Sauna stress relief is easy to realize once you have experienced this form of relaxation a few times.
This is because a sauna not only warms you up, it has the ability to reduce stress compounds in the body while also helping your aches and pains.
This post will review the stress-relieving qualities of a sauna and how this is linked to its benefits on the digestive tract.
Table of Contents
Heat stress to de-stress
Imagine sitting in a warm, quiet room while you rest your head and close your eyes.
This is the experience of the sauna.
Using a sauna causes an increase in your body’s core temperature slightly. This increase in temperature creates a mild level of good stress called heat stress.
The temperature slowly rises as your body begins to gradually release sweat and toxins from your skin.
If you sit in an infrared sauna, you will barely notice it is getting hot because this type of heat is much more penetrating than dry sauna heat.
How Your Body Heats Up for Stress Relief
Heat shock proteins are triggered when you use the sauna and these proteins then dampen down stress and inflammation in the body as you cool down.
By also increasing circulation and releasing endorphins, saunas may be helpful in managing mood disorders.
If you are in a sauna, stress is almost impossible because of the endorphin release, the warmth, the quiet, and the calm that sets in.
Sauna Gut-Brain Benefits
When your gut is happy, your brain becomes happier too. And your sauna can provide some gut-friendly benefits that carry over to your brain.
As you are relaxing in your sauna, a number of other benefits to your body are happening. As your body temperature rises, your muscles relax and feel more calm. These muscles that relax include your abdominal muscles.
Endorphins start to rise, which can make your belly and your mind feel good too.
Some research even shows that sauna use may improve your gut microbiome [R].
Far infrared heat also has the ability to reduce inflammation in the body, which is often helpful for the digestive tract and your mind too [R].
Clinical Research of Sauna Stress Relief
Several studies show that sauna stress benefits are real.
For example, in a group of patients with heart failure, depression symptoms were lifted with repeated heat therapy [R].
In people with rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis, sauna use improved a sense of well-being and reduced pain levels [R].
Sauna use lifted mood and reduced anxiety in a small study [R].
Anxiety and chronic pain were reduced in people who have chronic fatigue syndrome, according to research published in Internal Medicine [R].
The benefits of sauna are bi-directional too, meaning that by improving happy brain chemicals, your gut also benefits.
Sweating in your sauna also helps the body’s detox systems.
Supports the Detoxification Process
When you sweat from sauna use, your body releases toxic chemicals and heavy metals through the skin. The heavy metals removed while sauna sweating include mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic [R].
By ridding the body of these harmful chemicals, you are supporting a strong brain and a strong gut.
Stimulates Blood Flow and Circulation
By far the strongest research supporting sauna benefits is related to cardiovascular benefits. By increasing blood flow and circulation to the extremities, sauna therapy helps to improve the cardiovascular system [R].
By activating your autonomic nervous system, sauna use helps this process by increasing heart rate, regulating digestive function, and blood flow to the tissues.
Research shows that sauna use reduces the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and memory loss, and may even improve cholesterol levels [R]. It even helps some people with weight loss.
Stimulating blood flow throughout the body is also good for the nervous system and may be part of why people feel more relaxed when they use a sauna on a regular basis.
Infrared Heat is Ideal
Most of the heat from the sun is far infrared heat, which penetrates the body in a deeper way than other types of heat.
When choosing a sauna, infrared forms are becoming much more popular because they have heat benefits at lower temperatures than traditional saunas.
Using an infrared sauna is the most practical way to enjoy the benefits of sauna therapy because it penetrates deeply at lower temperatures than dry saunas.
The Sunlighten sauna is arguably the best infrared sauna on the market today because it uses no toxic chemicals or glues, is ultra-low EMF, has the longest warranty, has full-spectrum infrared heat, and uses eco-friendly materials.
Sauna Stress: Avoid Too Much Heat
Sauna stress helps you to de-stress, but there are a couple of things to consider.
As with most things, too much of a good thing can be harmful. When you use your sauna, make sure that you are listening to your body.
As a general rule, start with a 10-minute sauna session and as time goes on, you can increase your sauna session times as your body begins to adapt to them.
It is best to avoid prolonged heat exposure if you are pregnant. People taking blood pressure medications have a risk of low blood pressure after sauna use too [R].
Make sure to drink enough water and keep up your electrolytes too. I recommend using fulvic acid to replace trace minerals too.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.