Getting steamy: Are saunas good for you?

Question: Like so many other people, I joined a gym last month. I've been eyeing up the sauna. Are saunas good for you? Do you recommend their use?

Dr. Wright: I wrote about this topic back in the December 2003 issue of Nutrition & Healing. In that article, I outlined the numerous health benefits associated with saunas. The most well-known benefits include relaxation and detoxification. But they also have positive effects on the heart, lowering blood pressure and reducing risk of atherosclerosis.

Research indicates that saunas' high temperatures increase the production of a substance called nitric oxide synthase in the arteries. Increased levels of nitric oxide synthase will produce more nitric oxide, which helps dilate coronary arties and, in turn, improves heart function.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that the specific type of sauna I wrote about in December 2003 is called a far-infrared sauna. Far infrared waves warm things without actually heating up the air in between the heat source and the object. So in a far infrared sauna, the air is warm and dry, as opposed to the humid heat in traditional saunas.

I'm not sure which type they have at your gym, but it's likely the traditional steam version. As I mentioned above, those still offer the benefits of detoxification and relaxation, but the research I've found on the heart-health benefits has all been done using far-infrared saunas.

That said, the most economical way to get the benefits of a far-infrared sauna is probably to buy one for your own home. They range in price, so do some research before deciding on a particular brand. One company to consider is High Tech Health, Inc. (800-794-5355, www.hightechhealth.com). (I am not affiliated with this company in any way, but recommend them based on the thorough citation list they have available.)

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About the author

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Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. has degrees from both Harvard University (cum laude) and the University of Michigan. More than any other doctor, he practically invented the modern science of applied nutritional biochemistry and he has advanced nutritional medicine for nearly three decades.

As of today, Dr. Wright has received over 35,000 patient visits at his now-famous Tahoma Clinic in Washington State.

To learn more about Dr. Wright, and to sign up for his free Health e-Tips eLetter, please visit www.wrightnewsletter.com.


Comments

Anonymous's picture
1

Detox Foot Pads

I bought my sauna from http://www.evolutionhealth.com -- I have the 3-person Far infrared sauna with the clear glass door. We use it in our basement. I have to say I don't use it as often as I would like to. But, here is my experience... first, in the beginning, I couldn't barely stand to be in the sauna for 15+ minutes... yet I didn't break a sweat. The heat gets to me, but I worked my way up and now I can stay in for up to an hour (normally I am in the sauna for 30-45 minutes only) and I start sweating within 10 minutes. I think this is because my body is detoxifying and is healthier now. So if you don't see benefits right away, keep trying.

Also, animals sense when things are good for them, and my dog and cat always want to be in the sauna with me. I let them occasionally, and no more than 5-10 minutes at a time. I also don't let them come in together, because the cat likes to terrorize the dog and I don't want to be in an enclosed space with them with it happens!

I also have what I call my "jiggly machine" which is a vibration exercise machine. If I use it before my sauna, my legs and hips get very itchy (lack of circulation the manufacturer said) but if I do it AFTER my sauna I don't feel that problem at all. That is one way I know my sauna is working, doing something right. And, you can burn a ton of calories just sitting there, reading a book!

I also am not affiliated with Evolution Health, but I priced saunas out at a lot of places, I am a member of Direct Buy and priced them out there, too... still Evolution Health gave me the best deal for what I wanted.

Anonymous's picture
2

yeap.st

thank you for the info on sauna-i have been using one (steam type) for the past decade but only use it oncper month just to relax and destress.initially i used it twice weekly for back pain after motor vehicle accident resulting in T12 fracture.now i am okay so only use it monthly .according to TCM it does drain away energy, maybe good for burning fat-what is your take on this?

may god bless you for your good work!

Anonymous's picture
3

Anonymous

In Ayurvedic medicine they distinguish between three different human body types. I filled in a questionaire and found I was a "Pita" type. I like ice cream, don't mind cold and can't drink hot beverages.
I learned about that after I tried out a steam sauna that made me hill for weeks after. Pita's don't need extra heat it seems. Not good for them. Since I think about 1/3rd of all humans are pita I would guess sauna is bad for that many people.

Anonymous's picture
4

Anonymous

Saunas are a super good detox agent Say YES

Anonymous's picture
5

Anonymous

Hope you all know it's pronounced sow na not saw na. Husband is Finnish & introduced me to saunas when I was 16 yrs old. We have an outdoor ,wood fired, old time sauna @ our lake cabin. We love it and have been taking saunas for 53 yrs together.

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