The Benefits of Sauna Therapy
Heat exposure can do wonders for your health. Infrared saunas are particularly good for lowering inflammation and pain while strengthening the immune system. Here is a breakdown of some of the benefits of using a sauna to improve your health and your autoimmune disease.
Saunas are hot rooms where you subject yourself to sweat basically. However, infrared saunas are different from traditional saunas. Infrared saunas contain light panels that penetrate heat directly on your skin to trigger sweating. On the other hand, traditional saunas heat up the air in the room to make you sweat. Infrared saunas are not as hot as traditional saunas, which can make them more tolerable for some people. These saunas max out at around 135F, whereas traditional saunas can get as hot as 195F.
Sauna therapy has a number of benefits to help you heal your autoimmune disease. Here’s just a few that are important to mention:
Although cardiovascular disease is not an autoimmune disease, many autoimmune diseases increase your risk of developing heart disease. Saunas can help strengthen your heart because they mimic the benefits of moderate exercise. The heat from saunas expands your blood vessels, increases blood flow to the heart and raises your heart rate. These are all things that also happen with moderate exercise. Saunas can also help lower your blood pressure too.
Sauna therapy can improve pain. One small study on participants with rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis reported less pain and joint stiffness during 4 weeks of sauna therapy. Another small study with fibromyalgia participants found that they had pain and quality of life improvements after 12 weeks of sauna and underwater exercise therapy.
Sleep quality is incredibly important for people living with autoimmune diseases. Sauna therapy can actually improve sleep. One large study asked regular sauna users about sauna habits and other health and wellness experiences. 83.5% of regular sauna users reported improved sleep after using their sauna.
Saunas might strengthen your immune system. A study from the early ’90’s divided participants into 2 groups. One group used a sauna and the other group did not. Both groups were followed for 6 months and recorded all common colds they came down with. During the last 3 months, the sauna group had about half of the reported colds as the control group.
Saunas are incredibly easy to use and integrate into your weekly routine. However, you always want to check with your doctor before using a sauna as there are some health conditions it is not appropriate for. If you are new to heat therapy, it is best to start off low and slow. Use a moderate temperature for about 5-10 minutes. Then you can slowly increase the temperature and time. Keep your sauna sessions under 30 minutes and repeat up to 4x per week.
Because you lose a lot of fluids when you sit in a sauna, be sure to rehydrate immediately afterward. You can even use electrolytes to replenish anything you might have lost. Also, make sure to rinse off immediately to prevent the reabsorption of any toxins you might have sweated out.
If you have access to a cold plunge, try alternating between the cold and hot temperatures. There is a lot of new research pointing to the benefits of doing this. Plus it can help lower inflammation!