Showering: The More You Know
When I originally sat down to write this article, it was my intention to focus on a simple, refreshing health modality called hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy uses hot and cold water interchangeably, and when performed properly, the benefits may include decreased pain, inflammation, an increased immune response, and increased ability to release stored toxins (1). It is a technique which can be used by virtually anyone in their showers, BUT, the water used MUST be pure. I had been practicing hydrotherapy on occasion for years, understanding these benefits and the benefit of feeling more relaxed. Little did I know, performing hydrotherapy in a typical American shower without a filter is actually counterproductive to being healthy (2). In this article, I will explain why using hydrotherapy with unfiltered water may be unhealthy along with a simple way to safely perform hydrotherapy on yourself :-).
Why Hot Showers May be Detrimental to Health
As many of us understand, our water supply (at least in America) generally contains some level of contamination, whether it be from pharmaceutical residues, fluoride, heavy metals, or even rocket fuel (3,4). Luckily, our water contains very low-levels of bacteria or viruses which cause illness. But, our solution to eliminating bacteria and viruses in our water supply was to use chlorine, which causes many health problems itself. Chlorine is very reactive, and when it combines with organic matter, it forms disinfection byproducts, or simply compounds which may be toxic to people, potentially causing problems such as reproductive defects, developmental defects, and cancer (5). It appears that for now, the best solution to avoiding these contaminants in our water is to filter them out. We do this with our drinking water, but for one reason or another, it is uncommon to filter the water we use in the shower.
Americans use nearly 20 gallons of water a day to shower, and they are likely steaming hot showers (6). Who wants to wake up to a cold shower anyway? But, when we expose ourselves to unfiltered water while we shower, we absorb many of the toxic contaminants in the water. We may inhale chlorine in the steam, absorb disinfection byproducts via our pores, and even inhale chloroform (2). Our interaction with these contaminants may lead to weakening of the immune system, disruption of the central nervous system, unhealthy functioning of the renal system, and respiratory system complications (2). When hot water is used, our pores open, which increases the rate at which chlorine and other chemicals penetrate into our bodies; the chemicals are given the opportunity to do so without hinderance from any defensive mechanisms of the body.
How to take Safer Showers
The ideal solution is to use water which is free from impurities, although it may be unlikely to find such a source. There may be natural sources, but one cannot know for sure without testing the water. A second solution is to install filters for each shower that you use, and to be mindful of how you may be using unfiltered water in other ways throughout the day, such as boiling unfiltered tap water to use in making oatmeal or tea. This may be costly considering the filters will likely have to be changed every few months. A third solution is to use cold water while taking showers and to reduce the time in which you take showers. This will decrease your exposure to the toxins in the water significantly.
Simply Hydrotherapy Strategy
Now, after many paragraphs, to the original point of this article! Lol… If you have a clean source of water that can be adjusted to a wide range of temperatures (hot and cold water), shower hydrotherapy can be safely and effectively utilized. To start off, simply use lukewarm water and allow your body to adjust to the temperature of this water for a minute or two. Then, change the water to hot for 30 seconds. The water should not be scolding or burning you, just to a comfortable temperature in which you would normally take a hot shower. After 30 seconds, adjust the cold water to as low as you can handle for one minute. Again, do not torture yourself. This 30 second hot/1 minute cold process can be repeated several times, to your desire. It is important to be mindful of how much water you are using to do this, and perhaps only do it a few times a week as a healing strategy in order to limit water consumption.
When we create an unhealthy habit and continue it for many years, eventually is is likely to cause a serious disfunction in our body. We are well aware that smoking a cigarette each day will likely lead to cancer after 20-30 years, or working in a coal mine for 20-30 years may cause cancer, but who would of thought that taking a hot shower everyday for 20-30 years may be just as dangerous? The solutions include using uncontaminated water, filtered water, and/or using contaminated water less and not at high temperatures. If the first two criteria are met, then water can safely be used to perform a simple hydrotherapy technique in the shower. If these criteria are not met and hydrotherapy is used, the beneficial effects are unlikely to outweigh the adverse health effects. For instance, one may feel more relaxed, but that could be because they are inhaling chloroform! No bueno.