Infrared Sauna – Relaxation and Enhanced Adrenal Health

We live in a world that is in constant motion and activity – the opposite of relaxation.  Can you relate?  The real problem with this is that the body often does not shut down this constant state of alertness.

The state of being always in alert mode is known as sympathetic.  This is commonly known as the fight or flight syndrome.  The body and mind are always thinking a tiger is chasing you and you need to remain vigilant at all times.

Over time, staying in this highly alert mode not only wears the body down, but it can drain the adrenals.  Adrenalin is used for what should be normal easy going tasks.  Over time cortisol levels can be extremely elevated as a result.

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue which is also referred to as adrenal insufficiency or adrenal exhaustion, is increasingly prevalent today. This condition called adrenal burnout syndrome arises from the adrenal glands being overused and depleted after prolonged periods of over-heightened activity.  This can be due to either internal or external stressors.

As it then becomes underactive, symptoms of adrenal fatigue can suddenly manifest themselves following a significant traumatic event in an individual’s life.

The health benefits of a infrared sauna include a temporary relaxation of the muscles and body.  But the long term benefit of remaining in a calmer state is one of the best effects it will have for you.

Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Helped by Infrared Sauna

Is sauna good for adrenal fatigue?

Yes, however anyone with adrenal fatigue should begin very slowly because the increased heat is itself a stressor on the body.  Begin with only a couple sessions of 5 minutes each.  Then work up gradually.

Saunas Activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System

Can infrared saunas offer any help?  Yes.  Firstly, they can help by simply relaxing the body.

This simple process occurs as the warm infrared waves  penetrate the body and begin warming the muscles.  Relaxation is the obvious result.  This is helpful for not only athletes but also for those who have just completed simple exercise.  The penetrating infrared relaxes at a deep tissue level.

It only requires a short amount of time for this process to start.  At least 10 minutes is required but 10-20 minutes is an adequate time to benefit.

Spending brief intervals, such as 15 minutes, in a heated environment like a sauna, steam room, or hot bath can trigger relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This results in a state of relaxation for the body to begin to calm down.

Woman in Infrared Sauna for Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

Saunas Reduce Cortisol Levels

This state of calm helps to lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone linked to increased abdominal fat. This permanent result will take time.  It will not be quick as can happen with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

We can see that simple relaxation is prompted by heath therapy.  But infrared saunas can promote relaxation at a much deeper level than this simple muscle warming.  They can stimulate the mind’s quiet mode.

Can you sweat out cortisol in a sauna?

You cannot directly sweat out cortisol in a sauna.  In fact, saunas may initially raise cortisol levels slightly due to the stress of heat, but they typically lower cortisol levels shortly after the session as the body enters a more relaxed state. This reduction in cortisol post-sauna session is what contributes to the feeling of relaxation many experience after a sauna session.

While saunas can influence cortisol levels, the process is more about the physiological response to the heat rather than directly eliminating cortisol through sweat.

Saunas Calm The Mind And Anxiety

This is particularly helpful for those of us whose minds are constantly thinking and analyzing. This is what will allow us to move out of that fight or flight sympathetic mode and into the beneficial parasympathetic state.  This is caused by numerous factors.

Sweating during exercise is associated with sympathetic activity. However, the act of sweating itself is primarily driven by the parasympathetic nervous system.

Blood movement from the body’s core to its periphery is another physiological response influenced by the nervous system. While the sympathetic nervous system keeps blood within the core and internal organs, using a sauna effectively shifts this blood flow to the body’s extremities. This helps the body shed excess heat through the skin, a process regulated by the parasympathetic nervous system.

Engaging in activities like prayer, meditation, or listening to calming music also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. While these activities are not intrinsic to the sauna experience, many individuals incorporate them into their sauna sessions to enhance relaxation.

As just mentioned, one of the primary ways the body is moved to this calm state is due to blood flow.  Similar to exercise, the increased heat will begin moving blood from the center of the body to the outside – the skin.  Blood is also moved to the lungs.

Both of these are partially a result of the body’s attempt to cool itself.  After 10  minutes or so in the heat, the body can no longer cool itself from the increased air temperature.  The core body temperature then begins to rise 1-3 degrees.

It then begins the further oxygenation of the blood, forcing it to the outer areas of the body.  Heart rate increases and you may actually feel a little sluggish or tired at this stage of the heat therapy session.

Heat Therapy and the Truth About How It Helps With Adrenal Fatigue

Strengthening of the parasympathetic nervous system also relieves blood stagnation, chronic sympathetic stimulation due to stress, forces more blood into the internal organs as part of the fight or flight response.

When blood stagnates in these systems, internal metabolites build up, impaired circulation is the norm as well as the new tissue of the organs become compromised. Phase 1 sauna is therefore particularly suitable for those with advanced AFS.

Those in advanced stages of AFS may find this phase of heat therapy most revitalizing. Because most sufferers of advanced AFS (stage 3 and beyond) are in a state of sympathetic dominance, the body tends to be flooded in a sea of epinephrine and norepinephrine. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is invariably imbalanced as AFS progresses.

The resting heart rate is usually above 80 beats per minute (normal is 72-76). In addition, many people are presented with unpleasant symptoms such as postural hypotension, dizziness, heart palpitation with slight exposure to stress that can be physical or emotional; a sense of anxiety is also common.

Phase 1 of sauna therapy often leads to a sense of calm and tranquility, provided that the duration is acceptable to the body. Heat Therapy and the Truth About How It Helps With Adrenal Fatigue

The Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system controls all involuntary bodily functions.  It operates in two fundamental states as we have discussed. Relaxation or hyper-alertness.  Both are essential components of our physiological network. Understanding the dynamics of the autonomic nervous system is crucial for addressing adrenal fatigue.

This system manifests in two primary modes: the sympathetic state, which is the body’s response to stress (fight or flight), and the parasympathetic state, which is associated with rest, relaxation, and digestion.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a component of the peripheral nervous system.  Its responsibilities are regulating involuntary functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion. This is sometimes referred to as the vegetative nervous system.  The ANS operates continuously, including during sleep, playing a crucial role in maintaining vital bodily functions essential for life.

You you may feel a strong relaxation during the first 10-15 minutes of a session.  After this point, you will feel more invigorated and perhaps tired as stated.  It may seem counter-intuitive, however this is actually training the body to remember being in the parasympathetic state.  Over time you will actually be training yourself and your mind to remain in this calm state.  Nice, huh?

a-sauna-adrenal-fatigue-2525-1.jpg photo credit