SAUNA HEAT THERAPY, ANTI AGEING HACK #1.
Did you know that you can hack ageing? Anti-ageing hacks are ways to prevent, slow down and maybe even reverse (according to Dr David Sinclair) the deterioration that happens as we age. To be honest, I have chosen Sauna heat therapy, anti-ageing hack #1, on my list, as it’s one of my favourite and most pleasurable anti-ageing hacks! In this blog we will quickly cover the types of saunas you can use and dig deeper into all the benefits of sauna heat therapy. Jokes apart, this has become a hot topic in the longevity and anti-ageing community! Let see why?
TYPES OF SAUNA.
A sauna is typically a room heated to between 70° to 100° Celsius or 158° to 212° Fahrenheit.
Traditional Finnish saunas usually use dry heat, with a relative humidity that is often between 10 and 20 per cent. In other sauna types, the moisture is higher. Turkish-style saunas, for example, involve a greater level of humidity.
There are several types of sauna, Traditional and infrared, based on how the room is heated.
Traditional vs Infrared
Traditional ones use hot rocks or heating elements to warm the air between 150 and 200º F, which then warms your skin. On the other hand, the infrared ones use non-visible light and directly heat the user. Infrared ones cause more sweating because of their deeper penetration (generally 2-6 inches through the layers of skin). So they are, apparently, better for detox. Instead of dry heat, a steam room involves high humidity (almost 100%) and moist heat. Those are my favourite ones!
The ones I normally use (not at the moment, of course, due to covid restrictions) are traditional saunas with heated elements and steam rooms (or Turkish bath). Whenever possible I would use them daily after my weights workout, for 15 to 20 mins, and keep alternating between the sauna and steam room. I have to admit that my detox and heavy sweating starts after 10 minutes, but we are all different so check it out for yourself.
On the other hand, an infrared sauna heats your body much the same way as the sun does. This makes it vastly different to more traditional saunas where the air is heated to a high temperature and the air, in turn, heats your body.
There are two types of infrared saunas: Far infrared and near infrared saunas. The question is, what is the difference? It mainly has to do with the light spectrum.
- Near infrared
About half of the sun’s energy is released in the near-infrared spectrum. Our bodies use this energy to make vitamin D in order to be healthy. Near-infrared saunas are great for the skin, give relief from pain, raise the core temperature of your body and help to improve your body’s circulation.
- Far infrared
Far infrared works just like near-infrared except that it works on a different wavelength. Besides the benefits of near-infrared, far-infrared also helps relieve stress, boosts your immune system, helps with weight loss, increases your metabolism, and detoxifies your body. Now is the right moment to talk more about the benefits of sauna heat therapy…
SAUNA HEAT THERAPY BENEFITS
Inflammation and pain relief
Sauna heat exposure starts with the activation of a protein called heat shock protein or HSP’s. Several heat shock proteins function as intra-cellular chaperones for other proteins and have different functions in the body. They play an important role in protein-protein interactions such as folding and assisting in the establishment of proper protein conformation (shape) and prevention of unwanted protein aggregation. That’s not all.
HSPs help to clean up all the damaged, deformed and misfolded proteins. Our ability to perform this cleanup declines with age so preventing proteins from clumping or remaining misformed is of the utmost importance.
This is particularly important for the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s (accumulation of beta amyloid protein) Parkinson’s, Dementia, Huntington’s and cardiovascular disease.
Interestingly enough, higher amounts of HSP’s have been found in people that live to 100 and more, regardless of heat exposure. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that having more HSP’s increases your lifespan.
Heat exposure increases by 300 percent the production of norepinephrine, another anti inflammatory by product. Some patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis who undergo frequent sauna sessions have had a significant reduction in pain. So it seems logical to assume that sauna use is reducing their pain via the production of norepinephrine.
Along with norepinephrine, the body releases other anti-inflammatory hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and IGF-1, all of which help in relieving pain.
Many benefits are immediate and probably due to tissues made of collagen, like tendons and fascia, becoming more flexible when exposed to increased temperatures, but some of these benefits can last for months.
Sauna therapy has been effective at lessening the pain experienced in some fibromyalgia and at managing some cases of rheumatoid arthritis.
This intense heat can also cause the release of endorphins, opioid-like chemicals which act as a natural painkiller.
Sauna heat therapy can improve brain function
As we have seen above, one of the body’s responses to heat exposure is the production of HSPs. Beyond the anti-inflammatory and longevity properties, HSP protects the brain in times of crisis, such as traumatic brain injury or during a stroke.
Sauna heat therapy has also been shown to increase the levels of BDNF brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF is a powerful regulator of brain development, memory, learning abilities and neuroplasticity. So all this time spent in the sauna is also very valuable for helping the brain to develop new neural tissue and preserve the integrity of the existing brain cells.
This can become a powerful strategy when it comes to preventing the brain from ageing and the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Going back to the norepinephrine we see additional benefits beyond just inflammation reduction. This hormone acts to help the brain promote attention and focus.
Improves cardiovascular performance
Researchers have found that frequent sauna baths were associated with a reduced risk of fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD) events (such as heart attack and stroke) and all-cause mortality. The heat from the sauna relaxes the body’s muscles, improves circulation and stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s all-natural “feel good” chemical. Their release provides a truly wonderful “after sauna glow.”
Beyond that, this excess heat also increases plasma volume which improves blood flow and reduces the strain on the heart. The fact that the heart doesn’t have to work as hard is another factor that lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Studies have also shown that this effect improves your endurance. Whether you are a seasoned athlete or a beginner this higher blood volume helps with an effective supply of nutrients and oxygen. Finally, this increased blood flow also makes your muscles more efficient at removing metabolic waste, such as lactic acid, which in turn increases your muscle endurance. Pretty amazing don’t you think?
Sweat it all out with sauna heat therapy
If you have tried the sauna before, you know how much it can make you sweat! As the heat from the blood begins to move toward the skin’s surface the body’s nervous system sends signals to millions of sweat glands. Once stimulated they start to produce sweat which is 99% per cent water. This profuse sweating that you experience in a sauna not only regulates your body temperature but also gets rid of toxins that have accumulated in your body.
What’s more, toxins like lead, copper, zinc, nickel and mercury are absorbed during our day to day interaction with the environment we live in. Our liver is the main detoxifying organ and under normal conditions does a fine job at getting rid of the toxins that we store in our body. However, when these toxins cannot be removed by the liver they are stored in our fat cells and other organ tissues.
Sweating releases toxins that have accumulated in fatty tissue, including sodium and lactic acid. These fat-soluble toxins and chemicals are released from the body through perspiration, effectively cleansing the body.
Increase muscle mass
Sauna heat therapy also promotes muscle growth. This massive release of HSP has been shown to repair damaged protein that otherwise would be destroyed by the body. IGF-1 is a hormone that promotes muscle growth, and its production also increases with heat exposure.
Sauna bathing improves the body’s blood flow to muscles. More blood equals more glucose, essential fatty acids and oxygen. This results in less glycogen depletion during your workouts.
Increases longevity and happiness
Finally, onto my most favourite benefit… Yes, sauna heat therapy is known to increase longevity and happiness.
We spoke about the production of HSPs by the body whilst sauna bathing and we have also discussed the benefits. This HSP protein has been found in higher amounts in people that live to 100 and more, regardless of heat exposure, so it should be no surprise that having more HSPs increases your lifespan.
Sauna bathing helps you to live longer and happier.
Saunas are warm, quiet places and removed from the rest of the world. This heat relaxes your muscles, improves circulation, releases endorphins and keeps you away from all distractions of everyday life. This is the perfect combination for relieving stress.
In some cases, Sauna heat therapy has helped people that struggle with depression. Because of the hormetic stress that heat causes to the body, your brain produces and releases more euphoric hormones to cope with it. Since studies show that all these changes are semi-permanent, it is safe to say that regular sauna use could end up making you a happier person. Well, I think it’s worth a try!
Sauna use increases the hormone BDNF(brain-derived neurotrophic factor). Studies have also shown that a rise in BDNF is an effective way to combat anxiety and depression.
As mitochondria are the energy generators in our cells, they are a very important part of our levels of energy production throughout the day. If they are not able to function properly, your body’s ability to generate energy is impaired.
Well, guess what! Sauna use also helps biogenesis. This mitochondrial biogenesis process gets rid of the old and creates the new, therefore being a huge contributing factor in making you feel energized all day long.
Once more we have to refer back to the hormone norepinephrine, as it also acts as a mood modulator by promoting happiness. For this reason, regular sauna use could be a helpful tool for those who suffer from occasional anxiety or depression. Although it may not be enough to replace traditional therapies, certainly adding some sauna use should lend a helping hand in regulating your mood.
THIS IS WHY I LOVE SAUNA HEAT THERAPY
Bear in mind that due to the strict covid restrictions we had in place, many gyms and saunas have been closed to the public this winter. So, I haven’t been able to enter a Sauna in 6 months. But once they reopen, I’ll be there ready with my swimming trunks, flip flops and towel, for my weekly 20-minute sweating session. Needless to say, I am eager to get sweating again!
Nevertheless, it is clear to me that sauna use has so many anti-ageing benefits from pure well being, to improving muscle growth, blood circulation, toxin elimination, reducing inflammation and much more. The way things are going I may have to wait until next winter.
To be honest, here in Mallorca from May onwards, I will get my heat directly from the sun, along with tons of vitamin D… so truth be told, I don’t mind the wait.
That’s why heat exposure is one of my best anti ageing hacks and I intend on incorporating this practice at least once a week for many years to come.
Until next week, take care my friends.
Smart Living To 100