- Jason Winkelmann
There are many forms of hydrotherapy, or water therapy, but arguably the most profound in its healing abilities is constitutional hydrotherapy. Constitutional hydrotherapy got its name from Dr. OG Carrol (1879-1962) after his research found the therapy to “change the constitution of the cells.” More on that in a bit! First, let’s dive into what to expect from a constitutional hydrotherapy session.
What is constitutional hydrotherapy?
A constitutional hydrotherapy session looks a little like this… You’ll be in a relaxed setting, laying on a massage table. A series of alternating warm and cool towels are placed on your chest and abdomen in a precise order while gentle electrical stimulation currents are applied near your spine and abdomen through stim pads by a sine wave machine. The entire time you are covered in a wool blanket and instructed to do nothing more than relax. You’ve earned it.
Why the different temperatures?
The warm phase of treatment draws blood to the surface of your skin via vasodilation (blood
vessels expanding). This helps open the pores and makes a person perspire, which is one of the best detoxification methods our body has. Water soluble toxins are able to leave your body via sweat. The warm phase also helps stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (known as the rest and digest portion of your autonomic nervous system).
The cool phase of treatment causes vasoconstriction (blood vessels contracting) on the surface of your skin, which drives the blood that was at your skin surface deep into your body’s core and vital organs. The cool phase also helps stimulate your sympathetic nervous system (known as the fight or flight portion of your autonomic nervous system).
Why the electrical stimulation?
Before the introduction of electrical stimulation (e-stim), constitutional hydrotherapy sessions would take hours to perform. Research found that by applying gentle e-stim near the spine and abdomen, sessions could be performed quicker and more beneficially. The placement of the e-stim pads allows your Naturopathic Doctor to stimulate either your sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system similarly to how the contrasting temperatures do.
What are the benefits?
The flux of warm/cool stimulates circulation through your organs producing an increase in oxygen, digestive enzyme production, and movement of white blood cells which increase your immune function. The e-stim has been found to boost your white blood cells into your bloodstream faster to provide the body with the defenses needed to fight infections and inflammation naturally
This is what Dr. Carrol was referring to when he found the therapy to “change the constitution of cells.” A study by the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine performed blood tests on patients before and after treatment with constitutional hydrotherapy and found the following results:
Increased vitality, increased body movement, and decreased pain
Decreased body fat, increase total body water (a good thing since we are 60-70% water)
Increased thyroid hormone, decreased cholesterol and LDLs
Decrease in blood pressure
What can this be used to treat?
Constitutional hydrotherapy stimulates your body’s natural vital force. The vital force is your body’s innate ability to heal itself. This includes fighting infections, relieving pain and inflammation, regulating your autonomic nervous system, and increasing metabolism. When you stimulate the vital force you are supporting your whole body. Some common conditions constitutional hydrotherapy is used for include:
Colds, flu, bronchitis, sinus infections, and other upper respiratory tract infections
Digestive system problems such as bloating, constipation, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis
High blood pressure
Female Reproductive problems such as PMS, dysmenorrhea, and infertility
And so much more!