How Cold Showers Can Support Your Immune System, From An MD

“Cold showers have been documented to increase natural killer cells, which is a high marker of immune resilience in your body,” Dunston says. Specifically, she’s referencing a 2014 study that found a douse of cold water released epinephrine (aka, your adrenaline hormone), which then caused an increase in IL-10—an anti-inflammatory cytokine that regulates your body’s response to infection. Additionally, a randomized controlled trial in 2016 found that participants who took hot-to-cold showers lowered their sickness-related work absences by 29%

Of course, much more research is necessary before we make a clear connection. But cold showers and their link to health are nothing new: If you’re familiar with the “Iceman,” Wim Hof, perhaps you know his stance on an icy spray: He touts “cold therapy” as helpful for managing inflammation, improving sleep, easing pain, and alleviating anxiety and depression.

Functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, M.D., author of The New Rules of Aging Well, is also on board, specifically for longevity reasons. “These little short bursts of stress stimulate longevity genes in your body,” he shares on the mindbodygreen podcast. “Fasting is one way, but temperatures are another way—a sauna to a cold plunge or a cold shower.”

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