Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – This is the second installment of my occasional newsletter on what we know about applying integrative medicine, natural medicine and traditional (indigenous) medicines for prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
I was fortunate to attend a virtual conference at the Loma Linda Medical School which explored the history of the use of hydrotherapies for both the Influenza pandemic of 1918 and for current use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are a few brief “take-aways” to guide your self-care.
Hydrotherapy and the use of hot and cold has a long history of use in medicine throughout the world. Hot and cold water (immersion baths, foot baths) as well as saunas and sweat lodge, temazcales are all ways to enhance the innate immune system.
In particular, the research literature shared at the conference suggests that those who undertook hot baths followed by a final brief cold bath had lower viral infection rates and lower mortality rates during the 1918 pandemic. Its application to COVID-19 is just now being explored but it is posited to have similar, positive effects.
This physical response is theorized to be a result of enhanced immune function in response to hot and cold applications. The use of hydrotherapy is to be used for prevention; and then if one falls ill, conduct it daily and intensively during illness.
Frequent use of sauna has been found to reduce the risk of pneumonia. Roger Seheult MD., a pulmonologist, is one of the physicians working in this area of clinical application and research. Those of you who have studied with me, recall me sharing about the practice of applying a hot mustard fomentation to the chest during bronchitis and pneumonia.
The conference also explored the near universal use of the sauna in Finland and what appears to be a lower number of COVID-19 cases and lower mortality compared to neighboring Nordic countries who have similar stay-at-home and testing strategies.
This article discusses the reduction of sick days among people who use cold showering methods and has an excellent review of the physiological and neuroendocrine responses to cold showering.
In my analysis, the differing immune responses by individuals identified in various research papers suggest that, like many natural methods, these hydrotherapy techniques serve to bring balance to the individual’s specific needs, rather than a one-type-response-fits-all. Remember the word of the root “medicine” comes from the ancient Sanskrit “MA,” which means to measure, to balance. True medicine helps restore balance and sustains resilience to fight off stressors.
Hot showers ending in a splash of cold, or saunas followed by jumping in the snow or dipping in icy lakes are all excellent ways to enhance immune health, boost mood and help avoid quarantine-depression.
This concept of heat also applies to the healing function of fever by the body and why management of temperature up to 102-103 degrees (and not suppression of fever) is generally a safe (patient-specific) approach to enable the body to fight infection.
Medical Disclaimer: The content of this newsletter is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Leslie Korn has lived and worked in Banderas Bay since 1973 conducting research in Traditional Medicine of Mexico. She is a Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health-educated clinician in clinical practice in Mental Health Nutrition, Integrative Medicine and the prevention of dementia and cognitive decline. She is the author of 8 books, including ‘Natural Woman: Herbal Remedies for Radiant Health at Every Age and Stage of Life.’ To learn more about her work, visit DrLeslieKorn.com. She can be reached at lekorn(at)cwis.org.
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