Why Do Saunas Do What They Do?
People have been using some form of sauna for more than 5,000 years, in cultures all over the world. Sauna use has such a long history for one simple reason: it works! The question is, why exactly does it work? Here is some information about why sauna use improves health. This is all about the heat, regardless of the source.
The basic benefits from sauna use are from the heat. When we expose ourselves to elevated temperatures in a controlled setting, our bodies undergo specific, predictable and guaranteed physiological changes that are incredibly beneficial for our health. If you search the web, you’ll quickly find list after list of health conditions benefited by sauna use. Rather than blindly believe the claims of sauna manufacturers, wouldn’t it make sense to take a closer look at why saunas work and what exactly happens in your body that creates the magic? Education is just too good to say no to!
First and foremost, our bodies have a specific response to heat. This will occur in any sauna, not just an infrared. Later, however, we’ll talk about why infrared saunas are specifically more effective than steam. When we use the sauna, our bodies get hotter and hotter. Our physiology immediately goes to work trying to keep ourselves at normal temperature.
We rid excess internal heat through our skin with sweat. So, first we sweat and evaporation brings cooling to the body. Next, the circulation open up, especially the capillary bed at skin level. Evaporation creates a cooler temperature at the skin and the circulating blood at skin level acts as a heat exchanger. Heat is released and the blood is cooled. As we sit in the sauna, this effect gets more and more pronounced. It’s logical that the more blood we circulate, the more efficiently we cool ourselves. So, the heart increases its rate and stroke volume. Blood pressure relaxes and goes down. The entire cardiovascular system gets a workout. And, this happens passively as we sit and relax. Sauna use is an amazing therapy for heart health!
Next, we have the sweat itself. Sweating is a prime method of detoxification. We can remove both water and fat soluble toxins through sweat. Doing so is a great relief to the kidneys and liver because it’s normally their job. Studies have shown that sauna sweat has more toxins than exercise sweat. This is because you are at rest in the sauna. The change in nervous system activity greatly affects detoxification. In general, detoxification is essential to health and promotes longevity and vitality. These days, it is more important than ever as we all have a heavy toxic burden stored in our tissues. Many of the reported health benefits from sauna use are simply a function of detoxification. Removing heavy metals and carcinogenic chemicals is a no-brainer that everyone should do daily. The best part is there is no limit to how much you can remove through sweat. And, it requires no work at all. You simply sit back and relax!
Third, we have some significant hormonal shifts that come with regular sauna use. If you can stay in the sauna long enough, your body temperature will rise slightly. A 2 degree increase, say from 98 to 100, sends a signal to your pituitary to produce more growth hormone. Growth hormone is a major rejuvenator and longevity promoter. This is likely the mechanism for the sauna’s historical reputation as a rejuvenator. For sauna users over 40 years old, this is very, very appealing! And, new research suggests that the core temperature increases lead to improved muscle mass. This makes perfect sense as growth hormone is known to improve muscle mass and reduce body fat.
Now, we can talk specifically about infrared and why it is so much more effective than any other kind of sauna. Our first benefit discussed above is the heat’s ability to stimulate your cardiovascular system. In an infrared sauna, the heat penetrates directly through the skin and into your body, instead of just heating the air around you. Your body heats more efficiently and therefore you respond faster and more effectively to that heat. Therefore, the circulatory effects are all greater in an infrared sauna. And, the dry air is easier to sit in so you can spend more time comfortably in an infrared sauna.
Our second benefit is from the sweating. Infrared saunas are dry. Steam saunas are so humid that they inhibit evaporation and sweating. The dry environment maximizes your sweating and evaporative cooling. Therefore, you will sweat more and thus detoxify more.
And our third benefit is also enhanced in an infrared sauna. Again, infrared heats your body directly instead of heating the air around you. This makes it much more effective at raising your core temperature. Thus, the hormonal improvements are easier to achieve.
That brings us to the last question. Which type of near infrared is best? Well, that’s easy! Near infrared provides more benefits, uses less energy and is easier to maintain!
In the end, it is your responsibility to maintain your health. While it is nice to have health insurance, it is nicer to have health! No one can make the daily choices for you. You have to do it yourself. Buying a near infrared sauna for your home is a fantastic investment that gives you daily, unrestricted access to the single most comprehensive and EASY health practice in the world today. Really, how else can you heal and rejuvenate your entire body while sitting on your butt?
Making The Most Of Your Sauna
Here are some general tips for using your near infrared sauna to get the best possible benefits from it:
Consider near infrared sauna use to be like a form of exercise. If you are not used to it, you should not begin with long, intense sessions. Start slow, with 10-15 minutes at a time, and build up to 30-40 minute session over the course of 1-2 months. It all depends on what kind of physical condition you are in to start. Give your body time to adjust, especially if you are not used to sweating. In fact, you may not sweat much at all to start. In time, you will get conditioned to heavy sweating and longer sessions.
Since you are already sitting still in the sauna, it is a great time to practice deep, relaxing breaths. By controlling your breath, you can relax your body and activate your parasympathetic nervous system to promote greater detoxification. First, breathe in through your lower belly and diaphragm and not into your upper lungs. A good relaxing breath has an inhalation/exhalation ratio of 1:2. For example, you can breathe in to a count of 3 and exhale to a count of 6. When your exhale is finished, pause briefly and gently, then begin again. As long as you keep the ratio of 1:2, you will be calming your nervous system.
Add an Ionizer
A good negative ion generator will add to your well being. The sauna is a small space and a small ionizer will do. Make sure to get one with no ozone generation. You can also use a salt lamp and just leave it in the sauna.
Monitor Your Body Temperature
I recommend having a thermometer handy during your sauna session. It will help you learn to make the most of your sauna session. Check your temperature before you begin. Then check periodically during the session and at the end. Ideally, you will raise your body temperature 2-3 degrees to experience the maximum health benefits. The sauna’s effects on your body temperature vary over time depending on when and what you have eaten and done that day. By monitoring, you will learn how to make the most of it.
Enhancing The Thermic and Detoxification Properties
When in the sauna, your body will be absorbing heat and trying to cool itself down at the same time. The cooling is achieved by sweat evaporation. By controlling the rate at which sweat evaporates, you can increase the thermic effect of the sauna. This will lead to more sweat (detox) and higher body temperatures (kill pathogens, increase beneficial hormone production).
Here are three things that will help. First, try a cup of hot ginger tea before the sauna. Second, increase the relative humidity in the sauna with a humidifier. DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH OR THE BULBS MIGHT BREAK. Third, apply a very thin coat of beeswax based balm or salve to the body.
This last tip is amazing for weight loss and detox. The balm or salve blocks the evaporative effect very well. Your core temperature will increase more and therefore you will sweat much, much more. Please, though, be careful with this. Take it slowly and always monitor your body temperature during the session if you do this. As a seasoned sauna user I know that this tip can have major benefits if done correctly.
MSM– collagen enhancement and detoxification
Arginine– nitric oxide synthesis and blood pressure improvement
Alpha Lipoic Acid, Reversetrol, Green Tea– These antioxidants enhance the cellular effects of near infrared light
Whey Protein– give your body the building blocks it needs to build new proteins and hormones (recovery drink)
Kelp– an excellent mineral replacement for trace elements
You’ll find good prices and selection of supplements from www.vitacost.com. It’s where I get my vitamins and herbs!
Rebounding is a great compliment to near infrared sauna therapy. 10-15 minutes of gentle bouncing before your sauna will get your lymph system engaged and prepared for detoxification. It also aids fat burning and weight loss. The rhythmic bouncing is another NASA researched health tool. It is an amazing, all-around body toner that everyone should do.
The major electrolyte minerals that need to be replaced are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. While sweat composition varies from person to person, an average liter of sweat will contain 20mg Calcium, 50mg Magnesium, 1150 mg Sodium, 230mg Potassium and 1480mg Chloride
A replacement drink also should have a small percentage of carbohydrate (ie. sugar). This actually enhances the uptake of the mineral. A 2-4% sugar concentration is all you need.
Here is a formula for a good replacement drink, with links to purchase the products. It will make about 150 servings. It has calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and manganese in beneficial amounts to replace electrolytes and to feed our enzymatic detoxification enzymes.
1/4 teaspoon Source Naturals Mixed Ascorbate Vitamin C
1/4 teapsoon Natural Calm Magnesium
1/2 teaspoon sugar or maple syrup
16 ounces of water
This blend provides 1000 mg of vitamin C, 30 mg of calcium, 60 mg magnesium, 85mg potassium, 3 mg zinc, 1 mg manganese and 2% carbohydrates.