By Justyna Kalka
As a holistic nutritionist, I know how to care for the physical and mental wellbeing of the body, but what about the spiritual aspect of our wellness. I have been an Ambassador for the Children’s Tumour Foundation for the last four years and every year I feel more inspired by the incredible strength of those affected by NF.
September is NF Hero Month and I am throwing my support behind the thousands of families across Australia who are impacted by Neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic condition that causes tumours form on nerves throughout the body.
It is unpredictable, progressive and there is no cure – but there is hope.
Last year I jumped into the freezing winter waters of Port Melbourne for the NF Hero Challenge. Once the fear dissipated and the momentary discomfort of the cold passed, I felt alive and invigorated. My nerve endings were a-fire and my mind became clear.
There is plenty of research into the health benefits of “cold therapy”; a ritual that has been embraced by different cultures, yogis and monks for years because of the many physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
With Melbourne currently in lockdown, simply leaving the home poses a challenge far greater than jumping into the bay. So, for the NF Hero Challenge this year, I decided I would try to replicate the experience by filling my bathtub with ice and challenging myself to remain submerged for three freezing minutes.
Why three? Because every 3 days a child is born with NF in Australia and I want to use this moment to acknowledge the pain that tumours can cause, as well as the uncertainty of the condition itself.
It will be a test of my personal discipline, stamina and an exercise in mindful self-awareness; challenging me physically, while being good for the soul. The truth is, many of us spend our lives sheltering our bodies from any discomfort, be it hunger, extreme temperature or mental and physical contests. We often become weaker and less resilient in the process.
Turns out, ice baths have a number of potential health benefits.
Exposing your body to cold conditions on a regular basis can make you more adaptable to stress. As your body adjusts to the cold, the vagus nerve responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate is stimulated. The resulting increase in nervous system activity has positive effects on all kinds of health conditions including anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal problems.
An ice bath can improve your physical recovery by changing the way in which fluids such as blood and lymph flow through your body. The cold causes vessels in the body to constrict rapidly then open back up when your body warms up after the ice bath.
This process helps to flush metabolic waste from your body, while also delivering an abundance of nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. Scientific evidence suggests that ice baths help lower inflammation, improve recovery, boosting body’s healing processes and strengthening the immune response.
In addition, cold temperatures stimulate the activation of brown fat tissue throughout your body. Brown fat helps your body generate heat as it burns off white fat. Therefore, taking regular ice baths can help stimulate metabolism and prevent the accumulation of excess body weight.
So there is more than one good reason for me to take on this challenge. I am ready to take the plunge to help raise money for the Children’s Tumour Foundation, while also raising much needed awareness of this devastating genetic condition.
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