Being healthy is an important way of life which is enhanced by exercising, eating right and taking care of your body. Sweating, which generally occurs with exercise, allows the skin (the largest organ of the body) to remove toxins from the body; according to a 2011 study published in the Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology4. We wrote about toxins, specifically mercury, in our previous article and would like to follow it up with this one as one possible way to help remove toxins from the body. Sweating can also occur when one uses a sauna which we will look at further.
When you think of a sauna one might conjure up an image of a beautifully lit cedar sauna complete with fancy hotel resort towels. Only the very rich could afford such a luxury usually. Some gyms now offer saunas for their patrons’ use. Often they are frequently used: either for one to dry off from a swim in the pool or as a way to get in a little more oomph to a workout. As saunas begin to get more mainstream, looking at the variations between the different types of saunas available can help one decide if using one is beneficial for one’s health. The three saunas we are going to look into are the Infrared, the Dry and the Steam or Wet Sauna.
The Infrared sauna seems to be a newer edition to the Sauna family. The Infrared's big difference is you don’t get overly hot as you would in a steam or dry sauna. The technology is such that it heats the cells from the inside out. The infrared light rays penetrate the skin and go straight to the cellular level thus heating you up from the inside. The health benefits: The existing evidence, though scanty, suggests spending up to 15 minutes a day in one could benefit your heart and ease symptoms associated with chronic pain. And, for now, there don’t seem to be any significant health risks3, but as with anything newer sometimes it may take a while for the risks to be further investigated. More studies are needed in order to make a better decision.
The Steam or Wet Sauna is just as it sounds. You are in a shower type room and the water is superheated to a steam. The steam is released into the air and you get hot that way. The quickness of the steam makes one sweat quite quickly so one won’t have to stay in a Steam sauna for very long. Minutes can sometimes feel too long. These are much harder to find and really only at high end gyms or Sauna specific facilities. The health benefits and the health risks: Although dry saunas offer many of the same benefits as wet saunas -- including opening the pores and relaxing the muscles -- only wet saunas help out your sinuses. The moist heat thins mucus, frees up the sinus passages and opens the eustachian tubes which drain fluid from your ears. If you've previously treated cold or clogged sinuses by breathing in steam, you'll likely experience similar success at the wet sauna. However, if you suffer from asthma, steer clear of a wet sauna, as an attack may be brought on by the wet saunas moist air2. To maximize health benefits and feel your best in the wet sauna, avoid eating or drinking alcohol before you steam. Pregnant women and people with blood pressure or heart-related disorders should steer clear of saunas, as the health risks for these parties greatly outweigh the potential benefits2.
The Dry Sauna is the typical sauna you would see at a spa or gym. It is also known as a “Swedish” or “Russian” Sauna. This is a heated room and it is dry. There are usually lava rocks involved which are superheated and occasionally one can pour water over these rocks and some moisture can be added to the air so it is not as dry.
The health benefits: The dry air does not harm the skin or lungs. In fact, some patients with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease, report relief from itching and asthmatics may experience less wheezing. The health risks: According to Harvard Health review a 16-month study of 1,631 heart attacks in Helsinki found that just 1.8% developed within 3 hours of taking a sauna. In another investigation of all 6,175 sudden deaths that occurred in one year, only 1.7% occurred within 24 hours of taking a sauna — and many of those were related to alcohol1. One long-term study of middle-aged Finnish men found those who spent time in a sauna 2-3 days a week enjoyed a 23% drop in their risk for a fatal heart disease or episode. The heart health benefits were even greater for men who sweated it out in a sauna more frequently3.