People now know how ice baths have many benefits including improved nervous system, better sleep, and less anxiety and depression. In the recent years, there has been more studies that are showing the benefits of ice baths in relation to addiction.
In a podcast conducted by Joe Rogan and psychiatrist Anna Lembke, they explore how deliberate cold exposure works like a chemical cocktail in our body, in particular increasing the dopamine spikes in our body! An addict will tell you that in simple terms, addiction is the innate urge of chasing that first high.
Dr Lembke described addiction as a “bio psycho social disease” and said activities that give you longer-lasting dopamine spikes are less likely to lead to tolerance and addiction. That said, she does caution that it is possible to get addicted even with these (usually) healthy activities.
Technology-Saturated World and High Levels of Stress
Dr Lembke also warns that in our technology-saturated world there are a lot of “rat wheels” tempting us. Almost everywhere we look there is something with the potential to put us in a dopamine-deficient state.
To add to this, our levels of stress are also on the rise. Neurobiological evidence shows that with increasing levels of stress, there is a decrease in prefrontal functioning and increased limbic striatal level responding, which perpetuates low behavioural and cognitive control. There are converging lines of evidence that point to the critical role that stress plays in increasing addiction vulnerability.
Often the response to stressors in our environment, addiction is more common than we think. The physiological and emotional responses to stress are deeply entwined, where they manifest in two major stress pathways, leading to secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone) from the adrenal glands, and the autonomic nervous system. While the root of addiction is individual, this method of getting back to the breath and using deliberate cold exposure has been proven to have ground-breaking effects on overcoming addiction.
How do ice baths aid in making the hurdle of overcoming addiction smaller?
The physical and mental engagement that ice baths demand of the practitioner brings you back to your body, and therefore, out of your head. It’s hard for your mind to wander and get into a spiral when you’re submerged in 4-10-degree of water!
Dr Lembke, speaking with Rogan, explained this in greater detail. She said: “What I actually recommend they [addicts] do, in addition to abstaining from their drug of choice, is to actually intentionally press on the pain side of the balance because then those neuro adaptation gremlins… hop on the pleasure side and ultimately can reset our pleasure pain pathways to the side of pleasure.”
In other words, when you deliberately do things that hurt, or that are difficult, shocking or intimidating, your body creates dopamine to make you feel better. Conversely, when you do (or take) things that make you instantly feel good and give you an artificial rush of dopamine, your body stops making/uptaking so much dopamine to compensate, ultimately making you feel worse.
Ice baths at Soma Haus are backed up by real research, we’re not just telling you to just take a plunge. Harnessing the breath, when practised in a safe environment and under the guidance of our educators can be very effective way of calming the nervous system. There are numerous benefits, but in relation to addiction, the one to look out for is an increase in dopamine, as this provides a similar ‘high’. Not too shabby for a procedure that does not require anything intravenous, up the nostril or down the throat!
Whether it’s your first, second, or nth time, our knowledgeable and skilled therapists and educators can design a bespoke wellness plan that allows you to use ice baths along with infrared saunas to your benefit and in alignment with your best self.