Saunas have become one of the most common ways for people to relax. As of late, there seems to be a push to quantify and determine what, if any, healing qualities saunas truly offer. While we are still only seeing limited research on this topic, there are many conclusions we can draw from what we already know about the body.
Saunas can be beneficial to treating some forms of infections, viruses, funguses, and other microorganisms. The main source of health benefits are from the body’s response to the heat of the sauna itself. The body’s immune response is heightened by extreme heat and can be a powerful treatment.
Before we dive deeper into this topic, let’s get some details out of the way up front. We’ll be talking mostly about how the sauna can help treat infections, parasites, and viruses in the body. We’ll take a quick detour and touch on mold growth in the sauna itself, but mostly we’ll be exploring how your body benefits from sauna use. Ready to find out? Read on!
Sauna Temperatures and Germs, Mold, & Fungus
Ask any sauna owner, and they’ll have many tales about musky saunas. It’s no surprise that saunas can be a breeding ground for mold, germs, and fungus. But actually, most of this growth happens while your sauna is not being used. That’s why properly cleaning your sauna after every use is essential to managing these issues (by the way, we have a guide on this).
Here are a few things you should do to keep your sauna clean:
- Wipe down surfaces after each use
- Use a sauna cleaner every week
- Scrub any dirt or particulate off the floor and other surfaces regularly
Combining moisture and warmth is a recipe for mold. So during your sauna sessions, it might seem to get toasty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the space is hot enough to battle stubborn molds and germs.
Some strains of bacteria can survive in temperatures up to 256°F. For this reason, you’ll need an effective cleaning plan to battle mold and bacteria growth. The sauna heat isn’t high enough to kill all of it. Life has evolved on earth to match the environment. Think about it: we thrive in warm climates where there is plenty of access to water.
In fact, most organisms on this planet prefer to live like that. So if you create an environment where both are available, you can bet that you’ll get some nasty contaminants making the most of your free space. Additionally, there are millions, if not billions of microscopic organisms floating in the air waiting for the optimal time to reproduce.
A wet and unclean sauna is the perfect environment for these creatures. Another perfect environment for microorganisms is our own body. It’s true! While your sauna might be the perfect environment for bacteria if left to thrive, how can sauna use affect possible contaminants in your own body?
Can the Sauna Affect Parasites and Infections on the Body?
Sauna use is one of the oldest forms of heat therapy across the globe. Many cultures hold sauna use in very high regard, and the tradition has existed for upward of three thousand years. While ancient culture may have only had anecdotal evidence to support the health benefits of sauna use, our modern approach to scientific discovery has opened up some doors into how exactly saunas can benefit our health.
Some report that sauna use can do a number of things for you, including detoxifying the body and removing toxic chemicals; stopping harmful microorganism growth; bolstering the immune system, and destroying cancerous cells.
These are just a few of the reported sauna use benefits. Keep in mind that, in most cases, the type of sauna doesn’t really matter. There is one difference, and that’s between dry and wet sauna types, for instance, steam rooms like these sets (on Amazon). Even here, the difference is only menial. Wet saunas, the ones with steam, tend to be better for respiratory issues as the steam can help open air passages.
At the end of the day, the thing that is causing these benefits is the heat. You are jump-starting your immune system when you expose yourself to elongated sessions of above-average heat, as long as you don’t dehydrate yourself. Much like when our body goes into a fever, our immune system responds to heat and becomes more proactive in fighting the problem.
Most of the health benefits of sauna use can be traced back to this response. Let’s take a jump into some specific benefits of sauna use by focusing on how sauna use can affect infections, cancer, and other ailments.
What Effect Does Infrared Radiation Have on Parasites, Pathogens, and Viruses
The use of infrared saunas contributes to your overall health by exposing your body to infrared radiation (IR). Put quite simply, IR is heat. Any person or object that has a temperature is giving off IR. Saunas utilize a heat source to increase the body’s exposure to IR. This can come from an IR unit, a fire, hot stones, or steam; it doesn’t really matter the source.
Exposure to IR is quite natural. It’s the same energy that comes from the sun. What it does to the body is warm you up, which can trigger an immune response that kickstarts your body’s natural defense system. And immune responses can be powerful.
When it comes to how sauna use affects parasites, pathogens, and viruses: in general a sauna pushes your immune system to be more effective in fighting these things off. Additionally, parasites and other nasty organisms calling your body home may be weakened by increased temperature.
While some microorganisms are hearty, most of the ones that would call us home are not ready for anything over 98°F (natural body temperature). Sauna use can also be used as a preventive measure. Nasty pathogens and viruses may never have a chance to reproduce and pose an infection risk if they are subject to multiple sweaty sauna sessions.
Does Sauna Use Help with Candida?
Candida is a common yeast that is the most prolific source of fungal infections across the world. The yeast can show up all over the body, from outside on the skin to inner infections of the throat and everything in between. It can pose a significant risk to us overall. So, what can a sauna do to keep Candida, and resulting Candidiasis, at bay?
In many ways, sauna use can be beneficial for fighting Candida infections. Not only does the body benefit from the immune response, but the detoxification qualities of a sauna help the body get rid of some of the toxins and heavy metals associated with the worst of the symptoms. This includes 1) uric aid, 2) acetaldehyde, and 3) mercury, and other heavy metals.
Do Saunas Help With Inflammation?
Inflammation is an incredibly common symptom for plenty of ailments, from infections to a bruised knee.
For many people looking for relief, a balmy sauna session seems like the perfect treatment for inflammation. Whether you have internal or external inflammation, you could definitely benefit from the heat therapy properties of a sauna.
If your ailment is external, the heat could help ease away the stress of the inflamed area. If you have internal inflammation, the white blood cell response from heat exposure could provide additional benefits. Always consult your physician before attempting any at-home treatment, but using a sauna could very well be a great way to reduce inflammation.
Do Saunas Help with Mold?
Mold toxicity is one of the easiest medical illnesses to misdiagnose. The symptoms can seem like several other far more common ailments, and this leads to plenty of people struggling to find relief. Mold toxicity can cause a few ailments including joint aches, skin irritation, respiratory issues, mood swings, headaches, and much more.
Once your doctor diagnoses mold toxicity, you need a two-pronged approach. The first is finding the source of the mold. Next, is to detox the body of the toxins produced by the mold spores. A sauna could be a crucial element of your recovery, as it is the perfect tool to detox harmful compounds in your body.
While you sit in a sauna, your body will start to sweat. When you sweat, your skin performs a similar function to your kidneys. If your kidneys filter toxins through urine, think of sweat as your skin’s response to toxin disposal.
Getting into a sauna jump-starts this process and produces tons of sweat. That sweat is what helps the body dispel those nasty mycotoxins that are causing the ailment. The skin is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for a fair portion of all the toxin excretion in your body.
How Can Saunas Help With Chronic Conditions?
Plenty of people across the globe suffer from all sorts of chronic conditions. It could be a respiratory issue like asthma or internal pain from arthritis. In many situations, your body can benefit from the heat therapy qualities of saunas.
Much like the other conditions on this list, the body’s immune response is to thank for the helpful qualities here. Helping keep your body’s immune system in fighting shape can help keep chronic conditions at bay. Since a lack of an, or a weaker, immune response can be responsible for some illnesses, heightening your immune response through sauna use can be beneficial.
Can Saunas Help Treat or Prevent Cancer?
The source of this claim comes from the body’s healthy response to cancerous cells. Many people don’t understand that cancer cell growth is a natural part of cellular reproduction. It’s part of your immune system’s job to manage the cancerous cells and eliminate them before they become malignant.
Research has proven that an immune response occurs when you get sweaty in your sauna. In the same way, sauna use can help your body fight other conditions, sauna use would be beneficial to help boost the body’s response to cancer cells.
In healthy immune systems, this is no problem. But sometimes, either through bad luck, environmental impacts or certain lifestyles, some people lose the ability to battle cancerous growth before it becomes problematic. So how does sauna use play into this very serious condition?
Some even argue that the cancerous cells themselves, which are genetically damaged or abnormal already, are intolerant to the heat of a sauna. The theory is that this further improves the healing qualities of sauna use by weakening the cells. This gives your heightened immune system a higher chance of managing this disease.
By now, you should have a good understanding of where we stand on what benefits you can expect from your sauna. In summary, the only benefits you’re getting in this area are from heat exposure. While your sauna is a great resource for this, it isn’t of course the only option.
There is no denying the comfortable and relaxing environment of a good sauna session, regardless of the type. If it happens to be something you enjoy, talk to your doctor to see if it can also be part of your treatment plan.