Increase blood flow and improve immune function
The modern history of hydrotherapy is a tangle of overlapping influences among orthodox medical doctors, untrained empirics, and trained but unorthodox medical practitioners.
– Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy—Wade Boyle and Andre Saine
Hydrotherapy as a medical treatment has been practiced for centuries if not millennia in some form or another. Father Kneipp, is generally credited for developing its modern, western clinical applications in the 19th century. Studying in a lineage of practitioners directly from Father Kneipp, O.G. Carroll developed the popular version of the “constitutional hydrotherapy” by adding electrical stimulation to the already stimulating properties of hot and cold water contrast therapy. These early practitioners claimed cure rates in the 90 percentiles and treated an array of conditions, including serious illnesses which can be deadly or severely disabling, particularly at that time, including tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes mellitus.
Therapeutic Basis for Treatment
It is the working hypothesis of naturopathic hydrotherapy that health, and therefore healing, is proportional to normal flow of healthy blood.
– Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy—Boyle and Saine
The mechanical effects of cold water applications are clear to anyone who has ever iced a twisted ankle or a bruised elbow. High level athletes commonly use cold water, and contrast hydrotherapy, to improve recovery time from injuries and fatigue. One can witness the increased capillary action of hot water applications by simply placing a hot towel on their skin. The skin is notably redder where the towel was placed after just a few seconds of contact. The application of these contrasting forces is the basis for contrast hydrotherapy treatments. The smooth muscle relaxing effects of hot applications allow blood to flow towards the heat and the smooth muscle constricting effects of the cold water pump blood away from the surface towards the body’s core. This is ultimately a net increase in the rate of blood flow to and from the surface of the skin and other organs. This in turn improves the rate of blood filtering through the major organs of elimination: the skin, liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen and intestines. Add to this the effects of electrical stimulation and you achieve increased peristalsis of the intestines, bile ducts and pancreatic ducts. This improves digestion by increasing the secretion of liver and pancreatic enzymes, bile and this same activity increases the excretion of toxins.
This stimulation of activity works on the cellular level as well as on tissues, improving metabolism and excretion of cellular waste. This provides a synergistic effect with the increased blood circulation providing more oxygen and nutrients to the cells that are working at a higher capacity to use these constituents while also removing metabolic waste at a faster rate. In addition, an increase of white blood cells provides for improved immune function and healing.
Finally, the electrical current and the contrasting hot and cold water stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is famously known as the “rest and digest” portion of the nervous system. This portion of the nervous system is responsible for signaling rest, healing, digestion and maintenance of cells and organs. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system also reduces the amount of cytokines, interleukins and other inflammatory markers which can contribute to chronic disease. For these reasons, O.G. Carroll stated that these treatments changed the very constitution of patients receiving them and dubbed the procedure “constitutional hydrotherapy” as a distinct form of hydrotherapy.
Because the mechanism of action is to stimulate the body’s own healing systems, constitutional hydrotherapy can be helpful for a wide range of chronic and acute diseases. A brief list of the more common diseases treated includes (but is not limited to): dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, asthma (not acute asthma attacks however), bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, PMS, dysmenorrhea, varicose veins, Raynaud’s disease (that is not due to an autoimmune process such as SLE), mild hypertension, hemorrhoids, psoriasis, diabetes, arthritis, and depression.
Please tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions. High fever (above 102 F), low oral temperature (96 F or less), acute bladder infection, acute asthma attack, malignant hypertension, heat insensitivity (as in severe diabetes or other neuropathies), metal implants near the site of electrode placement, any electronic implants (such as pacemakers or insulin pumps), Raynaud’s Syndrome as part of an immune complex reaction such as SLE, active bleeding (including menstruation), blood clot, malignancy or metastatic cancer, hematoma or fracture near site of electrode placement.
Please always communicate any fears or concerns you may have regarding treatment.