Amber Belt, ND
For thousands of years, we humans have used water as medicine. It is a healing tool that is gentle and effective, but in our modern world we tend to forget about it in favor of medications, surgeries, and other medical procedures. Hydrotherapy (using water as medicine) is becoming a lost modality, but there is a growing movement to slow down and rediscover traditional methods of healing. I love it!
Examples of ways we use water as medicine commonly today are applying ice pack to an ankle or soaking in Epsom salts to soothe sore muscles.
Today, I want to tell you about three hydrotherapy treatments that can be used during acute illness to speed recovery. I usually think of these applications for upper respiratory infections, but the truth is that most acute illness can benefit from hydrotherapy. By enhancing blood flow through our organs of elimination, hydrotherapy helps with detoxification of waste products. Using water as medicine can also improve the blood by increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, while increasing healthy red and white blood cells.
A heating compress is a versatile remedy to know about, as it can be applied to many areas of the body. It can be applied to the chest for bronchitis or pneumonia, to the abdomen for diarrhea or gas/bloating, to the throat for pharyngitis, laryngitis, or tonsillitis, or to other areas of the body.
A heating compress should not be used on a chilled person or over skin that is irritated by moisture.
To use a heating compress:
The way this treatment works is by first causing a constriction of blood vessels, followed by dilation of the blood vessels. This dilation will cause the area under the compress to warm up!
Many of us know about steam inhalations, but forget about it when we actually get sick! Here’s your reminder that steam inhalation is a useful tool for cough, sore throat, congestion in the sinuses or lungs, and for laryngitis.
This treatment shouldn’t be used by people with heart problems. People who have asthma should use caution, as well.
To use steam inhalation:
This treatment helps to moisten and soothe the mucus membranes, thin mucus, and the oils can add their own healing effect (usually antimicrobial).
Wet socks are also known as warming socks and this hydrotherapy application is particularly useful for bronchitis, sinus infections, and earaches. I will use this if I have any infection going on in my head, neck, or chest.
I will also have patients use wet socks if they have a sprained foot or ankle, but I will have them use it only on the side that has been injured.
To use wet socks:
I have a Wet Socks Handout that you are welcome to click and print out!
The principles of the heating compress apply to this hydrotherapy treatment, as well. The body reacts to the cold socks by increasing blood flow, decreasing congestion in the chest and sinuses, moves the lymph in the body, and helps the immune system get up and running.
Fun fact: When my son was little, he used to ask for wet socks when he was sick!
Nature can provide us with versatile and powerful healing tools and water is a beautiful reminder of this! Don’t lose touch with traditional methods of healing as you navigate the slick marketing of modern conventional medicine.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes and is not medical advice. Dr. Belt is a doctor, but she is not YOUR doctor. Consult a trained naturopathic doctor/functional medicine doctor to ensure safety and suitability based on your health and history.
Reference: Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy by Dr. Wade Boyle and Dr. Andre Saine