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Heat therapy benefit

Even though it may be summer here in Australia I am getting back into sauna at the moment. The heat practice has been part of many cultures and I think you will love incorporating this in your life if you haven’t done so already.

Let’s begin with stress. Many people feel relaxed and refreshed after a sauna session. Regular sauna and heat exposure really helps brain. The heat shock protein production is a big part of it. Sauna induced hypothermia can induce the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the HPA axis. That is one of the reasons during the sauna session you see an increase in norepinephrine, blood glucose, blood flow, prolactin and cortisole. Then when you get out of the sauna all of these drops. Prolactin promotes myelin growth which promote physiological responses related to reproduction, stress adaptation, neurogenesis, and neuroprotection. Norepinephrine increases arousal and alertness, promotes vigilance, enhances formation and retrieval of memory, and focuses attention.  With regular sauna practice your body learns to deal with norepinephrine response as well as cortisole  so that you can better cope with stress out of the sauna as well.

It also increases BDNF, Brain Derived neurotrophic factor. This protein promotes the survival of nerve cells (neurons) by playing a role in the growth, maturation (differentiation), and maintenance of these cells. Hence  it makes you smarter! BDNF is also associated with easing depression. Studies in humans have shown decreased plasma levels of BDNF in bipolar disorder, manic and depressed patients.

Dynorphine is shown to increase from sauna. Dynophine is a peptide that activates kappa opioid receptors (KORs) in the central and peripheral nervous systems. It can act like a painkiller providing mood enhancing effect. It also shows to increase weight loss and reduction of fat mass

Another peptide hormone that is produced in certain neurons within the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system is beta-endorphins. It functions to relieve pain when bound to their mu-opioid receptors.

When it comes to improving endurance there are many studies . We know that sauna use can lower your resting heart rate by increasing the blood volume and red blood cell count. The body compensate this by making more erythropoietin which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

Another interesting thing is when you increase blood flow to the skeletal muscles you are reducing the dependence on glycogen stores. It means that it allows your body to hold on to carbohydrate during exercise and use fats as a fuel. This study shows that muscle glycogen usage was reduced by 40-50% compared to before heat acclimatisation in athletes. A regular use of sauna can increase expression of GLUT4, which is responsible for transporting glucose into skeletal muscle form the bloodstream.

Heat induces muscle hypertrophy. Strength training and sleep naturally increase Growth Hormone but this study shows that even two 20 mine sauna sessions in a week can elevate growth hormone level. Heat acclimation reduces the amount of protein degradation and increase protein synthesis. This occurs even when you are not training. It is really useful when you are injured and want to maintain your muscle mass.

You are producing  growth hormone, increasing insulin sensitivity and on top of that heat can encourage the mitochondria to kick into gear so that it can help meet the increased energetic demands of the muscle cells. It produces energy in the form of ATP, as well as to induce HSP. HSP, Heat Shock Protein play prominent roles in many cellular processes, including immune function, cell signaling, and cell-cycle regulation. The HSP70 family of proteins is the most abundant of all the HSPs. This anti-inflammatory protein HSP70 is associated with longevity and acts in cellular maintenance and repair mechanisms

Many people include sauna in a detox protocol. You can release certain toxicants that are stored in the muscle, fat and organs. These toxicants include heavy metals, BPA, PCBs, and phthalate compounds

Sauna and heat treatment is associated with many health benefits and considered safe for most health populations. Precautions to be taken for pregnant women, children, and people who are ill or taking medication. It is important to be hydrated and balance electrolyte to maintain the body’s fluid balance.

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