Did you know…
Saunas may increase growth hormone?
The benefits of sauna use have long been well-known – and have been known for centuries. Around 2,000 years ago the Greek physician Parmenides stated that: “Give me a chance to create fever and I will cure any disease.” Sauna bathing is a form of whole-body heat therapy and has been used since time immemorial in Roman baths, Native American sweat lodges, Turkish baths, Russian banyas, and similarly in Japan with hot water tubs and more recently saunas.
All of these cultures have used this type of heat therapy to boost their immune systems, relax, and detoxify. Nowhere is sauna use more widespread than in Finland, where almost every household is home to at least one sauna. The oldest known saunas in Finland were made from pits dug in a slope in the ground and were mainly used as dwellings in winter. The sauna featured a fireplace where stones were heated to a high temperature and were doused with water to increase the heat.
Sauna use quickly spread to Northern Europe and soon thereafter all across the globe. Africa, Asia, Sweat lodges in America, professional athletes, and the rest of the entire western world have embraced sauna use, and with good reason – the many physical and mental benefits that saunas offer.
How does heat from a sauna that helps to heal the body? In a word, stress. Or, to be precise, the good kind of stress. Moderate, controlled stress is beneficial to the body. For example, when we lift weights we tear tiny muscle fibers—which puts stress on the tissues and causes new muscle tissue to form stronger and larger, as the fibers repair themselves.
The same idea applies to fasting. Not eating for a specified period of time (controlled stress) causes autophagy, which is a type of housecleaning that removes damaged cells and creates new, healthy ones. Heat also induces controlled stress, which may explain the health benefits that saunas deliver.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the broad range that sauna benefits deliver to understand why saunas are a crucial tool in the quest for maintaining good health, longevity, stress reduction, and much more:
- Saunas strengthen immunity. The COVID-19 nightmare continues its juggernaut of devastation in every way imaginable: the physical, psychological, and economic tolls this plague has caused is immeasurable. Worse, there may be no definitive end in sight, vaccine, or no vaccine. Consequently, there has never been a better time to double-down on healthy habits, and this is where saunas come into play. Saunas elevate your core body temperature, which results in an artificial fever that ramps up the immune system that causes a flood of disease-fighting antibodies and white blood cells. In one study, men who used a sauna at least twice a week were 30% less prone to developing pneumonia. Other studies have concluded that saunas can provide protection from a broad range of respiratory afflictions such as congestion, bronchitis, and asthma. Remember, every time we inhale, in addition to oxygen we inhale viruses, and that is why we are urged to wear masks to ward off the COVID-19 virus. If there was ever a time to strengthen our immune systems it is now!
- Saunas are great for detoxification. We have never in recorded history been bombarded on a daily basis with so many chemicals. From the food we eat and the water we drink to the air we breathe, the toxins just keep coming. The Natural Resources and Defense Council (NRDC) stated that “Of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States, most haven’t been adequately tested for their effects on human health.” The problem? Over 400 of these chemicals have been found in human tissue, and they are far from harmless. Alzheimer’s heart disease, arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia, and autism are just a few of their calling cards. Therefore, a sauna in your toolbox is critical for releasing stored toxins and supporting your immune system. The main benefit of a sauna is sweat. “Sweat is the only proven method for getting the most damaging toxins out of the body,” according to Sherry Rogers, MD, a leading environmental medicine authority, in her book, Detoxify or Die. In a review of over 100 studies, regular sauna use returned high mercury levels to normal. The study also showed that arsenic, cadmium, and lead can be excreted through the skin in substantial amounts through sauna use. Saunas can help rid the body of Bisphenol A (BPA)—a toxic compound found in many plastics, that is found in nearly all humans. Infrared sauna rays penetrate deep into your tissues, causing fat cells to release toxins and pollutants and eliminating them by sweating. These toxins can cause a broad range of health issues: headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems, and saunas are invaluable in getting rid of these poisons.
- Saunas boost cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure) is serious...deadly serious. Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a heart attack or a stroke. Heart disease is the primary cause of death for both men and women. There is a broad range of reasons for this grim statistic, but the question is what can be done to minimize the risk of suffering cardiovascular disease (aka CD) and becoming yet another statistic. Once again, saunas come to the rescue. A 1981 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that regular use of a sauna may be nearly as effective for the prevention of CD as exercise. The Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor study included more than 2,300 middle-aged men from eastern Finland. Men who used the sauna 2 to 3 times per week were 27% less likely to die from cardiovascular diseases. And even more exciting, men who used the sauna 4 to 7 times per week were 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related issues. Another study found repeated sauna therapy to be helpful for people with coronary risk factors, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Dr. Thomas H. Lee, a cardiologist and founding editor of the Harvard Heart Letter confirmed these findings, saying, “[Sauna] lowers blood pressure, and there is every reason to believe that its effects are good for blood vessels.”
- Saunas may promote weight loss. Most folks would agree that sweating results in water loss – and saunas definitely cause sweating. But there is also evidence that regular sauna use may help to raise our metabolisms and allow us to shed fat as well as water. As you’d expect, you lose water weight when you sweat in a sauna. But sauna use also helps lose weight by burning calories! The metabolic changes spurred by the heat stress during a sauna session can burn up to 800 calories, with no adverse effects, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Here’s why. Fat cells are magnets for toxins, and until those toxins are released and the chemicals and heavy metals that have been living in our tissues are gone, weight loss is challenging, to put it mildly. The formula is simple: lower toxicity, lose more fat. A sure-fire way to rid the body of toxins is sweat. During a 20-30 minute sauna session, the body core temperature increases by at least one degree (F). To offset this rise in body temperature, the body sweats. During a 20 minute session, the average woman loses 0.5-0.75 pounds of body weight in water, while the average man loses 1.0-1.5 pounds. The larger the person is to start, the more fluid they lose – and the more toxins are shown the exit!
- Saunas may reduce inflammation and pain. Dr. Jari Laukkanen of Finland found that using the sauna significantly decreased C-reactive protein, the main marker of systemic inflammation. And the more frequent the sauna use, the more inflammation levels were lowered. Infrared heat penetrates into muscle tissues, as well as joints. An infrared sauna can penetrate deep into the body which increases circulation and delivers nutrients to joints and muscles, accelerating repair, and increasing flexibility. A Japanese study in the journal Internal Medicine showed that chronic pain patients experienced a nearly 70% reduction, after the first session of infrared sauna therapy.
- Saunas can elevate our moods, make us calmer, and deliver a memory boost. A common complaint of countless people in today’s always-connected, 24/7, fast-paced society is “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m always too busy” which leads to “I feel so stressed.” The result is that we are collectively suffering from chronic stress, which, if left unchecked, will lead to devastating health consequences: memory problems, insomnia, anger, tension, depression, hopelessness, fatigue, and confusion. But once again, saunas are here to help! Brain Heat stress can make your brain and nervous system grow new neurons, which is exactly what we need, especially aging folks concerned with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Sauna heat promotes increased plasticity in your brain, which helps ward off aging’s effects. Sauna use can also help increase the production of norepinephrine, which increases your alertness, attention, brain functioning speed, and enhances memory formation and recall. Psychotherapist Paul Hokemeyer said that “The greatest mental health aspect of a sauna is the act of just sitting still for a defined period of time”
- Saunas can improve the health of our skin. As the body’s largest organ, our skin is under continual assault. While topical creams and gels may help, our skin also has internal layers that need help as well. Saunas can help our skin stay smooth and glowing for a few different reasons. First, sauna use promotes increased circulation that brings more oxygen and nutrients to the skin’s surface, resulting in a healthy glow. Your complexion, as well as your skin tone and elasticity, are improved. Second, sauna use boosts collagen, which is the protein responsible for the skin’s strength and elasticity. This increase is caused by the “heat stress” which is a “good stress” as mentioned earlier, which triggers skin cells to repair. Third, saunas may help reduce Cellulite, the cottage-cheese like appearance that occurs on the surface of the skin. It is believed to have many causes, including lack of exercise, bad nutrition, heavy metal toxicity, and sluggish circulation. Saunas raise our internal temperature, elevate the heart rate, and improving localized blood circulation. The results show – you will notice and others will as well!
- Saunas may improve the quality of our sleep. Sleep is a crucial component of good health and is absolutely essential for maintaining a powerful, disease-proof immune system. In spite of sleep’s importance, more and more folks are sleeping less and less. There are many sleep-aide options, but most of them come with side effects. The deep sauna heat delivers a restful experience that eases stress and sets the stage for a good night’s sleep. The far-infrared rays of an infrared sauna can allow you to get to sleep quicker and improve the quality of your sleep.
- Saunas may improve our fitness routines. Infrared saunas provide an effective way to increase circulation and muscle relaxation. Athletes have used saunas for centuries to promote healing and recovery after a workout. This is due to two very vital benefits that saunas provide: hyperthermic conditioning and reduced glycogen depletion. Hyperthermic conditioning is your body adapting to very hot conditions. Your body’s responses include increased plasma volume, increased red blood cell count, and increased blood flow to the heart and skeletal muscles. This brings added nutrients to your muscles and lowers the rate of glycogen depletion Glycogen is the stored glucose and carbohydrates found in your muscles, liver, and brain. When it is depleted the muscles and become cannibalistic and begin to eat themselves – not what we want when we are working out. When study participants spent 30 minutes in a sauna just twice a week for 3 weeks, they increased the time it took to run until exhausted by more than 30%.
- Saunas promote longevity. Every single one of the above-mentioned benefits that saunas deliver is directly linked to disease prevention, reduced stress, a better mental outlook, relaxation, toxin removal, a strong immune system, and lower inflammation. It is no coincidence that each and every one of these conditions is a primary cause of accelerated aging. In one of the largest studies on heat therapy spanning 20 years, researchers concluded that people who used a sauna 4-7 times per week were 40% less likely to die from all causes when compared with a control group.
- There are many more benefits of sauna use. Relief from menstrual cramps, allergies, wound healing, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and managing diabetes are all conditions that some users of saunas have reported.
But that’s not all
All of those above-mentioned benefits are incredible, to put it mildly. Yet there is still another potential benefit of regular sauna use: Saunas may increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH! Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is one of the hormones responsible for boosting and keeping lean muscle mass, melting fat tissue, and maintaining bone mineral density.
In our youth, our bodies are flooded with HGH. We are bursting with energy, and have no trouble staying trim and mentally sharp.
However, at the approximate age of thirty, things begin to change. Our skin drys, the aches, and pains slowly creep up, the pounds and fat begin to accumulate, and it becomes harder to fight off the fatigue that seems to reach out and grab us. These unwanted conditions are a direct result of a drop in growth hormone. Thankfully, there are steps we can take to stop and even reverse the drop in this precious hormone – and one of these steps is regular sauna use. One study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism showed a significant increase in HGH when participants spent time in heated rooms. When combined with the right fitness regimen, levels of HGH increased even more. Another study found a 16-fold increase in HGH in participants who used a sauna twice a day for 7 days!
Tips for using a sauna
- Stay hydrated! Our cells are optimized at temperatures of 100 F – 104 F and are sufficiently hydrated. Saunas cause sweating so make sure you are well-hydrated before a sauna session.
- Relax and enjoy the heat. Embrace the slight discomfort of the heat and remember that you are strengthening your immune system, weakening viruses, and getting a relaxing mood boost as well!
- Start slowly. Never overdo your sauna sessions. Gradually work up to more time and a hotter temperature. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. As with all new changes to your routine, give your body time to adapt.
- Check with your physician, especially if you are older or have a preexisting health condition that may be adversely affected by sauna use
Who should not use a sauna?
In spite of the broad range of benefits that saunas can deliver, there are some folks who may not be able to safely enjoy these benefits. Here is a list of who should either not use a sauna or check with a medical professional before starting sauna usage:
- Children under 12
- Women who are pregnant
- If you are injured
- If you are consuming excess alcohol or using drugs
- If you have surgical implants
- If you are on certain medications
- If you have certain complex medical issues
This is not a final list. If you have any uncertainty about sauna use, do not hesitate to discuss this with our doctor or another qualified health professional that is aware of your personal situation!
To get to the next level of longevity and super-health, contact us
Our hormone replacement clinics have decades of experience in all aspects of health and longevity. From nutrition, supplementation, stress-reduction, the proper fitness program designed for you, hydration, and tips on getting deep, restorative, drug-free sleep continually, we have the knowledge to get you on the path to longevity and optimal health...and keep you on that path.
And that includes hormone replacement
That’s right. We specialize in the most efficient, modern, cutting-edge hormone replacement therapies that are designed to restore your hormones to a more youthful level. Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), Sermorelin therapy, and many other hormone therapies are all offered as needed.
We will take the time to determine your current health status and your goals. Then we will develop a comprehensive, holistic regimen that is designed individually for you.
Contact us for a free, no-obligation for the benefits of hormone replacement and all other aspects of health and longevity...and that includes saunas!
Endocrine effects of repeated sauna bathing
[Medical aspects on sauna bathing]
Is sauna bathing protective of sudden cardiac death? A review of the evidence
Effects of sauna bath on heart failure: A systematic review and meta-analysis
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