Heat stress might be even highly beneficial for human health
Sauna bathing is a form of whole-body thermotherapy that has been used in various forms e.g sweat lodges, etc.) for thousands of years in many parts of the world for hygiene, health, social, and spiritual purposes.
We now have substantial evidence to suggest that sauna therapy can provide positive physiological benefit. One paper explains the mechanisms involved in the well documented cardiovascular effects:
Intense short-term heat exposure elevates skin temperature and core body temperature and activates thermoregulatory pathways via the hypothalamus nd CNS (central nervous system) leading to activation of the autonomic nervous system. The activation of the sympathetic nervous system, hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal hormonal axis, and the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.
On a cellular level sauna therapy induces discrete metabolic changes that include:
- Production of heat shock proteins
- Reduction of reactive oxygenated species
- Reduced oxidative stress and inflammation pathway activities
- Increased NO (nitric oxide) bioavailability
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Alterations in various endothelial-dependent vasodilatation metabolic pathways
It has also been suggested that heat stress induces adaptive hormesis mechanisms similar to exercise, and there are reports of cellular effects induced by whole-body hyperthermia in conjunction with oncology-related interventions (i.e., chemotherapy and radiotherapy).
One study found a 66% risk reduction of dementia, a 65% risk reduction of Alzheimer’s disease, a 63% risk reduction of sudden cardiac death, and a 40%risk reduction of all-cause mortality.
Overall health benefits can be seen in the following bodily systems and conditions:
- Cardiovascular: A cohort study in 2018 concluded “Higher frequency and duration of sauna bathing are each strongly, inversely, and independently associated with fatal CVD events in middle-aged to elderly males and females. The frequency of sauna bathing improves the prediction of the long-term risk for CVD mortality.”
- Rheumatological and immune-mediated diseases such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndome
- Detox support
- Environmentally-induced illness such as ‘sick-building syndrome’/mycotoxins.
- Neurodegenerative: Central in the pathophysiology of these neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) is the loss of protein homeostasis, resulting in misfolding and aggregation of damaged proteins. An element of the protein homeostasis network that prevents the dysregulation associated with neurodegeneration is the role of molecular chaperones. Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are chaperones that regulate the aggregation and disaggregation of proteins in intracellular and extracellular spaces, and evidence supports their protective effect against protein aggregation common to neurodegenerative diseases.
This long-term follow-up study shows that middle-aged to elderly men and women who take frequent sauna baths have a substantially reduced risk of new-onset stroke
Regular dry sauna bathing has potential health benefits. More data of higher quality is needed on the frequency and extent of adverse side effects. Further study is also needed to determine the optimal frequency and duration of distinct types of sauna bathing for targeted health effects and the specific clinical populations who are most likely to benefit.
If you don’t have access to a sauna, such as at your local gym, then I recommend Get-Fitt: https://www.get-fitt.com.
Get-Fitt rent and sell high-quality, low EMF, far infrared sauna products ranging from car seats to cocoons you lie in. Many of my clients use these with great success and positive feedback.
Hunt AP, Minett GM, Gibson OR, Kerr GK and Stewart IB (2020) Could Heat Therapy Be an Effective Treatment for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases? A Narrative Review. Front. Physiol. 10:1556.
Hussain et al (2018) Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review, Hindawi Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2018, Article ID 1857413
Crinnion (2011) Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant- induced and other chronic health problem, Altern Med Rev. 2011 Sep;16(3):215-25.
Heinonen I & Laukkanen JA Effects of heat and cold on health, with special reference to Finnish sauna bathing, Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2018 May 1;314(5)
Kunutsor et al, Sauna bathing reduces the risk of stroke in Finnish men and women: A prospective cohort study, Neurology. 2018 May 29;90(22):e1937-e1944
Hope, A review of the mechanism of injury and treatment approaches for illness resulting from exposure to water-damaged buildings, mold, and mycotoxins, ScientificWorldJournal. 2013 Apr 18;2013:767482.