5 Health Benefits of Sauna Use


man and woman in sauna

If you’ve ever been in a sauna then you know first hand how rejuvenating and invigorating a good sweat can be. Sweating is a form of detoxification and there may be no better place to stimulate this process than in the sauna. Sauna therapy developed in the Scandinavian region, specifically Finland, and is used for bathing, improving ailments, and even as a setting for childbirth. To say the sauna is a foundational element of Finnish society would be an understatement, some even view it as a holy place and behave as they would in a church. It’s no wonder, more than just a place to feel good, the sweat inducing heat is also thought to balance many health problems including hypertension, fatigue, discomfort, and even certain cravings.

Many formal studies have set out to determine the health benefits of using a sauna and the outcomes have been very positive.

1. May Offer Fibromyalgia Symptom Support

The Department of Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine at Japan’s Kagoshima University conducted a study comprised of 44 females who had fibromyalgia symptoms. Three days a week, the participants took part in daily sauna sessions combined with twice a week water exercise sessions. Researchers reported the combination of sauna therapy and water exercise improved the participants’ quality of life and fibromyalgia symptoms. [1]

2. Supports Your Heart

Some critics have unduly fingered the sauna as potentially being too stressful on the heart but, according to Finland’s UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, responsible sauna use is highly unlikely to cause any cardiac problems. [2] In fact, research orchestrated by the Cardiovascular and Prevention Centre at Quebec’s Université de Montréal found that exercise and sauna provided a 24 hour window of improvement of symptoms for persons with hypertension. [3] One word of caution, however, is advised before participating in the old tradition of jumping from the sauna into the snowbank as the immediate, extreme cooling can increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias.

3. May Improve Endurance

A New Zealand study comprised of distance runners found that bathing increased run time to exhaustion by 32%. Additionally, plasma and red-cell volumes after sauna increased by 7.1% and 3.5%. Researchers concluded that the increased blood volume was likely the reason why post-exercise sauna bathing produced a significant enhancement of performance. [4]

4. May Reduce Incidence of the Cold

Austria’s University of Vienna designed an experiment to determine if sauna use impacted the incidence of developing the common cold. Over a 6 month period, a group that included 50 subjects total that were split two ways: 25 persons used the sauna, and 25 did not. At the end of the study, it was observed the sauna group had much less incidence of common cold than the control group and researchers concluded that regular sauna bathing may reduce the incidence of common colds. [5]

5. Assists Detoxification

Research has repeatedly shown that sweating in a sauna can help detoxify the body of the toxic agents, such as lactic acid, sodium, and uric acid, that routinely accumulate in the body. Toxins stored in subcutaneous fat are released through perspiration.  As toxin stored in the fat pass through perspiration, toxins that are stored at deeper levels of tissue throughout the body will move up into this layer of fat and continue to be released through sweat.  Circulation increases when you’re in the sauna and increased blood flow improves blood oxygenation.  Enhanced oxygen levels can assist in the dissolution of hidden toxic agents in the blood. [2]

According to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ, sauna can be an effective component of purification and cleansing protocols and very effective for flushing out fat-soluble chemical and toxins. [6]

Unfortunately, law enforcement officers are often at risk for exposure to harmful substances such as methamphetamine and the toxic chemicals used to create it. This exposure can lead to chronic symptoms that may be disabling. To find new ways to combat this issue, 69 officers participated in a study conducted by the Utah Meth Cops Project. Subjects followed a multi faceted detoxification program that included exercise, nutrition, and sauna therapy. Following the detoxification routine, significant health improvements were observed. Researchers concluded that sauna and nutritional therapy may improve some symptoms of methamphetamine-related exposure for affected officers. [7]

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Matsumoto S, Shimodozono M, Etoh S, Miyata R, Kawahira K. Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 Aug;17(3):162-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.08.004. Epub 2010 Sep 25.
  2. Vuori I. Sauna bather’s circulation. Ann Clin Res. 1988;20(4):249-56.
  3. Gayda M, Paillard F, Sosner P, Juneau M, Garzon M, Gonzalez M, Bélanger M, Nigam A. Effects of sauna alone and postexercise sauna baths on blood pressure and hemodynamic variables in patients with untreated hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2012 Aug;14(8):553-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7176.2012.00637.x. Epub 2012 May 3.
  4. Scoon GS, Hopkins WG, Mayhew S, Cotter JD. Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. J Sci Med Sport. 2007 Aug;10(4):259-62. Epub 2006 Jul 31.
  5. Ernst E, Pecho E, Wirz P, Saradeth T. Regular sauna bathing and the incidence of common colds. Ann Med. 1990;22(4):225-7.
  6. Crinnion WJ. Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant- induced and other chronic health problems. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Sep;16(3):215-25. Review.
  7. Ross GH, Sternquist MC. Methamphetamine exposure and chronic illness in police officers: significant improvement with sauna-based detoxification therapy. Toxicol Ind Health. 2012 Sep;28(8):758-68. doi: 10.1177/0748233711425070. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

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  • Larry Appleton

    And general wellness. I have been using a sauna regularly for years and cannot imagine my life without one. It produces a deep clean feeling that no shower in the world could ever hope to compare to.

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