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Cryotherapy and Your Immune System

How do you know if you have a weakened immune system? Because the immune system is so complex and the dangers it guards against are so numerous, there are probably as many signs of a weakened immune system as there are immune systems. When your immune system is weak, infections find it easier to get a foothold. Depending on the virus or germ causing the infection, this could lead to sores or disruptions in any of your many bodily functions, from digestion to breathing. In other words, with apologies to Tolstoy, happy immune systems are all alike, every unhappy immune system is unhappy in its own way.

Nevertheless, there are a handful of a signs that generally signal a weakened immune system:

    • numerous or recurring infections
    • increased allergic reactions
    • frequent colds
    • prolonged healing of injuries
    • overall fatigue.

There are lots of ways to weaken your immune system: constant stress, lack of exercise, too much exercise (i.e., overtraining), unbalanced diet, insufficient hygiene, too much hygiene, dehydration, abuse of alcohol, smoking, lack of sleep, to name a handful. Of course, the best way to restore your immune system is to eliminate whatever is weakening it. Drink less, quit smoking, get more exercise (or get more recovery), make time for sleep, fix your diet, etc.

While healthy habits constitute a long-term fix for a weakened immune system, sometimes you need protection now. When that’s the case, you may need to find ways to boost your immune system even while you’re still working on your plan to clean up your life. There may be hope for boosting the human immune system in whole-body cryotherapy (WBC).

A 2010 paper in the European Journal of Applied Physiology reported on a study of 15 healthy young men who were each given 10 three-minute sessions of WBC. The researchers took blood samples before and after the WBC sessions and these samples were tested for signs of increased immune system functioning. They found a significant increase in white blood cell count. They also found increases in Interleukin 6 (IL6), which was most pronounced after the tenth session, implying a sort of cumulative effect. They also found a significant reduction in total antioxidative status. (Antioxidative stress is an overabundance of compounds that interfere with immune system functioning.) The researchers concluded that repeated sessions of WBC have a “mobilization effect” on the immune system.

The study only proves that healthy young men respond to WBC with signs of improved immune capabilities. There are lots of ways the results of this study could be questioned. The researchers didn’t test unhealthy or sick people or anyone with a compromised immune system, and they only tested the subjects’ blood in three ways. So WBC still has a way to go to prove itself as a reliable immune system booster. But if you have fatigue, frequent colds, increased allergic reactions, or any reason to suspect you may have a weakened immune system, you can test the mobilization effect for yourself by booking a few WBC sessions at Peak Recovery & Health Center.

Photo: “Healthy Human T Cell” by NAID. Creative Commons license. NAID describes this photo as “Scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte (also called a T cell) from the immune system of a healthy donor.”