Dr. Oz and Sauna Therapy

Recently I was flipping through the channels on my TV and saw a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show that featured Dr. Mehmet Oz. He was discussing all sorts of unconventional medical treatments and natural therapies that he felt were legitimate.

One of the points on his radar, an infrared sauna. He mentioned benefits, ranging from the lowering of blood pressure to increase metabolism (burning of calories), and even the elimination of toxins through the skin. Oprah made a part of the interview with Oz in the sauna itself. They got out just before breaking a sweat.


The use of saunas is very common in Europe and Asia, and various forms of “sweat bath” is found in regions spanning parts of Africa, Central and North America. In some societies, it is both a cultural and medical component of social interaction and health maintenance. But for many people, saunas, only those foggy looking enclosures that are found in the toilets of the local gyms. I was pleasantly surprised to find that modern science has been consistently studying the health effects of saunas along. Today I would like to have a look at some of the most recent findings on thermal treatment to take and whether some of the claims about saunas are validated in the scientific literature to investigate.

Based on my studies, the strongest medical case that can be made for the use of the sauna therapy in the management of cardiovascular and related conditions. In fact, saunas investigated for several decades in the case of a relatively severe cardiovascular disease. The most recent experiment I found was published earlier this month in the Journal of Cardiology. A known form of thermal treatment Waon therapy was used in a group of 64 patients with CHF (chronic heart failure) in the course of 5 years. An additional 65 patients and were followed as controls. Both groups received traditional medical care, but only the treatment group was exposed to the Waon saunas.

Waon therapy is a gentle form of infrared dry sauna. Each session, use is made of a standard heat of 60 degrees Celsius, and lasted 15 minutes. After the therapeutic period, patients were wrapped in a blanket was held an additional bed rest 30 minutes. Treatment was given daily for 5 days during hospitalization and patients than anticipated at least twice a week once they were discharged from the hospital. The results of the investigation were as follows:

  • During the 5-year follow-up 12 patients in the control deceased. Only 8 patients receiving the therapy Waon deceased.
  • Almost 70% of the control group a “cardiac event” compared to 31% of the data sauna therapy.

The authors of the study concluded that, “This therapy is a promising non-pharmacological treatment for CHF.” The findings of this research are supported by other recent scientific articles:

  • In October of 2008, a trial with 112 patients showed that CHF Waon therapy improved cardiac function and reduced the size of the heart in the recipients of the sauna treatment.
  • Another form of heat treatment improved cardiovascular function in a group of patients with heart failure who were awaiting a heart transplant. The use of a “steam footbath” improved performance and encourage heart healthy endothelial function, which supports circulation.
  • In January 2009, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN conducted a study to assess the safety and efficacy of medical supervision sauna bathing in patients with chronic heart failure to assess. The group of elderly men and women were given a 4 week course of therapy Waon 3 times per week. They remained normal medical care while having the saunas. The treatment was well tolerated and there were signs of improvement in exercise capacity (treadmill) and lowering of norepinephrine, a stress hormone that can increase the heart rate.

Another promising area of sauna research is its use in chronic pain conditions. Several studies in recent years highlighting the opportunities in providing a safe and natural alternative to conventional pain relief measures.

  • A report in the January 2009 issue of Clinical Rheumatology suggests that infrared sauna (IR) can help people with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (a form of arthritis that affects the pelvis and spine). 34 patients with these conditions was a decrease in fatigue, pain and stiffness occurs during IR treatment for a total of 4 weeks. No adverse effects were noted.
  • Fibromyalgia (FMS) is a syndrome that fatigue, pain, psychological distress and tenderness in various parts of the body. 13 women with FMS who were given Waon therapy significantly reduced pain (50%). The effects were most evident after only 10 treatments.
  • A Japanese study from 2005 showed that infrared sauna was also successful in reducing pain and improving the psychological perspective in a group of chronic pain. In fact, the infrared therapy is better than other forms of treatment such as psychotherapy, standard rehabilitation and exercise therapy. Moreover, after 2 years of treatment, 77% of those receiving regular saunas back to work, as opposed to 50% of those in other healing modalities.


I think we have found that thermal therapy may help improve physical symptoms. But it can also psychological benefits? There is some evidence for that claim to support.

A 2008 report showed a reduction in anxiety and improving mood in 45 middle-aged men and women engaged in “charcoal kiln” sauna baths. A 2007 study investigated the mind-body reaction of the infrared sauna mildly depressed patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Improvements were found in both physical and psychological symptoms, such as improvement of appetite, mood, pain relief and relaxation response. Similar symptomatic improvements were found in a group of depressed patients with chronic heart failure.

The last topic I would like to tackle or saunas are an effective method of systemic detoxification. Detoxification is a very popular concept in the holistic community. But it is not always easy to scientifically validate the claims of the various detoxification treatments. I however, find some preliminary evidence that the theory that the saunas effectively rid the body of toxins supports.

In 1998, a case study published in the Journal of alternative and complementary medicine which indicates that the sauna therapy helps the body eliminate toxic chemicals. In 1991, a study conducted on 15 patients using thermal therapy was a 80% positive response with regard to the “disposal of toxic chemicals from the human body.” Finally, an experiment in 2001 demonstrated that the removal of various minerals through sweating is caused by 30 minutes of dry sauna baths. This suggests a possible role in the sauna eliminate minerals from the body. But it also highlights a possible concern about sweating way too many essential minerals.

If you think the sauna therapy is appropriate for you, please exercise due diligence. Discuss this treatment option with your chosen health doctor. You will also need to decide what type of sauna is best suited for you. Want a high heat or low? Dry heat or damp? Where do you go to a sauna is very important. Make sure you use a reputable site that is hygienic to choose and run by a knowledgeable staff. By following these steps, you will have the chance of finding the most health promoting and pleasant sauna experience possible.

Posted in Alternative Therapies, nutrition.

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