TCM on Cold Plunging

So many have asked my thoughts on the viral practice of cold plunging, so I shared the TCM view. And boy did it upset a lot of you!

That’s ok though, let’s turn this into a discussion that we can all gain something from. If you haven’t seen my Reel, go watch it, make sure you read the caption and then come back for more important points:

1. Let’s get on the same page about what “cold plunge therapy” is. In my Reel, I’m referring to immersion in a cold water bath or plunge of 40-60 degrees F for up to 5 minutes to the point of shivering. I’m not including cool/cold showering where the temps aren’t as low. I’m also not including cold exposure following heat exposure via sauna, etc - which btw I consider far better than extreme cold exposure alone. 

2. If you practice cold plunging and it makes you feel wonderful and full of vitality, I celebrate your health with you. Just know that not all people benefit or feel good from cold exposure therapy. This might include loved ones in your life who might not be the right fit for it (esp young children and the elderly). We are not all wired the same. If you practice cold immersion and begin to experience new issues like frequent gas/bloating, new/unusual aches & pains emerge, begin to feel cold to the bone in normal environments...these could be signs that your body is becoming overwhelmed by cold energy. 

3. As a TCM practitioner, I can’t recommend cold immersion therapy despite the anecdotes that some feel amazing because I am worried about its long term effects. While there is currently no research examining the 5, 10, 20 year effects, we have the two-thousand year plus historical records of Chinese medicine which extoll the importance of safeguarding your vital Yang Qi from cold damage. In fact, one of our most ancient and frequently used clinical texts today is literally called: “Treatise on Cold Damage” or Shang Han Lun (伤寒论). I will always try non-cold ways to help you restore health, and we have so many tools in our system. 

4. The TCM take on practices that expose your body to extreme conditions - in this case cold immersion - is that it draws on your Kidney-Yang-Qi bank account. Kidney Yang Qi is the system that pumps your adrenaline, supports your adrenal function and thus your overall energy. When you use cold immersion to activate your dopamine, adrenaline, immune system you are drawing on this account. And the euphoric exhilaration might feel worth the “expense” for some. However, this is also why others report feeling awful afterward (they didn’t have enough Kidney Yang “funds” to sufficiently draw on in the first place).

My job is to help you safeguard your Kidney Yang Qi so I prefer using TCM therapies that help you feel good while also adding to your Kidney Yang Qi bank account. I want you to feel good while also becoming a Kidney Qi billionaire. Does that make sense?

5. Finally, I thank all of you sending me articles on Cold Plunging in response for my request for research on this practice for women. I’m still not seeing any solid research studies (articles from the Cut, etc are not considered studies and most of the ones they quote if they mention any at all are not examining women’s response to cold immersion). There is one I’m seeing that is “sort of” speaking to our topic but not exactly. More on this soon...

If TCM principles resonate for you and you want to learn how we use them for well-aging and beauty longevity join us for our next Gua Sha 3.0 Follow-Along for Under-Eye Rescue.


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