As a follow up to my article on hydrotherapy I wanted to share with you some great home techniques to keep your immune system healthy during the fall and winter months. Naturopathic medicine has its roots in the Nature Cure movement of the mid 19th century. The Nature Cure movement focused on fresh air, good food, exercise, and bathing (a somewhat old term which included hot and cold water treatments).
My last post discussed some of the mechanisms of hot and cold hydrotherapy. Contrast showers are a quick and easy way to apply those techniques at home.
Did you know that Epsom salts are a wonderful way to soothe tired or aching muscles? One of the major ingredients in Epsom salts is magnesium, a mineral necessary for allowing your muscles to relax.
There are two schools of thought on how to best use Epsom salts. The first way is in a bath. A soothing soak may be just what you need at the end of a long hard day, and it WILL decrease the amount of stiffness and soreness you experience when you wake up in the morning. Don’t be stingy – use 2 full cups of Epsom salts in your bath water. You can get a milk carton full of Epsom salts at the drugstore for under $10, so go ahead and splurge. Soak for as long as you like, but for at least 15 minutes to allow your skin to absorb the magnesium from the water.
Castor oil packs are anti-inflammatory and aid in the elimination and detoxification of the body. They’re also very relaxing. I use them all the time when running detoxification classes (your liver can use all the help it can get!)
Indications: The castor oil pack has many applications and is used in many conditions including uterine fibroids, non-malignant ovarian cysts, headaches, migraines, constipation, colitis and other intestinal disorders, gallbladder and liver conditions, arthritis and chest colds.
Contraindications: Do not use heat with uterine growths, bleeding, pregnancy, ulcers or while menstruating. Do not fall asleep while using an electric heating pad.
When to use castor oil: Your doctor will recommend the frequency of use. Typically, the castor oil pack is used 1-3 times/day in acute situations, and 1-3 times/week in more chronic situations. It is beneficial to use the castor oil pack several days in a row rather than spread out the sessions during the week.
I’m a new transplant to Los Angeles and one of the first things I heard from my friends was “watch out for late summer – the combination of hot temperatures and brush fires make the air quality really bad.” Los Angeles was actually the first city in the country to adopt laws for vehicle emissions back in 1966. And although air quality has improved dramatically since then, having been here for last fall’s fires I’m beginning to understand my friends’ concerns; those late summer days and the smoggy air made me want to hide inside somewhere with an air purifier. But I can’t do that and neither can most of us working in the Los Angeles area. So what can we do to keep our lungs happy and our bodies healthy?
I get two very different reactions when I recommend a neti pot to my patients for their sinus problems. They either say “Yes, I love it. I’m already doing it,” or “I think I’ve seen some pictures of those. You’re not going to get me to do that.”
I sympathize with the skeptics. I was one of them. It didn’t seem like a good idea to put water up your nose. It doesn’t actually feel like drowning, but you might imagine it would. I have made it a point to try as many techniques as I can before I recommend them to my patients, and I am often glad I did. Take, for example, the Warming Sock Treatment. I would never have imagined that I would actually like wearing wet socks to bed. Now I recommend it all the time!
The season of the sniffles has started. People are asking me about how to deal with stuffed up sinuses that make them feel like their nose is the size of a sausage and that prevent them from falling asleep. One of my favorite treatments is called for!
Let me just begin by saying I hate cold feet. A lot. I also hate wet feet. Even more. I’m the type of person who if I step on a drip of water I need to change my socks. When I was first introduced to the warming sock treatment I though “No, way – there’s not way I can do this!” It didn’t help that when I first heard about it it was called the “wet sock treatment.” It made me want to run. BUT, I had to try it out and see for myself.
Hydrotherapy is defined as the application of water to the body, either to maintain health or treat disease.
Everyone knows to ice a sprained ankle or to use heat to relax a tense muscle. These are both therapeutic uses of water (especially if using a hot tub for the tense muscle). Water is such a great tool for applying heat and cold to the body because it absorbs energy well, holds it well, and transfers it to the tissues it touches.
Hot water increases vasodilation (the relaxing and opening of blood vessels). This brings nutrient rich blood to the area. It increases tissue metabolism which speeds up the body’s ability to grab nutrients, flush wastes, and heal from injury. Both of these two functions results in increase immune response. The blood vessels become more porous and allow white blood cells (WBCs) to leave the blood circulation and make their way to areas of the body that need their help.
Cold water causes vasoconstriction (the tightening and narrowing of blood vessels). This shunts blood away from an area and “tones” the tissues. The tightened blood vessels become less porous, preventing WBCs from moving into the tissue space. This is most helpful when trying to reduce allergic reactions (like hives) or decrease swelling (like a sprained ankle). There is also a numbing effect caused by slowed nerve impulses which decreases pain sensation.
I am a doctor, but I may not be YOUR doctor. If you are not my patient I don’t know the best way to treat you. You should take everything I have to say under advisement. Be smart; check in with your doctor first (especially if you are pregnant or nursing)! My intention is to give you information on how you can keep yourself healthy at home with treatments that work and make sense. Treatments that may be beneficial to one person may be harmful to another. Take any specific warnings I give very seriously and if in doubt, don’t do it.