October 18, 2018

Sauna's for Health? Part 2

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

In the last article we examined many benefits of using a hot sauna for cardiovascular health, improving exercise stamina, pain relief and longevity. The most researched effect is detoxification of heavy metals, urea and environmental chemicals.

But, saunas do more than detoxify, they also have a huge effect on cellular mitochondria. These are the power plants found in every cell. They make ATP (energy) for the cells to do their jobs. ATP is necessary for every muscle contraction and relaxation, every biochemical process, all cellular regeneration and much more. They act as coordinators for programmed cell death, helping rid your body of damaged cells that can, at worst, turn to cancer.

Mitochondria are very susceptible to damage from free radicals, toxins and heavy metals.  They require consistent regeneration. Sauna use places stress on the body in short bursts, very much like exercise, which boosts mitochondrial genesis.

When you elevate core temperature it optimizes heat shock proteins (HSP) which protect against cellular damage that could lead to plaque formation in your brain and vascular systems. HSP are involved in longevity and preventing muscle atrophy.

Sauna use improves brain function by lowering inflammation and blood pressure. It stimulates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and increases BDNF(brain derived neurotrophic factor), which helps to relax you.

Research has shown that a dry heat sauna used seven times per week can cut your risk of fatal heart problems in half, compared to using it just once per week.

There are 3 basic types of saunas: A wet Finnish sauna, where steam is created by pouring water over hot rocks, wood or electric griddles, second, a dry Finnish sauna that does not use water, obviously. And third, are infrared saunas.

The difference between infrared and traditional Finnish saunas is that the latter heats you from the outside in, like an oven. The infrared sauna heats you from the inside out.

There are 3 types of infrared saunas available today: near infrared, far infrared, and full spectrum infrared. All are dry saunas.

Near infrared saunas must heat an object to 2150 degrees Fahrenheit to get the band of light in that spectrum. Sitting in front of that is very hot and uncomfortable. This wave length penetrates just below the skin, but is difficult to withstand a lot of it for any length of time.

Far infrared saunas were discovered to skip a step by heating the body directly; instead of the air and water in between. Far infrared is a longer wavelength which penetrates deeper, where fat cells store toxins needing excretion.

Full spectrum infrared encompasses both near, far and mid-range infrared light. Mid-range infrared, which penetrates soft tissue, adds increased circulation and oxygenation to the other effects of near and far infrared.

Therefore, full spectrum infrared therapy is likely the best for you and encompasses all the benefits of near, mid and far infrared.

How this heat is generated does seem to matter. Cheap infrared saunas use mostly ceramic heaters, which produce short wavelengths, with lesser absorption, and higher heat. Carbon heat generates long wavelengths, but alone are too cool for good absorption. A combination of the two is likely the best way to generate good IR for health benefits.

Do your own research if you are interested in a home IR sauna. It could be a good way to boost your health and relaxation.