Cold Water Immersion

Benefits of Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

  • Reduce Inflammation
  • Speed Injury Recovery
  • Reduce Acute & Chronic Pain
  • Improved Mood & Alertness
  • Release of Cold Shock Proteins
  • Anti-depressant Effect
  • Preserve Muscle Mass
  • Neuroprotective Result that Fights Dementia & Alzheimer’s

Cold Water Immersion (CWI) is not a new therapy, it’s been practiced for thousands of years. But in the last 20 years studies coming out have revealed an astounding list of benefits we had no idea about. Athletes & trainers have know about the basic benefits for some time, which are reducing inflammation, speeding recovery, reducing pain, and improved mood and alertness. But what we didn’t know is that this practice stimulates the body to release cold shock proteins. We now know that cold shock proteins cause a series of benefits including preservation of muscle mass, a neuroprotective result that staves off Dementia & Alzheimer’s, as well as an anti-depressant & anti-psychotic effect.

Cold Shock Proteins – What Are They and What Do They Do?

There is no doubting that taking an ice bath or submerging in a freezing lake produces a somewhat uncomfortable feeling, and if you are new to cold plunge there is definitely an element of shock involved.

This cold shock response holds the key to the majority of the touted benefits of cold water immersions. With the environmental stress of the cold water causing a cascade of intense and almost instant physiological response, the body is forced to adapt, known as a hermetic stress.

While the effects of a cold plunge can cause a number of physical presentations like red skin, shivering, blueish lips, hands and feet as well as a limitation of movement and speech, there’s also a plethora of processes happening below the surface that we cant see – one of these things is the release of cold shock proteins.

Cold shock proteins and their benefits have gained increased exposure and have been the topic of discussion for many advocates of cold water immersion and also the subject of an increasing amount of research. Cold shock proteins are a fascinating mechanism of our incredible bodies and here we offer some insight into what cold shock proteins are, what are their benefit and how we can get more of them.

What Are Cold Shock Proteins? 

Whether you are sitting in a hot sauna at 90 -100 degrees C or sitting in an ice bath at 5 -10 degrees C, the body is being hit with an extremely stressful situation that it is attempting to combat and preserve life through various mental and physical responses.

As a coping mechanism and adaptive response, the body produces or releases cold shock proteins. These cold shock proteins help us cope with the cold and also adapt to the sudden environmental change – essentially to keep us alive.

Cold shock proteins have been studied and recorded by scientists and have some amazing known benefits. There are a few key cold shock proteins that are quintessential to the cold therapy practice.

Some key cold shock proteins identified and studied in humans are:

  • Lin28
  • YB-1
  • RBM3

What Are The Benefits of Cold Shock Proteins?

Cold shock proteins from cold water immersion provide some pretty spectacular benefits for exercise recovery, reducing inflammation, wound healing and benefits for fighting cancer and preventing tumor growth, neuroprotective effects, and maintaining muscle mass.

There is evidence that cold shock proteins from taking an ice bath can help to reduce loss of muscle mass during bouts of decreased physical exercise. This can be a game changer during periods of injury or limited movement for athletes, in order to maintain muscle mass.

CIRP and RBM3 predominately respond to hypothermia in mammalian cells. Specifically, RBM3 increases in response to hypothermia which leads to a decrease in apoptosis which could prevent a decrease in skeletal muscle mass.

CIRP has been shown to promote cell survival, and activate antioxidant enzymes as well as offer neuroprotective qualities. The cold shock protein RBM3, has been directly linked to neurogenesis, facilitating the regeneration of damaged neurons. In this way, cold shock proteins have exciting utility for treatment of neurodegenerative issues like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Traumatic Brain Injury.

The cold shock protein, YB-1 offers benefits in promoting wound healing and may also hold crucial information for cancer disease research. This same study discusses the potential future in cold shock protein research, stating “Beyond their diagnostic potential, we envision that therapeutic interventions targeting cold shock proteins may reduce disease burden”, and that “that cold shock proteins may regulate the formation of protein aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases”.

How To Boost Cold Shock Proteins?

Basically, the point is to expose the body to the effects of cold, a temperature that creates a shock or shivering response. This shivering causes the release of succinate, which in turn activates brown fat, which holds strong benefits for metabolic health and metabolism.

There are of course numerous ways to expose yourself to cold, but it’s called cold ‘shock’ for a reason. The strongest release of cold shock protein will come from a temperature shock. Cold showers are one way to experience some of the benefits, though your body can adapt to this partial immersion. The gold standard here, is a daily (or almost daily) cold plunge submerging the body up to the neck in water under 60 degrees.

Although the concept of deliberately inducing a stress response in the body from extreme temperatures may seem counterintuitive, this type of stress creates what is called a hermetic response.

Hormesis is basically an adaptive response to stress stimulus. It is very interesting in todays society we are constantly bombarded with advice to reduce as much stress as possible. This may be true for unnatural stressors and financial stressors thrust upon us by day to day life, but the cold hard truth is that deliberate exposure to some stressors is actually beneficial to the body and mind.

Using a cold plunge tub to subject the body to this hormetic stress is a useful way to provide a stimulus in a controlled environment that encourage the body to adapt and become stronger, and heal itself from within.