Naturopathy is a broad system of medicine built upon simple and reliable principles. One of these principles is that proper circulation to internal organs and tissues is a necessity for pain relief, optimal metabolic function, repair of damaged or infected tissue and for general well being. There are many ways to improve circulation and hydrotherapy, the use of alternating hot and cold water, is one of the oldest.
Most people have used hydrotherapy occasionally as in ice packs for a sprained ankle, the hot compress for sinus pain, or the hot bath for a case of the flu with aches and chills. There are dozens of specific hydrotherapy techniques valued by naturopathic doctors, yet unknown to most people.
Constitutional hydrotherapy is a special technique which greatly improves recovery from many illness, both acute and chronic, such as fatigue, arthritis, bronchitis, food poisoning, heart disease, influenza and chronic constipation to name a few. It has been used successfully by thousands of naturopathic physicians for over a century and at one time was standard medical treatment for many illnesses, in hospitals and clinics.
Hydrotherapy works so well because it acts to stimulate the body's own healing force. During the treatment the patient lies comfortably on a soft table while hot towels are applied over the upper torso. The person is then wrapped in a sheet and covered with several layers of blankets. Once the skin is warmed, a single cold towel is exchanged for the heated one. The body, well prepared by the preceding warmth, reacts to this temperature change by greatly increasing the blood flow to the skin and the internal organs of the chest and abdomen. Hydrotherapy researchers have shown that a reflex increase in blood flow occurs in internal organs when the circulation to the overlying skin is stimulated. It is this internal reaction which is responsible for the long lasting and cumulative effects of a series of hydrotherapy treatments. Research has further shown that the beneficial effects on the immune system last for up to 24 hours making this a very effective therapy for any disorder involving immune function.
To enhance these effects, a mild electrical stimulation is applied over the spine during the treatment. Certain modifications may be made during the therapy depending on the persons ability to react to it and the type of disease being addressed.
The benefits of constitutional hydrotherapy include an improvement in sleep, digestion, bowel function, an increase in your energy level and a reduction in chronic pain. We have found that other naturopathic therapies such as herbal medicines, special diets or homeopathy often work better due to concurrent constitutional hydrotherapy treatments. Some of our colleagues however, rely entirely on hydrotherapy to produce cures of many serious and seemingly incurable illnesses.
We have found that for the best results, constitutional hydrotherapy should be repeated 3 or 4 times per week for several weeks. The number of treatments needed is in part determined by your specific illness and your physician. Many of our patients have found it extremely beneficial to combat the early onset of a cold or flu or just as a treatment to make them feel better following a stressful period in their life.
Dr. Tom Kruzel practices in Portland, Oregon and can be reached at (503) 667-1961