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Being Cold Could Boost Your Immune System And Help You Lose Weight. Here’s How.

29th January 2021

29th January 2021

By Shivraj Bassi

Do you begin to shiver as soon as the leaves start to turn brown outside? Is your thermostat constantly up high, and do you live for the moment when you sink into a hot bath all the way up to your chin? While that all sounds very cosy, you could be missing out on an incredible technique which can help you to lose weight and even boost your immune system. 

It starts with brown fat. Unlike white fat, which tends to accumulate around midsections, thighs and chins, brown fat is distributed deep inside the body, particularly around the kidneys, spine and shoulder blades. It’s created in a process called thermogenesis in response to low temperatures, and it’s what keeps us warm when we’re cold. Research has also found that it can burn through calories like nobody’s business. 

A Utah University study from 2020 found that having a significant amount of cold-activated brown fat helped to mitigate lots of the side effects of obesity, such as keeping blood fat and blood sugar at a healthy level. Volunteers sat in a room that was chilly but not freezing, around 16 degrees, for two hours, which was enough for their body temperature to drop and for their brown tissue to be activated. 

Humanity has a rich history of cold-based therapies. From the traditional British Christmas morning swim in freezing seas to rolling in the snow after getting steamy in a Finnish sauna, spending time in the cold is part of many cultures around the world - even the Ancient Egyptians did it. And for good reason: it works. 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A recent study at the Amsterdam Academic Medical Centre found that volunteers who had frequent cold showers had 20% less absences to the study due to illness and fewer viral or bacterial afflictions once the study was completed. This is because they experienced an increase in white blood cells, which boost the immune system. There are plenty of other examples, such as that cold water swimming is associated with the production of a protein that reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s thought that cold reduces inflammation, the culprit behind the root of all kinds of chronic diseases, from cancer to arthritis to type two diabetes. 

Gut bacteria also comes into the equation. The cold alters the composition of gut bacteria in a way which increases the metabolism, even for healthy people. A study held at Geneva University saw researchers transplant gut bacteria from mice kept in the cold to mice raised in warm temperatures. The mice receiving the transplants lost body fat and began generating ‘good’ gut bacteria which produced beige fat, a substance very similar to brown fat in that it burns energy to produce heat when body temperature dips low. 

If you’re not a fan of the cold, you can check out The Digest Capsules, our daily capsules containing probiotics and prebiotics to encourage the growth of good gut bacteria, and keep your micriobiome in balance.

Spicing up your diet is another option. The team who ran the study at Utah University also discovered that cayenne pepper has a similar effect on the body’s ability to produce brown fat and its metabolic rate than the cold does. 

By getting spicy with some capsinoids, the compounds found in chilli, you’ll get a similar effect to exposing yourself to the cold. As well as boosting the production of brown fat, they bring down the levels of sugar, blood fat and insulin in your body. Researchers in Japan found that wasabi, horseradish, mustard, ginger, menthol and green tea all have similar properties, so you’d better get to love spicy food (if you don’t already). 

How to lose weight from the cold

Dress in lighter clothing than the weather requires, or than you think you need. This will help your body acclimate to the cold and while you might find yourself shivering slightly at first, soon you’ll adapt and will begin thriving in low temperatures. Don’t take risks with your health. We’re not telling you to wear flip flops when it’s snowing outside, simply to consider not always being swathed in blankets and warm jumpers. As with any lifestyle change, consult your doctor before doing anything drastic. 

If you’re trying to keep the thermostat in your house turned down low for the health benefits (which will also no doubt help to lower your heating bill), opening all of the blinds and curtains to let in the maximum amount of light, which will help you to feel warmer. 

Moving around is the best way to stay warm. If you work from home, consider a standing desk or a treadmill desk, which will keep your body moving and staying warm naturally, without you realising it. If you’re outside, walk at a faster pace than you usually would and you’re certain to find yourself warming up in no time. 

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The New Nasal Breathing Technique To Improve Breathing During Exercise
Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. That’s what they say, right? Well, there’s been some research to suggest that nasal breathing during exercise is the new go-to, and there are some pretty impressive nasal breathing benefits, if we do say so ourselves. Do you breathe through your mouth or nose? Think about it. Right now, how are you breathing?  Typically, for everyone it’s different, and this is generally the technique that is more comfortable for you. The fact is though, better oxygen intake means greater energy levels: which by the way, you can also get from The Energy Booster. A lot of people ask us questions around breathing during exercise, such as how to breathe when jogging, sprinting and rowing. Well, here we go… nasal breathing is the new way to go.  What is nasal breathing? It’s probably good to get this technique defined, so that you can start implementing the breathing exercise on your next run, or when you next pop to the gym. Nasal breathing involves slow, controlled, and deep breaths through your nose whilst exercising. The aim of the game here, is to breathe in deeply enough so that you fill your lungs with air. As much as possible, actually. Not only does this breathing technique increase your oxygen intake, but the strategy slows down your breathing and heart rate, conserving energy. Thus, improving your athletic performance. Voila.  What is mouth breathing? We’d say that the clue is in the name, but we thought we’d clear up the difference anyway. This is when you breathe through your mouth. However, you may be surprised that mouth-breathing introduces some risks.  So, if you’re a so-called “mouth-breather” (as horrible as that name is), it might be time to listen up and change your ways.  Chronic mouth breathing can lead to growth issues in children such as crooked teeth and facial deformities, and in adults, breathing solely through the mouth can cause bad breath, chronic fatigue, irritability and even snoring. Woah. Nasal breathing benefits Nasal breathing engages the lower lungs This means that you’re pumping out more oxygen, which travels around your body. This is great for your cells, which means healthy organ functioning, great cell growth and a happy body. Improves your diaphragm use Breathing through the nose means that you are helping your diaphragm (the major muscle involved in respiration) to work properly and efficiently. Sounds pretty helpful. It increases your production of Nitric Oxide Nitric oxide sounds pretty harmful, but it is a vasodilator. A vasodilator is used in the widening of blood vessels, and are often used in the treatment of high blood pressure. An introduced production of Nitric Oxide (NO) can improve your oxygen circulation, again improving organ and cell functioning. Filters out harmful allergens The nose is carefully constructed to prevent foreign items, allergens and other nasties from entering our respiratory tract. This means that engaging in nasal breathing techniques (as opposed to breathing through our mouths), means that the number of harmful germs, foreign bodies and other unwanted items is greatly reduced. Thank goodness. Promotes smoother oxygen entry This sounds pretty sophisticated, but what we mean by this is, breathing through your nose both warms-up and moistens the air you breathe in. This is particularly advantageous if you’re exercising in cold weather (as breathing in the cold is harder in itself, anyway), and means that the air we breathe in has more opportunity to warm up before reaching your lungs. Warm air means greater dilation of the bronchial tubes. What does that mean for us? Yeah, better oxygen intake. You guessed it. The science behind the nasal breathing technique Now you may be thinking, that’s all well and good. But is there evidence to support this? Stop right there, we’re way ahead of you. This advice hasn’t come from nowhere. It’s been found that nasal breathing actually stimulates the nervous system – more specifically, the area that prioritises rest and recovery, as well as digestion. This means that nasal breathing promotes relaxation, and a sense of calmness – one that is definitely welcomed when you’re mid 10k run, hoping that the next 5k go way faster than the last. Research conducted by the International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science revealed that whilst this nasal breathing technique does not increase our ability to intake oxygen, nasal breathing techniques decrease respiratory rate, ratio of oxygen intake to carbon dioxide, and even breaths per minute. The study involved both male and female runners and required the runners to use the nasal breathing technique for a period of six months.  So, in our eyes, it’s a pretty well-rounded, balanced study, and definitely shows that there is scope to introduce this into your workout routine for improved athletic performance. Techniques for breathing after exercise Whilst we’ve covered the technique for breathing whilst jogging, skipping or whatever your exercise of choice is, we thought it would be helpful to give you some advice when it comes to warming down. The thing to prioritise here is your posture. Sit upright, or lay down flat on the floor, to ensure your spine is as flat and straight as possible. Another way to do this – depending on where you’ve worked out, is to lie flat on the floor and place your legs at a 90-degree angle to the wall. This gives you the ability to fill your lungs to full capacity, and promotes oxygen flow, recovery and enhances your oxygen levels. All essential for your post-exercise routine. Summary If you’re someone that exercises frequently, and you’ve noticed that you primarily breathe through your mouth – give this nasal breathing technique a go. Not only will you stop yourself becoming victim to the risks of mouth-breathing that we outlined above, but you’ll reap the benefits when it comes to your athletic performance, too. Read more