Cryotherapy and Vaccines: They Work on the Same Science
Vaccination is a familiar concept—a tiny prick from a needle provides us with years, even a lifetime, of immunity to a host of lethal diseases. At first glance, the idea of exposing our bodies to potentially toxic agents seems ludicrous—how could being injected with chicken pox, diphtheria or hepatitis ever make us healthier? The idea of exposing our bodies to low doses of infectious agents in order to generate beneficial side effects is defined as hormesis. Hormesis suggests that low dose exposure to a “stressor” causes an upregulation in many, if not all, of our vital systems. The immune system upregulates to defend against the antigen and repairs any damage created. Subsequent exposures to the specific antigen will not result in infection because the immune system has become more sophisticated–it just works better.
Technically, hormesis can be activated by a variety of “stressors”: infectious agents, caloric restriction, extreme temperature, alcohol or mental, emotional or psychological challenges. Brief, low dose exposure to any of these stressors causes vital bodily systems to upregulate to defend against and heal from the exposure. Hormetic benefits can occur in all body systems: circulatory, immune, skeletal, muscular, endocrine, digestive, nervous and respiratory.
Notably, hormesis only applies when doses are characterized as “low”. Chronic or high dose stress leads to toxic, potentially lethal effects. The key to hormesis is to keep exposures brief and minute.
Vaccinations are just one hormetic application: allergen immunotherapy works by introducing very low doses of an allergen and gradually increasing the dosage to build up tolerance. Low dose exposure to radiation has been shown to reduce cancer-risk in both mice and humans. Mental challenges which briefly challenge and stress the brain are proven to delay, prevent and reverse cognitive decline due to age, injury or disease. Think red wine: good in small doses, bad in large doses.
Why does hormesis occur? Why do our bodies, when faced with a small dose of an antigen, allergen or other stressor, respond by improving the function and efficiency of our vital systems? The answer is that humans possess adaptive “homeostatic” systems—that is our bodies will adapt and change in the face of environmental stressors to maintain internal stability. So exposure to a toxin will force adaptive change in the immune system that will rid the body of the threat—this adaptive change effectively “upregulates” the immune system to work better, more efficiently and more broadly. The application of hormesis to human health and well being is remarkable because this adaptive process occurs in response to many different stressors and these adaptations (or benefits to health and wellness) can be very long-lasting, even permanent.
Whole body cryotherapy works on the premise of hormesis. During whole body cryotherapy the body is exposed very briefly to extremely cold temperature. Our bodies respond to the extreme cold in the same way it responds to vaccines—our biological systems are upregulated in an effort to defend against the stressor and to repair any potential damage. Since treatment time is limited to 3 minutes there is no risk of hypothermia; whole body cryotherapy also occurs in the absence of moisture so there is virtually NO risk of frost bite. Certified, responsible cryotherapy providers never leave a client alone in a cryotherapy machine. This constant monitoring of client well-being removes risk from exposure to nitrogen vapor.
Whole body cryotherapy is extremely effective for improving overall health, wellness and cognition. Upregulation in response to brief, episodic cold leads to reductions in inflammation which improves blood circulation, digestion and respiratory function. Adaptive response to cold also helps to build collagen in our joints and skin, relax and heal our muscles, balance hormones, relieve nervous system disorder and improve immunity. Cognition has also been shown to improve when the brain is exposed to brief, episodic challenges (such as cold or puzzles)—whole body cryotherapy has been shown to relieve depression, anxiety, stress and mental aging.
Hormesis, and whole body cryotherapy, can also help delay, prevent and/or reverse the aging process. Aging involves a progressive reduction in biological dynamical complexity—our systems slow down and progressively fail to innovate and adapt. Aging individuals can’t learn as well, mobility declines, the immune system is sluggish, there is an overall “slowing down” of all biological systems. External stimulation that challenges an organism forces it to upregulate these systems—leading to forced adaptive change which may retard or even reverse aging symptoms. Whole body cryotherapy provides both a physical and mental challenge, leading to better physical and mental/cognitive health. Whole body cryotherapy represents an “hormetic strategy” which can enhance the function of repair processes in aging humans and potentially prevent age-related chronic degenerative diseases.