There are many benefits to using cold exposure for good health. For example, regular cold exposure can reduce muscle soreness and promote muscle recovery after physical activity.
It can also improve glucose and lipid metabolism, decrease inflammation, enhance immune function, and improve cognitive performance.
One of the most important benefits of cold exposure is its ability to reduce pain. This is because the cold can reduce the activity of pain receptors in the skin, which can relieve pain.
Cold exposure can also increase blood flow to the skin. This increased blood flow can help relieve pain and speed up healing. In addition, cold exposure can stimulate the production of natural chemicals called cytokines that can help protect the body against infection.
It has decreased the risk of cancer, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, mental health problems like anxiety and depression. In addition, cold exposure has many other benefits, which we’ll discuss in this article.
Wim Hof and the Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof is a Dutch athlete and health guru who has become famous for his incredible feats of endurance and extreme cold exposure. He is also known as “The Iceman” due to his ability to withstand freezing temperatures for prolonged periods of time.
Wim Hof was born in 1959 in Sittard, Netherlands. He grew up in a large family and was an active child. In his early 20s, he began practising yoga and meditation, and he later discovered his ability to withstand cold temperatures through a combination of breathwork and mental focus.
The Wim Hof Method is a program developed by Wim Hof that combines breathwork, cold exposure, and meditation to improve health, increase energy, and reduce stress. The method is based on three pillars: cold therapy, breathing, and commitment.
Cold therapy involves exposing the body to cold temperatures, such as through cold showers, ice baths, or even standing outside in cold weather. This aims to improve circulation, increase metabolism, and boost the immune system.
Breathing techniques involve deep, controlled breathing exercises that are designed to increase oxygen intake, improve circulation, and reduce stress. These exercises can be done in combination with cold therapy or on their own.
Commitment is the third pillar of the Wim Hof Method, and it involves a mindset shift towards embracing challenges and pushing past perceived limitations. This pillar encourages practitioners to develop mental resilience and overcome fear and self-doubt.
The Wim Hof Method has gained popularity in recent years due to its purported health benefits, which include improved immune function, increased energy, and reduced inflammation. While scientific research on the method is still limited, some studies have shown promising results.
In addition to his work promoting the Wim Hof Method, Wim Hof has also achieved several impressive physical feats, including running a half-marathon above the Arctic Circle in just shorts and completing a full marathon in the Namib Desert without drinking water.
Overall, Wim Hof and the Wim Hof Method have gained a following among health enthusiasts, breathworkers and athletes alike. Their unique approach to health and wellness continues to attract interest and attention worldwide.
Where in Bangkok can you do an Ice Bath?
In Thailand’s capital city, there are many options to get cold exposure. However, finding a proper ice bath in Bangkok is challenging.
The first option is to check out the many Onsens dotted around the city. Most have cold plunge pools to cool off after the 40+ degree Celcius onsen baths. However, most cold plunges are only 15–17 degrees Celcius, so not a proper ice bath.
The second option is to visit the cryotherapy centres. There are two different brands in Bangkok. Cryo Bangkok and Ice Lab by Apex Medical. Cryotherapy is excellent; however, it can be costly.
The third and best option is to sign up for one of the Wim Hof Method workshops at Breath Inspired.
To experience a proper ice bath, you can not beat these guys. They use over 1600kg of ice in the three baths. This much ice makes the bath reach freezing temperatures of zero degrees.
Breath Inspired is the only place in Bangkok where you can do a proper ice bath.
The founder Kam Waritsara aka The Thai Ice Woman teaches the WHM in Thai and English.
What are Different Cold Exposure Modalities?
You can use many different cold exposure modalities to reduce your risk of developing cancer. These include cold packs/ local Cryotherapy, cold showers, cold water immersion, and whole-body Cryotherapy.
Using these methods can help reduce your body’s core temperature and protect you from the cancer-causing effects of heat. Keep reading to learn about these in detail.
Cold packs/Local cryotherapy
Cold packs are often used as a cold exposure modality to treat pain and inflammation in joints and muscles. They are placed on the body for a short period, typically 10–30 minutes, and then removed.
The cold pack’s coldness causes a decrease in blood flow and swelling, which can reduce pain and inflammation. It may also treat various skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
Cold showering has long been used as a form of cold exposure for medical and recreational purposes. The cold water shock to the body triggers the release of endorphins, which can have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Depending on the person, these effects can last a few minutes to an hour.
Cold water immersion
Cold water immersion (CWI) is a popular and effective cold exposure modality at or below 59°F (15°C). The benefits of CWI include the fact that It is easy to do. In addition, CWI can be done in various settings, including at home, in the office, or outdoors.
It is a safe and effective way to experience cold temperatures. CWI has many potential applications, such as cooling after exercising or cooling down after a hot day. However, it does have some potential health risks, including hypothermia, drowning, and cardiac arrest.
Cryotherapy is most commonly done using liquid nitrogen or argon gas. First, the patient is placed in a cryogenic chamber where the temperature is lowered to -289°F (-178°C). This cold temperature causes the body to produce vasoconstriction, which reduces inflammation and pain.
Protective clothing on extremities is essential during Cryotherapy. The chambers must be colder than water as the heat transfer rate differs between water and air. The thermal conductivity of water is twenty-five times higher than air, so there will be a five times greater heat loss in water. This means the cryotherapy chamber must be colder than the water for it to work.
Physiological Responses to Cold Exposure
Cold exposure results in a cold shock response. It aims to reduce heat loss and increase heat production. The primary mechanism by which the cold shock response achieves these goals is by increasing heart rate and blood flow. This increased blood flow helps to warm the body and distribute heat more evenly.
However, repeated exposure to cold may make the body habitual and diminish cold shock response. For example, one study concluded a 15% decrease in heart rate response and a 49% decrease in respiratory function after five-day cold water immersion sessions at the same temperature.
Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter produced in the adrenal glands and some brain parts. It increases heart rate, constricts blood vessels, activates thermogenesis (heat production), and modulates immune function.
Norepinephrine release is a physiological response to the cold that produces PGC-1 alpha (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha).
PGC-1 alpha is a crucial regulator of genes involved in energy metabolism.
Norepinephrine increases heart rate by increasing contractility in the heart muscle. This may lead to a rise in blood flow and oxygen delivery to all body parts. Norepinephrine also activates thermogenesis, which is the production of heat. This can help combat hypothermia.
Norepinephrine constricts blood vessels, which can help conserve energy and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. Lastly, norepinephrine modulates immune function by increasing inflammation and decreasing immunity in specific tissues.
In a study, young men were immersed in cold water at varying temperatures, such as 90°F (32°C), 68°F (20°C), and 57°F (14°C). As a result, warmer temperatures of 90°F (32°C) and 68°F(20°C) did not activate norepinephrine release.
Colder water immersion leads to a norepinephrine increase of 530% and dopamine release by 250%. The energy expenditure was a whopping 350 per cent higher than average. In another study, 84% of plasma norepinephrine was observed during immersion in cold water at 50°F (10°C) for 1 hour. Therefore, prolonged cold exposure may help in the release of norepinephrine.
But, you may only need to immerse your body briefly. For example, even cold water immersion at 40°F (4.4°C) for 20 seconds can increase norepinephrine by 200–300%.
Whole-body Cryotherapy at -166°F (-110°C) for two minutes may have the same result. However, there is a gradual decrease after one hour of exposure.
Habituation has almost no impact on the release of norepinephrine. Although, there was an increase in the activity of brown fat as a result of nonshivering thermogenesis.
Certain types of Breathwork can also cause a large release of Norepinephrine.
Cold shock protein induction
Cold shock protein induction is a physiological response to cold exposure that occurs in multiple organ systems, including the heart, kidney, and liver. This response is thought to protect cells from damage caused by extreme temperatures.
Cold shock may cause cell membranes to destabilize nucleic acid and proteins as the cells lose fluidity.
The first step in the cold shock protein induction process is activating the transcription factor Hsp90. Hsp90 is a protein known to play a role in preserving cellular proteins.
Once activated, Hsp90 transcriptionally activates many other proteins, including the heat shock protein family members. The heat shock proteins are critical components of the cell’s defence system and protect cells from damage caused by extreme temperatures.
The second step in the cold shock protein induction process is the activation of the proteasome. The proteasome is a protein-degrading enzyme complex that helps to protect cells from damage caused by excessive proteins. Activation of the proteasome leads to the release of several proteins, including some heat shock proteins.
The final step in the cold shock protein induction process is the expression of many heat shock genes. Heat-shock genes are essential because they help to regulate how much heat-shock proteins are produced during cold exposure. The increased production of heat shock proteins helps to protect cells from damage caused by extreme temperatures.
Overall, cold shock proteins promote cell survival and induce antioxidant enzymes under conditions of mild hypothermia. In addition, the RBM3 (RNA binding motif 3) is neuroprotective, increasing neuronal protein production to regenerate damaged neurons.
Mitochondria play an essential role in cell metabolism, and their biogenesis is a physiological response to cold exposure. Mitochondria are organelles that generate energy for the cell by oxidizing glucose. In cold environments, the cells’ energy requirements are increased, and metabolic processes are accelerated.
This increased demand for energy causes the mitochondria to produce new cells, known as mitochondria-derived progenitor cells (MDPCs). MDPCs can divide and differentiate into different types of cells, including muscle cells. Mitochondrial biogenesis is a continuous process that starts before exposure to cold and continues throughout cold exposure.
Mitochondrial biogenesis initiates when the temperature inside the cell drops below 37 degrees Celsius. This triggers the release of heat shock proteins (HSPs), which stimulate the cells to produce new mitochondria.
HSPs activate a protein called NF-κB, which initiates the transcription of genes that control mitochondrial biogenesis. After mitochondrial biogenesis has started, new mitochondria are produced at a constant rate. The number of mitochondria in a cell increases as MDPCs divide and differentiate into different types of cells.
Eventually, the new mitochondria will have replaced the old ones, and mitochondrial biogenesis will have been completed. The benefits of mitochondrial biogenesis depend on how long it takes to complete.
Exercising, cold and heat shock, fasting, and ketones may activate mitochondrial biogenesis, regulated by transcription factor PGC-1α.
One significant benefit of increased mitochondrial biogenesis within the skeletal muscle is higher aerobic capacity and reduced disease risks.
As per a study, immersion at 50°F (10°C) for 15 minutes increases p38 MAPK and AMPK.
Thermogenesis increases energy expenditure, which, in turn, helps keep the body warm. Several factors influence thermogenesis. One is the level of exertion you are performing.
Thermogenesis increases as your level of activity increases. Another factor that influences thermogenesis is your temperature regulation ability. It has two types: shivering and nonshivering.
Shivering thermogenesis is the process of generating heat by shivering muscles.
This is a natural response to cold weather and can be used to generate body heat. Shivering thermogenesis is also known as thermic shivering and is one way to heat the cold body.
When shivering, muscles contract and cause blood to flow to the body’s core. This increases the temperature of the blood and produces heat. Shivering thermogenesis can help you stay warm when it’s cold outside. Shivering thermogenesis can also help you lose weight.
When you’re cold, your body burns more calories to maintain your temperature. This burning process will help you lose weight if you eat adequately to maintain weight.
Nonshivering thermogenesis generates heat with a unique mechanism in skeletal muscle and adipose (fat) tissue depots.
It doesn’t need shivering to generate heat. Instead, heat is generated with uncoupling electron transport from ATP synthesis and repetitive, non-productive transport of ions across the fatty cell membrane.
Brown Adipose Tissue, BAT
Brown adipose tissue primarily resides in the body’s neck, chest, and upper back areas. BAT is responsible for generating heat by burning calories to produce energy.
BAT can be activated when the temperature outside is below 37°C, the average temperature range for human skin.
Its activation results in an increase in body temperature and the release of energy from stored calories.
BAT can produce heat by breaking down stored lipids when exposed to cold temperatures. Lipids are broken down into molecules called free radicals, which help generate heat.
This process is called thermogenesis, and it occurs because BAT uses up more energy than other tissues do when they’re at rest. Thermogenesis helps keep the body warm when it’s cold outside and helps us avoid being too cold when wearing clothes.
BAT activation also has some beneficial effects on health. For example, BAT activity has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and protect against obesity and diabetes.
Additionally, BAT activity has been linked with better overall health outcomes, such as reduced inflammation and improved heart health.
Brown fat was once thought to be present only in newborns, which served as a means to protect against heat loss. However, recent research shows active brown fat in adults, typically following cold exposure.
For example, one study found that people exposed to cold temperatures had higher levels of brown fat than those who were not.
The brown fat was found to be more active following exposure to cold temperatures, which may help to improve the body’s ability to burn calories.
Another study found that brown fat can increase the body’s ability to burn calories even when people are at rest. Additionally, brown fat can help to regulate blood sugar levels and may play a role in preventing obesity and other chronic diseases.
In a study, cold-induced thermogenesis burnt 252 calories daily in brown fat-positive men and 78.4 calories daily in brown fat-negative men. This shows cold exposure also increases brown fat activity, even with little to no detectable brown fat mass in the body.
Another benefit is an improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose levels. Moreover, it may increase fat oxidation and reduce diet-induced obesity in humans and animals. A higher resting metabolic rate also increases brown fat in humans. As a result, there is a significant rise in glucose use in skeletal muscle, helping in obesity treatment.
Interestingly, cold exposure improves brown fat and increases resting energy use by 15%. This increase occurs under thermoneutral conditions because plasma-derived glucose and fatty acids are oxidised.
General health effects associated with cold exposure
Growing evidence shows that cold exposure may help multiple organ systems. For example, it may benefit cardiovascular, immune, metabolic, and neurocognitive health.
In particular, there’s convincing evidence that cold exposure can improve endothelial function, reduce inflammation, and enhance cognitive performance.
Cold exposure has been shown to improve endothelial function. Endothelial cells are responsible for maintaining the vascular integrity of the body and play an essential role in regulating blood pressure.
Cold exposure has been shown to increase endothelial cell proliferation and reduce apoptosis, which are fundamental mechanisms by which it increases endothelial function.
Cold exposure can also reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a response to injury or infection and is critical to healing. However, too much inflammation can lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes.
Cold exposure has been shown to decrease inflammation in several different ways. Moreover, it may alter how genes are expressed in inflammatory cells, leading to decreased inflammation overall.
Cold exposure improves metabolic health in many ways. For example, one study found that cold exposure increased the activity of genes involved in energy production and decreased the activity of genes involved in inflammation.
This may help to protect against conditions like obesity and heart disease. In addition, cold exposure has been shown to increase the production of heat-shock proteins. These proteins help to protect cells from damage caused by extreme temperatures. Heat-shock proteins also play an essential role in the body’s ability to fight cancer.
Furthermore, cold exposure has improved blood sugar control. In one study, people exposed to freezing temperatures had lower blood sugar levels than those not exposed to cold temperatures. This is likely because cold exposure increases the production of insulin.
Some studies show it can increase brown fat’s activity, improving metabolic health. For example, a study showed improved insulin sensitivity in overweight type 2 diabetics after cold exposure.
The peripheral insulin increased by 43% with a rise in skeletal muscle glucose uptake. In another study, there was a significant increase in the mobilization and use of lipids from peripheral tissues due to cold exposure.
This was due to the free fatty acid oxidation and release of fatty acids. Surprisingly, there was a long-term alteration in lipid metabolism even the next day of cold exposure. It’s also observed that brown fat supports cardiometabolic health, as seen in cancer patients with brown fat.
They had lower chances of getting coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, or congestive heart failure. More research is vital to determine the thermogenic capacity of brown fat for improving metabolic health.
Inflammation is a process that helps the body fight off infection and other problems. It can occur when chemicals called cytokines are released by cells. Cytokines are proteins that help the immune system fight infections. In people with inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, inflammation can be caused by the body’s cells.
Exercise training can also cause inflammation. Researchers studied the effects of cold exposure on inflammation in people with inflammatory conditions and those who had undergone exercise training. They found that cold exposure decreased inflammation in both groups.
One of the many ways the body protects itself from infection is through the production of antibodies. This process begins with white blood cells called B lymphocytes, which divide to create more B cells. Each B cell then produces one antibody molecule.
Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infection by binding to specific antigens (substances that cause the body’s immune system to attack). Cold exposure increases the number of B lymphocytes in various populations, including those infected with a virus or cancer.
This increase has been observed in some cases even when the subjects have no prior exposure to cold temperatures. The mechanisms behind these increases are not fully understood, but exposure to cold may activate genes that promote the production of B lymphocytes.
Additionally, cold exposure may suppress the activity of other cells in the immune system. These findings highlight the importance of regularly exercising and staying healthy to maintain optimal immunity levels.
Regular winter swimmers have a more robust immune system than non-habitual swimmers. One study compared regular winter swimmers who practised more than once per week to non-habitual swimmers.
Habitual winter swimmers had higher resting concentrations of some white blood cells, such as leukocytes and monocytes, than non-habitual swimmers. Additionally, regular winter swimming may decrease respiratory tract infections, colds, and influenza by 40 per cent.
By exposing our bodies to cold temperatures regularly, we can help boost our immune system and improve our chances of avoiding infections in the future. In addition, cold exposure increases the white blood cells, including cytotoxic T lymphocytes, that help kill cancer cells.
Arthritis affects millions every year. It’s an inflammatory degenerative joint disorder that impacts mobility and causes pain. Currently, it has no cure; however, pain relievers, joint surgery, and low-impact exercises may help.
Cold therapy is also more effective than other treatments at reducing pain and improving function in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, targetted or whole-body Cryotherapy may help reduce pain scores in arthritis.
In postmenopausal women, whole-body Cryotherapy helped in reducing fatigue and pain while walking. This reduction in inflammation may also be due to norepinephrine release.
Now, you know all the benefits of ice baths and cold exposure for better health. There are a few things to consider when considering whether to get ice baths or Cryotherapy. First, decide what your goals are. Are you looking to reduce inflammation or pain?
Cryotherapy can be a great way to achieve these goals, but it is only for some. Therefore, it’s good to be aware of any potential side effects from the treatment.
Second, determine your level of comfort. For example, some people find ice baths more comfortable than Cryotherapy, while others find the reverse true.
Third, consider your budget. For example, Cryotherapy can be expensive, but ice baths are only sometimes as costly.
Finally, ensure an experienced provider is recommended if you undergo either treatment.