Since the NUHS Whole Health Center opened a new hydrotherapy suite in 2017, interns and clinicians have been utilizing the therapeutic benefits of water to treat several types of ailments and boost various body systems and functions.
In this blog post originally published as a feature article for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges in February, Fraser Smith, ND, NUHS assistant dean of naturopathic medicine, discusses how hydrotherapy can keep you in good health for the long term.
Heat, Hydrotherapy and Heart Health
It’s easier to prevent an illness than treat it, and when it comes to heart health, keeping the body in an optimally healthy state is a good insurance policy against premature aging of the heart and arteries. One beneficial practice that many people enjoy is hydrotherapy. This includes the use of alternating hot and cold moist applications, steam treatments, baths, and saunas. Water and the purposeful use of heat or cold are key in these treatments. This type of therapy can modulate blood circulation in the body, which stimulates nourishment to the body’s tissues, the clearance of waste from those tissues, and have overall relaxing effects.
Study Shows Sauna Treatments Lower Blood Pressure
Recently, the Chicago Tribune featured a very insightful article that summarized recent research published in scientific literature. The study involved middle aged adults taking a sauna treatment and afterwards, measuring their blood pressure, heart rate, and the flexibility or elasticity of their blood vessels. It turns out, that after the hydrotherapy treatment their heart rate went up, even though they had not been running or cycling. Moreover, their blood pressure dropped and their blood vessels became more elastic. This is an excellent state for the circulatory system to be in. What is surprising is that higher heart rate tends to drive blood pressure up (the faster “the pump” works, the more the pressure in our bloodstream gets cranked up). In this case, the whole circulatory system wound down – in a good way.
The study was done in Finland, where sauna treatments are very popular. Many countries around the world use heat therapy and hydrotherapy, including Sweden, Russia, India and many more. In naturopathic medicine, we make extensive use of hydrotherapy. It can be used, and tailored for specific complaints or for general health. Many of these patients have medical conditions that definitely requires some degree of medication. But not all healing comes in the shape of a pill. It can be surprising to some, that an agent as simple, easy to manage and inexpensive as water, along with heat and/or cold, can be a powerful influence on health.
Want to learn more about hydrotherapy? Read a Chicago Health Magazine article featuring the hydrotherapy suite at National University.