October 26, 2020

The health benefits of sauna

Learn about all the good things regular sauna sessions can do for you

We are after all a Finnish company, so did you really think that you could get away without reading about sauna? Of course not!

Sauna is the practice of sweating in a small confined wooden room with your friends, family or fellow gym goers. How common the practise is depends completely on your geographical location, but here in Scandinavia it’s an integral part of our lives - most of us even have a sauna in our own apartment.

Going to the sauna is often seen as a relaxing and soothing activity that makes you feel like your muscles have the structural integrity of Jello, but it may actually have further associated benefits.

Sauna and blood sugar

Does it sound too good to be true if we say that simply sitting in a sauna could seriously help you control your blood sugars?

Well - it’s true! Researchers have found that blood sugar values significantly decreased in individuals after only seven 15-minute sauna sessions (1). Another study found that several far-infrared sauna sessions significantly reduced the blood sugar levels of the participants (2). Similar findings were discovered with hot-tubs, where the blood sugar levels decreased from an average of 10.1 mmol/L to 8.8. mmol/L after three weeks of regular hot-tub use (3). Animal models have also shown that heat therapy can seriously reduce blood sugar values and increase insulin sensitivity (4).

Sauna and literally everything else

Sauna doesn’t just help stabilise and improve your blood sugar values - it has many potential health benefits for you to enjoy, see the ridiculous list below (5):

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Lowered inflammation
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Improved mental health
  • Improved endurance and muscle mass retention
  • Improved detoxification

Regular sauna use has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular-related disease and from all causes of premature death, while also reducing the risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and psychotic disorder (5).

Why does heat therapy help our bodies?

Researchers suggest that heat therapy has these effects due to heat shock proteins, Nrf2, FOX03, Interleukin-6 and Interleukin-10 (5).

Heat shock proteins live inside of all of your cells, and have a very important role related to repairing other proteins inside of the cell. When cells experience stress, the proteins inside can get damaged. Damaged proteins are a real issue for your health, and are related to cardiovascular diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. (5)

Because these heat shock proteins are very important in stopping damage and in repairing other damaged proteins, your cells are so clever that they start increasing the production of heat shock proteins whenever they feel stressed. This process is called the heat shock response and is the equivalent of you making many cups of camomile tea and bubble baths whenever you start feeling stressed about unread emails. (5)

And even though sauna might feel relaxing for you, your cells feel the exact opposite - the heat stress causes your cells to seriously increase their heat shock protein levels. Research shows that heat stress causes healthy individual to produce more heat shock proteins, and that these increased levels stay even as time passes.  These increased amounts then contribute to improved cell health and protein repair. (5)

Nrf2, FOX03, Interleukin-6 and Interleukin-10

The heat from the sauna doesn’t only act directly on heat shock proteins - it also activates a transcription factor called Nrf2. Nrf2 affects several genes of the cells, increases the production of a heat shock protein which in turn breaks down pro-oxidants (you guessed it, the less desired evil twin of antioxidants) and creates antioxidants and anti-inflammatory gas.  Through this series of events Nrf2 protects the cell against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. And as we discussed in our earlier blog post, chronic inflammation is a major risk in developing chronic diseases related to your cardiovascular system, blood sugar and gut. (6)

FOX03 proteins have both a fantastic name - Forkhead box 03 - and pretty fantastic functions within the cell. These proteins take part in keeping your cells youthful and healthy, while also contributing to delightful things like tumor suppression, DNA repair and immune function. The heat stress from the sauna makes FOX03 join with its friend SIRT1 - an important player in reducing cell ageing. SIRT1 is also such a good friend that when the two are joined together, FOX03 becomes much more resistant to oxidative stress and can do an even better job in the cell. (5)

May we all find a SIRT1 to our FOX03.

And finally, we promise, the last of the sciency bit: Interleukin 6 and 10. These are both chemical messengers used by cells in your body. After heat stress, the amount of Interleukin-6 in your body increases, which in turn triggers the release of Interleukin-10. Interleukin-10 has strong anti-inflammatory properties and could help reduce chronic inflammation. (5) (7)

Get in the sauna

So crank that sauna up to between 80-100 degrees Celsius and enjoy a calm evening of effortless health improvement - just make sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated.

To track how your blood sugar responds to this new lifestyle addition, start using the Veri Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) system - a painless, simple and honestly stylish system that simply sits on your arm and measures your blood sugar.  With Veri you can adapt and improve your lifestyle to fit your physiology, and get a real insight into how your body responds to your everyday life. Get started now with our 14-day program, and get ready to learn more about yourself.

References

1. V. Shiralkar et al., “Effect of Steam Sauna Bath on Fasting Blood Glucose Level in Healthy Adults”, 2018. Published in Indian Journal of Medical Biochemistry. URL: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326203347_Effect_of_Steam_Sauna_Bath_on_Fasting_Blood_Glucose_Level_in_Healthy_Adults

2. M. Imamura et al., “Repeated thermal therapy improves impaired vascular endothelial function in patients with coronary risk factors”, 2001. Published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology. URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S073510970101467X?via%3Dihub

3. P. Hooper, “Hot-Tub Therapy for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus”, 1999. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine. URL: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/010c/f8f018b3cc25363a09d9710640739262e2a7.pdf

4. S. Kokura et al., “Whole body hyperthermia improves obesity-induced insulin resistance in diabetic mice”, 2006. Published in International Journal of Hyperthermia. URL: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02656730601176824

5. Found My Fitness, “Sauna", 2020. Published through Found My Fitness. URL: https://www.foundmyfitness.com/topics/sauna#bibid-977555c9e3a108962599f02b5d986dc6

6. S. Vomund et al., “Nrf2, the Master Regulator of Anti-Oxidative Responses”, 2017. Published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences. URL: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/18/12/2772

7. C. Raison, “419. Inflammation in Treatment Resistant Depression: Challenges and Opportunities”, 2017. Published in Biological Psychiatry. URL: https://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(17)31025-9/fulltext

Needless to say, we're just getting started and are excited to share all our learnings in the future!

To optimal health,
Anttoni, Frans & Verneri

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