There is just something oh so comforting about the warm heat of a sauna. Sauna therapy, in fact, is nothing new and has been enjoyed by various cultures around the world for thousands of years.
Many cultures that experience great longevity may not have access to a sauna, but they live in tropical environments where the daily temperature encourages their bodies to sweat and release toxins.
Types of Saunas
There are basically two types of sauna: an infrared sauna, or dry sauna; and a wet sauna, or steam bath. Infrared saunas heat the body from the inside out, while a wet sauna heats the body from the outside in. Both types of sauna have their advantages and disadvantages.
The greatest advantage of a dry sauna is there is very little humidity, and high temperatures can be reached, rapidly raising the metabolic rate and pushing out toxins quickly. Some people may find that a dry sauna irritates the lining of their lungs and nose due to a lack of humidity.
A wet sauna helps keep your skin hydrated and is a good therapy for people who suffer from asthma, allergies or other respiratory problems, such as bronchitis or congestion. However, bacteria can also thrive in warm and moist conditions, and if you have a wet sauna you need to pay particular attention to keep it disinfected.
The high humidity levels do not allow you to sweat as much as in a dry sauna, and you may actually absorb chlorine and other organic chemicals from the water used to make the steam.
Here are five ways that a sauna can benefit your health:
Cleanse the Skin: Deep sweating, like that induced by heat bathing in a sauna, removes dead skin cells and rinses bacteria from the epidermal layer and sweat ducts. According to Dr. Ben H. Douglas, a professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and author of Ageless: Living Younger Longer, sweating energizes skin like exercise energizes muscles.
Sweating brings a bath of fresh fluid, rich in nutrients and minerals, to the skin. Sweat helps maintain collagen structures and reduces the appearance of fine lines and saggy skin. Sweating on a regular basis continually restores vitality to the skin.
Flush Out Toxins: Research shows that sweating in a sauna can help rid the body of such toxic agents as lactic acid, sodium and uric acid, that often accumulate in the body. Toxins stored in subcutaneous fat are released when you sweat, and toxins that are stored deeper move up to the upper layer of fat and can be released as well through continual sauna use. Increased circulation also improves blood flow and blood oxygenation. Enhanced oxygen levels help dissolve toxins in the blood.
Relieve Stress: We live in a go-go world where we seem to be rushing all of the time. Many people live in a constant state of adrenaline, which eventually results in serious health complications. Taking fifteen minutes a day to relax in a sauna may be just the prescription you need to wind down from a crazy day. Sitting in a warm and quiet space allows you time to collect your thoughts and practice deep breathing.
Most regular sauna users cite stress relief as the number-one benefit from the practice. Sauna heat relaxes muscles and releases endorphins, or feel-good chemicals. We can all use more of these!
Weight Loss: Although you have to be careful to believe some of the advertisements out there claiming that you can lose a massive amount of weight from using a sauna, as a tool in combination with a healthy diet and exercise, regular sauna use can help you shed some extra pounds.
Just the act of sweating uses a tremendous amount of energy, and energy comes from the conversion of fat and carbohydrates in a process that burns calories. According to US Army medical researcher, Dr. Ward Dean MD, “A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna in a single session, consuming nearly 300 calories in the process.”
Improved Cardiovascular Performance: In response to rising core body temperatures, blood vessels close to the skin dilate and cardiac output increases. It can rise from 60–70 bpm ( beats per minute) to 110–120 bpm and go back to normal during the cooling phase.
In a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that spending 15 minutes in a sauna daily for 14 days improved the function of the endothelial cells lining the arteries by 40 percent.
They also found that daily saunas for 4 weeks decreased blood pressure and improved oxygen uptake in patients with serious heart issues. Saunas are also known to help several other conditions:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic fatigue
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Mild depression
- Seasonal affective disorder
Research conducted by the Cardiovascular and Prevention Centre at the University of Montreal in Quebec found that exercise and sauna improved symptoms for persons with high blood pressure.
- Avoid alcohol and medications that could impair sweating and produce overheating before and after you are in the sauna.
- Stay in the sauna for no more than 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cool down gradually afterward and allow time for rest.
- Do not use a sauna if you are pregnant.
- Drink 2 to 4 glasses of cool water after your sauna.
- Remove your contact lenses before entering the sauna.
- Most people use an electric sauna—it is important to use only a low EMF type to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
- Do not go in the sauna when you are ill. If you begin to feel unwell while you’re in the sauna, end your session immediately.
-The Alternative Daily