Sauna therapy is a proven method for detoxification from chemical exposures. We are exposed to 50,000 new chemicals in modern life. Chemical pollution comes from pesticides in our food, air (both indoor and outdoor) and our water supply. Exposures accumulate through low doses via workplace, personal care products, cookware, baby bottles, water-bottles, plastic food storage, the plastic lids on your to-go coffee cup, thermal receipt paper, and your mold-resistant PVC shower curtains. Studies have shown that we all have numerous toxins in our bloodstreams.
We encourage our clients to objectively assess their living environment for exposures with the goal of eliminating as much of the incoming toxicants as possible. An excellent resource for learning about these issues is the Environmental Working Group.
Many organic molecules can be eliminated from the body as a result of heavy sweating. Sauna provides a method to detoxify the body in people who are too unhealthy to handle intense exercise.
We recommend Infrared saunas from Heavenly Heat because the construction is free of adhesives, varnish and laminated wood composites. The highest grade of white poplar is used to avoid volatile organic compounds found in other materials. Heavenly Heat produces several models of varying sizes and combinations of heating elements. Dr. Waters recommends the combination units with both the tradition ceramic and infrared heating elements. These combination units quickly pre-heat prior to use and provide the most therapeutic heat.
Sauna use improves cardiovascular health through reductions in blood pressure and improved blood flow, providing results comparable to vigorous exercise. Sauna is a safe and suitable therapy for individuals who may not be healthy enough for vigorous activity. The therapeutic benefits of sauna therapy are well documented in the scientific literature. For those interested in the scientific underpinnings of sauna therapy, we have included a list of references and summaries below.
Sauna therapy is proven to:
- Reduce blood pressure
- Enhance weight loss even without dietary changes.
- Improve congestive heart failure
- Improve sleep
- Improve circulation
- Diminish oxidative stress
- Increase energy in Chronic Fatigue patients
- Improve memory and cognition
- Decrease the levels of toxic chemicals in the blood
New users should follow the recommended sauna protocol below. Drink water prior to and during sessions. You may bring a wood bowl filled with ice, water, and a wash cloth for use during treatment. Wash cloth can be placed over the top of head or neck as needed.
The time used to warm up the sauna is a good time to warm up yourself. Exercising to the point of breaking a sweat prior to entering the sauna can reduce the mild heat stress. Exercise such as yoga can help to build body heat from the inside-out, but even walking or taking an extended hot shower can help to build internal heat.
Drink a full 8 oz. glass of water prior to entering the sauna. You may continue to drink water during your session, especially as you adapt to increasing exposure length.
Weeks 1 and 2 10 minutes at 110-125 degrees
Weeks 3 and 4 10-15 min at 125-135 degrees
Weeks 5 and 6 15-20 min at 130-150 degrees
Weeks 6 + 20 minutes at 140-160 degrees
Note: In early sessions you should not progress to the next level of treatment if your body does not begin to sweat within 10 minutes in the sauna. Continue treatment at the current level until the body is able to sweat before proceeding.
Remain seated and use a cool towel to cool off before standing. Open the sauna door and vent to allow the temperature to gradual normalize.
Upon exiting sauna, remain seated, relax and breathe normally. Use a towel to wipe sweat off prior to showering. Showering will remove any secreted toxins that accumulate on the skin during treatment.
Kihara T, Miyata M, Fukudome T, Ikeda Y, Shinsato T, Kubozono T, Fujita S, Kuwahata S, Hamasaki S, Torii H, Lee S, Toda H, Tei C. Waon therapy improves the prognosis of patients with chronic heart failure. J Cardiol. 2009 Apr;53(2):214-8.
This study on 129 advanced cases of chronic heart failure showed a significant reduction in death over 5 years of treatment in the treatment group. The treatment involved 5 days of supervised saunas in the first week followed by twice weekly treatments for the duration of the study. Sauna exposure was 15 minutes at 140 degrees F. Additional benefits included an increase in ventricular ejection fraction, decrease in heart size, improved endothelial function, and a reduction in ventricular arrhythmias.
Fujita S, Ikeda Y, Miyata M, Shinsato T, Kubozono T, Kuwahata S, Hamada N, Miyauchi T, Yamaguchi T, Torii H, Hamasaki S, Tei C. Effect of Waon therapy on oxidative stress in chronic heart failure. Circ J. 2011;75(2):348-56. Epub 2010 Dec 14.
Twenty patients underwent daily infrared sauna therapy at 140 degrees for 4 weeks. Compared to control group, the intervention decreased brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) and increased nitric oxide metabolites, resulting in decreased oxidative stress.
Gayda M, Paillard F, Sosner P, Juneau M, Garzon M, Gonzalez M, Bélanger M, Nigam A. Effects of sauna alone and postexercise sauna baths on blood pressure and hemodynamic variables in patients with untreated hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2012 Aug;14(8):553-60.
In this small study, 16 patients with untreated hypertention assigned to either a control group, sauna group, or a sauna plus exercise group. Exercise and sauna together had positive effects on 24 hour systolic and mean blood pressure. Sauna alone reduced total vascular resistance lasting 2 hours post treatment.
Sawatari H, Chishaki A, Miyazono M, Hashiguchi N, Maeno Y, Chishaki H, Tochihara Y. Different Physiological and Subjective Responses to the Hyperthermia Between Young and Older Adults: Basic Study for Thermal Therapy in Cardiovascular Diseases. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2014 Dec 20.
This study tested the effect of thermal stress on healthy individuals in two age groups. A group of 12 young males with an average age of 22 were compared to 12 older males, average age 68. Participants lay supine in a 160 degrees F sauna for 30 minutes. After 10 minutes of heat exposure, skin temperature rose slightly higher in the younger group, heart rate increase by 21 bpm in young versus 11bpm in the old. No change in blood pressure occurred in the young, however a significant reduction of 15 and 10 mm Hg was observed in systolic and diastolic measures in the older group.
Biro S, Masuda A, Kihara T, Tei C. Clinical implications of thermal therapy in lifestyle-related diseases. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2003 Nov;228(10):1245-9.
Fifteen minutes of sauna at 140 degrees F improved hemodynamic measures, clinical symptoms, cardiac function and vascular endothelial function in patients with congestive heart failure.
Masuda A, Kihara T, Fukudome T, Shinsato T, Minagoe S, Tei C. The effects of repeated thermal therapy for two patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. J Psychosom Res. 2005 Apr;58(4):383-7.
Two patients with CFS who did not respond to prednisolone treatment experienced improvements following 35 consecutive daily sessions of 140 degree sauna. Therapy continued twice weekly as an outpatient for 1 year. Patients reported improvements in sleep quality and reductions in fatigue, pain and fever.
Kihara T, Biro S, Ikeda Y, Fukudome T, Shinsato T, Masuda A, Miyata M, Hamasaki S, Otsuji Y, Minagoe S, Akiba S, Tei C. Effects of repeated sauna treatment on ventricular arrhythmias in patients with chronic heart failure. Circ J. 2004 Dec;68(12):1146-51
Twenty patients with chronic heart failure and ventricular arrhythmias underwent treatment with 140 degree sauna, compared to 10 equally matched controls. The treatment group experienced a significant reduction in premature ventricular contractions, improved heart rate variability and brain natriuretic peptide.
Rea WJ, Pan Y, Johnson AR. Clearing of toxic volatile hydrocarbons from humans. Bol Asoc Med P R. 1991 Jul;83(7):321-4.
A study comparing inpatient vs outpatient treatment of physical therapy combined with a sauna program showed that 13 of 13 patients intensively focused on a combination of nutritional therapy, elimination of food contaminants in a controlled environment with clean air and water resulting in improvement in 100% of patients. Of the 41 outpatients following the same sauna program at home, 70% of patients saw reduction in toxic organic chemicals along with a clearance of symptoms.
Rea WJ, Pan Y, Griffiths B. The treatment of patients with mycotoxin-induced disease. Toxicol Ind Health. 2009 Oct-Nov;25(9-10):711-4.
Sauna in conjunction with moving to a mold-free environment, oral & IV antioxidants, PT/massage/exercise and oxygen therapy worked as an effective tool to allow 27 of 28 patients to return to work, one person improved but chose not to return to work.
Khodarev VN, Zhemchuzhnova NL, Olempieva EV, Kuz'menko NV. [The influence of general infrared sauna on the antioxidant systems in the blood of volunteers]. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2013 Sep-Oct;(5):10-3. Russian.
Infrared sauna was used to induce an oxidative stress from heat which the body compensates for with an adaptive response which includes enhancements of the red blood cell membrane, and dilation of the blood vessels.
Persiianova-Dubrova AL, Badalov NG. [Thermal therapy for the management of cardiovascular pathology]. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2013 May-Jun;(3):57-61. Review. Russian.
Study on the effect of infra-red “finnish” sauna on cardiovascular disease. Strict compliance resulted in improved endothelial function, improved nervous system control of heart function, a reduction in oxidative stress and enhancement in physical performance.
Zinchuk VV, Zhad'ko DD. [Sauna effect on blood oxygen transport function and oxidant/antioxidant balance in youths]. Fiziol Cheloveka. 2012 Sep-Oct;38(5):112-9. Russian.
Study investigates young males exposed weekly to 10 minutes, 185 degree, low humidity sauna for 5 months. Dry sauna resulted increase oxygen delivery to cells. Adaptation to the oxidative stress response to heat improved over the course of the study. Treatment increased NO production which influences blood vessel dilation.
McCarty MF, Barroso-Aranda J, Contreras F. Regular thermal therapy may promote insulin sensitivity while boosting expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase--effects comparable to those of exercise training. Med Hypotheses. 2009 Jul;73(1):103-5. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2008.12.020. Epub 2009 Feb 8.
The insulin sensitizing effects of aerobic exercise can be replicated with heat treatments of sauna or hot tub. These improvement result from increased expression of nitric oxide, a vasodilator, resulting in reduced blood pressure. Regular at home thermal therapy provides an alternative to exercise for patients too impaired for physical activity.
Pall ML. Do sauna therapy and exercise act by raising the availability of tetrahydrobiopterin? Med Hypoth. 2009 Oct;73(4):610-3.
Sauna therapy is an effective treatment for diseases related to chemical sensitivities in BH4 deficient individuals. Sauna exposure increasing vascular shear stress and induces expression of heat shock proteins which restores BH4 levels similar to the effect resulting from exercise. These diseases include hypertension, vascular endothelial dysfuction, heart failure, multiple chemical sensitivies, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.
Krop J. Chemical sensitivity after intoxication at work with solvents: response to sauna therapy. J Altern Complement Med. 1998 Spring;4(1):77-86.
In this case study a patient suffering 20 years from chronically debilitating multisystem disorder resulting from low-level occupational exposure to solvents was able to use sauna therapy to eliminate chlorinated and aromatic hydrocarbons from their body. Treatment enabled the patient to discontinue of medication and the patient was able to return to work.
Kilburn KH, Warsaw RH, Shields MG. Neurobehavioral dysfunction in firemen exposed to polycholorinated biphenyls (PCBs): possible improvement after detoxification. Arch Environ Health. 1989 Nov-Dec;44(6):345-50.
Study of 14 firemen 6 months following exposure to PCBs from a transformer fire underwent a medically supervised diet, exercise and sauna treatment were able to reverse cognitive impairments, and improve visual and working memory impairments. Treatment resulted in significant reduction in Arochlor 1258 after 2-3 weeks.
Imamura M, Biro S, Kihara T, Yoshifuku S, Takasaki K, Otsuji Y, Minagoe S, Toyama Y, Tei C. Repeated thermal therapy improves impaired vascular endothelial function in patients with coronary risk factors. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2001 Oct;38(4):1083-8.
Sauna therapy on 25 individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease were compared to 10 healthy controls. The at risk group had slightly larger resting brachial arterial diameters but a 50 percent reduced percentage of flow mediated dilation (%FMD) in response to sauna at start of study as compared to healthy controls. Following 2 weeks of daily 140 degree, 15 minute saunas, the at risk group was able to increase their %FMD up to 75% of that seen in controls. This resulted in a subsequent 5 point average reduction in blood pressure at the end of the study.