The Health Benefits of Saunas and Steam Baths

Some of the reputed health benefits to taking saunas or steam baths include eliminating toxins, rejuvenating the skin, boosting the immune system, helping the respiratory system, and relaxing tight muscles. A 10 to 20 minute session elevates heart rates by about 50-75% and is equivalent to a brisk walk. This makes it an ideal cool-down after a work out in the gym. As the blood circulates through the muscles it removes lactic acid and other waste products, but because you are not moving, like in other cool-down activities, you don’t produce any new waste products. Arnold Schwarzenegger swore by saunas and steam baths!

Rejuvenation of the Skin. As the body tries to cool itself during a sauna the heart beats faster and harder pushing more blood and nutrients into even the smallest capillaries just under the skins surface. This is why you look so red after being there for a while! This extra circulation brings more nutrients and anti-oxidants to the subcutaneous and surface tissues thus promoting cellular activity and growth to the skin. This also enhances the development of collagen, giving the skin a continued elasticity and wrinkle-free complexion.

Eliminating Toxins There are four ways to excrete toxins from our bodies; urine, feces, respiration and perspiration. The perspiration induced by steam baths and saunas provide a comprehensive cleansing of the skin and sweat glands. Remember that the skin is the largest organ in the body with about 30% of all body wastes passing through it. The detoxifying capacity of the skin is enhanced by profuse sweating, which helps to flush impurities from the body. Sweat is also very effective at emulsifying fats located in the skin's sebaceous glands and thus removing sebum, toxins and bacteria lodged in that fat.

Enhancing the Respiratory System. Steam is excellent for many respiratory problems because it helps open up the airways. Not only can the moist air in a steam bath relieve throat irritation, but it may also loosen and stimulate the discharge of mucous from the lungs and throat. Steam also helps prevent mucous membranes, especially in the nose, from drying out which may lead to Hayfever. Finally steam can also aid sinusitis by relieving congestion and inflammation of the upper respiratory mucous membranes.

Stress and Muscle Relief Heat from saunas and steam baths causes the muscles to relax by widening the blood vessels and increasing the oxygen which in turn releases muscle tension and relives stress. The same heat may also give relief to those suffering from arthritis.

Cautions The main risks involved with saunas and steam baths is fainting. This is most commonly due to being in too long, not drinking enough water, drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Saunas and steam baths may be beneficial for those with high blood pressure or heart disease, but always check with your family doctor first.

Dr. Andrew Gorman

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