Top benefits of infrared sauna therapy
(NaturalHealth365) Heart disease, the leading cause of mortality for adults in the United States, accounts for 647,000 deaths every year – at the stunning rate of one death every 37 seconds. And, the American Diabetes Association reports that 34.2 million Americans are currently living with diabetes, which claimed over 270,000 lives in 2017 alone. But, thankfully, a recent scientific review showcases the potential of infrared sauna therapy to improve the health of patients with these life-threatening chronic diseases.
Infrared sauna therapy, which offers all the benefits of traditional sauna without the extreme heat, uses a wavelength that penetrates the skin to heat the body directly. The result is that infrared saunas operate in the (still-toasty) 120- to 140-degree range -much more tolerable than the sweltering 160- to 200-degree ranges of traditional saunas.
Today, we’ll focus on how infrared sauna therapy is helping to fight chronic disease.
Sauna therapy causes significant improvements in heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease
In a systematic review published in Experimental Biology and Medicine, the authors noted that infrared sauna therapy could improve the health of patients with chronic disease. However, the researchers weren’t sure of the exact mechanisms by which sauna therapy worked.
They resolved to explore them.
The team reported that one study showed that infrared sauna caused blood vessel dilation, which improved circulation and vascular endothelial function (the workings of the delicate linings of arteries) in patients with congestive heart failure.
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In another study, the researchers added, several weeks of sauna therapy markedly enhanced dilation of the brachial artery and appeared to cause an increase in cardiopulmonary exercise tolerance. The authors cited a study that revealed that infrared sauna can help to improve blood flow, enhance capillary density and promote the production of beneficial nitric oxide.
Be good to your blood circulation with a natural, safe therapy
Sauna therapy also promoted angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels. At the same time, it appeared to enhance the production of beneficial nitric oxide – with blood pressure-lowering effects.
And, infrared sauna therapy benefits weren’t limited to the cardiovascular system. The scientists reported that four weeks of sauna therapy significantly reduced elevated levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone) and blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes.
There is evidence that sauna therapy can help reduce oxidative stress and help patients with type 2 diabetes respond better to insulin. In addition to benefiting heart disease and diabetes, sauna therapy improved kidney disease and chronic fatigue syndrome.
And, by increasing blood flow to the brain, sauna therapy seems to help fight cognitive decline.
An ancient therapy that mimics the effects of exercise and supports weight loss
In a study of 674 sedentary 19-and-20-year-old students published in Scientific World Journal, researchers evaluated the effects of sauna therapy on healthy young people. They found that sauna therapy raises the metabolic rate by increasing the body’s core temperature – triggering a beneficial thermoregulatory process in which blood vessels dilate, pulse accelerates, sweating is enhanced and cardiac output is increased.
In other words, the body reacts to sauna exposure as if you’re exercising!
So closely does sauna replicate exercise that it comes complete with a “runner’s high,” in which feel-good chemicals called endorphins are released by the brain. Clearly, sauna can offer benefits for those who – due to pain, arthritis or respiratory difficulties – are limited in their ability to exercise.
Additional studies have supported the ability of sauna therapy to “speed up” the metabolism – with Harvard Medical School reporting that sauna therapy can cause the pulse rate to leap by a substantial 30 percent.
As a side note: some infrared sauna proponents claim that a single 30-minute session can cause the body to burn up to 600 calories – not a bad pay-off for merely relaxing in a heated space!
Get the junk out: Sauna therapy activates a major detoxification pathway
As if helping to reduce the effects of chronic disease and obesity weren’t enough, infrared sauna therapy speeds the excretion of metabolic waste and environmental toxins by promoting perspiration. Some of the “nasties” that sauna helps to flush from the body include arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, bisphenol A and phthalates.
Sauna therapy also boosts the immune system, promotes wound healing, reduces inflammation and supports the ability to recover after injury, trauma and stress. Researchers have found that sauna therapy can even reduce pain – and there is some evidence that it can alleviate the frustrating and mysterious “phantom pain” that follows amputation.
While sauna therapy can improve a variety of illnesses, it also benefits healthy individuals – such as athletes. Research has shown that sauna sessions assist in muscle recovery after rigorous exercise.
Health alert: Good hydration is the key for maximum sauna benefits
To get the most out of your session, experts advise promoting sweating by drinking water – lots and lots of water – before and after. Many natural health experts call for drinking 32 ounces of water before even setting foot in the sauna – and some recommend as much as 16 ounces before the sauna session, 32 ounces during the session and 16 ounces afterwards.
But, remember to always consult your integrative doctor before beginning a sauna routine – especially if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart problems or are taking any medications. Certain drugs, such as antihistamines, can inhibit sweating and lead to higher risk of dehydration and overheating. Finally, avoid the use of alcohol before sauna.
If you are a sauna first-timer, experts advise starting with a 10- or 15-minute session, then gradually increasing the length of your session (not to exceed 30 minutes, however). Sauna novices should start out at the lower end of the heat scale – at about 100 degrees – which may be increased at later sessions if tolerated.
How often should you use a sauna?
Many sauna fans swear by their daily “sweat sessions” – but you can still reap the benefits of sauna with three to four days a week, or even weekly. While frequency of sessions is a matter of individual preference, one truth seems to be almost universal: infrared sauna therapy is not only healthful but highly enjoyable.
Isn’t it time you discovered this relaxing, rejuvenating natural health practice?
Sources for this article include: