Remember the time when your mother ran after you, trying to catch hold of you to bathe you?
Well! You have been taking baths since even before that time.
Bathing is one of the few habits that every human possesses since childhood. We all take a bath every day (Okay! Not every day and not all of us). Yet, we know so little about the activity we have been performing for decades.
Let's try to understand the importance of bathing and how it can have a remarkable effect on your health and well-being. More importantly, let’s try to increase our awareness about the issue and bust a few myths along the way. For instance, do you know that taking a bath daily may not necessarily be the best thing for your body? We will try to answer this question and a few others as we discuss the issue of bathing.
Taking a shower in warm water relaxes the muscles and increases their flexibility. A hot bath can reduce muscle aches by increasing the body temperature and thereby blocking the pain sensors. Also, the main reason behind muscle aches is the building up of lactic acid in the muscles during physical exertion. A cold bath flushes the lactic acid out of the damaged tissue, hence, accelerating the blood flow to the muscle and reducing the recovery time. You must have heard that many athletes around the world take ice baths after heavy physical exertion. Ice Baths also work on the same principle as discussed above.
Also, if you do mild exercises and stretch your body when fully immersed in water, it would act as a mild workout for your body as water offers resistance when you move, relaxing the muscles with minimal exertion.
Bathing in hot water reduces the thickness of the blood in the body. Hence, a greater amount of blood flows through your heart, and the blood circulation in your body increases. This can lead to better functioning of your heart. Also, various studies have shown that hot water showers can reduce the blood pressure in your body. Bathing also removes various toxins from the body, which in turn aids the blood flow in the body.
Several studies have shown that hot baths reduce blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. Hot baths can therefore help in managing diabetes and also in reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
A cold bath forces one to take long and deep breaths as we tend to hold our breaths for a longer time. This has a positive effect on the working of the lungs. Further, cold water can help patients with COPD by reducing the risk of infection.
A hot bath opens up the pores in our body and removes all toxins present in the pores. The process of sweating brings the toxins present inside the body to the surface of the skin and bathing is necessary to remove those toxins from the skin’s surface. Indirectly, the removal of dirt and toxins also aid in the healing of any wounds on the body. An Epsom salt bath can provide a very good detox to the body.
Bathing, in general, removes the dead skin that has accumulated on the outer surface of the body so that our skin can ‘breathe’. It also flushes various harmful microbes and bacteria. This also soothes the itchiness in our skin.
So, bathing helps in increasing the immunity of our body. But recent research has shown that showering too frequently can reduce the immunity of the body.
Cold showers play a major role in tackling depression, anxiety, and low mood. A cold bath reduces the production of cortisol - the “stress hormone”- in our body, thereby lowering our mental stress and tension. It also releases endorphins - ”happiness hormones”, such as beta-endorphins, that trigger a positive mood and reduce feelings of pain.
On the other hand, warm showers increase the level of serotonin in the body. An increase in serotonin level helps in overcoming depression and in stabilizing our mood.
Baths can improve the quality of sleep by regulating body temperature. For example, if one bathes with cold water on a warm day, the person can avoid the harshness of the heat. Similarly, bathing with warm water on a cold day also reduces the harshness of the cold. By making us feel more comfortable, bathing can increase our sleep quality.
Also, the core body temperature regulates the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Generally, core body temperature increases during the daytime and decreases during the night. Ideally, when the core temperature drops during the night, it increases the melatonin level in the body, triggering sleep. People facing difficulty in falling asleep on time do not experience high melatonin levels at the time they go to bed and hence experience a poor quality of sleep.
Taking a warm shower a few hours before sleep can synchronise the circadian rhythm of the body and provide good sleep quality. Good sleep can further help in reducing anxiety and depression.
Here, I will answer why bathing daily may not necessarily be the best thing for your body. Our body is not only us. In fact, on average, a human body contains 10 times as many microbes as the number of human cells in our body. An estimated 100 trillion micro-organisms live in our body and are essential for carrying out various functions of our body, such as digestion and immunity. This colony of microbes in our body is known as the microbiome.
A lot of microbes in our microbiome depend on an oil known as sebum oil for their food. Sebum oil is produced by glands present in our body. Excessive bathing removes the sebum oil from the surface of our skin, thus depriving food to a lot of microbes in the microbiome. Showering too often reduces the strength of our microbiome and also exposes our skin to harmful external pathogens by making our skin dry and creating gaps for external organisms to enter the body.
We have already discussed how bathing affects the microbiome in our body. A key part of that microbiome is the gut microbiota. Research has shown a deep connection of the gut microbiota with autoimmune conditions. Therefore, healthy gut microbiota can help in managing the symptoms of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome. Bathing affects the microbiome and hence can play a major role in dealing with autoimmune conditions.
A technique known as the Wim Hof Method has been developed to treat autoimmune conditions. The method is based on meditation, cold baths, and breathing exercises. The technique uses cold baths and ice baths to suppress the immune system to cure autoimmune conditions. This technique is being debated for its efficiency as of today but many people have observed a drastic improvement in their health.
As we discussed above, bathing daily may not necessarily be the best habit for our bodies. But the optimum bathing frequency depends on multiple factors such as the type of occupation, amount of physical exertion, location of residence, and individual health conditions. Generally speaking, the renowned doctor Robynne Chutkan recommends bathing on alternate days. Also, showers must not be too long. Anywhere between 8-15 minutes is ideal.
Similarly, the optimum water temperature for bathing also depends on multiple factors. But, generally, a shower must feel warm and not uncomfortably hot. Cold showers and hot showers may also be suitable for various individuals depending on their conditions. Therefore, advice from a medical practitioner must be taken in case of any existing medical conditions.
As we saw above, bathing affects our lives in more ways than one. So the next time, you go for a shower you may develop a feeling of gratitude towards it. But do make sure that you enjoy your showers and have a good time. Want personalized treatment and say goodbye to your worries? Reach out to us.