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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Is It January – Or Is It Me?

January 15, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, herbs, arterial disease, ball - heavy small, cayenne, Celsius, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, cold, cold shower, cold wash, coldness, cookies, coriander leaves, coriander seeds, curry, electric heating pad, exercise, Fahrenheit, February, feet – cold, Florida, ginger, glands, gluten-free, green tea - hot, hands – cold, herbal tea, high blood pressure - uncontrolled, holidays, hot water bottle, Is It January – Or Is It Me?, January, jumping rope, lungs, March, mood, paprika, pull-ups, qi – life force, sitzbath – cold, snowstorm, skin, soup - warm, spices – “hot” and “cold”, sugar – brown and white, tea, vanilla, virus, vitamin D, walking, warning signs, winter swimming, yoga ball

We had a whopper of a snowstorm, and since then we haven’t gotten out of the freezing numbers. Tonight they predict single-digit numbers (Fahrenheit, that is; to those who believe in Celsius, as I do, it is supposed more than ten degrees below zero).

Still, in the morning I am doing my cold sitzbath. Now the water is so cold that when I count to twenty-one for my leg moving to swish the water over my thighs, I feel pins and needles, and not much more. When I get out of the tub, my lower half feels like non-existent, it is so cold.

But within a minute of toweling off and walking on tiptoes, I get nice, tingling warmth’s flooding all over, my toes are all pink, and I am ready for the day.

Do I push the cold too much – to an extent that it becomes unhealthy?

I don’t think so. Around holiday time, I had a period where I felt cold all the time. Even if the heat was higher than normal, I felt that deep chill inside. Not sure if I was breeding a virus that never came out because I usually nip a stuffy nose and a bit of a sore throat in the bud with herbs. Or if it was the not-so-healthy food we all succumb to around the holidays – even me. My cookies are gluten-free – but they are still cookies, loaded with sugar and butter (I know because I baked them).

When I felt so cold for a few days, I decided it was not wise to continue my cold sitzbaths; I just wasn’t sure what I was hatching. Instead I did quick cold washs in the bathtub.

Why I tell the story? Because in Natural Medicine we believe that not every body is the same, not even every body is the same every day, and one should heed the body’s warning signs. Not getting warm anymore certainly is such a sign - and pushing through it would be foolish.

Some people can do cold exposure like sitzbath or cold shower only in the early afternoon – because that’s the body’s “hottest” time. The very elderly and the frail should not tough it out at all with cold showers. And never, ever try winter swimming! But everybody probably benefits from a very fast cold wash-down.

A few years ago, for my patients, I put together a pamphlet about how to get warm; constant cold hands and feet was a complaint I heard quite often. What do you do to get warmer?

Bundling up is the first that comes to mind – and important to get warm NOW. But in the long run, it is counterproductive: The warmer you dress, the more you heat your rooms, the less your body generates heat – it loses the ability.

A cold wash or even a very short cold shower (not more than a few seconds) will acclimatize the body to colder temperatures. In the long run, it will also reduce colds. Besides it is good against high blood pressure, and good for skin, lungs, glands and mood (don’t take a cold shower with uncontrolled high blood pressure though, or with Raynaud’s or other arterial diseases!). – But if you haven’t started your cold shower yet, it might be wiser to wait until the three coldest months (January, February, March) are over. Try cold washs until then: With a face cloth wash yourself down quickly with cold water (change face cloths daily!) – unless you live in Florida or so.

Other methods to get warm: A hot green tea or a hot herbal tea. Or try a warm soup.

Certain herbs produce heat in the body: Interestingly, the spices we often use in Christmas cookies produce warmth - like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, coriander seeds, cloves – they warm up the cold season (as does brown sugar, by the way. Go light on the sweets because you’ll feel warmer, but also heavier). Spices we call “hot” like paprika, curry, cayenne, coriander leaves (also called cilantro) have a cooling effect – as does white sugar.

If you are cold, you can put a hot water bottle in your bed in the evening – we sleep with window open even at these temperatures – and our bedroom is an ice cellar at this time of the year. You can also use an electric pad – but never when you are in bed. Heat it up about half an hour before retiring. Some people like the warmth at their feet. I like it at the small of my back – because that’s where my center is – and the qi-producing adrenal glands.

Ah, here we are at the Chinese qi – and the bad news. Having cold hands and feet (or worse, a cold core like I had around the holidays) is a sign of too little life energy. The Chinese content that the foods we have can help a bit with qi. But what really generates qi is: movement.

When I was cold all the time, I realized that I had slacked off in my exercises – no wonder during holiday stress. I revamped. Since I am still no friend of a gym I do more of the little things I can do at home, between spurts of writing: Pulling myself up the bar (we have one installed in the doorway to the basement – mostly for the guys in the family), rolling around on my yoga ball, doing little exercises with a small, heavy ball, jumping rope, and making sure I will go for a walk at least once a day. Better twice: One for filling up my vitamin D needs during the day, and once in the dark after dinner with my husband, filling up my need for connection with my spouse.

Cold hands and feet all the time? I learned it the hard way: Only movement really helps. Without movement, we are creeping faster toward the final coldness.

News from My Summer Reading Pile

August 14, 2010

Tags: water, order, adrenals, arterial disease, breathing - improved, chronic fatigue, circulation, cold shower, detoxification, diabetes type II, exercise, fatigue, Georges Simenon, glands, gout, high blood pressure, hangover, hemorrhoids, immune function, James Bond, lungs, Maigret - Commissaire, mood enhancer, mystery, News from My Summer Reading Pile, obesity, ovaries, pain - chronic, pituitary, respiratory health, rheumatic diseases, Simenon - Georges, skin health, testes, thyroid, varicose veins

Remember my summer reading list? Slowly I am making my way through, devouring one Commissaire Maigret after the other. This is what I found:

“He had a bath, followed by a cold shower, and ate a substantial breakfast while watching the rain fall as continuously as on a November morning. At nine o’clock he had the ballistic expert on the line.” (Excerpt from “Maigret and the Surly Inspector”)

Not only James Bond – Commissaire Maigret also is fond of cold showers! Georges Simenon wrote this story in 1946. Something that was once common wisdom, namely that a cold shower does one good, has mostly been forgotten.

Just as a reminder – here are the benefits of ending each hot shower/bath with a cold shower (don’t do it if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or arterial disease).
A daily cold shower

• boosts immune function
• lifts your mood
• fights fatigue and hangover
• normalizes your blood pressure
• decreases chronic pain
• trains and improves blood circulation – arterial and venous
• detoxifies the body
• deepens breathing, relieving obstructions in the lung
• tones subcutaneous connective tissues
• improves lymphatic circulation
• rejuvenate and heals skin
• regulates the activity of all glands (pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, ovaries/testes
• enhances motivation for physical exercise
• is helpful in diabetes, obesity, gout, rheumatic diseases, chronic fatigue, varicose veins and hemorrhoids
• regulates sympathetic/parasympathetic nerve system (the non-voluntary part of the nerve system) to an optimum

Now that the water is summer-warm it is the perfect time to begin cold showers. In February, it will be murder – I am screaming every time I have to get into the cold shower. But I do get in!
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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