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Sunday, June 29, 2014

5 Big Benefits of Sauna Therapy

For thousands of years humans have been using heated air for ceremony, relaxation, and healing. This practice is still in widespread use today in the form of saunas.
Studies show that sauna therapy has real health benefits and I recommend it regularly to my patients, sometimes for specific health conditions and other times as part of a comprehensive detox program.

The health benefits of sauna therapy include: 

#1  Improved Cardiac Function

People with high blood pressure and heart disease are often told to stay away from saunas, but studies show that these people actually benefit from sauna therapy. Because it dilates blood vessels and increases cardiac output, scientists liken its cardiovascular effects to walking at a moderate pace.

In a study of patients with congestive heart failure who underwent daily sauna therapy for four weeks, researchers found that symptoms improved in 87% of patients. Their hearts were able to pump more blood than before, fewer patients were admitted to the hospital, and improvements were seen in both blood pressure and exercise tolerance.

#2  Stress Management

Stress makes our bodies tense and heat has the opposite effect, helping us to relax. The study of patients with congestive heart failure mentioned above also found that sauna therapy lowered levels of stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine.

#3  Pain Relief

For some people, sauna therapy can help treat chronic pain. In a 2005 study, two groups of patients with chronic pain were treated with a multidisciplinary approach that included cognitive behavioral therapy, rehabilitation, and exercise therapy. In addition, one group of patients was treated with infrared sauna therapy every day for four weeks. Both groups were followed for two years after treatment. Compared to patients who did not receive sauna therapy, those who did experienced less pain and better sleep, and they were more likely to have returned to work. 

When combined with stretching, sauna therapy has been shown to improve joint function, flexibility, and range of motion. Other studies show that sauna therapy can be effective for treating pain associated with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

#4  Better Quality of Life

Sauna therapy has been associated with a better quality of life, especially for folks living with chronic illness. In one study of people with type two diabetes, researchers found that taking a 20-minute far-infrared sauna 3 times per week for 3 months improved fatigue, depression, pain, and overall quality of life.

Another study followed patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who underwent infrared sauna therapy once each day for 35 sessions, then once or twice each week for one year. After 15 to 20 sessions, dramatic improvements were seen in fatigue, low-grade fever, sleep disturbance, and pain, and no one experienced relapse or worsening of symptoms.

Other studies show that sauna therapy is also useful for improving quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

#5  Detox Support

A study of rescue workers from the 9/11 World Trade Center attack demonstrated that sauna therapy can effectively reduce levels of environmental toxins in the blood. The rescue workers followed the Hubbard protocol, a daily regimen of physical exercise followed by two and a half hours inside a traditional sauna of 140 to 180°F (allowing for short breaks as needed) and supplementation of vitamins and minerals. After sauna therapy, dioxin levels were undetectable, PCB levels had dropped by 65 percent, and all participants reported a reversal of their symptoms.

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas are a great alternative to traditional saunas for people who don't have time for extended sessions. While traditional saunas heat the room, infrared saunas heat the body directly using radiant heat and invisible light waves to penetrate tissues. Infrared heat penetrates more deeply than hot air and it can induce sweating at lower temperatures, usually between 90 and 115°F, making them more comfortable than traditional saunas.

Non-Toxic Environment

Make sure the sauna you’re using is made of natural wood and nontoxic materials. There shouldn’t be any parts made of plastic, chemical-treated wood, or other materials that would release toxins into the air. If you're using an infrared sauna, look for one that has passed safety tests for electromagnetic radiation.

After Care

After each sauna, whether infrared or traditional, take a shower or bath and wash your body well to remove any toxins that were secreted from your skin. Rest for at least twenty minutes, then consume plenty of foods rich in electrolytes at your next meal.

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