Last month we launched our 'Take the Plunge' campaign. You might be wondering how you can join in and help us raise funds for Long Covid SOS, or maybe you're curious as to why we chose this theme?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people find cold water helpful with some Long Covid symptoms.
This is what our friend and colleague Garry Loftus has to say about it:
What happens in Vagus, doesn't stay in Vagus that's for sure . Why cold water treatment in the first place?
Why, why would I deliberately make myself cold? The reasons below might help explain.
The important bits explained. The wordy , science bit.
First things first, what is the Vagus Nerve? Let us explain.
The vagus nerve isn't just one nerve, it's actually a bundle of nerves leading from the gut/stomach through the heart and to the brain. It’s the longest cranial nerve and has communication with every organ.
What is the sympathetic nervous system I also hear you ask?
This nervous system activates the fight or flight response during a threat or perceived danger.
What is the parasympathetic nervous system?
This nervous system restores the body to a state of calm.
More about that nerve you might never of heard of... The vagus nerve! It is a very important part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It connects many organs, such as the brain, heart, liver, and gut. Another function for the vagus nerve is to trigger the release of acetylcholine which controls muscles, dilates blood vessels, and slows down our heart rate. It is this very nerve that is stimulated during deep diaphragm breathing to help regulate our breath and heart rate at the same time turning on the immune system. 'Winner'
Once the vagus nerve is stimulated, good things happen (even though we can't see them, you can feel them), the sympathetic nervous system slows down, and the parasympathetic system takes over (remember them from above) directly affecting the vagus nerve. Which has a significant positive effect on the functioning of your body. Sounds good doesn't it, "There ain't no party like a Vagus Nerve party!"
All this from Taking a Plunge, going for a dip, taking a cold shower, even for one to ten seconds at a time. Have a stop and think just for second, if something is inflamed/swollen and you place it into cold water, the inflammation reduces. This is one of the most straight forward facts regular cold water swimmers/dippers notice. They feel an immediate high after the swim. Why? For all the reasons above. "Go Vagus!"
Now you know a little bit about the vagus nerve and what it does, taking a cold swim even cold shower seems a good option to me: let the vagus magic happen. Who knows, after Take the Plunge, you may enjoy it! People suffering Long Covid, sometimes referred to as Long Haulers, have reported cold water treatment to actually help the recovery process.
Thank you Garry!
How do I Take the Plunge and fundraise for Long Covid SOS?
We have our own Campaign page on Just Giving, right here
You can create your sponsored event and invite people to support you - just click the 'Start Fundraising' button. You'll need to log in to Just Giving, or sign up.
It's totally up to you what water-themed challenge you want to do - be sure to tailor it to your own health status and don't take on something too difficult which will compromise your recovery, or which could cause PEM/PESE.
Most importantly, be sure to stay safe when doing anything around water. Swimming in open water carries risks: always follow the essential RNLI advice and unless you are acclimatised to cold water please be very careful. Read this information to make sure you avoid cold water shock which can be very dangerous
Here are some ideas for safe and fun challenges:
Have a dip in the sea, or just your fingers & toes
Jump in a puddle
Pour a bucket of cold water over your head
Have a cold shower
Be inventive and most importantly HAVE FUN!