is beautiful!
- 6 Amazing Health Benefits Of Cold Water Swimming https://www.lifehack.org/288238/6-amazing-health-benefits-cold-water-swimming
- Indoor Staying During Winter Season Makes People More Susceptible to Flu https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27426715/
- Effects of long-term whole-body cold exposures on plasma concentrations of ACTH, beta-endorphin, cortisol, catecholamines and cytokines in healthy females. https://web.archive.org/web/20190222070658id_/http://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3559/24275c0178ebf419287d87c1f90be68bc589.pdf
- What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-your-immune-system-gets-stressed-out/
- Histology, Monocytes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557618/
- Immune system of cold exposed an cold adapted humans https://www.researchgate.net/publication/14280976_Immune_system_of_cold_exposed_an_cold_adapted_humans
- The Effect of Submaximal Exercise Followed by Short-Term Cold-Water Immersion on the Inflammatory State in Healthy Recreational Athletes: A Cross-Over Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8468461/
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- Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352291/
- Oxidative Stress and Inflammation: What Polyphenols Can Do for Us? https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2016/7432797/
- Relationship between cold water swimming and increased cardiac markers: A pilot study https://www.cskb.cz/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/KBM-2017-1-Broz-27.pdf
- Improved antioxidative protection in winter swimmers https://academic.oup.com/qjmed/article/92/4/193/1586500
- Effect of Regular Winter Swimming on the Activity of the Sympathoadrenal System Before and After a Single Cold Water Immersion https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/22423982.2001.12113043
- Resistance to respiratory illness and antibody response in open water swimmers during training and long distance swims https://academicjournals.org/journal/IJMMS/article-full-text-pdf/80B5D3879
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