Hydrotherapy is a branch of healing systems that deals with the management of diseases such as headache, constipation, high blood pressure, etc. by using water, either as an external application or taken internally or both.
Water is used for hydrotherapy because of three main reasons :
1. It has immense power for absorbing and communicating heat;
2. Water is a universal solvent. This means that a majority of the substances can dissolve in water; and
3. Water can be easily frozen to a solid state as ice or heated to a gaseous form as vapour.
How is water used in management of diseases ?
Water is used in various forms for maintaining health and management of several diseases. These include :
(1) Temperature : Different temperatures of water are used for different health problems. For example cold water, warm or neutral water and hot water.
(2) Packs : Water is used as cold packs, hot packs, whole body packs and partial body packs.
(3) Baths : Naturopathic treatment normally includes four main types of baths. These include :
(i) Immersion bath in which the entire body is immersed in water;
(ii) Sitz bath, in which only the buttocks or hips are immersed in water or salt solution;
(iii) Sweating baths such as vapour bath or hot air bath;
(iv) Medicated baths such as brine bath, sulphur bath, foam bath, etc.
(4) Douches : Water is also used as jet sprays and douches. Douche is a procedure in which medicine or cleansing agent mixed with warm water is introduced into the vagina under low pressure.
(5) Drinking : Drinking water also plays an important role in management of health and disease. Drinking naturally cold water has tonic effect while application of ice cold water on the body is used to reduce fever. Drinking water is like having a bath for the internal organs of the body. It helps purify and dilute the blood. As mentioned earlier, it also increases the output of urine by activating the kidneys to remove waste products from the body. Drinking large quantities of water helps the blood to carry the energy-giving and nutritive parts of the digested food to the relevant parts of the body. It also increases the blood and lymph circulation and helps maintain normal functions of most glands of the body.
When should you drink more than normal water per day?
In addition to the health problems detailed above, it is desirable that you drink large quantities of water in the following conditions :
(1) Hydrops : Drinking about two to three litres of water at a particular time in the morning and evening is recommended for those who have hydrops. This is a condition in which there is abnormal collection of clear and watery fluid in some parts of the body. Hydrops was earlier called dropsy. Drinking very large volume of water increases the volume of accumulated fluid also. It is important to remember that in case of dropsy, water is not recommended during the day, irrespective of the food you eat. This is to increase the specific gravity, helps to remove water from the kidneys and skin very rapidly.
(2) To increase volume of blood : You need to drink large quantities of water to increase the blood volume. It is desirable that you drink a maximum of three-fourth to one cup of water at a time as often as possible during the day. This amounts to about one hundred and thirty to one hundred and eighty millilitres of water at a time.
(3) Fever : You need to drink at least one glass of water every hour during fever in order to compensate for the water lost from the skin during evaporation. Evaporation promotes loss of heat from the body and therefore keeps it cool. It also reduces the metabolic rate in the body and therefore decreases the production of heat and increases the rate of elimination of waste products from the body.
(4) Urinary tract infection : Drinking more water during urinary tract infection increases urine production. It therefore helps “flush” out the infection faster.
(5) Rheumatism: This is a general term used for a large number of conditions with inflammation of joints, muscles, lining of the joints, etc. that result in pain, limited movements and degeneration in the structure of the affected muscles and/or joints. Drinking large quantity of water in rheumatism dilutes the blood and therefore decreases the uric acid level in it. Uric acid is a by-product of the metabolism of the proteins present in the blood. It is excreted in the urine.
What are the effects of cold water?
Cold water can be applied on the skin either directly or as compress (cloth dipped in cold water) or ice. Application of cold water on the skin has tonic and stimulating effects on it. The effect of cold water is in two phases : (a) action, which takes place immediately after cold water application. It results in temporary changes and (b) reaction, which sets in after cold water application is removed. It results in long-term effects, often till the cold pack is applied again. Cold application has seven main effects. These include :
1. Dilatation of blood vessels of the skin;
2. Redness of the skin;
3. Feeling of warmth;
4. Decreased metabolic rate;
5. Decreased pulse rate;
6. Decreased respiratory rate; and
7. Decreased blood pressure.
What are the effects of hot water ?
Heat or hot water can be applied either by fomentation, hot compress, hot water, vapour or hot air. It is sedative and relieves pains, cramps and spasms. This is because of its influence on the sensory and motor nerves. Sensory nerves conduct impulses from the outer parts of the body to the brain or spinal cord. Motor nerves carry impulses from the brain or spinal cord to muscles or various tissues in the body.
The other effects of hot water application are rise in local temperature, metabolic rate, oxygen consumption, increased blood volume and pulse rate.
Many people believe that drinking hot water helps reduce body weight. This is not true because drinking hot water does not burn calories. You can either reduce weight by eating less calories than your body requires or burning more calories than what you consume, through exercises.