Turn Up the Heat for Your Health

Throughout antiquity, most cultures have enjoyed a form of sauna such as the Native American sweat lodge, the Central American temazcal, Finnish saunas, Russian banyas, Turkish hammams, and the Japanese sentó. People have always known that time spent enveloped in deep penetrating heat has undeniable short-term benefits and is a long-term investment in a healthy life.

In a recent review of studies and controlled trials(*1), researchers found evidence that sauna sessions have an impressive array of beneficial health effects including:

• Increased lifespan
• Reduced cardiovascular disease
• Lowered blood pressure
• Improved cognitive function
• Reduced risk of neurodegenerative disease
• Improved arthritis symptoms
• Detoxification of heavy metals and chemicals

Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D. in biomedical science and well known for her in depth research on the many benefits of saunas, refers to studies that show that flies and worms briefly exposed to heat treatment have an increase in their lifespan by up to 15%. Dr. Patrick suggests, “One possible explanation for the increased lifespan is heat stress known to induce hormesis. This boosts the expression of heat shock proteins, which are known to improve longevity.”

Dr. Patrick also reports that in addition to cardio and longevity benefits, “Acclimating your body to heat stress by intermittent whole-body hyperthermia through sauna use (hyperthermic conditioning) has been shown to have robust positive effects on the brain including:

• Improved attention and focus
• Accelerated growth of new brain cells
• Improving the ability to learn and retain new information
• Ameliorates certain types of depression and anxiety”

JAMA Internal Medicine also shows that regularly spending time in a sauna may help keep the heart healthy and extend life. Researchers from Finland tracked 2,300 men for an average of 20 years. They found that the more sessions per week men spent in the sauna, the lower their risk of sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease. The sauna also extended the life of participants with other illnesses, including cancer. In The Annals of Clinical Research Volume 20, research results show the benefits of sauna for relief of pain and increased mobility. Pain relief induced by a sauna was attributed to an increase in the release of anti-inflammatory compounds causing it to release natural pain-killing endorphins. More than 50 percent of participants reported relief of pain and an increase in mobility.

Sauna use has also been shown to improve almost every marker related to type 2 diabetes, including insulin sensitivity, fasting blood sugar, glycated hemoglobin, and body fat levels.(*2) Studies have also found saunas to be an excellent protocol for detoxification of heavy metals and chemicals. For instance, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury have been shown to be excreted through the skin, as well or better than when they’re excreted in the urine.(*3) A Canadian study found that the concentration of phytates (chemicals in toys, fragrances and cosmetics) was twice as high in sweat, as in urine or blood.(*4) Another study found BPA in 80% of the subject’s sweat, while finding no detectable levels in blood or urine.(*5) This seems to point to sweat being the best method for excreting BPA.

Clearly, taking a sauna session 3 to 4 times a week will enhance your health and the quality of your day-to-day life, saving you much suffering and thousands in healthcare down the line. Ask anyone you know who has a sauna about the benefits they feel and they’ll regale you with experiences ranging from improved sleep, to less pain and inflammation. Having read all this, wouldn’t you agree, “It’s time to turn up the heat for your health!”

(*1) Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Laukkanen JA, Mayo Clinic 2018 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30077204

(*2) Heat shock proteins and heat therapy for type 2 diabetes: pros and cons. Krause M, Ludwig MS, Heck TG, Takahashi HK. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2015 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26049635

(*3) Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review. Margaret E. Sears, Kathleen J. Kerr, and Riina I. Bray. J Environ Public Health 2012 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312275

(*4) Human elimination of phthalate compounds: blood, urine, and sweat study. Genuis SJ, Beesoon S, Lobo RA, Birkholz D 2012 Scientific World Journal www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23213291

(*5) Human excretion of bisphenol A: blood, urine, and sweat study. Genuis SJ, Beesoon S, Birkholz D, Lobo RA. J Environ Public Health. 2012 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22253637