Last week we talked about the good effects on sleep by taking a cold shower or an ice-bath before bed. Let’s take a deep dive into the science behind cold therapy. Below are some of the main points discussed in the podcast with Joe Rogan and Dr. Rhonda Patrick.
Cold therapy inhibits an enzyme (collagenase) that breaks down collagen. You need collagen in all of your body, but especially in your joints. When there is a dis-balance in the body, with too much of this enzyme around, too much collagen gets broken down. This causes a lot of pain in your joints, especially noticeable in your hands in arthritis. Because cold therapy helps inhibiting this enzyme, people who have arthritis find this a great help.
TNF-alpha is a signalling molecule that alerts the immune cells in your body to deal with a threat (like a bacteria). However, in arthritis this molecule has gone crazy and keeps screaming “red alert, red alert – there is an infection, fix it now!!!” all the time. The immune cells do not know what kind of threat that they are responding too. They only know that when TNF-alpha says attack, “they shall attack”, whether there is areal threat or not. This creates a situation of chronic inflammation in the body.
What is so cool about cold-therapy is that it inhibits the activity of TNF-alpha. That means that there will be a less amount of inflammation in the body. This has been shown clinically in blood tests by measuring inflammation markers with cold exposure.
Glutathion is a strong antioxidant that can help the body to heal. Just taking the glutathion in a supplement form may not be as beneficial as you think though. Why is that? Imagine you have some damage to a brick wall in your house and you want to fix it. You order a whole bunch of bricks that gets delivered to your house. However, if you do not have a special worker, a brick layer, that will come and rebuild your wall, all you have is a bunch of extra bricks laying on the floor. In terms of glutathion, that is what the bricks are. The brick layer is a special enzyme that you need in order to use the bricks and rebuild your wall. Cold therapy activates this enzyme!
You produce a lot more norepinephrine (noradrenaline) when you immerse yourself in the cold, and this is something that all the scientist do agree on. Norepinephrine makes you feel good, it can help your brain to stay sharp and learn more easily and it is also a strong anti-inflammatory.
Using cold immersion also activates your body to make more mitochondria (the energy producing structure inside your cells), which means that you will be able to burn more fat. A side effect of cold immersion that a lot of people like.
Listen to the excellent talk for all the details in this video clip.
Dr. Andy Galpin has a lot of knowledge in this field, and below is a short video where they talk about the effects of cold therapy. Depending on what kind of adaptation you are going for you may want to take your ice bath at different times during the day. Most people with knowledge in this field seems to agree that if you want to build muscle mass, you want to wait an hour after a strength training session before taking an ice bath.
Laird Hamilton is an amazing athlete and an absolute icon in the surf and water world. He has battled a lot of different injuries through his career, and working with cold therapy is something that has helped him a lot. He and his wife Gabby Reece also uses ice bath and sauna as a way to make the body adapt to stress. This can be a great way to add “training” without actually having to go to the gym. You can read more about the benefits of going to the sauna here and here.
If you are close to the ocean, jump in!
It’s the best form of cold therapy that there is.
Have a splashing weekend!
TNF-alpha inhibitor https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17970890