Depression is a condition that is becoming all too common nowadays. However, unpleasant side effects of conventional pharmaceuticals and a generalized demand from the public for more natural ways to address their health concerns, has many turning towards naturopathic medicine to either complement their current therapeutic approach or just replace it entirely.
Lifestyle changes are huge and instrumental in helping people beat depression, as we’ve already discussed. Food is often a central issue in one’s life, making it a strong force against most imbalances that exist. And supplements and herbs are effective ways to help speed recovery along.
The secret weapon most people don’t know about, though, is hydrotherapy. It is the application of water, usually externally, to address disease and maintain health. A simple, inexpensive but profoundly powerful practice, hydrotherapy improves: blood circulation, immune system cell circulation and hormone production (particularly endorphins, which are released when we are happy or satisfied). It also assists with waste removal and supplies oxygen and nutrients to injured tissues. What does this mean for you? More energy, stronger immunity and an overall improved sense of well being, report many clients.
There are many different types of hydrotherapeutic applications that can be indicated in depression such as a constitutional approach, cold mitten friction, wet sheet pack, or even a fomentation. These applications are only effective if they are administered by a qualified, experienced, naturopathic hydrotherapist.
There is another application that is quite simple, though, and can be done at home by most people. (In fact, some naturopaths send their clients home with this as homework!) It’s called a neutral bath. Here’s what you’ll need: a full size bathtub, towels, bath thermometer, and a sheet. Here’s what you do:
- Make sure room is dimly lit, quiet and comfortable. You don’t want to be cold.
- Fill tub with water that is approximately 92-97°F: this is neutral temperature and it is very important that the water is not above this degree.
- Disrobe and immerse entire body, except head, in water. Make sure you have a rolled towel behind your head for support.
- Monitor bath thermometer to ensure bath water stays neutral. You will have to adjust accordingly periodically to keep it that way by added more neutral water.
- Enjoy! You shouldn’t feel either warm or cold, but comfortable. You can cover the whole tub with a sheet if you wish to make sure that you are extra comfortable, but this step is not necessary. Just make sure all your parts are immersed.
- ½ hour-1 hour is sufficient. At the end of which, get out of tub and dry quickly but gently (no friction rubs here, its not supposed to be stimulating).
- Rest for a ½ hour before doing anything else.
The neutral bath is of great value to those with depression and many swear by them. It can be done 4-5 times per week. For those with major heart problems or chronic skin conditions like eczema, the neutral bath is not a good idea. (Boyle W, Saine A. Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1988: 97, 127, 131, 144, 154, 180.)
There is some research that shows brief, cold showers are beneficial to those with depression, as well. In this study, the shower started at a warm temperature comfortable for the patient, which slowly cooled over a 5-minute period down to 68°F, which was then sustained for 2 to 3 minutes. This was performed 1-2 times per day and was indicated for several weeks to months to see a significant benefit. (Shevchuk NA. Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(5):995-1001.)
A comprehensive healing plan of the discussed approaches to address depression naturally is usually what the naturopathic doctor orders because there is power in their synergy. The idea is to make sure you have all your bases covered and balanced: nutritional, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. With this approach in mind, one creates an optimal chance at restoring their health.