Hydrotherapy 101: The Benefits of Contrast Showers


By Dr. Rachel Heussner, ND

Hydrotherapy refers to the practice of using water for therapeutic use. The benefits range from pain management, to immune support, to increased energy, to enhanced overall mental and physical wellbeing. As simple as it sounds, there are many ways to use water for healing. This practice has been used for decades across the world.

One of the simplest ways to implement the power of hydrotherapy to your daily routine is through contrast showers. This entails taking a warm shower as you normally would, but at the end of your shower you will turn the water temperature all the way to cold. I know- it sounds like a mild form of torture. But once you begin to experience the benefits of contrast showers, your shower won’t feel complete without the cold rinse. 

One of the most popular uses of contrast showers is for its metabolic effects. It is commonly used to help boost basal metabolic rate to enhance weight loss and muscle recovery. Ending on cold water, forces the metabolism to kick in and warm the body up on its own. In doing this repeatedly, research has shown it is able to burn more adipose or fat tissue and keep you in a fat burning state for a longer period. When mixed with exercise, it can enhance weight loss and muscle toning. Perhaps more importantly, this surge to the metabolism boosts energy for your morning and the remainder of the day. 


Contrast showers and hydrotherapy have been used for decades to support the immune system and increase detoxification. Contrast showers have been shown to increase white blood cell count and strengthen the immune system against pathogens. Alternating between hot and cold water increases circulation to increase lymphatic drainage. This works as a “pump” system to circulate the lymph which carries toxins out of the body. 

One key benefit that makes contrast showers addictive is the fact that it increases your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to elevate your mood. Who doesn’t want to start off the morning with a boost of dopamine and endorphins? Contrast showers also help to regulate impulse control. When our body feels the cold water, our amygdala tells our brain “this is uncomfortable, BRRR, get out, turn the water back to warm.” But then the prefrontal cortex part of the brain responsible for executive functioning comes in and tells the body “it’s fine, we’re safe, stay under the water, this is good for us.” This helps to shift the programming and wiring in our brain to allow us to “respond” instead of “react.” 

Contrast showers are a simple add on to your self care routine. You can start with just 10 seconds and slowly start to work your way up to a 1 minute. Your body and mind will thank you! Did you know that we offer hydrotherapy at Four Moons Spa? We have a sauna and a beautiful outdoor bathtub to elevate your hydrotherapy experience. To get the most of your experience, start with a good sweat in the sauna. Follow that with a cold rinse in the shower and then dip into the bath for a hot soak. Finish off your hydrotherapy spa day with another cold rinse in the shower, and then come see the doctors for an IV to replenish your electrolytes. Happy Hydro-ing!! 


About: Dr. Rachel Heussner is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor. She completed her medical training at Bastyr University in San Diego, California. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Rachel is certified in advanced IV therapy, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and PRP (platelet-rich plasma) microneedling and injections. Her areas of focus include hormonal imbalances, women’s health, metabolic conditions, mental health, stress management, and gastrointestinal health.

Work with Rachel here. 

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