Last updated January 27, 2022 by Lisa Richards, CNC   Reviewed by Katie Stone, ND.

Contrast Showers: 5 Key Benefits & The Correct Technique

Contrast showers can help with circulation

Contrast showers – also known as contrast hydrotherapy – could be the easiest and most effective way to support your own immune system and detoxification pathways. It could also be hugely beneficial to your Candida cleanse program due to the way in which it helps to expel toxins from the body and support your immune system function.

When dealing with a Candida infection, it’s vital that your immune system is primed to cope with pathogenic yeasts and bacteria. Sometimes, the importance of your circulation often isn’t given enough attention.

Your circulatory system transports nutrients around your body in order to maintain the health of your immune system, and also eliminates toxins from your tissues.  You may be surprised to learn just how easy it is to boost your immune system and your circulation by ‘shocking’ your body with contrast therapy every day!

What Are Contrast Showers?

Contrast showering is basically ‘therapeutic contrasting’ – the act of quickly changing body temperature from hot to cold and back again. This is usually done by immersing yourself in hot then cold water.

Experts say the best results come not from one cold shower or bath but by alternating between hot and cold water. Also known as contrast water therapy, this generally involves showering for about 20 minutes as normal. Then you turn up the hot water for three to four minutes before suddenly switching to cold for one minute, then switching back to hot.

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Just a few minutes of a contrast shower can provide many benefits. The sudden burst of cold water will cause blood to flow to your vital organs, while also activating your parasympathetic nervous system. This can give you a huge boost in energy.

Because the shock of the cold water causes a type of stress reaction in the body, you’ll also be priming your adrenal glands to handle stress more efficiently. The cold water is also very stimulating for your brain, causing endorphins to be released quickly.

Why Does Contrast Showering Work?

Contrast showering isn’t a new technique: athletes have been using it for years to reduce inflammation and support muscle injuries.

The main aim of the contrast shower is to force your tissues to adapt to the sudden changes in temperature. This is highly stimulating because it requires a lot of metabolic and circulatory action.

Simply put, the contrasting temperature acts like a gentle workout on your tissues. It provides stimulation without actually stressing them out and beneficial sensation without you having to move at all.

This is great for somebody who isn’t able to exercise properly, or who has a sedentary job and finds it difficult to stick to an exercise routine.

5 Key Benefits of Contrast Showers

Some of the many health benefits of contrast showers include:

1. Contrast Showers Boost Circulation

Contrasting temperatures increase circulation by causing your heart to send blood rushing to your vital organs. Over time, this forces your circulatory system to become more efficient and adaptable.

This effect is due to your body’s instant response to protect your vital organs. When it senses an abrupt change to cold temperatures, your blood has to circulate faster to protect your organs.

Essentially, your body is trying to conserve its natural core temperature. Eventually, it allows you to adapt to the new environment, – i.e., one that involves regular ‘shocks’ of cold water. This means that contrast showers may make your circulatory system act more quickly and effectively (1).

A better circulation means you’re able to heal faster because nutrients are being constantly transported around the body. Your peripheral tissues will be nourished and maintained properly, which has enormous benefits for longevity. Those with poor circulation, high blood pressure, and diabetes are ideal candidates for more efficient circulation.

When it comes to treating Candida, a better circulatory system is absolutely crucial. During a Candida cleanse, your detoxification organs (especially the liver and kidneys) are expelling large amounts of toxins into your bloodstream.

If your circulation is slow and sluggish, these toxins can linger for longer periods of time in your body, and may even be reabsorbed into your tissues. That’s why healthy circulation is so important! The more efficiently your body is able to sweep these toxins out of your bloodstream and lymph, the faster you’ll recover from Candida’s nasty by-products and avoid a die-off reaction.

2. Contrast Showers Boost Your Immune System

Scientists have shown that switching between hot and cold water provides a substantial boost to your immune system. It appears that the contrast in temperature increases the number of disease-fighting immune system cells in your body, including an important type of white blood cell called monocytes.

Other sources say that alternating between hot and cold showers can help prevent common illnesses such as colds and flu. A study published by the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam reported that taking a contrast shower every day had a significant effect on employee’s susceptibility to illness.  In fact, they found that the treatment reduced absences from work due to sickness by almost 30 per cent.

The study involved 3,000 men and women aged 18-65, each of whom committed to contrast shower therapy for several months. This involved turning the shower from hot to cold for up to 90 seconds at a time every morning. According to the published results, the number of subjects who had to take time off work during this time dropped substantially.

This is believed to be because the cold water exposure stimulates white blood cell production in your blood, particularly leukocytes. These are the types of white bloods cell that help your body fight invading pathogens and fungal infections.

Another study involving mice showed that daily brief cold stress can boost both numbers and activity of peripheral T-cells and natural killer cells (the most important cells in adaptive and innate immunity).

When treated with contrast showers for 8 days, the mice showed better survival of a certain type of intracellular parasite, thanks to a major enhancement in their cell-mediated immunity (2).

This is a fantastic way to help your body fight off the effects of Candida yeast overgrowth. When your immune system is primed and ready to deal with pathogenic yeasts, you’ll be in a better position to keep Candida populations at bay.

A stronger defence system means that you’ll have more healthy bacteria in your gastrointestinal system, which is where up to 80 percent of your immune cells reside. When in balance, your healthy bacteria are able to ‘crowd out’ the unhealthy “bad” bacteria, keeping you well.

3. Contrast Showers Prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)

One of the most immediate benefits of contrast showers is in preventing exercise-related injuries such as DOMS. For this reason, contrast shower therapy is often used by elite athletes.

Exposure to cold water helps to reduce inflammation and injury by restricting blood flow to the affected area. High and low temperatures can have a major impact upon the amount of blood flow to the tissues, but at opposite extremes.

Cold temperatures cause blood vessels to shrink or tighten up, reducing blood flow and thus inflammation. This is known as vasoconstriction. Heat, on the other hand, causes vasodilation: the widening of blood vessels. Vasodilation allows more blood to flow to affected tissues or limbs.

This simple therapy makes it easy to control the amount of blood flowing to a particular part of the body. This is especially important following intense exercise or a sudden injury.

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In most cases, new injuries such as tears, sprains, or strains can result in acute inflammation. Inflammation is part of the immune response, which involves swelling, heat, redness, and pain at the site. Using cold treatment within the first 72 hours after an injury will restricts the blood flow to the affected area, reducing inflammation and numbing the surrounding nerves.

These effects show that contrast showers are also effective for reducing DOMS. A study involving subjects who did leg-press exercises found that contrast water therapy resulted in reducing and improving the recovery of functional deficiencies that result from DOMS. The athletes involved also showed less reduction and faster restoration of strength and power. In this case, it’s recommended to take contrast showers in the first 72 hours after exercise or injury (3).

4. Contrast Showers May Help With Weight Loss

Although there’s a lack of scientific evidence, some reports claim that regular contrast showers may support or stimulate weight loss.

This is all to do with the different types of fat: brown fat and white fat. White fat refers to adipose fat, which is generally formed due to consuming excess calories. Brown fat, on the other hand, is the type located around the collar bones, neck, sternum and upper back. Brown fat is important because it generates fuel (heat) by burning white fat. Brown fat also helps to keep your body warm.

It’s been theorized that by suddenly exposing your body to cold water, your brown fat will start to burn your white fat – that is, you’ll burning fat with fat.

5. Contrast Showers May Help With Depression

It’s also been suggested that contrast showers help reduce depression or low mood by boosting the flow of blood to the brain.

Cold exposure increases your blood levels of endorphins and noradrenaline, which then increase the synaptic release of noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine), to the brain. Endorphins have a pain-relieving effect, lowering your perception of discomfort. The stimulating effect of endorphins also boosts feelings of well-being.

At the same time, the fresh flow of blood bringing oxygen and nutrients to your brain and other organs. Detoxification of harmful toxins and other metabolites are also cleared out more efficiently.

Another theory is that the fresh blast of cold water sends a number of electrical impulses to your brain. This provides a burst of energy, increases alertness, thus reducing depressed feelings (4).

Using contrast hydrotherapy alone can potentially help you heal faster from physical ailments, which also may help you feel better – physically and mentally.

How do you take a Contrast Shower?

The theory behind contrast showers is a lot more complicated than the procedure itself! In fact this is a very simple therapy that anyone can manage.

  • Shower in warm/hot water for 3-5 minutes.
  • Now turn off the hot water and shower under cool/cold water for 1 minute only.
  • Repeat 3-5 times.
  • Make sure to finish with cold water.

To maximize the effectiveness of the contrast shower, there should be as large a difference in temperature as possible between the hot and cold portions. The hot portions of the shower should last longer than the cold portions (3-5 minutes hot, 1 minute cold).

3 Other Ways To Boost Immune Function

While contrast therapy is certainly great for an immune boost, it’s important to keep supporting your immune health with other methods, too – especially when going through a Candida cleanse.

1. Garlic

One of the most powerful antibacterial and antifungal plants on earth, garlic is fantastic for a strengthening your immune system. It’s not only able to kill off bacteria and viruses, but has also been shown to inhibit the spread of Candida yeast and prevent it from growing. This is thanks to its high content of the antifungal compound allicin.

2. Cut The Sugar

Sugar is the immune system’s worst nightmare. It wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels and insulin production, while also causing inflammation and contributing to weight gain. Worst of all, it helps to ‘feed’ the Candida yeast, allowing it to thrive. Cut sugar from your daily diet and support your body instead with fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. These are the ‘real’ foods that contain the vitamins and minerals your immune system needs to function properly.

3. Probiotics

Because so many of your immune cells are in your gut, it makes sense to look after your gut health! This is best done with a quality supplement that contains a range of beneficial strains of probiotic bacteria.

Probiotics have been proven to support the immune system by supporting the health and proliferation of gut bacteria and crowding out harmful pathogens or yeasts like Candida albicans.

Look for a probiotic with a high CFU count, lots of strains, and (most importantly) a delivery system to get those bacteria to your gut. The Balance ONE Probiotic is a good example and my recommended choice.

The Ultimate Candida Diet treatment plan contains a number of alternative strategies for expelling Candida toxins.

Try Contrast Showers For Better Health

While it sounds bizarre, taking regular contrast showers may be the extra boost that your immune system needs – particularly when you’re trying to overcome Candida.

Cold water provides a fantastic stimulation for your white blood cell production, which will help keep your body fighting off harmful bacteria and yeasts.

At the same time, your peripheral circulation will improve, which helps to keep those nutrients flowing to your cells and tissues.

If you continue to support your body with a healthy diet and antifungals such as garlic, you’ll be in a better position to keep Candida at bay.

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