A woman clothed in a warm parka dumps hot water onto a naked man during a Fairbanks winter in below freezing temperatures.
Taking a walk in the sub-zero temperatures of Fairbanks can naturally raise your core body temperature by simply cutting down on the amount of clothing you wear. It is as simple a concept of how a hot shower cools you down before going to bed at night.
Negative feedback loops create homeostasis within the body, which is the overall physiological function of bringing the body back down or up to normal levels. Body temperature is an excellent example of this because metabolic processes cannot function properly at too high or too cold of temperatures. This is called thermoregulation, which is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain sensing if the body is too hot or too cold (Osilla, et al., 2021). The connection between thermoregulation and metabolism is strong, for if the body is too cold or hot the circulatory system becomes susceptible to vasoconstriction. This is important to understand because the circulatory system is involved in very important processes such as cellular respiration and blood flow from and to the heart. With low body temperature vasoconstriction causes loss of blood flow to the outer extremities, and if too high can cause heat stroke (Alba, et al., 2019). This background information brings the drawing I have done for my Steam project to point, because using these forms of hot and cold vasoconstriction can have a positive effect on the body when it comes to creating homeostasis with negative feedback loops.
The drawing here depicts a man sitting outside in below freezing temperatures naked while a woman pours hot water on him. One may find this insane, but this drawing shows the ancient naturopathic practice of constitutional hydrotherapy, which is a form of raising the body’s core temperature by using rapid, internal (or external) exchanges of hot and cold water (Mooventhan & Nibethitha, 2014). Although an ancient method, it is still used today in naturopathic and Chinese practices to raise or lower a patient’s core body temperature. I used to perform this practice with a Naturopathic doctor that I worked with here in Fairbanks, Alaska. Traditionally, patients were submerged and switched between tubs of very hot or cold water. Nowadays they are placed on a bed naked and wrapped in wool blankets, as wool does not absorb water. Hot and cold towels are placed on the bare skin intermittently under the wrapping for about 25-40 minutes. Body temperature is taken before and after the treatment, and depending on if cold or hot towels were started first the body temperature should lower or raise. Normal body temperature should be around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and I have personal testimonials of patients raising from 97.5 to 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the body is running below or above its normal temperature it is constantly under the pressure of vasoconstriction, contributing to many circulatory system diseases such as high and low blood pressure. The North American Journal of Medical Sciences states that “in patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) thermal vasodilatation following warm-water bathing and low-temperature sauna bathing (LTSB) at 60°C for 15 min improves cardiac function” (Mooventhan, A. & Nibethitha L., 2014). This is another clinical example of how using water with temperature change affects an increase in metabolic function. Although the man in my photo is not submerged in water, I find this concept and practice very interesting because snow and ice are water that is frozen. It creates a freezing environment that we live in every winter here in Fairbanks, Alaska. A lower- or higher-than-normal body temperature can cause fatigue in us on a daily basis because our bodies are not functioning at optimal level. Using this natural negative feedback loop with body temperature to create homeostasis can be an optimal form of gaining energy back and lowering the risk of disease caused by a dysfunctional metabolic system.
Alba, BK., Castellani, JW., Charkoudian, N. (2019). Cold-induced cutaneous vasoconstriction in humans: Function, dysfunction and the distinctly counterproductive. Experimental Physiology (104), 1202–1214.
Mooventhan, A., & Nivethitha, L. (2014). Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. North American Journal of Medical Sciences, 6(5), 199. https://doi.org/10.4103/1947-2714.132935
Osilla, EV., Marsidi, JL., Sharma, S. (2021). Physiology, Temperature Regulation. [Updated 2021 May 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507838/