Health & Wellness

The Healing Power of Water: Discover the Amazing Benefits of Hydrotherapy

You’ve likely spent your life hearing about how important it is to drink water every day to stay hydrated. But have you heard that water is actually used as therapy for healing your body? There are many benefits of hydrotherapy that you may not be aware of but need to take advantage of right away.

If the term hydrotherapy is new to you, you’re in the right place! I’m going to review exactly what it is, how it works, and then discuss some of the top frequently asked questions about the benefits of hydrotherapy.

You’ll learn some of the best ways to use water to help heal your body and promote overall wellness. So, let’s jump in and learn all about the healing power of water.

 

What is Hydrotherapy?

So, as I mentioned above, you’ve heard that’s it’s important to drink water, but how does hydrotherapy differ?

Well, simply put, hydrotherapy is the use of water—in both various forms (water, ice, or steam) and temperatures—to promote health or help treat disease. [1] Hydrotherapy involves both the internal and external use of water, with each method delivering a specific desired effect.

Water was used as an ancient naturopathic treatment for centuries in Egypt, Persia, China, India, and Israel. Later, in the 1800s, Sebastien Kneipp established water was a traditional European cure after curing his own tuberculosis with cold water treatments. [2]

At that point, hydrotherapy became popular not only due to its effectiveness but also because the treatments are easily done at home, making them cost effective and convenient.

Now that you know what hydrotherapy is, let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions about the benefits of hydrotherapy, how it works, and ways you can begin to use it in your own home.

5 FAQs About the Benefits of Hydrotherapy

1. What are the types of hydrotherapy?

There are two main categories of hydrotherapy: internal use and external use.

While internal use involves consuming pure drinking water, external use includes taking either cold or hot showers, floating in salt water, aquatic therapy such as swimming, aquatic massage, steam baths or saunas, sitz baths, wet wraps and/or compresses, constitutional hydrotherapy, and more.

2. What is hydrotherapy used to treat?

The benefits of hydrotherapy are vast. Scientific research has shown that drinking water benefits cognitive function, digestion, immunity, energy, and weight management.

According to one study, scientists assessed the cognitive functioning of 40 children after drinking 300 ml of water compared to drinking no water. The found that drinking water significantly improved memory. [3]

Meanwhile, another study involving 387 adults revealed that frequently gargling with pure water actually helped reduce their episodes of upper respiratory infections by almost 11 percent. [4]

External hydrotherapy has been shown to benefit many illnesses and conditions:

  • Acne
  • Acute and chronic pain
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Arthritis [5, 6]
  • Burns and wounds [7]
  • Digestion
  • Headaches
  • Heart failure [8]
  • Hemorrhoids [9]
  • Poor circulation
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sinusitis
  • Stress
  • Varicose veins [10]
  • And so much more!

In fact, one study found that using cold water therapy in cancer patients significantly increased their white blood cell counts including neutrophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes. [11]

And another study on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) revealed that using repeated cold water stimulations not only reduced their frequency of infections but also increased their lymphocyte counts, reduced inflammation, and even improved their well-being [12].

Additionally, a 2010 study found that hydrotherapy helped to treat moderate lymphedema (or lymph node blockages) in women undergoing breast cancer treatment. [13]

Hot and cold compresses are also known to help promote lymphatic health as well. Specifically, I’ve found them to be very beneficial in aiding treatment of problems in the eyes or mucous membranes.

Meanwhile, the use of constitutional hydrotherapy (the use of hot and cold compresses along with genetical electrical wave stimulation) has been found to help reduce anxiety, improve mood, relieve headaches, and even improve quality of life. [14, 15] (Note: Constitutional hydrotherapy should only be performed by a trained physician in a clinical setting.)

3. Does it matter when I drink water throughout the day?

I recommend beginning to drink water first thing in the morning, simply because the earlier you begin, the easier it is to get your total ounces in. But studies have shown that you can get certain benefits from drinking water at specific times. Here’s a breakdown of what the research shows:

  • Drinking water in the morning can boost memory and concentration. [16]
  • Drinking water before a meal improves both taste and digestion. [17]
  • Drinking water during cold and flu season can help ward off germs. [18]
  • Drinking water when you’re tired can give you an energy boost. [19]
  • Drinking water before a meal can reduce your calorie intake by 13 percent! [20]

 

Benefits of hydrotherapy - Dr. Pingel

 

4. How do I know if I should be taking cold showers or warm showers?

Because temperature is a big aspect of hydrotherapy, cold and warm (or hot) water showers will provide very different effects. Here are some of the benefits of hydrotherapy you can expect based on the temperature of your showers.

Take cold showers to: [21]

  • Boost your metabolism
  • Support your immune system
  • Help cool inflammation/relieve itchy skin

Take warm showers to: [22]

  • Soothe aching muscles
  • Prepare your body for sleep
  • Help relieve respiratory symptoms

 

Benefits of hydrotherapy - Dr. Pingel

 

5. I’ve heard of “wet socks” treatment/therapy; how does it work?

Wet socks therapy is a natural therapy used to stimulate the immune system by promoting circulation. It’s often used by people who are looking to shorten the duration of a viral cold or illness such as the flu or even to fight headaches, migraines, and stress or anxiety.

Here’s how it works: Wet a pair of very thin socks in cold water and wring them out as much as possible. Next, place the socks in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes. (You want them very cold, but not frozen.)

If you are very sensitive to cold temperatures, you may want to warm your feet with a heating pad or warm water before applying the socks. Afterward, place the freezing cold socks on your feet and cover them with dry wool socks (the thicker, the better).

Once you’re wearing the wool socks over the cold socks, immediately get into bed. You may want to dress extra warmly or have extra blankets. Your body should then begin to increase your circulation (thereby stimulating your immune system) in an effort to warm your feet.

Due to the increased circulation, you may find that you wake up wet from sweat. So, before you begin the treatment, make sure to place an extra set of pajamas next to your bed and change if needed.

If executed correctly, your socks should be dry in the morning. You can repeat this therapy for up to three days as needed.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Hydrotherapy is the use of water—in both various forms (water, ice, or steam) and temperatures—to promote health or help treat disease. It involves both the internal and external use of water, with each method delivering a specific desired effect.
  • The benefits of hydrotherapy are vast, with research showing that drinking water benefits cognitive function, digestion, immunity, energy, and weight management. Meanwhile using external hydrotherapy has been shown to benefit everything from pain to skin concerns to sinusitis!
  • External hydrotherapy includes techniques such as showers, floating, wraps, sitz baths, saunas, constitutional hydrotherapy and more.

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