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Sunday, September 20, 2009

How to use a sauna to improve health

Two months ago, during the depths of the New Zealand winter, our family needed to prepare for an active holiday of cycling, running, walking and swimming our way around the tiny tropical nation of Vanuatu. The big challenge was to survive going from winter to 30 degree heat and 90% humidity. Our solution was to spend time in a sauna two to three times a week during the month or so leading up to our departure.

Photo: Alofa enjoying a mid-winter dip in Vanuatu

Progress prior to departure was significant: My sauna tolerance increased from just 15 minutes to over an hour without having to go out for a cold shower.

The benefits of a regular sauna go well beyond preparing for a mid winter tropical holiday:

Benefits from regular use of a sauna

  • Helps remove all toxic metals safely and rapidly from the body.
  • Helps remove thousands of toxic chemicals from the body in a gentle and safe manner.
  • Helps improve infections, both chronic and acute, by heating the body one or two degrees to improve immune system activity.
  • Helps remove debris and congestion in and on the skin to regenerate the skin as the major eliminative organ of the body.
  • Shunts the blood to the body surface to reduce heat. This helps decongest the internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, spleen and pancreas for improved organ function.
  • Moves blood throughout the body for improved circulation and oxygenation of the body.
  • Moves the lymph throughout the body for improved lymphatic drainage.
  • Beneficial for many serious conditions including heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, infections and much more.

Benefits there may be; but these depend on proper use of the sauna. Here is the procedure I recommend:

How to use the Sauna
If you have a medical condition, like diabetes or heart disease, please take extra care, avoiding extremes while the body acclimatises to the heat and cold cycles. Have company with you at all times.
  • Begin with a warm shower, using soap to clean the skin and scalp then enter the sauna with wet skin and hair.
  • Remain in the sauna until sweating freely with the capillaries and sweat glands fully dilated. How long this takes depends on how hot the sauna is.
  • Take the coldest shower you can get out of the tap. Cool the entire body as quickly as possible so that the capillaries and pores of the skin clamp tight.
  • Return to the sauna and remain there until again sweating profusely.
  • Repeat the cold shower and then repeat the sauna for maybe a few more cycles (Be conservative for the first few times while you acclimatise).
  • Start the final shower with a warm one, soaping the body thoroughly to clean the skin pores while they are open, and then finish with a cold shower to clamp the pores tight for the last time.
Drink plenty of cold water during and after the sauna. If you weigh yourself before and after, you will know how much you need to drink to ensure you are hydrated (1kg body weight loss is one litre of water to drink over the next few hours).

By about three weeks of regular use, your heat tolerance will be much better than before and you may notice subtle improvements to health such as better sleep, calmer nerves and smoother skin. Fingers and toes may be warmer than usual despite the cold winter weather (This winter has been the first in a long time that I have not suffered chill blains).


Wayne said...

anyone with aknown heart condition should not use cold showers, hte sudden shock to the system, release of adrenaline and raising of the heart rate that results can, cause problems throwing the heart beat out of synch or even worse , cauase a heart attack.

JaRiMi said... a finnish person (sauna is from Finland), I am pleased you enjoy sauna - but the instructions you wrote miss out completely the main point of a sauna: It is *NOT* just a hot room where one sweats eventually, but there should be a stove in some corner with rocks in it, and the intention is to throw water on these rocks in order to create steam. It is the combination of the hot steam and warm air that relax the body and made one sweat, cleansing the pores of the skin and making it easy to breathe in the sauna. Then one can hop into a cool shower or a cold lake to refreshen in between the sauna sessions. All in all very enjoyable and relaxing! Too many people seem to think sauna is just a hot room - without the stove & throwing of water, it's like having a Japanese onsen bath - without water... :-)

Gary Moller said...

Thanks for the clarification JaRiMi. Would you believe it that some saunas in NZ forbid throwing water on the hot rocks!