:: FAQ's   Health and Relaxation?
Some avid sauna users would say that the Sauna has many healthy effects on the mind and body. These sauna lovers enjoy their sauna for many reasons, including these:

Saunas relax your sore & tired muscles.
Saunas are excellent for fighting winter colds.
Releases daily stress and tension
Your skin will never look & feel better.
You will feel great.
You will never sleep better than after a sauna.
Revitalizes the body and mind Refreshes the skin - deep cleans and moisturizes
Saunas are great for lower back pain & arthritis.
Relaxes tight, overworked muscles
Reduces aches and pains in joints
Sauna time is a time of peace.
Relieves nasal, sinus, and chest congestion

If you're in reasonable health, the benefits of a sauna or steam bath are numerous. If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, saunas may be OK for you, but check with your physician first. And with either of these conditions, it's not a good idea to jump right into cold water or snow afterward. Finns almost always follow a sauna with a refreshing and enjoyable dive into cold water.

The following health study summary from "Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing Outweigh Risks" is reproduced here with the permission of one of the co-authors of the report, Samer Ellahham, MD, of the Washington Hospital Center (DC), Division of Cardiology. He has co-authored the report with Minna L. Hannuksela, MD, of the Department of Internal Medicine and Biocenter Oulu, University of Oulu, Finland. The entire article has been published in the February, 2001 issue of the "American Journal of Medicine.

SUMMARY: "Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing Outweigh Risks"

"For most healthy people, as well as for most patients with stable coronary heart disease, sauna bathing is well tolerated and safe. The physiological and hormonal changes that occur during sauna bathing are transient. Sauna bathing does not cause drying of the skin. The effects of hyperthermia on the pharmacokinetics of several orally administered drugs are minor. Sauna bathing does not lower fertility in men or women with uncomplicated pregnancies. Healthy children who are accustomed to sauna bathing tolerate it well. Sauna bathing has also been shown to be safe for most coronary patients with stable angina pectoris or prior myocardial infarction. The risks of myocardial infarction, coronary death and sudden death are lower during sauna bathing than during other daily activities.

Sauna bathing may also tolerate therapeutic value. Some studies have suggested that regular sauna bathing may lower the blood pressure in patients with hypertension and increase the left ventricular ejection fraction in patients with chronic heart failure. Sauna bathing may also improve lung function in patients with obstructive pulmonary disease and alleviate pain in patients with rheumatic disease. Although sweating may increase itching in patients with atopic dermatitis, patients with psoriasis may experience some relief. Larger randomized studies are needed to establish the clinical relevance of these findings.

Sauna bathing is contraindicated during high-risk pregnancies and for patients with unstable angina pectoris, recent myocardial infarction, and severe aortic stenosis. Decompensated heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia are relative contraindications. Some studies have reported ECG changes, ectopic beats, and perfusion defects suggestive of myocardial ischemia in patients with coronary heart disease, but these occur less frequently during sauna bathing than during exercise. Blood pressure may decrease after sauna, sometimes resulting in syncope. Alcohol intake while sauna bathing can create serious health risks and should be avoided."

Be sure you drink plenty of water, to replace the water you're losing.

It is a good idea to cool down after strenuous exercise and to have a light shower before entering the sauna. The shower will remove the fine layer of salt that is on the skin, something that really burns your eyes when you start sweating in earnest in the sauna. The oil and salt on the skin is not good for the sauna wood either.
When you take a sauna, the heat causes increased blood circulation near the skin and stimulates sweating which helps the body rid itself of unwanted materials and improves general circulation. Some people suffering from toxic poisoning or severe allergies need to purge their systems by sweating heavily, the sauna delivers this easily.

It is a good idea to remove chains and bracelets before the sauna session as they can get very hot and spoil the mood of relaxation.

Pregnant women should consult with their doctor before getting into a hot sauna for the first time however the best option is to take the sauna at a lower temperature (130F) for a more relaxed and gentle sweat session. A word of caution. Studies have shown some association between neural-tube defects and heat exposure, during the first three months of pregnancy. The biggest problem was hot tubs, which pregnant women should approach cautiously. Saunas do not raise the body's core temperature nearly as much as hot tubs do. (Neural-tube defects include anencephaly and spina bifida)

In Finland, however, it is common for doctors to allow saunas and there, neural-tube defects are very low. In fact, in Finland saunas were once a traditional place for childbirth. Finnish women stay in the sauna for about six to twelve minutes, and they shorten that time during pregnancy.

Finnish saunas also tend to be different from most US versions - unless these are run by Scandinavians. In Finland, saunas are usually heated by a wood stove. First there's a dry phase that can get hotter than 200° F. Then the participants splash water on the stove and spend some time in the steam. Many Canadian and US public saunas use electric units and they do not allow patrons to pour water on the heater. Some people find the dry hot air irritating while others are pleased with the conditions. This is one of the main reasons people like the convenience of a personal 'at home' sauna. You get to dictate the temperature and humidity levels whether it be dry or moist.

Even if you're in a very hot steam bath or sauna, it's mostly the temperature of the surface of your body that goes up. As it increases, blood vessels dilate, and circulation in the skin climbs. As resistance to blood flow through your veins and capillaries drops, your blood pressure goes down. Then your heartbeat increases to keep blood pressure normal.

The main risk of a sauna is staying in too long and fainting from overheating. People who are most susceptible to this are those with heart disease or who have been using drugs or alcohol. It really isn't a good idea to combine drinking or other drugs with a sauna or hot tub. Children should not use saunas without supervision.

Sitting in a sauna won't deplete your body of vitamins. Sweating, however, may cause you to become dehydrated, so drink plenty of liquids before during and afterward (stay away from alcohol).

If you spend too much time in a sauna with the temperature too high, fainting may occur. For that reason, be reasonable when deciding how long you will stay in a sauna. Give yourself time to cool down, and the experience will be a positive one.

Some people say that using a sauna makes them feel euphoric. Depending on whether you like dry heat or wet heat, saunas and steam rooms can feel very relaxing. The biggest benefit they offer is the release of muscle tension and joint stress, particularly after a hard workout.
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