In our quest to cool off the heat to keep up with the Grace of No Age… I will share with you a trick, backed by the science of high performance, that we can use to “hack” our bodies to keep our cool. We can do this for free, with no special product, no special diet, and no special state of mind.
Saturday evening my husband Luis and I were at a restaurant having dinner with another couple when all of a sudden, I saw my girlfriend having one of those moments of sympathetic nervous system arousal, also known as hot flashes. She immediately converting her hands into two “abanicos” flapping in front of her face. Of course, what followed was the joking complaint from her husband and the de facto conversation about the struggle between an extremely cold husband and a hot wife. I took a piece of ice from my glass of water and handed it to her. You can imagine the look on her face, thinking I was making fun of her. Not at all!
The Science Behind the Ice Cube
Here is a little bit of the science behind my action: When the body of an athlete gives up it is due to what is called central nervous system fatigue. This is caused by high core body temperature depleting too much energy and overwriting the feedback mechanism to sustain homeostasis, in other words, this is the body’s way of protecting itself when it is not 100% ready to cope with anything too strenuous. For elite athletes, every split second counts, so the sports industry invests a lot of money researching ways to “hack” the body to go that extra second.
We, ladies with the grace of no age, we are not looking for that extra second to get to the finish line. We are simply trying to keep up with some of the unwelcome changes in our bodies without losing our “cool”. But for both of us it comes down to controlling our core body temperature.
Nature’s Fast Acting Thermostats
In elite athletes, heat dissipation can make or break a promising career, so just by cooling their core body temperature, an athlete can vastly improve performance. In women, estrogen depletion brings hot flashes, a rapid and exaggerated heat dissipation response, consisting of profuse sweating, peripheral vasodilation, and feelings of intense, internal heat. They are triggered by small elevations in core body temperature (1).
How can elite athletes and the goddesses of hand fans “hack” their core body temperature?
The answer is in the Glabrous skin. This type of skin is present in 3 parts of the body: the palms of the hands, sole of the feet and on the face. Human blood serves many functions, one of which is thermoregulation. As an evolutionary adaptation, humans have areas on their body that are especially suited for releasing heat, in order to cool us off when we get too hot. In these areas, there is a high volume of blood flow, and that blood passes close to the skin allowing heat to escape from the blood more quickly than in other areas (2). The Glabrous skin is nature’s fast acting thermostat.
Elite athletes use cold or ice water during training to cool off their body temperature by submerging their hands and feet and splashing their faces. This is different from taking a cold shower during training, which will negatively impact their performance. Use the same technique to keep your “cool”. Now you understand why I handed my girlfriend a piece of ice for her to rub her hands instead of using her hands as a fan that actually triggers more heat in her body.
And just as a bonus, let me give you 3 more hacks to cool you off:
- Before going to bed, take your regular warm shower and then start moving the dial to cold water and finish with a 30 seconds to a minute of cold water. This will not disrupt your sleep. On the contrary, it will help you release tension, and give you an overall feeling of relaxation.
- If our faces are part of nature’s fast acting thermostats, try not to block that surface with too much or too thick creams, lotions and make up, let it breathe!
- This one comes from me as a yoga therapist. Practice Sheetali breathing by inhaling through a curled tongue and exhaling through the nose. If your DNA does not allow you to curl the tongue, Inhale through the teeth, with the lips parted and the tongue floating just behind the teeth. During each exhalation, lightly touch the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, inviting the cool tip of the tongue to send coolness toward the upper palate. Swallow now and then if the throat feels dry. Continue this cycle for one to five minutes—until you feel refreshed.(3)
And do not forget, that men can use the same parts of their bodies with Glabrous skin to warm up their bodies, a win-win for everybody!
Body Health. Menopause. Yoga Women’s Health.
I loved your article, very interesting and informative! Thank you!