Since the Beginning of Ages
Civilizations around the world and throughout history have experienced the goodness of a
sauna session. Saunas hold a special place in my frosty home country - Russia. From the deep
north to the balmy shores of the Black Sea, the Russian people make saunas a normal part of
their lives. The reason that saunas are held in such high esteem around the entire world is because of their numerous health benefits. Saunas are truly one of the most underrated tools that will enhance your health in more than one way.
Saunas for Detoxification
Saunas are also a powerful tool for detox. Our modern lifestyles have created a serious toxicity issue in our society today. We are literally bombarded with chemicals, pesticides, and various other toxins on a daily basis. Everything from household cleaners, to cosmetics, even to processed food. Our skin is the largest organ in the body and also one of the best ways that we can detox. When we sweat, toxins are carried out of our pores. The heat from the sauna increases the metabolic rate, further facilitating detox through our liver and kidneys. The reduced toxic load helps support proper immune function and allow us to handle more stress.
Types of Saunas
There exist several types of saunas that are used in different a reas of the world. They all work on the same principle of heating up our body; however, some work better than others.
Also known as a “Finnish”, this type of sauna acts primarily through convection heat. These types of saunas heat the air inside of the sauna, and then the hot air heats our skin. Although this is one of the most popular forms of saunas, there are several drawbacks to consider. Convection heat acts mainly on the surface of the skin, which means it does not penetrate deeply into our body. Most of the toxins stored in our body are not found at the surface level of the skin. Things like acids, heavy metals, toxic mold and carcinogens are actually stored deeper than the surface level - they’re found deeper. Convection heat limits the body’s ability to detox because it affects the surface level as opposed to the deep level. In addition to that, dry saunas typically operate at higher temperatures with lower humidity - anywhere from 150-200F. The high temperature of the air inside of the sauna can be detrimental to the delicate tissue of the eyes, nasal canals, throat, and can even cause skin problems to sensitive body areas.
This type of sauna is commonly called a “Turkish bath”, or a hammam. The levels of humidity are much higher than a “dry sauna.” Wet saunas, or steam rooms, have a lower temperature (anywhere from 110-130F), combined with higher levels of humidity. Although wet saunas promote sweating through convection heat just like dry saunas, they also work from “the outside in”. Due to the lower temperatures found in wet saunas, our body core temperatures do not rise as well as they would with other types of saunas.
Infrared saunas a relatively new invention that works through radiant heat. This type of heat
transfers radiant energy from an emitting heat source to a specific object - our body. The infrared light and the human body vibrate at a similar frequency; thus, our body can effortlessly absorb the infrared energy. Tests from Clearlight have shown that “the energy output is tuned so closely to the body’s own radiant energy that our bodies absorb as much as 93% of the far infrared waves that reach our skin.” Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat your body from the inside out. They do that through far infrared waves that penetrate deep into the body, as opposed to simply heating up the air around you. This allows for a more gentle experience without the high temperature of “traditional saunas”, while maintaining the same amount of sweating. This type of sauna uses light waves to heat your body at its core, positively affecting our health on a physical and chemical level. This is critical, since the majority of toxins are found on the cellular level. Infrared saunas help detox the body up to seven times more than
In the case of the infrared sauna, the benefits are further increased because our core temperature rises. The elevated temperatures in the sauna mimic what your body undergoes during a fever. The heat in the sauna supports our immune system in killing off those viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in temperatures above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to this, sweating in a sauna can help clean your pores and eliminate blackheads and acne. Many athletes around the world enjoy the benefits of a sauna session because it help them recover faster. According to Mercola, in one study, “those who had a 30-minute sauna session twice a week for three weeks after their workouts increased their time it took to run until exhaustion by more than 30 percent!”
Saunas for Relaxation
Saunas are also a fantastic way to relax. In addition to that, sauna therapy helps reduce tightness, aches and pains. The elevated heat increases circulation and blood flow to the muscles. It provides a constant level of heat, which allows the joints to move more freely. The elevated temperatures also cause increased blood-flow into tissues via vasodilation, which help your body remove and neutralize toxins that sit stagnant in our muscles and connective tissue. Saunas also promote weight loss. When a person enters into a sauna, the heat causes their heart rate to go up. It increases the rate at which the metabolism is working. It increases oxygen consumption.
Saunas for Function
Finally, it reduces the stress load so that the body can focus on promoting optimal function. According to US Army Research, all of these factors help us burn anywhere from 300-500 calories in a 30-minute session. Saunas, in combination with exercise, can tremendously boost Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is a powerful fat-burning, muscle building hormone. A Finnish team published a paper in 1976 that looked at hGH levels in 55 healthy individuals before and after a sauna session. “It found that hGH levels were on average 140% higher immediately following a sauna session than they were before the session. hGH levels returned to normal levels after an hour for most participants, but the temporary spike was large enough to make the findings significant.” Last but not least, a good sauna session can improve your mood. Saunas elevate endorphins and enkephalins in our body - these are the “feel-good” hormones. Thus, saunas not only make us feel great, but they also cleanse the body and help us handle the stressors that are surrounding us on a daily basis. Saunas have a multitude of health benefits - everything ranging from detox to muscle relaxation to weight loss. I would encourage you to add sauna therapy sessions to your arsenal of tools for improving your overall state of well-being.