As we have discussed, Cryotherapy, particularly whole-body cryotherapy (WBC), involves exposing the body to ultra-low temperatures, generally below -120°F. The body responds to these extreme cold conditions in several ways that lead to the potential benefits of this therapy. Here is a closer look at the science behind the magic of deliberate cold therapy:
1. ThermalShock and Vasoconstriction: When exposed to the extreme cold in the cryotherapy chamber, the body initially responds by undergoing vasoconstriction—narrowing of blood vessels. This process aims to conserve heat by reducing blood flow, especially to the extremities.
2. Thermogenesis and Vasodilation: Once you leave the chamber, the body starts warming up, a process known as thermogenesis. The blood vessels that previously constricted now dilate or widen (vasodilation). This action increases blood flow, particularly to the skin and muscles. This enhanced circulation is rich in oxygen and nutrients, promoting faster muscle recovery and aiding in the removal of toxins and waste products.
3. HormonalResponses: The extreme cold stimulates the endocrine system, leading to an increased production of hormones. This includes endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, which can reduce pain and induce feelings of euphoria. The cold can also lower levels of inflammatory cytokines, reducing inflammation in the body, and possibly regulate cortisol levels, the body's main stress hormone.
- Endorphins: These are the body's natural 'feel-good' hormones, which can reduce pain and induce feelings of happiness or euphoria
- Cortisol: Also known as the stress hormone, its levels might fluctuate during cryotherapy. Acute cold stress may increase cortisol, but repeated sessions could potentially normalize its levels, reducing chronic stress.
- CatecholamineRelease: Catecholamines are a group of hormones, including adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine), released in response to physical or emotional stress.
- Adrenaline: The cold stress from WBC can lead to an increased release of adrenaline, which raises the heart rate, increases blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies.
- Noradrenaline: Also released in response to stress, it has functions similar to adrenaline but is more focused on maintaining an alert state, potentially improving focus and attention.
4. MetabolicIncrease: To maintain its core temperature in the cold, the body needs to burn more energy, causing a temporary increase in metabolic rate. This increase in metabolic activity is thought to contribute to some of the weight loss benefits associated with WBC.
5. CellularChanges: The extreme cold can stimulate changes at the cellular level. For instance, in the skin, the cold can prompt cells to produce more collagen, a protein that gives skin its elasticity and strength. Over time, this could potentially lead to improved skin appearance.
a) Anti-inflammatory Effects:WBC could potentially reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (signaling proteins), such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). Simultaneously, it might increase the levels ofanti-inflammatory cytokines, contributing to the overall reduction in inflammation.
b) Changes in Metabolic Markers:The cold exposure during WBC stimulates thermogenesis, the process of heat production. To keep the body warm, it increases metabolic rate and uses energy stores, leading to changes in levels of metabolic markers like glucose and certain types of fat.
Remember, individual responses to cryotherapy can vary, and while these chemical changes often have beneficial effects, cryotherapy might not be suitable for everyone. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment.
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4. Whole-bodycryostimulation as an effective way of reducing exercise-induced inflammationand blood cholesterol in young men. “Springerplus,”(Ziemann, E., et al., 2013.) (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23936638/).