Prescription 2015: Sauna TherapyMarch 9, 2015 Written by JP [Font too small?]
When I was growing up, we had a beautiful sauna in my parent’s bedroom. But, since no one in our home was accustomed to sauna bathing, we simply used the space for storage. Looking back on it now, I wish we had put that “storage room” to better use! These days, I would love to have a sauna at home. What’s more, Mrs. Healthy Fellow grew up using saunas, so we would certainly put it to good use. Unfortunately, the probability of adding a sauna to our home is about as likely as the addition of an elevator. On the other hand, our local gym has a sauna that we can and should utilize more often. In fact, saunas are readily available in most communities. This is great news because there’s more reason than ever to use saunas on a regular basis.
You know a therapy has hit prime time when it’s featured in one of the Journals of the American Medical Association. In February 2015, the journal JAMA Internal Medicine published a study defining the effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. The investigation followed the use of saunas in 2,315 middle-aged Finnish men over a five year period. A subsequent follow-up, averaging 20.7 years, analyzed the participants’ likelihood of death from cardiovascular and other causes. The findings reveal that sauna bathing 4-7 times weekly reduced the risk of sudden cardiac death by half vs. those who only bathed once a week. The relative mortality risk for fatal coronary heart disease was 43% lower, fatal cardiovascular disease was 37% less likely and all-cause mortality declined by over 46%. The authors of the study also noted that longer sauna bathing, i.e. more than 11 minutes per session, conferred greater cardiovascular protection. Additionally, two other recent trials report that regular sauna time minimizes the intensity of tension headaches and improves pulmonary function in those with seasonal allergies.
The mechanisms by which sauna exposure improves health aren’t entirely elucidated. However, there are clues to be found in many peer reviewed, scientific studies on the subject. For instance, the previously mentioned seasonal allergy trial discovered that sauna therapy prompted positive effects on heart rate variability (HRV). Reduced HRV is associated with cardiovascular mortality and poor overall health status. A 2014 experiment consisting of 10 sauna baths (15 minutes each), at a temperature of 197.6 °F and 5-16% humidity, significantly lowered triglycerides and slightly increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol in a group of young men. Other studies have demonstrated improved antioxidant status and immune system stimulation as a result of single and repeated sauna sessions. All of these effects could conceivably account for the lowered mortality risks reported in the aforementioned JAMA study.
There are a few considerations to keep in mind prior to incorporating sauna therapy to your wellness routine. If you have any serious health concerns, it’s prudent to consult with your physician before making any major lifestyle change. Think of a regular sauna routine similarly to a new exercise regimen. Certain life events, including pregnancy, surgical recovery and medical conditions such as advanced heart disease, multiple sclerosis and severe skin diseases may render sauna inappropriate. For peace of mind and safety’s sake, this ought to be decided on a case-by-case basis. You should also remember that added hydration and nutrition is a must when sauna bathing. This is especially true if you enjoy wet saunas and/or are overweight as sauna-induced body mass loss via perspiration is greater in heavier individuals. This is an easy fix. Just make sure to drink plenty of pure water and eat more low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Association Between Sauna Bathing & Fatal Cardiovascular & All-Cause … (link)
Study 2 – Effect of Sauna Bathing on Lipid Profile in Young, Physically Active… (link)
Study 3 – Effect of a Single Finnish Sauna Session on White Blood Cell Profile … (link)
Study 4 – The Influence of General Infrared Sauna on the Antioxidant Systems … (link)
Study 5 – Effect of a Single Finnish Sauna Bath After Aerobic Exercise on the … (link)
Study 6 – Comparison of Physiological Reactions & Physiological Strain in Healthy … (link)
Study 7 – Effects of Heat Stress on Physical Functioning in Persons with Multiple … (link)
Study 8 – Effects of Heat Stress on Cognition in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis … (link)
Study 9 – Sauna as a Valuable Clinical Tool for Cardiovascular, Autoimmune … (link)
Study 10 – AHA: Hot Tub and Sauna Use and High Blood Pressure … (link)
Overweight Increases Sauna Therarpy-Induced Body Mass Loss
Source: ScientificWorldJournal. 2014;2014:307421. (Link)
Tags: Cholesterol, Multiple Sclerosis, Sauna
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Detoxification, Heart Health