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Infrared Sauna vs. Lifestyle-Related Diseases

Some diseases are a result, not so much of circumstance or genetics, but of choices you make. These are what are known as lifestyle-related diseases, and they include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and COPD. There is no bright line between lifestyle-related diseases and other diseases. You can get lifestyle-related diseases even if you make healthy choices. About a fifth of COPD cases, for example, occur in people who have never smoked. And some people with high blood pressure or cholesterol are just victims of their genetic heritage. Nevertheless, most cases of lifestyle-related disease result from bad choices:  sedentary living, unhealthy diet, smoking, or drinking.

But whether a disease befalls you because of circumstance or because of bad choices, it is still a disease, and that’s the way medical research views it. Take the study that appeared in 2003 (PDF) out of Kagoshima University in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine. Titled “Clinical Implications of Thermal Therapy in Lifestyle-Related Diseases,” it looked at how most lifestyle-related diseases are characterized by reduced vascular endothelial function. According to the authors, “In congestive heart failure (CHF), clinical symptoms such as muscle fatigue, heaviness in the limbs, edema, appetite loss, and constipation are often observed due to increased peripheral vascular resistance and reduced peripheral perfusion.” In other words, lifestyle-related diseases undermine health by restricting blood flow in your extremities, which backs up the cardiovascular system, leading to a host of bad effects.

If you have a lifestyle-related disease, regardless of how you got it, the first thing you should do is make sure you are making healthy lifestyle choices. Beyond that, however, there are medications that can treat some of the effects of inactivity and an unhealthy diet. In addition, however, the authors of the study cited above say that infrared sauna can help.

The authors of the Experimental Biology and Medicine study showed that repeated sessions of infrared sauna improve endothelial function, i.e., infrared sauna treats many of the effects of lifestyle-related diseases. They also found that sauna treatments improve appetite for normal-weight patients with appetite loss. This is because the sauna treatments increase blood concentrations of ghrelin (which prompts hunger). In a fascinating turn of events, however, they discovered that sauna treatments don’t change the blood concentrations of ghrelin in obese patients and even seem to lead to healthier eating habits. They cited the case of an obese patient whose percentage of body fat went from 46% to 35% in 10 weeks under the influence of infrared sauna treatments. Thus a treatment that improves the eating habits of those with appetite loss can at the same time help obese patients to lose weight.

They concluded by recommending infrared sauna as

      • a preventative for atherosclerosis
      • a treatment for people with heart conditions who are unable to exercise
      • a help for weight loss!

If you have a lifestyle-related disease, ask your doctor about the feasibility of incorporating infrared sauna into your treatment. You probably won’t be able to get your medical insurance to pay for it, since it is not yet a generally accepted treatment. But it may provide you with some relief. On the other hand, if you want to prevent a lifestyle-related disease, re-evaluate your lifestyle and consider booking some infrared sauna sessions at Peak Recovery & Health Center.

Image: “Emphysema, centrilobular” by Yale Rosen. Creative Commons license.