Dear Dr. Willette, I've heard people at The Pilates Studio talking about wearing wet socks to bed in order to get back to health. What is this all about?
My most favorite treatment option for many, many, conditions. Really . . .
The point of this treatment is to build the immune system, either during a sickness, when you feel you’re getting sick, or for chronic disease. The magic is that it not only increases circulation, but does so reflexively.
What does reflexive mean? Basically, when you change the circulation in one part of the body you are changing it in other parts too. At least, this is how I explain it in this situation.
OK - so you put cold wet socks on your feet. Why on earth would you do this? Here is my take on the theory.
The brain registers “wet” as “cold”. So, the brain tells the vascular system to dilate the blood vessels in your feet to warm your feet. Then, when the socks have warmed up from your body heat the vascular system closes down to a more normal level - the need to heat has been resolved. Ah, but the socks are still wet - so, your feet begin to feel cold again. What happens? The body opens the vessels and warms up those feet - again.
Wash and repeat until the socks are dry.
This bellows, so to speak, increases circulation. During the night your body releases a bunch of growth hormone into the blood. This is an important component to healing. This is one reason why sleeping AT NIGHT is so important for general health.
This increased circulation works in a reflexive way on the lunges and sinuses. As a result, the congestion in those areas decreases a bit. This helps you sleep better, breathe better, and with other aids (nourishing foods, herbs and nutrients, not to mention the immune system itself) circulate the good stuff to help you heal.
Another reason this works is that the increased circulation will increase the chances of your immune system bumping into the culprit causing the sickness. I think of it as a room full of people mingling around. Stir it up and more people meet each other, or recognize an old friend.
Not only does it build the immune system it also works as a sleep aid. It will help settle a restless person (aka kid) who is having trouble falling asleep, or when you feel a little grumpy and need some comfort.
Why is it sedating? I’m not sure about that one. It truly makes you feel cozy and contented. A nice feeling.
This is old school medicine. I put it in the category of Nature Cure - the pre-antibiotic era of medicine.
As always - this treatment isn’t for everyone, and if done improperly can create more problems than you originally had.
So, read the directions.
The Wet Sock Treatment
1. IMPORTANT: This is the last thing you do before bed. Don’t start this process and then run around the house locking doors, or making lunch for tomorrow.
2. Collect these items before you go to step 3.
a. Warm woolly socks (smart wool ok, real wool ideal)
b. Thin ankle high socks - cotton is ideal but hard to find - use what you have as long as they aren’t 100% nylon. Get them wet and wring them out so they are not dripping.
c. PJs ready
3. Warm your body - this is most important. A shower, or bath, are ideal, but a foot soak will work too. You need to be warm enough that the skin is a little pink, and you are not feeling chilled anywhere. IMPORTANT: If you already have a fever you can skip this step (Laurie, are you listening?)
4. After you are plenty warm - dry off. Put the wet thin socks on your warm feet.
5. Put the wooly thick socks over the wet socks.
6. Make sure the wooly socks cover the wet socks completely.
7. GO TO BED - if you need to stay up you MUST stay warm, in bed and covered. Cozy is key.
Best results are if you do this at least three nights in a row.
You can do this anytime - even when you aren’t sick.
There are ways to tweak the treatment to make it stronger (involving ginger tea and ice cubes) or less intense (warmer wet socks that are really wrung out). Ask me if you need more instruction.