Bathing for Good Health

I started to research this blog on bathing (one of my favorite pastimes) and I found so much great information about this topic, I will be writing about different types of bathing for weeks to come, so in advance, I am very sorry about that!

At one in time in England a bath was a rare occurrence even for the upper classes, and now its seen as something so ordinary its almost taken for granted and its wide range of benefits are under-valued.  We know about the relaxing benefits of unwinding with a hot bath, but did you know it can also help to improve your health?

Baths and bathing have been such a huge part of human life that there’s a bathing tradition on every continent.  Most ancient cultures have long believed in the healing effects of water. Hippocrates in the 5th century understood the connection between health and the practise of daily bathing and he was the father of Hydrotherapy. The Roman love for bathing gave birth to huge bathing complexes with under-floor heating and a range of temperatures (for Hydrotherapy) some of which are still standing and used today. The Japanese practice of engaging in public baths is known as Sento and lone-bathing at home is Furo.  This is similar to mindfulness rather than a cleansing bath. (I will write a blog post about this)

Your skin releases endorphins in response to the soothing warm water the same way that endorphins are released when you feel the sun on your skin, says Dr Bobby Buka, a dermatologist based in New York. He explains that submerging ourselves in hot water can be both therapeutic and reinvigorating. So, soaking in a bath for 20 minutes, can help to stabilize blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, aid the flow of oxygen throughout your respiratory system and contribute to overall better heart health by increasing and improving blood flow to and from the heart. Taking a bath also helps to strengthen and synchronise your circadian rhythms, the daily fluctuations in behaviour and biochemistry that affect every one of our organs, including the brain.

 After a bath your limbs and muscles will feel less sore after strenuous exercise or a demanding day at work and it can also help you experience less mental fatigue. It is said that our bodies associate horizontal conditions with relaxation and vulnerability, particularly in the bath, which possibly mimics the warm, liquid conditions of the womb. When struggling with a bad cold or flu, actually elevating your body temperature with a hot bath can actually boost your body’s ability to fight infections and viruses, combining this with essential oils, like lavender, eucalyptus or chamomile, and Dead Sea or Epsom salts can help reduce stress and aching muscles, allowing for even greater healing and relaxation. Simply making a daily routine out of unwinding in your bath at the end of a day and thinking, (or meditating) that the water is washing off your day and removing your worries will help to improve your well-being and sleep quality. Adding a gently, fragranced bath product, made from natural ingredients would add an extra touch of pampering, important to self-care.  

Researchers have also found that soaking in an hour-long hot bath burned as many calories (around 140) as a 30-minute walk. This is because the warm water makes your heart beat faster, giving you a gentle workout session. As this may help reduce inflammation and in much the same way as exercise does, this is especially helpful for people who are unable to exercise through illness as well as a helping them to manage any pain. Many people who have chronic illnesses report feelings of depression, taking a hot bath can provide physical comfort and ease the blues that are associated with chronic pain conditions, literally washing your pain away.

I would just add one note of caution, if the temperature of the water is too hot it can put your body under what’s called heat stress, where your body’s internal temperature regulation is thrown and doesn’t have enough opportunity to recalibrate. Heat stress, can cause a strain on the heart, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.  So keep check of the temperture.

There is some disagreement on whether it’s better to have a bath in the morning or evening, but some doctors advocate the benefits of a morning bath. Cortisol levels peak at 8am, so lowering the level first thing, would give a calmer start to the day, as we do on occasions wake up actually feeling stressed. Personally, I enjoy having a long soak in the bath, on the mornings I don’t work, as it’s a real chance to relax, get a bit of time to myself and spark my creative juices. I add some of my favourite oils, like bergamot and ginger. It is best to mix the essential oils in to a tablespoon of carrier oil like grapeseed or olive oil and use around 5-6 drops only. If you swirl your hands in the water to disperse the oil it doesn’t then sit on the surface of the water.

I hope this has made you re-think the humble act of bathing and I will add more in-depth details about some of the methods mentioned. I always think a long blog post is a bit like a speech that is far too long….

The poet and novelist Sylvia Plath wrote, “I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath, but I can’t think of one.”

 I couldn’t agree more!

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