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.)
About the author
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.