Stress and anxiety are all too common in today's fast-paced world. As a result, we're continuously seeking ways to unwind, destress, and ultimately, support our overall well-being. Floatation therapy, also known as sensory deprivation or float therapy, has been gaining in popularity over the last decade for its unique ability to provide deep relaxation and stress relief. But did you know that floating may also have potential benefits for your immune system?
In this blog post, we’ll be revisiting a presentation by Dr. Flux from the 2021 Float Conference, which looks at the science behind floatation therapy and its connection to immune health. This builds on Flux’s presentation from the 2018 Float Conference, with some new science and food for thought.
The Old Friends Hypothesis
To understand how floatation therapy may impact the immune system, it's essential to first delve into the "Old Friends Hypothesis." This hypothesis posits that our modern, sanitized environments have deprived us of essential microorganisms that once played a crucial role in regulating our immune systems.
Our adaptive immune system has grown with us through the thousands and thousands of years, and as we encountered new climates and new places to settle, we became introduced to new bacteria, many of which lived in and around the soil. These bacteria (our “Old Friends”) began to live with us, keeping us safe from other, more harmful microorganisms.
Over the years though, we have moved away from nature and into cities, changing our diet away from natural, whole foods. Doing so removed many of these microbes from our immune system, potentially throwing it out of balance. As a result, we may be more susceptible to inflammatory disorders, allergies, and autoimmune diseases. By reducing stress and promoting relaxation, floating helps to support our immune system, which is crucial in our ongoing battle against these modern-day health challenges.
Reducing Stress and Enhancing Immune Function
Floatation therapy has been shown to induce a state of deep relaxation, which in turn helps to reduce stress and anxiety. This is significant, as chronic stress has been linked to a weakened immune system. When we're stressed, our bodies produce cortisol, a hormone that can suppress immune function. By reducing cortisol levels, float therapy helps to support a healthier immune system.
In addition to lowering cortisol levels, floating may also decrease circulating metabolites of sympathetic nervous system hormones, like adrenaline and noradrenaline. This reduction, along with enhancing parasympathetic activity (our "rest and digest" system), points to the ability of floatation therapy to promote immunoregulation, which is a vital aspect of a healthy immune system.
Reducing Inflammation and Supporting Immune Health
Studies have shown that floating may help reduce inflammatory symptoms associated with specific disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. While more research is needed, these findings indicate that by reducing inflammation floating likely has a direct effect on the immune system.
An intriguing study conducted at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research discovered that floating decreased a pro-inflammatory marker called IL-1 alpha in participants with high anxiety sensitivity. This result directly backs up the idea that floating helps with inflammation, and by extension our immune systems.
The Future of Floatation Therapy Research
Dr. Flux, like all good scientists, ends his presentation by looking forward towards future research. The relationship between floatation therapy and immune health is still being explored. Future research aims to examine the impact of regular float sessions on immunoreactivity. As more studies are conducted, we’ll continue to increase our understanding of how floatation therapy supports immune health, particularly in individuals with anxiety or inflammatory conditions. Our Old Friends may not be replaced from the tanks, but the salty waters can help calm our immune system in this stress filled world.
Float Your Way to Better Health
Floating is a soothing experience that helps to reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, and (most importantly for this article) support your immune system. So why not treat yourself to a float session and experience the benefits firsthand? Not only will you be giving yourself a well-deserved break from the stressors of everyday life, but you’ll be helping your immune system stay strong and healthy.