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Posted by in Be Well, Live Well, Living Seasonally

The Health Benefits of Saunas and What You Might Be Doing Wrong

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People have used saunas and sweat lodges for thousands of years all around the world.

Today saunas and steam rooms are still popular places to relax and revitalize, seen by many as an opportunity to rid the body of toxins by sweating them out.

But this is only part of the picture.

The deeper health benefits of saunas lie in surface stimulation.

Surface stimulation actually boosts your immunity, making the effects of saunas a bit more long-reaching.

The idea is to enhance the opening and closing of the pores so that your immune system can practice its defenses, but unfortunately most people who visit saunas neglect some the key steps to make this happen in the process.

 

Want to know how to do it right?

When you sit in the sauna, brush, lightly scratch, or tap your skin on your arms, legs, belly, and back.

This will to stimulate your pores and boost your circulation.

Pretty soon you’ll start sweating and your body will cool slightly.

When you start sweating it means your pores are open and the blood is at the surface, which is a great mechanism for toxins to leave your body.

You can stay in the sauna as long as you feel comfortable after you start sweating.

 

But then comes the important part:

Immediately after you leave the sauna you have to immerse yourself in cold water!

 

This will close your pores back up to reinforce your natural defenses.

 

I know, it sounds totally crazy.

Think of it as boot-camp for your immune-system.

 

This ritual is especially important in the fall and winter months when cold winds can more easily attack your body and throw it off-balance, making you more susceptible to becoming sick.

 

It may not sound pleasant, but after a few times you’ll get used to it and you’ll feel great afterward, I promise!

 

The mechanics behind it:

When you’re in the sauna all your blood rushes to the surface. When you immerse yourself in cold water after sweating in the sauna, you guide the blood back into the core of your body.

This means that you will actually lose less heat, stay warmer longer, and keep your vital organs happy and functioning at the same time.

You can then relax outside of the sauna for about the same amount of time you were in sauna as your body prepares itself for another round.

Feel free to enjoy a warm foot-bath or wear cozy socks while you lounge to keep your feet warm. Three rounds are typical for the sauna ritual, but you can increase or reduce this as you like.

 

How to mimic a sauna at home:

When time and money are limited you can still train your body’s defenses at home.

To do this, take a very hot shower or bath and brush your skin to stimulate the blood to the surface and induce sweating. Then immerse yourself in very cold water to bring the blood back to the core. If you still feel cold you can finish with a quick warm rinse and still gain the sauna benefits.

Another alternative is to try the wet sock treatment, (and yes, despite its name, it feels really good too!)

 

Contraindications:

If you ever feel light-headed, dizzy, or have heart palpitations, please leave the sauna immediately!

People who are frail, prone to dizziness, pregnant, have hypertension or low blood pressure should avoid using the sauna. Growing children would also benefit from avoiding high temperatures.

If you are feeling sick it would be best for you to stay home, rest, and use other natural techniques to kick your immune system into action (click here for some ideas).

Lastly, according to Chinese medicine sweat is associated with blood. Using this logic it would be best to avoid inducing a sweat during menstruation, as you are already losing a lot of blood during that week.

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1 Comment

  1. There is some confusion in the article, slight conflicts
    1. Katerina suggests, “saunas should not be used more than once a week…because sweat is related to the Heart in Chinese medicine” Most medical experts and naturopaths I talked disagreed with that suggestion. Of course their answer differs, many said 2-3 times, 3-4 times, and 5-7 times a week, however most agreed it shouldn’t be over 15 minutes each session if you’re taking more than once in a week. I personally go to infrared sauna 4 times a week, and it’s refreshing experience. (My session usually is 10 minutes (5 minutes cool down) 8 minutes (cooldown) and 5 minutes.) If you’re able, no health issues, and well hydrated (yesterday I used coconut water in sauna great for electrolytes and hydration) it’s okay if you’re going to sauna as many times you feel comfortable. Dr. Larry Wilson says, “One may use a sauna twice a week to twice a day!”
    2. The suggestion “When you leave the sauna it is absolutely necessary to immerse yourself in cold water…” is also depends. It is not a good idea to suddenly immerse in cold water as the body is heated in the high temperature of the sauna. Sudden temperature change is not good for the body, as you can see many health professionals suggests gradual cooling down, a warm shower then slowly a cold one is ideal.

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