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“Our job is to make over the blood. Until we do, we’re just spinning our wheels.” — Dr. Harold Dick

Typically, the word “hydrotherapy” conjures up pictures of pools, baths and swim suits. Although this is one form of hydrotherapy, most Naturopathic Physicians learn several different uses of water in the healing of our patients, the most common being naturopathic or constitutional hydrotherapy.

The term “constitutional hydrotherapy” was coined by Dr. Otis G. Carroll, a naturopathic physician who practiced in Spokane from 1917 – 1962. He was considered one of the most significant and successful naturopathic physicians of that century, and during that time his clinic became the most famous medical clinic west of the Mississippi. His approach was very simple and used diet, homeopathic medicines and hydrotherapy to help heal those who traveled near and far to his clinic in Spokane.

Dr. Carroll studied water and torso pack treatment with Dr. Sebastian Kneipp. He was also an electrician and was fascinated by the emerging field of electrotherapy practiced by John Harvey Kellogg, MD (yes, THAT Kellogg!). Over his years of practice with patients he combined the two methods of hot and cold torso packs with electrotherapy treatment and called it “Constitutional Hydrotherapy”. He found this combination of therapies was twice as effective in a much shorter time frame than the standard hydrotherapy of the day which could last from 2-4 hours. With Dr. Carroll’s treatments, he was able to accomplish the same goal in 45 min – 1 hour treatment. He felt the treatments could “change the very constitution of the cells”, hence the name.

Hydrotherapy through this method is thought to promote the process of detoxification through improved blood flow, increased sweating (to remove toxins through the skin), better absorption of nutrients from food, more regular bowel activity and increased urination. It also helps build the blood by increasing desirable elements, such as red and white blood cells, nutrients and oxygen. In addition, water treatments improve immune functioning by nourishing the reticuloendothelial system, through which our illness-fighting white blood cells recognize invaders and are guided to the tissues where they are needed.

Today, naturopathic hydrotherapy, which is still the same as Carroll’s original treatment, can be helpful for a wide variety of conditions, both acute (short term) and more chronic (longer term) conditions. Naturopathic hydrotherapy is often combined with additional treatment such as diet, nutrient support, botanical medicines, homeopathy and naturopathic spinal manipulation.

Our physicians at NWIM are all trained in naturopathic hydrotherapy and can individualize a treatment for those patients that need it. We typically prescribe the treatments in a series of 5-20 treatments with visits to reassess the patients’ progress and ensure our treatment plan is moving in the right direction.

Treatments in the clinic last about an hour and are typically very relaxing, as many patients fall asleep during the treatments. There is a brief visit with the physician, who tailors the treatment to the patient and their current state of health, and the treatment is then completed by a trained technician.

Personally, I have seen this form of hydrotherapy help resolve acute infections including pneumonia, gastroenteritis, cellulitis, sinusitis and gout. I have also seen patients with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis improve immensely, all without the use of pharmaceuticals. I have seen blood pressure come down from a single treatment, weight loss be facilitated and reduced blood sugar in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. Treatments are safe for all ages, including infancy (it resolved my 1-week old infants constipation) and has few contraindications.

“…health, and therefore healing, is proportional to normal flow of healthy blood. Specifically, this refers to the quantity and quality of the blood flow through a given tissue.” – Naturopathic Hydrotherapy, Wade Boyle and Andre Sain, ND.

Contact your naturopathic physician if you have any questions related to naturopathic hydrotherapy, or to see if this remarkable treatment could help you.

-Teresa True, ND

Boyle, Wade, ND and Saine, Andre, ND, Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy, Sandy: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1988:17-18.
Nivethitha, L., Mooventhan, “Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body”, A., N Am JMed Sci. 2014 May; 6(5): 199–209
Dick-Kronenberg, Letitia, ND, The Ultimate Textbook in Constitutional Hydrotherapy: A 100 Year Tradition in Clinical Practice. The Carroll Institute of Natural Healing, 2012.

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