Do you enjoy the warmth of a spring or summer day? Now that winter is here in Kelowna, BC – Sauna therapy is one way to harness that warmth and use it therapeutically! An infrared (IR) radiant Sauna warms the body the way sunlight would. The Sauna heats the body directly, rather than the air around it.
Europeans have been using sauna therapy for hundreds of years. Most notably, Scandinavians use Sauna therapy as a routine health practice, so much so, that there is one sauna for every five citizens in Finland. Sauna therapy is a wonderful way to reduce anxiety and stress, while promoting relaxation, contentment and peace of mind. However, saunas are much more than just leisure products. In the latest 2011 Alternative Medicine Review1, studies that document the effectiveness and physiologic benefits of Sauna therapy have been summarized below:
Physiologic Benefits of Sauna:
- Increases heart rate and cardiac output
- Increases peripheral circulation and diaphoresis (sweating)
- Reduces blood pressure, systolic and diastolic
- Increases metabolism & increases weight loss
- Improves Oxygen consumption
- Balances stress hormones in a positive way
- Increases levels of growth hormone
- Increases endorphins creating pleasure and analgesic effects
- Muscle relaxation, increased elasticity of tendons and joint capsule
- Reduced viscosity of synovial joint fluid benefiting arthritis
- Aids in detoxification and toxin release from stored tissues
In matters of the heart, a Finnish study evaluated 102 men who had experienced an MI (or heart attack). 80 Men began regular Sauna use 2-24 weeks after their event. As a result of the heart attack, 60% of these men suffer from angina or chest pain during normal daily activities. Only 2%, however, report chest pains while in the Sauna, which is a remarkable improvement considering the increased cardiac output created by Sauna therapy.2
Several German studies have evaluated benefits of Sauna therapy on persons with high blood pressure. On average, biweekly saunas for 3 months demonstrated a decrease in blood pressure from an average of 166/101 mmHg to 143/92 mmHg.3 This decrease is comparable to the effect of many blood pressure medications.
In another study, participants who had daily IR sauna therapy had lower urinary levels of 8-epi-PGF2-alpha, suggesting lower oxidative stress.4 One possible mechanism for reduced blood pressure may be increased production of nitric oxide as a direct result of IR sauna therapy.5
Past studies reported in the Journal of American Medical Association show that 30-45 minutes of continuous sweating in a Sauna will burn 300-600 calories, similar to rowing or running for the same duration of time. More recently, an unpublished study investigated IR Sauna in obesity and hypertension. One group did 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and 30 minutes of IR Sauna or 15 minutes of exercise only – three times a week. After a two-month trial, the Sauna group lost almost double the weight and lost 4.6 times as much body fat as the exercise group alone. The Sauna group also dropped an average of 21.5 mmHg in systolic blood pressure and another 10 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure. As part of the naturopathic weight loss programs offered at The Core Centre of Health, we encourage regular Sauna use, in addition to diet, exercise and nutrient support for best results.
Asthma, Bronchitis & COPD:
Research indicates Sauna therapy can help respiration in patients with asthma and bronchitis.7 A Netherlands study of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), showed improved lung function in forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) with little to no breathing difficulty while using the Sauna.8 Studies from the 1980s led by Dr. Jozef Krop, showed Sauna therapy to benefit chronic asthma in industrial chemical exposures. After 2 months of regular Sauna use, these individuals reported going from using an asthma inhaler 3 times per week, down to just 3 times per year.
Chronic Pain & Arthritis:
The heating elements in an Infrared Sauna deeply penetrate major joints and aid in soft tissue repair. The energy from the heat helps to break up Lactic Acid that builds up and causes muscle cramping. Soft tissue and connective tissue in Arthritic individuals, becomes more supple and pliable, less brittle and tight, following regular Sauna use.
A 2009 study published in Clinical Rheumatology looked at pain in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). 30-Minute Sauna sessions at 131ºF twice weekly for 4 weeks provided a statistically significant reduction in pain, stiffness and fatigue in all participants.10
Several published studies have found significant levels of mercury11, cadmium, nickel12 and antimony in sweat following Sauna therapy.13 Because infrared light penetrates the skin up to 2 1/2 centimeters, it stimulates detoxification in deeper tissues that cannot be achieved with regular steam saunas. The body loses 4 to 5 times more lymphatic toxins and heavy metal residues than with a regular Sauna application. As a result, it’s an effective adjunctive therapy for heavy metal toxicity, multiple chemical sensitivities and other toxicity-induced illnesses.
It’s important to note, that detoxification programs are best supported by proper testing, naturopathic supervision and the appropriate supportive nutrients to maximize the excretion of these harmful toxins.
Before conception, it is always recommended for both partners to do a full 10 session series of Sauna detoxification. This will reduce the levels of heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and other xenoestrogens that can interfere with sperm quality, conception, neurological development of the fetus and purity of breast milk. We recommend 3 months before you conceive as toxins continue to be released for several months after completion of Sauna use.
In addition to heart health, pain reduction and detoxification, Sauna therapy relaxes muscles and inhibits sympathetic nervous activity. Regular Sauna users can attest that a “good sweat” provides and opportunity to indulge in positive thoughts and escape from everyday troubles.
If you have a health condition or are taking medications, please schedule an initial consult with Dr. Emina Jasarevic, ND, if you do not already have a naturopathic physician in Kelowna, BC. If you are in reasonable health, the benefits of Sauna far outweigh any hazards. Include Sauna therapy as part of your lifestyle and you’ll experience a level of health renewal that is hard to surpass.