How Saunas Turn You Into Batman
My kids like superhero movies. Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Spiderman. All of em. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every superhero movie ever made at this point and they all have one thing in common, those people survive the most ridiculous stuff. There’s always a scene where something insane happens, like an asteroid falls on their head, and they get up and walk away unscathed and I’m like “oh come on!!”. But my kids? They love it. I think there’s something deep inside all of us that wants that for our lives. We all want to believe we can survive anything, live forever, no matter what. We want to be Batman bulletproof.
Part of the reason why kids and teenagers do stupid things (like jumping off a roof into a pool or speeding at 100 mph) is because they haven’t realized yet that they’re mortal. By the time we reach adulthood however, most of us have figured out we are. We’ve seen people we love die of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and more. But deep down inside, we still hope we can be like Batman, and go through life unscathed. I’m constantly searching for ways to make myself and my family healthier, and more “bulletproof” as we go through life and I want to tell you today about one of my secret weapons in this fight: SAUNAS.
Did you know saunas can reduce all cause mortality by 40%? All cause mortality means just that, ALL CAUSE, as in ALL THE THINGS people! Apparently, regular sauna use can make you pretty much bulletproof. You may have heard this or a similar flashy media headline before but as usual, media headlines miss many important details. So I urge you to read on and share this article to make sure you and yours are using the sauna correctly to access their full bulletproof benefits. If you’re like nah, I just like to get slightly hot sometimes, and I want no physiological or biological benefits I guess that’s cool…”do you” my friend.
First let’s address any sauna nay sayers out there that believe saunas to be dangerous. A literature review of health effects and risks of sauna use showed no ill effects, even in children and even in those on medication. (A phrase that can be said for pretty much nothing else ever).
The only caveat the authors noted as a potential issue was for those on anti hypertension medications. These drugs can make your blood pressure all screwy to begin with and regular sauna use has been shown to normalize high blood pressure. So it stands to reason that previous high blood pressure, being artificially manipulated by meds, plus naturally lowered via sauna use could potentially pose a problem if not properly monitored.
Of course use common sense and don’t go sit in a 140 degree sauna for six hours and not drink any water (I want to say “but whyyyyyy would anyone do that in the first place?” but you’d be surprised. So there you have it). However, safe sauna use is just that, safe. A link to the full literature review on safety is here for those of you who enjoy reading long studies with lots of words and numbers: Health effects and risks of sauna bathing,Kukkonen-Harjula K, Kauppinen K.
A 2018 study published in the prestigious journal of Neurology entitled “Regular sauna use shown to decrease risk of first-time stroke” showed a 40% reduction in first time stroke in regular sauna users (“regular” being 4-5 times per week). Seeing as how stroke is the second leading cause of death in those over 60, this is a crucial finding!
The study found only a modest reduction in intermediate sauna users (2-3 times per week) and there was no statistically significant reduction in stroke risk in those that used the sauna a mere once a week. It’s important to note that frequency really matters here! (See?! I told you details matter!). That’s why I recommend purchasing a home sauna so you can use it regularly at your convenience. At the end of this post I’ll include some links to the best saunas on the market for you to check out for yourself.
In addition to lowering stroke risk, saunas have also been shown to improve overall cardiac function using a variety of metrics. This meta analysis “Effects of sauna bath on heart failure: A systematic review and meta-analysis” concluded infrared sauna use was associated with short-term improvement in overall cardiac function. Improved cardiac function translates into a myriad of health benefits too long to list here but trust me when I say it’s a good thing, you want your heart to work well.
ACUTE AND CHRONIC DISEASE CONDITIONS
Saunas raise your body temp and get your blood pumping, so it’s fairly intuitive that they can help with cardiac function as mentioned above, but you might be surprised to hear sauna use can also help with both acute AND chronic diseases as well.
This study, “Longitudinal associations of sauna bathing with inflammation and oxidative stress: the KIHD prospective cohort study” Kunutsor et al,shows one of the mechanisms of action for how frequent sauna use can lower ones risk of acute and chronic diseases to be inflammation. Inflammation is often said to be at the root of every single disease process in the body so it comes as no surprise that lowering inflammation can lower the risk of disease.
In this robust study a whopping 2,269 men were followed for 11 years. Those that frequently use a sauna (frequent here meaning 4-6 times per week) had lower hs-CRP, fibrinogen and leucocyte count (these are all markers of inflammation in the body). And remember – lower inflammation means lower risk of acute disease AND chronic disease, aka all the diseases (remember I told you it helps with “all the things”? I bet you’re starting to see that now!).
This next study, Post-sauna recovery enhances brain neural network relaxation and improves cognitive economy, had young men go in a sauna for 90 minutes then measured brain output on EEG and ERG while performing “odd ball tasks”. The conclusion was: Post-sauna recovery to normothermia led to enhanced resting neural network relaxation followed by increases in cognitive processing economy for the given oddball tasks. So the next time you’re sitting in a sauna you can smile to yourself thinking about how smart you’re going to be when you get out. Win.
I love the title of this next study. It’s adorable to me for some reason. “Interleukin (IL)-6: A good kid hanging out with bad friends (and why sauna use is good for health)” by Raison et al (cute right?) showed that sauna use was able to alleviate depression. How cool is that?! They found that sauna use has the ability to increase IL-6 without activating TNF-alpha or IL-1-beta. I know this sounds complicated but stick with me. IL-6 is an inflammatory molecule that is bad news when present with OTHER inflammatory molecules like TNF or IL-1-beta, but IL-6 is good news when it shows up alone. Sauna use helps it to show up alone and the effects of that were alleviated depression in study subjects!
Ok so maybe you’re heart works fine, you’re not depressed, and you’re thinking you don’t need a sauna. Keep reading. Unlike some of the other sauna benefits listed above, detoxification can benefit EVERYONE. Why? Our bodies are experiencing an all time high toxic body burden beyond what our kidneys, liver, skin and lymph are capable of handling on their own. There are modern factories pumping chemicals into our air every single day, there’s nuclear plant leakage to contend with, many people have mercury amalgams causing high levels of mercury, or they have high levels of aluminum and more from vaccines, plastic water bottles cause endocrine disruption, there are chemicals in the water, and more. I could go on and on but you get the idea. The amount of toxins we are asking our bodies to handle today is more than they are able to handle, and the result of this is a variety of diseases. (By the way if you want to learn even more about toxins and how to avoid them, check out my free email detox challenge. Sign up here to receive an email from me every day for 5 days with explicit instructions on how to start to detox your work and home environment!
The bottom line is this, we are bombarded with toxins and our bodies need help eliminating them. Sweating is one of the best ways to eliminate toxins, but not any old form of sweating will work (again – details matter!!).
When you work out you are in a sympathetic dominant state and your body will prioritize “running from the tiger” (aka working out) and surviving over eliminating toxins from your cells. So all that sweating you do when you work out, while beneficial in other ways, will not help eliminate toxins from your body at all. That’s where saunas come in. The passive heat is calming to the nervous system and allows you to enter into a state of parasympathetic dominance (aka opposite of the sympathetic “running from a tiger” state). When in a parasympathetic state your body will prioritize healing and regenerating and will begin to release toxins into circulation to be excreted through your sweat. Ta da! Now you’re getting those toxins out safely, easily, and naturally.
Random fun fact, a study showed regular infrared sauna use led to patients being able to come OFF levothyroxine (a thyroid medication). It is purported that this may be because toxins “gunk up” the thyroid and disrupt it’s function, but detoxification allows it to return to optimal functioning, thus eliminating the need for medication.
You may have heard of how many of the brave 9/11 firefighters became incredibly ill from breathing in burning and melting toxic building materials, but you may not have heard how many were able to actually reverse their seemingly incurable neurodegenerative conditions with intensive sauna use. Many of them undertook a program I’ve actually done myself, called the Niacin Sauna Detox Protocol. This program, which involves a specific formulation of supplements and exercise along with A LOT of sauna use, helped their body excrete MASSIVE amounts of toxins. To name just a few of the toxins the firefighters were left to contend with, the Twin Towers were insulated with more than 5,000 pounds of asbestos, and the air conditioning for the south tower contained over 90,000 pounds of freon. The fire fighters detox was so dramatic that the towels they used in the sauna were stained in a rainbow of colors, most often blue and green. You can read more about the firefighter’s journey with sauna detox here and here.
Even if you aren’t a firefighter, or weren’t present at ground zero during 9/11, on a (likely) smaller scale, your body is unfortunately still full of disruptive chemicals from our air, water, homes, flame retardant couches and mattresses and more. These chemicals disrupt optimal cellular functioning contributing to a dramatic decrease in health and wellness.
HOW TO SAUNA
- Frequency: If you can go in 4-5 days a week you will exponentially maximize the benefits of sauna usage. If not just do what you can! The enemy of good is best so don’t throw up your hands and give up if you can only go in two times a week. You’ll still be detoxing, improving cardiovascular function and more! This sounds like a lot but once you start to incorporate it into your lifestyle it’s quite easy. I just wake up a half hour earlier some days to hop in before my kids are up, or I go in after I put them to bed on days when my morning is already busy. This is why purchasing a home sauna is so helpful. You don’t need to find a sauna during business hours and try to squeeze it into your already busy work day. If you have one at home you can hop in whenever you have a few spare minutes!
- Duration: You want to stay in long enough to sweat, but don’t overdo it either. Most people will need to start small and work their way up to longer and longer times in the sauna. A good rule of thumb is once you start sweating, stay in for 20 mins (most people start to sweat within 5-15 mins depending on their toxic body burden). If you’re uncomfortably hot or don’t feel well, just step out of the sauna, and try for longer the next day.
- Post sauna: make sure you towel down VIGOROUSLY or shower well immediately upon exiting the sauna. The toxins you have just excreted through your pores are sitting on your skin, you want to remove them, not allow them to become reabsorbed.
WHY THE SAUNA YOU BUY MATTERS BIG TIME
You are buying a sauna to improve your health right? But did you know that many saunas on the market today do the OPPOSITE of that? The two main ways poor quality saunas can make you sick are toxins and EMFs.
Let’s start with toxins. The wood used in sauna construction is often sprayed with chemicals (this is done for a variety of reasons from pest control to speeding damp wood’s drying time). Where do you think those chemicals will go when the wood is heated during sauna use? Into the air, and into your skin, lungs, and eyes. Even if it’s certified FSC wood, it could still be treated with toxic sealants and paints post harvest, resulting in the same effect as before.
Next up is EMFs, or electromagnetic fields. These are given off from just about everything these days from cell phones to wifi routers, digital clocks, tvs and more (sigh) and are incredibly hazardous to your health. So much so that many countries in Europe have banned wifi from the presence of two of the most vulnerable populations – children and their developing brains, and the elderly and their aging brains. Wifi has been officially banned in many European schools and nursing homes. This is a long and important topic for another day but I’ll just say this – you do not want to be bombarded with EMFs while you’re attempting to detox and improve cellular heath in your sauna.
THE SAUNA I RECOMMEND
My absolute favorite sauna is Sunlighten. The wood is carefully sourced, non toxic, non treated and fully organic. There are no toxic glues or sealants used in construction. The EMFs have been tested and are verified to be the lowest on the market and safe for use.
And I have to be honest, beyond the safety aspect, they’re just so darn cool. There’s a variety of models with different bells and whistles like the ability to start your sauna from your phone, or play a podcast through the speakers, but my favorite feature is the programming. You can set different premade programs (or make up your own) depending on your goals like weight loss, detox, relaxation, anti-aging, cardio and more. Did you guys see the movie Pitch Perfect where “fat Amy” was lying down moving her legs and told everyone she was doing her “cardio”… it was “horizontal running”? (Hilarious movie BTW). Well if you feel like she does about actual running fret no more. Just hop in your sauna and hit the cardio button and there you go. No actual running required.
Ok ok, now on to the actual coolest part of the sauna. Yes, even cooler than the cardio button.
Sunlighten is the ONLY sauna on the market with ALL THREE wavelengths of infrared technology, near, mid, and far infrared.
WHAT THE WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Sunlighten used NASA technology to engineer their Near Infrared lights, which trigger biophoton modulation, affect skin health, wound healing, tissue health, cell growth and mitochondrial health. Think of this as more of a communication device that tells your body that it’s time to get to work to repair and recharge itself.
The Mid Infrared technology is equally advanced and actually quite difficult to manufacture, which is why most saunas do not include this wavelength. Mid Infrared penetrates deeper than Near Infrared and works to affect inflammation and increase circulation so more oxygen can reach injured areas. It also helps reduce pain and speed healing. Think of this as going deeper into the body to help it carry out those messages of repair and recharge more effectively and efficiently.
Far Infrared is the longest wavelength and therefore penetrates deepest in the body. This wavelength raises your core body temperature which induces a detoxifying sweat, increases heart rate and cardiac output, increases metabolic rate, and burns calories too. Think of this as the heavy lifting workhorse of the wavelengths. It goes in deep and works hard to optimize your biology.
OK SO NOW WHAT?
I own a 3 person sauna and for me, it’s the perfect size. You’ll usually find me in the wee morning hours or late evening hours, alone, and working while everyone else is asleep. In fact, I’m in mine right now sweating and typing this post, taking up the whoooole 3 person sauna sitting sideways on the bench. (I like multitasking like that and also enjoy hogging the entire sauna). You’ll also occasionally find my 3 kiddos in here hanging out together, especially post basketball game and pre epsom salt bath. Gotta keep those bodies finely tuned and healthy!
If you don’t have room for a one, two, three, or more person sauna, there are also one person portable tent like saunas by Sunlighten that are an awesome alternative. And if you want a giant sauna, big enough to perform entire yoga classes, they have those too.
Yes, they’re an investment. But they’re worth it. Think about it, what other single one time purchase can you make that can help you prevent stroke, increase cognition, stave off depression, lose weight, regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, increase life span and make you PRETTY MUCH “BATMAN BULLETPROOF”! (Remember that 40% reduction in ALL CAUSE mortality?!)
So check out Sunlighten today and consider making one of the best investments in your health you could ever make. One that will benefit your entire family the way it benefits mine.