Dry Sauna: Let Me Count The Ways You Can Love It

by Claudius J West

sauna_modern, interior viewA wet sauna is also called a steam room. You get the picture: a room with steam in it. Hot, around 110 degrees.

What I want to talk about is a dry sauna, usually a minimum of 180 degrees, low humidity, and even though the temperature is much higher than a steam room, it doesn’t feel as hot as a steam room, at least, not when you first walk in.

What’s great about a dry sauna? Three hundred calories expended every fifteen minutes (according to all of the research I’ve been able to read on the subject).

Sweat is fat cryingSome people confuse this with lost water weight and say you’ll gain it all back when you drink water, again. You’ll gain the water weight back, but I’m talking 300 calories burned and gone in fifteen minutes from the activity of your heart and lungs and I’m not sure what else as your body exerts itself to keep your core temperature steady.

Why do we burn calories at all when we exercise? You probably assume it’s from your muscular output (skeletal muscles, that is), but I don’t think muscles are the biggest player in the game. Muscles are very efficient; evolutionarily speaking, they have to be.

Think about how fast you’d have to be running on a treadmill to burn 300 calories in just fifteen minutes. Imagine how fast you’d have to be running to sweat as much as you do in a sauna. I don’t run on treadmills but I do use the elliptical cross trainers, and at my peak I don’t come anywhere close to that level of exertion. The drippiest machine I’ve been on is the Stair Master, and it still takes a backseat to sauna conditions.

You may not like being hot, and you especially may not enjoy sweating. I understand that. I’m a bit odd in that I actually enjoy being hot, that is, if all I’m required to do is sit on a wooden bench and soak it in.

sweat_glandThere’s something you should know about sweating that may tempt you to give the sauna a try: sweating is the only way our bodies can remove dangerous heavy metals that get inside us, poisons like mercury, aluminum, and lead. (Aluminum isn’t heavy, depending on how much of it you’re holding (you know what I mean), but it’s classified with the rest of the baddies.)

Every time we sweat, a minute amount of these biological pollutants get the heave-ho. Scientists first discovered this phenomenon by testing the sweat of marathon runners. (I’m never gonna run a marathon, so I thank God for the sauna.)

Aluminum has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, so if your family has a history of the disease, get your tushie to a sauna. With all of the aluminum pans, aluminum foil,  armpit spray, and other sources of aluminum in our environment, it’s a good bet we’re all of us overloaded with more aluminum than is good for us.

Fat in our bodies is useful for storing calories, helping to produce our hormones, and for sequestering toxins that our liver can’t currently clean up. Have you ever had the experience of losing fat rapidly then getting sick, or just being plagued for several days with an under the weather feeling? I have. When the fat goes, the toxins are freed up to roam where they want to until the liver or kidneys clean them out. Or the skin sweats them out.

If you’re on a fat-reducing regime, use the sauna as a secret weapon to keep your tissues and blood fresh and clean. Not only do excess toxins in the body feel horrible, but it’s my experience that too many of them suppress my immune system as my body uses its limited energy sources to deal with the mopping up operation. While the immune system is short-staffed, the opportunistic germs already in my body tend to throw a party, which usually means I end up with a sore throat.

sauna-bath-2 beautiful reclined woman

You know you want it.

When we get sick, one of the mechanisms we have for fighting off infections is to raise our core body temperature, that is, we get a fever. A fever isn’t the handiwork of the unwanted germ; rather, it’s the body’s healing process in action. So, imagine if you gave yourself a miniature, temporary fever every time you sat in a sauna. That would knock those opportunistic germs back on their heels on a regular basis, keep ’em humble, right? Maybe that’s why I never get sick during the winter when I’m going to the sauna. My personal policy is: the more sauna, the better. I have a tendency to overdo things, so I hit it about five times a week.

Of course, for a strong immune system you need to maintain your intake of vitamin D3 and all of the other good stuff our immune system needs to function properly. While you’re at it, why not aid and assist with an occasional sauna?

When I lived in Norway, I learned that, traditionally, when Norwegians build a new home the first thing they do before even digging the foundation is to build an outdoor sauna. This tradition may not apply in urban settings or for those who want an indoor sauna, but I think you get the picture that saunas are a pretty important part of their culture. What’s the reason? Sure, Norwegians occasionally want to thaw out, but then, they’re used to the cold. I suggest to you that in a land where the sunlight isn’t strong enough to produce vitamin D on their skin for a large part of their year, Norwegians and other Scandinavians developed a system to augment, supplement, and fortify their immune systems through frequent sauna use.

Sustaining healthy life far to the north isn’t as easy as it is in the sun drenched south. A long time ago, the north people figured out that saunas are like having an additional external immune system, if I may put it like that.

Try it, even if for a few minutes at a time until you get more used to it. I think you may learn to love it.

P.S. Almost forgot: and being in the sauna will encourage you to breathe deeply. Think meditation. You know it’s healthy for you. Also, you will be drinking more water, and you know how good that is for you.

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