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The Benefits of Cold Exposure and Innovative Recovery Therapies in Tucson

"Want to know how I chill out at the end of a long week, heading into the weekend?

As the temps finally start to drop.

How about dropping them even more?

Like a 37-degree cold plunge.

This is me last Friday. Chilling out with my friends Maiko and Leanda. They run a very cool facility here in Tucson – Innovative Alternative Clinic - focused on helping you recover faster, feel better, and perform better for life. Leanda Cave is a multi-time world-champion triathlete. == Fun fact about Leanda: On 9 September 2012, at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Cave came in first place. On 13 October 2012, at the Ironman World Championship, Cave came in first place. By winning both the 70.3 world championship and the Ironman World Championship in the same year, Cave became the first woman to ever achieve the 'double'. == Maiko Andara is an accomplished athlete and Certified USA triathlon, high-performance cycling and recovery coach. However, before you think this is a place only for "ultra-athletes", it's not. There is something here for anyone looking to get out of pain, recover, feel better, and compete at a higher level in life. More on that in a minute. That afternoon we sequenced several "fun" things including the infamous, often-talked-about, cold plunge. Ah, the exhilarating embrace of cold exposure! For those of us heat-seeking desert dwellers, this may be a tough sell. While it might make you shiver at the mere thought, the science behind it reveals a treasure trove of health benefits that go far beyond the initial frosty shock to the system.

Cold exposure, whether through a cold plunge, ice baths, or cryotherapy, has gained popularity for its purported health benefits, and it's not just for daredevil enthusiasts.

Emerging research suggests that subjecting your body to controlled bouts of cold can provide a myriad of health benefits.

So, let's plunge into the exhilarating world of cold exposure and see why some people, like me, are willingly taking the plunge into icy waters!

1. Enhanced Recovery and Reduced Muscle Soreness: After a strenuous workout, many athletes and fitness enthusiasts swear by the benefits of cold exposure. Cold water immersion can help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, aiding in quicker recovery. The cold constricts blood vessels, which decreases inflammation, and then upon rewarming, blood rushes back to the muscles, helping to flush out metabolic waste products and improve overall recovery.

Reference: Vaile, J., Halson, S., Gill, N., & Dawson, B. (2008). Effect of hydrotherapy on the signs and symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 102(4), 447-455.

2. Immune System Boost: Exposing yourself to cold can stimulate the production of white blood cells and increase your body's ability to fight off infections. Cold exposure triggers the release of norepinephrine, a hormone that plays a role in immune function. It has also been show to boost circulating stem cell counts and activity for healing, repair, and regeneration.

Reference: Teixeira, A., Cunha, L., Assumpção, C., Miot, H. A., & Marcondes, J. (2017). Exercise and cold exposure increases the production of stress hormones and inflammatory cytokines. NeuroImmunoModulation, 24(6), 349-357.

3. Mental Health and Stress Reduction: Cold exposure has been linked to improved mood and mental well-being. The shock of cold water can trigger the release of endorphins and other mood-enhancing chemicals, which may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Cold exposure can also train the mind to endure discomfort and build resilience to stress.

Reference: Rymaszewska, J., & Ramsey, D. (2016). A review of the relationship between the gut microbiota and the expression of the genes for the dopaminergic system. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10, 47.

4. Weight Management: Exposing your body to cold can activate brown fat, a type of fat that burns calories to generate heat. Increased brown fat activity can contribute to weight management and metabolic health. Some studies suggest that regular cold exposure may be a part of a weight loss strategy.

Reference: van der Lans, A. A., Hoeks, J., Brans, B., Vijgen, G. H., Visser, M. G., Vosselman, M. J., ... & Schrauwen, P. (2013). Cold acclimation recruits human brown fat and increases nonshivering thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 123(8), 3395-3403.

5. Improved Blood Circulation: Cold exposure can increase peripheral blood flow, potentially improving circulation and cardiovascular health. It can also help manage blood pressure and improve the elasticity of blood vessels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Reference: Ponikowski, P., Chua, T. P., Anker, S. D., Francis, D. P., Doehner, W., Banasiak, W., ... & Coats, A. J. (2001). Peripheral chemoreceptor hypersensitivity: an ominous sign in patients with chronic heart failure. Circulation, 104(5), 544-549.

While cold exposure offers many potential benefits, it's essential to approach it with caution.

Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any cold exposure regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions.

Remember, science supports the idea that a bit of controlled cold can be a refreshing and invigorating addition to a healthy lifestyle, but, as with any health practice, moderation and individual variation are key.

Wait a couple of more months, and you can do this in your own backyard pool. Or, if you want a more controlled experience, Maiko and Leanda would be happy to introduce you to some recovery/healing modalities. Customizing treatment to maximize your body’s ability to stimulate its own healing processes. This is VERY complementary to the cellular and nutritional treatments in my practice. For those of you wanting a slightly warmer experience. They are one of only two facilities in the U.S. to offer Radiofrequency Humantecar (HCR) Technology. Think of this like a next-level augmented-with-technology, massage session. A handheld device will be placed on your skin to deliver controlled, frequency energy to targeted areas. The energy heats the tissues beneath the skin's surface using varying temperatures, stimulating deep blood flow to the tissues being treated. This stimulation works from the inside of your tissues and cells activating a healing, anti-inflammatory process. I experienced this as well and it was pretty amazing. WAY more comfortable than 6-minutes in the cold tank! So, if you are looking to explore some additional treatments to reduce pain and inflammation, or simply recharge as you’re charging through life the next few months, I would strongly recommend you check. P.S. Disclosure: I have no financial ties to the Innovative Alternative Clinic Leanda and Maiko are good people doing good things, with very high-end, leading-edge technology. Their aim is simple – to help you recover, recharge, so you can repeat whatever it is you love doing in life, for as long as possible."

Dr. Tait

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