An article published in February 2023 title, MRI scans reveal changes in the brain’s wiring after cold water shock, cites an interesting, and first of its kind study on the effects of cold water immersion on the brain.
In the study, 33 participants were given an initial functional MRI (fMRI) scan of their brain, and then were immersed in a cold bath with only their head sticking out for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes, study participants quickly dried off and were then given another fMRI scan of their brain.
The physiological effects of cold water immersion have been well studied, however, this was the first study of its kind that studied the effects of cold water immersion on the brain.
“All tiny parts of the brain are connected to each other in a certain pattern when we carry out activities in our day-to-day lives, so the brain works as a whole.” said Dr Yankouskaya. “After our participants went in the cold water, we saw the physiological effects – such as shivering and heavy breathing. The MRI scans then showed us how the brain rewires its connectivity to help the person cope with the shock.”
When the before and after (cold water immersion) fMRI scans were compared, they showed that changes in the connectivity between parts of the brain had occurred. Most notable were changes in the wiring of the medial prefrontal cortex and the parietal cortex.
“These are the parts of the brain that control our emotions, and help us stay attentive and make decisions,” Dr Yankouskaya said. “So when the participants told us that they felt more alert, excited and generally better after their cold bath, we expected to see changes to the connectivity between those parts. And that is exactly what we found.”
Here’s the aspect of the study I found most fascinating when you consider the seemingly profound effects of the cold water immersion after only 5 minutes…the study participants were immersed in water at a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (the study was performed in the UK).
I’ll save you the time, as I did the math for you. 20 degrees Celsius is equal to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
I’m sure you’re thinking, well, that’s not that cold at all.
My thoughts exactly.
As a consistent practitioner of cold plunges in the lake, I do think the benefits; mental, emotional, and physiological, are more profound in frigid, nearly freezing water.
However, that said, you can’t argue with the findings of this study, which shows that even cold water immersion in not-so-cold, not necessarily warm water can yield measurable changes for the better in your brain.
Which means even a 5 minute “kinda cold” shower should elicit some positive changes in your mood and emotions.
What a great way to take greater control to start your day!
If you consider this time of year, with shorter days, less sunlight, more clouds, and the increased incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), coupled with the general mental and emotional anxiety and stress of everyday life, a somewhat cold shower could be extremely beneficial in improving your mood, ability to handle and mitigate stress, and overall outlook for the day.
I know it’s winter, and a cold shower probably sounds as appealing as a sharp stick to the eye, but if the benefits it yields mean a better, happier you, that is more adept at handling stress during these short, dreary winter days, the trade off could be well worth it.
In short, EMBRACE the cold.
I’m going to say something that may burst some bubbles…
Juice cleanses DON’T WORK.
Now, before I get into the why of the above statement, I want to be explicitly clear, that I am not saying that drinking cold-pressed juice is bad, or not good for you.
I’m specifically referring to “juice cleanses”.
We proudly sell organic cold-pressed juice that is freshly pressed on-site.
I drink cold-pressed juices myself, as it’s a great way to get a diversity of fruits & veggies in a quick shot that is also far more bioavailable than having to eat and digest the whole foods themselves.
So, I’m all for drinking cold-pressed juice as part of your daily nutrition.
However, when it comes to “cleansing” the body, also known as “detoxification”, I do not lean on drinking 4-6 juices a day and expect them to work.
Rather, I fast.
I also do a host of daily or weekly lifestyle hacks/habits that improve your lymphatic system function, your body’s built-in system responsible for removing waste products, toxins, and cellular debris.
All of which are essentially free, and certainly won’t cost you $60/day like a juice cleanse.
Okay, let’s dive into why juice cleanses don’t work.
The human body detoxifies (cleanses) on its own.
We poop, we pee, we sweat, and when we sleep, our lymphatic system helps our body dump waste products and toxins from the day.
Those who are trying to sell you juice cleanses will say technically true things that make sense like, “we live in a toxic environment, far too toxic in most cases for our body to keep up, therefore, you need to cleanse the body…with juice!”
I actually agree with this sample hypothetical statement, aside from the “you need juice” part.
The reality is, that we do live in a highly toxic environment that quite frankly, is bombarding us from many angles, such as microplastics, more synthetic chemicals than we could ever comprehend, glyphosate and nasty preservatives in our food, heavy metals, and more.
No doubt, this can definitely lead to toxic buildup in the body.
Yes, the body detoxifies on its own, has its own built in mechanisms for detoxification, but it can only do so much. It wasn’t built for the level of toxicity it faces from environmental factors on a daily basis.
Okay, so we should take time out to cleanse the body from time to time then?
Absolutely, but through fasting, and on a daily basis, through intermittent fasting, and other lifestyle hacks/habits which I will run through at the end.
Again, the body detoxifies on its own, so to ramp up detoxification, you need to let it be entirely, and let it focus wholeheartedly on that.
Your liver, kidneys, skin, lymphatic system, et cetera, to focus on detoxification at accelerated levels, can’t be focusing on anything else.
Like digesting food.
The reality is, that yes, you are consuming less calories when drinking juice, but make no bones about it, by drinking juice, especially the amount of juice recommended throughout the day to “cleanse” the body, you are making all your internal organs work on processing and assimilating those calories and nutrients.
That requires work.
Which means your internal organs simply cannot be focused on detoxification at an accelerated level.
Your body has two parts of its autonomic nervous system, (autonomic, meaning autonomous, meaning parts of your central nervous system that work on their own, automatically) the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system controls your “fight or flight” response to stressors, and the parasympathetic nervous system is considered the “rest & digest” portion of your central nervous system.
With respect to your parasympathetic nervous system, it really should be “rest OR digest”.
Your parasympathetic nervous system is what controls all healing and repair mechanisms in the body. You want this engaged as often and as heavily as possible, especially when sleeping.
Now, remember, this is your autonomic nervous system, and the parasympathetic also controls digestion.
This means that when you put food into your body, and again, it’s undeniable that a cold-pressed juice is a food, your body automatically begins digesting it, and assimilating those nutrients.
With respect to a cold-pressed juice, yes, those nutrients are much easier to digest and assimilate than say, a double cheeseburger, but nonetheless, that cold-pressed juice engages your digestive system.
If your parasympathetic nervous system is engaged in digestion, it’s very difficult for it to be also heavily engaged in the “rest” activities, which include detoxifications, reducing inflammation, boosting immune system function, et cetera.
If you want to accelerate cleansing/detoxification in the body, you need to not be forcing your body to process foods (I would argue small amounts of bone broth may be the only real exception), you need to give your internal organs a break entirely, to allow them to really dig in and do some deep work.
You do this by fasting.
Giving your body a break entirely from any kind of food is how you ramp up your detoxification efforts.
Fasting vs. Juice Cleanses
Let’s walk through some of the claims that are made about juice cleanses and compare them to fasting, which is free.
"Juice cleanses promote detoxification."
Maybe, but show me the science behind that claim because I can't find it.
Even if so, fasting is better, and more effective for the reasons mentioned above.
"Juice cleanses improve digestion."
Again, maybe a little.
An extended fast (over 24 hours) will not only enhance detoxification efforts dramatically, but it will actually improve the biodiversity and overall population numbers of your gut microbiome.
"Juice cleanses stabilize blood sugar, increase metabolic flexibility."
Maybe, but cold-pressed juices often have sugar in them. Naturally occurring fructose, which is a natural sugar the body is adept at processing, but nonetheless, probably not a claim that can be fully backed up.
It is undeniable that nothing is more effective at stabilizing blood sugar and improving metabolic flexibility than not eating for extended periods of time, or fasting. Inarguable.
Now, let’s look at some pretty remarkable benefits of fasting that go beyond the above, and aren’t even claimed by the juice cleansers.
✔️ Rebuilds and repairs immune system
✔️ Jumpstarts ketosis
✔️ Preserve memory and learning functioning
I recognize that this has been somewhat of an opinion piece thus far, and I’ve yet to cite any actual research backing my statements up, so here you go.
First, I performed internet searches trying to find hard, clinical research or studies backing up the claims made by those promoting and selling juice cleanses, and I couldn’t find any.
Interestingly enough, I came across tons of ads selling juice cleanses that could be shipped to your house.
I even searched the National Institute of Health and PubMed.
There is plenty of research on some of the long-term benefits of drinking cold-pressed juice, which again, as I stated in the beginning, I am an advocate for, however, nothing showing positive, detoxifying benefits of doing actual juice cleanses.
In fact, I did manage to come across one review of multiple studies from the NIH titled “Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What you Need to Know, and I quote from it:
“A 2015 review concluded that there was no compelling research to support the use of “detox” diets for weight management or eliminating toxins from the body. A 2017 review said that juicing and “detox” diets can cause initial weight loss because of low intake of calories but that they tend to lead to weight gain once a person resumes a normal diet. There have been no studies on long-term effects of “detoxification” programs.”
Now, on the flip side, there is ample hard, scientific research and studies showing the efficacy of fasting, and thus, backing up many of the statements I’ve made above.
Here are just a couple examples:
In a paper published in the “National Library of Medicine” title, Intermittent Fasting: the science of going without they state, “Fasting has been shown to improve biomarkers of disease, reduce oxidative stress and preserve learning and memory functioning.”
Finally, a paper also published in the “National Library of Medicine” titled, The Effect of Fasting on Human Metabolism and Psychological Health states, “Fasting is a prevalent approach to weight loss and is a feasible method for treating some diseases like type 2 diabetes.”
Other Ways to Boost Detoxification
Sauna. Working up a good sweat for 15-20 minutes has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, and yes, enhance your detoxification efforts.
Dry Brushing. Dry brushing is a technique that not only exfoliates the skin, but jumpstarts your lymphatic system, thus, improving your body’s own detoxification mechanisms. CLICK HERE to watch a quick video on it.
Rebounding. I actually wrote about rebounding in the very first edition of “The Weekly Thread” in a piece titled, Bringing back the exercise trampoline.
Supplement with activated charcoal. Charcoal is a known binder, which means excess toxins, heavy metals, and more will bind to it and be flushed out of your system safely with the charcoal. CLICK HERE to check it out.
Defeat is entirely up to you.
Life will challenge you.
Other people will challenge you.
This is inevitable.
At times, these challenges may seem unbearable, or have you hopeless.
This is all part of the human condition.
Defeat however, is a choice.
A choice that is entirely up to you.
Always remember, you are POWERFUL. Act accordingly.