How can cold temperature boost your immune system

HARDENING AS A NATURAL SOURCE OF DEFENSE OF OUR BODY AND MIND

The end of summer brings cooler weather with the most colorful season of the year. Autumn and winter represent a significant burden for our immunity system. Yearlong vitality can be enjoyed when we don’t have to lay at home with high temperature and cough. But especially respiratory diseases thrive in winter which are threatening us from all sides. It is not due to the viruses giving us break in other seasons of the year. Winter, or more precisely lower temperature affects our organism as a stressor.

FAIRLY CONSTANT BODY TEMPERATURE

CLOtuzovaniOur body is ingenious and just as it tries to compensate and cope with the negative effects of various stressors, it knows what it’s doing even in case of cold temperature. It is happening because we are in category of living organisms who have to keep the bodily temperature basically on the same level all the time. Compensating and adapting processes of thermoregulation helps us with that. Of course our body can tolerate small deviations, but really just those minimal deviations. By the bigger ones is a risk of harming our health which can result in hypothermia, but on the other side of the spectrum it is also physiological functions which are connected to overheating of the organism - hyperthermia.

Simply said, our body can compensate the effect of cold temperature with two major options:

  • Increasing the production of heat
  • And decreasing the heat loss

Decreasing the heat loss is how our body defends itself by vasoconstriction - shrinking blood vessels. This compensational mechanism has its restriction, for example time restriction. After a certain time this mechanism fails, and vasoconstriction releases the blood vessels which results in the veins getting wider - increased blood circulation speeds up the heat loss. That way cold temperature increases the probability of health damage.

Second mechanism is the increased production of heat, which happens through muscle contractions, which we know as shivering.

HORMONES AFFECTING THE MUSCLE CONTRACTIONS AND IMMUNITY

These processes are secured by the central and peripheral nervous system and partly also by the hormones, here it depends on how high their levels of catecholamine are, especially epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and cortisol.

The starting manifestation of the increased level of cortisol is worsened immunity function of our body. It is happening especially on the cellular level, by decreased formation of certain groups of lymphocytes, which are necessary for securing the correct functioning of the immunity system, and on the other hand the level of other toxic proteins is rising.

COLD AS A HELPER

thanks to concomitant factors of the external environment, cold temperature can be used for our benefit. But we have to know how, because it can also harm us, but if we will gradually expose ourselves to cold, it can significantly help our body and immunity.

Approximately after 15 days our body adapts to cold, the parameters of immunity are getting normalized and with more time it even increases. Wee can compare it to physical exercise, which also temporarily weakens our immune system, but with regular impact it gets stronger. Regularity and adequacy are important. But we can’t overdo it, because the opposite of what we want will happen, the cold will have a negative effect with all its stress consequences.

CORRECT HARDENING

If you will do it reasonably, and you will „listen” to your body, you will feel the positives of hardening very quickly. The basis of hardening is starting at home. Beginners should shower daily with cold water. It is best to start with tepid water and gradually cool it down. If you don’t have a shower use a bathtub. We should definitely practice it in the morning. You can take a cold shower also in the evening, but it won’t replace the morning shower. It is important to shower in the morning twice as long than in the evening. During winter it is advised to shower for 1-3 minutes, in summer 3-5 minutes. Showering with cold water can be applied already on 2-3 year old children. We should constantly move during the shower. Sitting in a shower is not advised. Try to remain positive and keep a good mood during the cold shower in order to exercise your will as well. Do not soak your head, you can put a swim cap on. After you dry yourself, it is ideal to do some little warm up exercises in order for your body to get warmer, then you can get a breakfast. If you are in a time rush, it is better if you leave out the cold shower, because cold shower in a rush is not ideal for our mental health. Other than that try to shower regularly, because regular contact with cold water is very important. People usually become really hardened against cold after 2 years of regular hardening.

POSITIVES OF HARDENING

The main benefit of hardening is the built up strong immune system of our organism. Such people are then resistant against viral diseases, they have a lowered risk of having high blood pressure, improved allergy condition. Hardening is a long-term process, which strengthens the features such as perseverance, strong will and patience. You will also be less prone to weather changes, which causes problems to normal people. We wish you strong will and positive thinking not only during hardening.



Author:
FYZIOklinika physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic

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