Saunas have been a fascination of mine for many years. I am very fortunate to have my own sauna at home.
My pharmacy job was so stressful that one of the few things I looked forward to was getting home and heading straight to the sauna. Feeling the intense heat for the first time after a days work left me with a glow the whole evening allowing me to forget about the strain of the day. It did wonders for my psychological well being, perhaps even saving me from a nervous breakdown or two. Little did I know what wonders it was doing deep inside my physiology until recently.
I was drawn back to the sauna when I became very sick with stress again from the autoimmune condition, ulcerative colitis I had suffered from in 2010. Inside the sauna I felt for the first time how the effect of intense heat can enhance the power of meditation and pranayama breathwork as I had learned ancient techniques for being able to control your autonomic nervous system. Then after I delved into neuroscience and brain wave therapy, I discovered how saunas can help create a surge of alpha brainwaves and even increase blood flow to important brain centers that deal with the cognitive power of the brain, perception and awareness.
It was during my visit to Wim Hof and during our time creating music that I first met Dr Rhonda Patrick. Rhonda has an amazing understanding of human physiology and the current scientific evidence that explains the benefits of various ancient practices such as saunas, ice baths and meditation. I was fascinated by her knowledge on saunas and the verified research that supports its remarkable benefits to human health and wellbeing, confirming why I felt them myself when I sought sanctuary in the steam and sauna’s of Nirvana Spa.
History Of Sauna Use
Saunas were first utilised some 4000 years ago and much research has been carried out as to the health benefits. A sauna is one of the top methods utilised to flush toxins from the body as it causes you to sweat profusely, forcing toxins such as heavy metals to the surface of your skin. A deep sweat is a great way to release toxicity from the body which has built up from exposure to various environmental elements such as pollution and also chemicals which are commonly found in refined foods we consume. Saunas have even been found to burn calories and aid in weight loss due to your body’s elimination of toxins, which in turn increases your metabolism. Saunas have also been found to greatly reduce the stress hormone cortisone, which has been linked to weight gain.
Saunas are commonly used for post-workout muscle tightness and pain. The heat from the sauna allows the muscles to relax and can speed up healing and recovery time, allowing a more rapid return to your workout without experiencing continual muscle pain. Fitness goals can then in turn be reached more rapidly, whether you are focused on weight loss and cardio workout or muscle gain through lifting. Studies also show that due to increased blow flood, endurance has been found to be increased in athletes who regularly use saunas. A recent finding also shows that saunas promote a natural hormone called HGH (human growth hormone), which is vital for maintaining healthy tissue, organs and muscles which rapidly degenerate with age. Many athletes turn to HGH injections but the weekly use of a sauna (combined with exercise) is just as good and ensures optimum overall health and muscle strength.
Improved skin appearance
Due to the level of sweating experienced, saunas can increase blood circulation as blood is forced closer to the skin surface, brightening your complexion by releasing bacteria and oil and in turn creating a youthful glow. Skin conditions such as cellulite can also be reduced through regular use of a sauna. Dead skin cells are removed and the presence of acne and blackheads is reduced with regular use of a sauna.
The significant boost in growth hormone levels post sauna bring a variety of anti-aging benefits too.
Healthy immune system
Another top health benefit of a sauna is the support of a healthy immune system. As many people lead sedentary lives in office jobs they don’t sweat as much as they should to remove toxins from the body, when your body is exposed to the steam of a sauna, white blood cells are produced at a more rapid rate, which assist in the protection of the body against illness. Harmful substances are driven out of the body through the detoxification process. Each day we are unknowingly exposing our body to chemicals contained in cleaning and beauty products, which are absorbed through the skin and build up within the body.
Heavy metals can also be present in the body largely from the consumption of modern day refined foods and often cannot be eliminated through the body through our natural detoxification system without assistance. Without proper detoxification, the buildup of these heavy metals can be harmful to your health and place great pressure on your body’s natural immune function. Over time, the presence of heavy metals within the body can lead to more serious illnesses such as cancer.
Out of all the research carried out on the health benefits of a sauna, stress relief comes out as the number one benefit. Endorphins or the “feel good drug” that are naturally produced by the central nervous system and released when your body heat is raised in a sauna.
Saunas are also found to improve psychological states by releasing stress, deeply relaxing muscles and removing tension which can be unknowingly stored in various regions in the body. Sleep quality has also been found to be improved due to the calming effects of a sauna and has even been recommended with success by general practitioners to patients who suffer from insomnia and chronic fatigue.
Detoxification From Heavy Metals, Drugs & Toxins
A study in 2012 showed that sweating from sauna use was very effective at removing harmful heavy metals such as Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury.
In 1979 the controversial founder of the Church Of Scientology released a program called The Purification Program that involved daily sauna use of around 4-5 hrs (with breaks to cool down every 10-20 minutes). It has been practised thousands of times with many medical professionals recommending it to help drug addicts and chronic disease sufferers to purify both their mind and body to overcome their issue.
Niacin – The Supreme Detox Enhancer
L Ron Hubbard was a big advocate of Niacin (Vitamin B3) supplementation during sauna use to enhance the detoxification process. A starting dose of 100mg is ramped up to 1000 – 5000mg towards the end of the program,
In more recent times Dr David Roo and Dr George Yu have used niacin and saunas to help detox war veterans from Agent Orange toxicity and 9/11 fighters from toxic debris.
The way niacin works is by mobilizing fat cells to release toxins into the blood where they can be removed by the body. A dose of around 100mg may cause in most people an effect known as the ‘niacin flush’. This happens because certain doses of niacin causes your blood vessels to dilate and creates a sensation of warmth. This is a sign the detoxification effect of niacin is at its peak and will be most effective. At higher doses however the flushing effects will actually fade away.
Niacin has also been shown in many studies to be more effective at raising HDL and lowering LDL than any prescribed drug. It can also help with a variety of issues from high blood pressure to skin/acne issues and even depression and psychiatric illness.
Sauna Secrets Of Scientology
Scientology was at one point the worlds fastest growing religion with A-list stars like Tom Cruise as evangelists. There may be some real science behind the various practices of the founder L Ron Hubbard, with the sauna being one of the main uses for enhancing physical wellbeing as well as spiritual purification, helping its followers live longer, happier and more successful lives…
The Purification Program By L Ron Hubbard
The Purification program is a precisely designed regimen. It includes the following elements:
* Exercise, in the form of running, to stimulate the circulation. (7-15 minutes)
* Prescribed periods in a sauna, which, accompanied by certain vitamins and other nutrients, enable one to sweat out the accumulated toxins. (4-5hrs per day for 1 – 2 weeks building up gradually each day with short breaks to cool down and hydrate using cold showers or ice plunge pool)
* A nutritional program, including:
One’s regular diet which is then supplemented with plenty of fresh vegetables which are not overcooked. Including high doses of vitamins, essential oils and minerals in the form of supplements.
The Renegade Pharmacist’s Sauna Ritual
The purification process is quite intense suggesting 4-5 hrs of sauna a day. So here is my sauna ritual that is a lot easier to fit into a busy schedule. This is based on my own results and the current research out there.
- Take 500 mg niacin, have my special alpha omega smoothie, 30 minutes before working out.
- Exercise for 15 – 20 minutes. Usually rotate between the 7 minute work out and 7 minutes on the cross trainer or 7 minutes doing weights.
- Yoga sun salutations with simple yoga stretches for 5-10 minutes
- Enter sauna. Do my sauna meditation which consists of pranayama breathing techniques and visualization techniques. Learn more about it here Minimum two 20 min dry sauna sessions at 80-100C with 15-20 minute cooling period in between. 3-4 times a week.
- After the sauna I will go straight into a ice plunge pool and repeat the extended exhalation breathwork exercise in the cold water for about 5 minutes.
Sauna Is A Valuable Tool For Cardiovascular, Autoimmune, Toxicant-Induced and other Chronic Health Problems.
I can personally vouch for the incredible health benefits I received in my recovery from a chronic autoimmune condition and now various studies back this up too. The disease reversing effects could be attributed to better blood flow to organs, detoxification of disease inducing toxins through sweat, growth hormone release and the overall stress reducing effect of intense heat.
Going to a sauna and steam for me is akin to going to church. I have developed my own sauna meditation ritual based on simple pranayama breathwork exercises and visualization techniques to reach altered states of consciousness. During this ritual a deep meditative state with a surge of low alpha and theta wave activity is achieved where I can consciously control my autonomic nervous system and influence the powers of the brain stem. If you believe in the law of attraction and ‘manifesting’ I believe this ritual is the key factor for my own ability to create the reality I want.
What Happens After Using A Sauna
(Source: Dr Rhonda Patrick PhD www.FoundMyFitness.com)
Recommended Duration: Minimum two 20 min dry sauna sessions at 80-100C with 15-20 minute cooling period in between. 3-4 times a week.
For Your Brain:
- Helps grow new brain cells.
- Helps your brain function faster.
- Improves memory, attention and focus.
- Helps prevent degenerative diseases.
- Enhances the power of meditation and visualization.
- Relieves anxiety and depression.
- Gives you a natural drug free ‘high’
For Your Body:
- Helps muscles grow bigger, stronger and more efficient.
- Increases longevity with various anti-aging benefits.
- Causes a massive release of growth hormone naturally.
- Boosts your immune system.
- Improves insulin sensitivity (lowers risk of diabetes and metabolic diseases)
Toxins Removed By Sweat:
Toxic Trace Metals: Arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) – Disrupts hormones and the endocrine system. Found in receipts, toys, baby bottles, plastic containers, pizza boxes, beer and wine, and cans.
Phthalates, DEHP – Can effect male sexual development and causes cancer in rodents. Found in plastics found in many common products and certain foods.
FACT: Two 15-minute sauna sessions at 100°C (212°F) dry heat separated by a 30-minute cooling period resulted in a 5x increase in growth hormone.
FACT: 2300 Finnish men proved the longer and more often you use the sauna shows less risk of heart problems and early death.