Saunas are usually small heated rooms at temperatures ranging between 140°F and 200°F.
They often have natural wood interiors and the ability to control the temperature.
Sauna heat is typically electric, gas or wood-burning.
Saunas may also include special types of stones to help with the heating process by absorbing and give off heat.
In addition, water can be poured onto the stones for steam creation.
Sauna usage is an excellent addition to proper diet and exercise for maintaining good health.
Saunas can provide tremendous health benefits as well as relaxation.
History of Saunas
Saunas are an ancient practice used for thousands of years to help the body detoxify.
Here are some of the cultures and their use of saunas.
Japan – has used natural hot springs to treat health disorders and promote optimal wellness.
Egypt – the heat was used as medicinal heat therapy for patients suffering from tumors and infections. Regions of the body were treated by heat therapy with hot springs and steam rooms.
Laos – herbal sauna therapy has been an ancient tradition. Each village houses at least one sauna. These herbal saunas are especially popular among women who gave childbirth to assist in the healing process.
Russia – saunas and steam rooms were used to generate excessive sweating, followed by exposing the body to very cold temperatures.
Indian – Ayurvedic medicine has been using hot stone massage for thousands of years uses as a healing modality.
The research for using saunas for health benefits is overwhelming. It turns out that the heat and act of sweating have tremendous health benefits.
Here are some of the benefits:
1. Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure
Published studies about saunas show positive heart benefits, most notably in their ability to assist in reducing the chances of congestive heart failure (CHF) and normalizing blood pressure.
A Harvard review showed a potential 40+% reduction in heart attack risk from using a sauna 4-7 times per week.
The study showed that the more often a person uses a sauna, the higher the benefits and longer they live.
The use of a sauna imitates cardiovascular exercise because your cardiovascular system needs to work harder to remove heat from the body.
In addition to heat increasing blood flow, sweating, and resembling cardiovascular fitness, it also leads to a post-exercise euphoria where you feel happy, relaxed, and reduction in any pain.
As body temperatures rise from the heat of the sauna, the blood vessels become dilated, therefore increasing blood circulation.
Blood circulation and sweating are two good things for your body to do to aid in the detoxification process.
Sweating also aids in the reduction of heavy metals in the body.
Toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury have been found in sweats of people that were exposed to these harmful metals.
3. Injury Healing and Pain Relief
Saunas increase what’s called “heat shock proteins,” antioxidant enzymes that fight free radicals, and stimulate autophagy, which is the process of helping our cells function like new by replacing damaged cells with new ones.
Sauna bathing also increases several anti-aging hormones, which help with injury healing.
4. Mental Health and Cognitive Function
Sauna use increases endorphins which are the body’s feel-good hormones as well as a natural pain reliever.
In addition, it releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes the growth of the neuronal cells in the brain and aids in the protection of new neurons from damage. Improvement in the levels of BDNF is essential for cognitive function.
Low levels of BDNF may be a cause of some mental and psychiatric disorders.
Increased frequency of sauna use has been interlinked to a reduced risk of Alzheimers and dementia.
5. Weight Loss and Metabolic Support
Saunas help improve insulin sensitivity, increase lean muscles, and reduce fat by changing the hormonal environment.
6. Help for Inflammation
Saunas stimulate circulation to bring down inflammation throughout the whole body.
To have a better night’s sleep, consider using a sauna in the afternoon or before dinner so that the body has time to cool down by bedtime.
8. Skin Health
In a German study, they found regular sauna user’s skin could better hold moisture and maintain a healthy skin pH. They also had less sebum on their foreheads, suggesting that they were less likely to get acne.
Using Saunas Safely
Avoid alcohol – Alcohol increases the risk of dehydration, hypotension, arrhythmia and sudden death.
Set a time limit – Limit your time to 15- 20 minutes. Beginners should spend a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes and build up to 20 minutes.
Drink water – Make sure to replace what you lost in sweat by drinking a sufficient amount of water after using the sauna.
Avoid sauna use if ill – Refrain from using the sauna if you’re sick. Also, women who are pregnant or those with certain medical conditions, such as low blood pressure, should consult with their health care professional before sauna use.