3 Times Dr. Rhonda Patrick Talks Cold Plunges: What Are Her Thoughts?

Published: Nov 01, 2023

Last Updated:

Dr. Rhonda Patrick is f***ing smart. 

Her ability to take a question and immediately answer down to the molecular level, while citing like 8 studies, is mind-blowing.

So naturally being that smart, people like you and me want to know what she thinks about cold plunges, cold exposure, cryotherapy, and all things cold.

So instead of you scouring the internet, listening to podcasts, and spending 2 days of your life, we did the research for you.

This guide shares 3 times that she talked about the cold and what her beliefs are.

If you hate reading, here’s the general summary on Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s belief about the cold

Dr. Rhonda Patrick is interested in cold therapy, including different modalities like cold water immersion (cold plunges, ice baths, etc) as well as cryotherapy.

She believes there are many benefits to cold plunges and frequently references the current scientific literature. 

While she currently recommends cold exposure to people (granted there aren’t underlying health conditions that could pose risks), she would like even more scientific studies to be completed looking at other aspects of how cold exposure can help peoples’ health.

4 times that Dr. Rhonda Patrick talks about the cold

1. Reducing stress, improving sleep, and enhancing mood - BioHacker Conference

Dr. Rhonda Patrick advocates cold exposure after exercise, as it activates the same stress response pathway as heat, potentially leading to enhanced endurance and improved athletic performance.

2. Cold exposure after a sauna did NOT negate blood pressure improvements usually seen after a sauna or hot bath - Feb, 2023

Here’s what she says:

“Does going from the sauna into a cold plunge negate benefits?

A new study attempts to address that question from the standpoint of blood pressure, improvements in which seem to be a recurring theme of sauna use. This effect is qualitatively similar to what you might get from moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and may result from the vasodilation we experience from the heat.

In general, contrast therapy has not received a great deal of attention in the scientific literature despite many people engaging in this otherwise popular practice of going from a hot sauna into a cold plunge (or the snow). In the new study, cold exposure after a sauna did NOT negate blood pressure improvements usually seen after a sauna or hot bath. In contrast to the vasodilation we get from being hot, cold induces vasoconstriction so the idea that one might sort of cancel out the other in some capacity is not totally without basis.

So what did the study show? A protocol which involved cold exposure after a sauna improved diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure also improved, but the effect was not statistically significant - likely because of the small sample size.

One of the things I’d like to highlight about the protocol they used was that they included a room temperature cooling period before going into the cold plunge. In other words, not going directly from a hot sauna into a cold tub. I have noticed that I experience adverse effects such as vertigo if I directly go into the cold water after a hot sauna. This does not happen if I cool at room temperature for a few minutes first. I know others that have experienced the same effect - @joerogan and I talked about this briefly on my last JRE appearance. The alternate thermal stress protocol of the sauna followed by cold water immersion was the following:

• 12 minutes at 194F

• 4 minutes at room temp

• 2 minutes at 50F

• Repeat three more times.

This small study needs to be repeated, but it is a good start to know that cold exposure after the sauna still benefits cardiovascular health.

Study DOI: 10.16926/par.2023.11.07

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3. Cold Exposure Can Influence Genetic Expression - March 2022

Cold-water immersion and cryotherapy share a common intriguing feature – they prompt the body to increase norepinephrine circulation. This rapid physiological response sets in motion a cascade of adaptive effects, influencing metabolism, the brain, and even genetic expression.

4. Cold exposure may boost certain populations of immune cells - [date]

Cold exposure has been shown to enhance specific populations of immune cells. In healthy young men exposed to cold over six weeks, CD25 lymphocytes increased after three weeks, and CD14 monocytes increased after six weeks. Similarly, cold exposure increased white blood cell numbers, including cytotoxic T lymphocytes, which can target cancer cells. 

Regular winter swimmers showed higher resting concentrations of certain white blood cells compared to non-habitual swimmers, and their practice was associated with a potential decrease in respiratory tract infections. However, further research is needed to understand the effects of cold exposure on older individuals and whether the immune cell increase correlates with improved health.

Did you know that Dr. Rhonda Patrick interviewed Wim Hof back in October of 2015!?

This was the early times of Wim Hof, before “Breathe Motherf***er” was known far and wide.

Here’s the interview as well as some written highlights:

The video is a conversation between Dr. Rhonda Patrick, an interviewer, and Wim Hof, known as the "Iceman". They talk about how Wim holds 26 different world records, including feats like climbing Mount Everest in shorts, swimming under ice caps, and running marathons in freezing temperatures. His interest in cold exposure and its effects on human physiology led him to develop unique breathing techniques that he believes tap into the body's natural capabilities.

Wim describes his journey of self-discovery, reading extensively about psychology, philosophy, and various cultures, which led him to experiment with cold exposure. He found that by using controlled breathing during cold exposure, he could access deeper levels of his physiology, boosting his oxygen levels and enabling him to endure extreme conditions without discomfort or pain.

Rhonda, interested in the scientific basis of Wim's techniques, discusses the potential anti-inflammatory effects of his controlled breathing and cold exposure. She mentions how Wim's method appears to activate an anti-inflammatory response in the immune system and shares her excitement about the potential benefits for various diseases.

Wim emphasizes the importance of scientific validation for his method, claiming that he has seen positive results in cases of autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses. He believes that accessing the autonomic nervous system, immune system, and endocrine system through his techniques can lead to improved health and well-being for individuals worldwide.

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