Posted: 24 May 2022 By:  Reading time: minutes remaining

Health Benefits Of Saunas For Cancer And Diseases

Discover the health benefits of saunas for cancer and other diseases in this blog post. Also, learn the history of saunas, types of saunas, and how to get started.

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The information is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe treat or cure cancer.This information is not intended as medical advice, please refer to a qualified healthcare professional.

The History Of Saunas

Saunas are an essential part of Finnish culture. They are a place to relax with friends and family. Finland has over three million saunas. That is an average of one sauna per household.

Even the Finnish Parliament House has a sauna. At one point, almost every Finnish woman gave birth in the sauna.

Saunas began their life in Finland over two thousand years ago. The word sauna is Finnish for bathhouse. One of the first written Finnish sauna descriptions dates back to 1112. 

Smoke coming from a sauna

The first sauna builders used logs, and these log saunas had a small stove that heated them with wood and had no chimney, picture by Math (Brendel Matyas)

The earliest sauna had a barrier in the ground. Later, builders made saunas above the ground for easier accessibility. The first sauna builders used logs. 

These log saunas had a small stove that heated them with wood and had no chimney. The room had a hole in the roof to allow the smoke to escape. Every sauna also had an open door that let some steam out.

The sauna was small and had dim lights or a candle. There was also a basket with rocks beside the stove that would get scorching hot. Then water poured over them created steam.

Throughout all history, many cultures used a sauna.

Mexican Sweat Lodge Temazcal

In Mexico and Central America, there is a version of the sauna called temazcal. It is the Mexican version of the sweat lodge, used by indigenous people of America.

A sweat lodge is a low hut, often dome-shaped and natural materials. It often uses clay or stone rather than wood.

Temazcal (Sweat Lodge) - Mayan Medicine Museum

A temazcal is the Mexican version of the sweat lodge used by indigenous people of America, picture by Adam Jones

Sweat lodges are still used today for a broad range of purposes, depending on the occasion. Some archeological sites in Greenland and Newfoundland found remains of sauna-like structures.

You can't discuss sauna history without bringing up Roman Bathhouses.

Roman And Greek Bathhouses Paved The Way For Modern Spas 

Roman and Greek Bathhouses paved the way for modern spas today. The bathhouse provided an opportunity to purify the body through intense sweating. 

Governments and private contractors built bathhouses accessible to all social classes. Bathing played an essential role in Roman times and was one of the most common daily activities. 

Roman bath house

Roman and Greek Bathhouses paved the way for modern spas today, picture by Diego Delso

Chinese public baths often had two rooms. The inner room had a square pool filled with hot water for bathing. There was also an outer room with beds so they could rest afterward. They had a hand in shaping the history of the sauna.

Now that you learned the history of saunas, let's find out more about the three most common types of saunas.

3 Most Common Types Of Saunas

1. Traditional Saunas

The oldest form of sauna is the wood-burning sauna or savasana. It relies on a stove full of burning wood for its high temperatures. You can control the heat by either adding more wood or letting the stove burn the wood already inside. 

Instead of an open fire, a sauna uses a small stove called a kiuas. The kiuas heats a pile of rocks. They absorb and continue to emit heat through the surrounding air. In some cases, the stove provides continual heat, while it only provides warmth in others.

Traditional sauna

The oldest form of sauna is the wood-burning sauna or savasana

Sauna rocks have to stand up to high temperatures without cracking or exploding. Peridotite, basalt, and hornblende stones are popular chooses in saunas.

Saunas reach high temperatures and have the best effect around 66 C° (150 F°). Their humidity is relatively low at 20-40%. 

Let's look at the pros and cons of wood-burning saunas.

Pros And Cons Of Wood-burning Saunas

The biggest advantage of traditional saunas is that you can build them anywhere. They are also cheaper to make if you have plenty of lumber and are cost-effective. 

One of their biggest drawbacks is getting them up to temperature. This process can take several hours.

Men relaxing in a sauna

There are both wet and dry traditional saunas

There are both wet and dry traditional saunas. Both of these are the same thing. The only difference is that you pour water onto the rocks of the wet sauna and leave the stones dry in the other one. 

Adding moisture with a sauna ladle increases the humidity, making you feel hotter. Your skin won't be able to vent out the heat from your body once the moisture blocks its pores.

Traditional Sauna

Pros

  • Low-cost options
  • Not dependent on electricity
  • You can have larger groups of people

Cons

  • Not suitable indoors
  • Takes time to heat up
  • Require more upkeep

There is also another traditional sauna that uses electricity instead of wood.

What You Need To Know About Electric Traditional Saunas

Electric saunas have a similar design and construction to traditional ones. Their only difference is that they use an electrically-powered heater.

That heater is often smaller than a wood-burning stove. An electrically-powered heater also improves space and maximizes the number of people you can fit inside.

Empty sauna

Electric saunas have a similar design and construction to traditional ones

The best thing about these saunas is that you can remotely control their heaters. You can even start them in advance. The electric heater takes far less time to bring the sauna to 66 C° (150 F°). Electrically-operated saunas are also relatively easy to build into your home. 

Electric Traditional Sauna

Pros

  • More temperature control
  • Faster heating time
  • You can install it indoors or outdoors

Cons

  • Dependent on electricity
  • Not ideal for large groups

There is also a sauna that uses infrared light instead of a stove.

2. How Infrared Saunas Work

Infrared saunas do not heat the air to high temperatures. Instead, they heat your body's surface, giving you all the health benefits of a regular sauna. They are great for older people and cannot handle heat and moisture.

The infrared heaters themselves often have a window-like shape and look. They have a mesh material or a metal grid. 

Infrared saunas have no wood-burning stove or electric heater, thus taking less space. They don't get too hot and can be smaller with the same capacity for people. Therefore infrared saunas are an ideal choice for apartments and houses. 

Infrared sauna

Infrared saunas heat your body's surface, giving you all the health benefits of a regular sauna

They also don't need hours to heat up, and you can feel their heating effect as soon as you turn them on. Infrared saunas are, however, a bit power-hungry. 

Traditional saunas utilize steam or hot air to generate heat in the room. Infrared saunas emit infrared light, which is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. This technology uses light to create heat that the skin absorbs.

Let's discover three categories of infrared light used in these saunas.

Three Different Spectrum Used In Infrared Saunas

There are three categories of infrared light called near-, middle-, and far-infrared. Near-infrared light ranges from 0.76 to 1.5 microns and is of the shorter wavelength on the scale. 

This type of light penetrates below the surface of the skin. Near-infrared light has many benefits, such as enhancing mitochondria and reducing inflammation.

Middle-infrared light has a range of 1.5 to 5.6 microns. It reaches deeper parts of the body, including muscles and joints. One function includes improving and increasing blood flow and circulation.

infrared spectrum

There are three categories of infrared light called near-, middle-, and far-infrared

Far-infrared light ranges between 5.6 to 1000 microns and reaches the deepest parts of the body. This type of light stimulates your metabolism and organs. It also helps your heart. One example of far-infrared light is the sun. 

These types of light are not visible to the naked eye, but you can see them with unique cameras and equipment. 

Infrared saunas are a lot colder than traditional saunas. The heat in infrared saunas ranges between 45 C° and 60 C° (113-140 F°). Conventional saunas tend to fall within 80 C° to 93 C° (176-200 F°). 

Infrared Sauna

Pros

  • Small infrared saunas are inexpensive
  • More suitable for people sensitive to heat
  • Heats up quickly

Cons

  • High-end saunas are expensive
  • Repairs may be more expensive
  • Only dry sauna

Steam saunas are the last type of saunas.

3. What You Should Know About Steam Saunas

Steam saunas often reach 100% humidity, the max capacity for holding moisture. They may be the best choice if you like a sauna to help ease respiratory problems.

Moisturize heat up your airways which loosen them up. That helps clean out your lungs and relieve allergies. Steam saunas are also beneficial for your skin, mental health, joints, and other parts of your body.

steam sauna

Steam saunas often reach 100% humidity, the max capacity for holding moisture, picture by Todtanis

They aren't an ideal option for an apartment or a house. These saunas can develop mold around the building. They are also quite slippery and need a lot of cleaning and maintenance.

Steam saunas use tiles and other mold-resistant materials. A professional should build it to ward off mold. This kind of sauna uses electricity to boil water and release steam. 

The average operating temperature in steam saunas is lower than in traditional saunas. However, you should still feel the heat thanks to the high humidity levels. 

Steam Sauna

Pros

  • Good for respiratory problems
  • It doesn't require as high temperature

Cons

  • Prone to mold problems
  • Professional installation needed
  • Wet sauna only

Now that we looked at various saunas' pros and cons, let's look at the health benefits of saunas.

Health Benefits Of Saunas

The main benefit of saunas is that you can sweat out toxins. Saunas show real promise for detoxification from heavy metals, PCBs, PBBs, and BPA. You can also use them to remove drugs and pesticides such as DDT.

The ability to sweat seems to be critical for detoxification. Heavy metals appear to come out in higher concentrations in sweat than urine or feces.

New York twin towers burning 911

Rescue workers that got ill after the September 11, 2001 terror attack resolved or improved their symptoms with a sauna detox, picture by Michael Foran

Sixty-nine police officers developed a chronic illness as the result of methamphetamine exposure. A sauna-based detoxification protocol led to a significant reduction in symptoms.

After the September 11, 2001 terror attack, rescue workers got ill from the toxins. Treatments with a sauna-based detox protocol either resolved or improved their symptoms.

BioMed Research International published a study in 2016. They found that sweating removed pesticides (OCPs). A 2012 study found that sweating got rid of Bisphenol A (BPA). The researchers found more toxins in sweat than urine and blood.

Saunas can also boost your immune system.

Saunas Can Boost Your Immune System

A healthy immune system heals damaged tissue, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerve endings. Improved cell renewal gives you more energy, stamina, and mental clarity.

blood cells

A sauna lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol

Using a sauna lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol. This effect, in turn, reduces your risk of heart disease. Regularly spending time in a sauna may help keep your heart healthy and extend your life.

Saunas stimulate your blood vessels, expanding them and increasing the blood flow. They can improve your circulation and enhance your metabolism. 

Regular sauna use may prolong your life.

Can Saunas Prolong Your Life?

The University of Eastern Finland tracked 2300 middle-aged men for about 20 years. They categorized the men into three groups according to how often they used a sauna each week. The men spent an average of 14 minutes per visit in 79 C° heat (175 F° ). 

man relaxing in sauna

Survival rates increased when Finnish men did more sauna sessions per week

Throughout the study, 49% of men who went to a sauna once a week died. But among those who went two to three times a week, only 38% passed.

Four to seven sauna sessions a week decreased that number to 31%. Frequent sauna visits also led to fewer death rates from heart disease and stroke.

Saunas also reduce your pain.

Reduce Body Pain With Saunas

The heat from infrared saunas is a tremendous muscle and joint pain reliever. Infrared sauna therapy can decrease pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness. Japanese researchers studied the effects of infrared sauna in 13 female fibromyalgia patients.  

Patients received infrared sauna therapy for 15 minutes, two or five days a week. After the sauna sessions, the patients went into a warm room. They then had a blanket to keep them warm for 30 minutes. 

man having neck pain

The heat from infrared saunas can reduce muscle and joint pain.

Saunas reduced all patients' pain by about half after the first session. The effect continued after about ten treatments. At that time, the pain decreased by 20-78%.

In another study, 44 female fibromyalgia patients used saunas for three months. They went to the sauna three times a week and did underwater exercises twice a week. 

The patients decreased their pain and other symptoms by 33 % to 77%. Their pain still improved by 28% to 68% six months after the end of the study.

Infrared saunas can also reduce leg pain from peripheral arterial disease.

Patients With Leg Pain From Peripheral Arterial Disease Reduced It By Almost 70%

Infrared saunas reduce pain and immobility in peripheral arterial disease (PAD). It is a common form of heart disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the limbs.

PAD results in reduced blood flow and oxygen to the lower legs and feet. The result is leg pain, especially while walking.

Kagoshima University, Japan, studied infrared sauna's effect in 21 patients with PAD. Patients were either part of a control group or a study group. Both received standard drug therapy. 

older woman having leg pain

Saunas can help reduce leg pain from peripheral arterial disease

But the treatment group patients also had daily 15-minute sauna sessions in a 60°C (140°F) infrared sauna. After the treatment, they had a blanket on to rest and stay warm for 30 minutes.

After six weeks, patients in the infrared sauna group had reduced pain. The pain relief was almost 70% lower than the control group.

On a scale of 1 to 10, pain scores decreased from 8.1 to 2.8 in the sauna group. But the discomfort remained unchanged in the control group.

Let's look at the health benefits of saunas for cancer.

Can Saunas Help You Fight Cancer?

Saunas may help you treat cancer. A 2002 study in the Annals of Oncology suggested that hyperthermia can reduce cancer. Hyperthermia is when you raise the body's temperature above normal. 

Temperatures between 40 C° to 44° C (104-111 F°) are bad for cancerous tumors. Cancer cells are more sensitive to excessive heat than normal cells. High temperatures can kill cancer cells often without damaging healthy cells.

cancer cells disintegrating

High temperatures from saunas can kill cancer cells often without damaging healthy cells

Thermotherapy is a type of cancer treatment. It exposes the body to high temperatures. Many studies show a significant reduction in tumor size when combined with other therapies.

Cancer often grows in tissues with poor circulation. Saunas increase circulation to the lungs, improving oxygenation. This combination has a powerful stimulating effect on circulation. Together they can be a valuable benefit for cancer patients.

A temperature around 45 C° (113 F°) can destroy cancer cells. It can shrink tumors with minimal damage to healthy tissues

Even if saunas have many health benefits, there are also some risks.

Health Risks Of Using Saunas And How To Avoid Them

Before you use a sauna, there are a few risks associated with it. Saunas are often safe and well-tolerated. But some people may suffer mild, temporary side effects. 

These side effects include temporary pain, heat discomfort, irritated breathing, and lightheadedness. There are ways to avoid these side effects.

Staying hydrated is a must before each sauna session. You will lose fluids through sweating and therefore need to drink water beforehand.

a man sitting in a sauna with a red light above him

Staying hydrated is a must before each sauna session

Stay away from alcohol. Drinking alcohol before or during a sauna session can have adverse side effects. If you are sick or have a fever, time in the sauna can make you feel worse and slow down your recovery time.

Listen to your body. You know your body best, so take a break if you start to feel uncomfortable. Gradually build tolerance. Start with a shorter session and build up the length of time you feel comfortable in a sauna.

Summary

Saunas began their life in Finland over two thousand years ago.

The word sauna is Finnish for bathhouse.

In Mexico and Central America, there is a version of the sauna called a temazcal.

Roman and Greek Bathhouses paved the way for modern spas today.

The oldest form of sauna is the wood-burning sauna or savasana.

Electric saunas have a similar design and construction to traditional ones.

Infrared saunas heat your body's surface, giving you all the health benefits of a regular sauna.

There are three categories of infrared light called near-, middle-, and far-infrared.

Steam saunas often reach 100% humidity, the max capacity for holding moisture.

The main benefit of saunas is that you can sweat out toxins such as heavy metals.

Saunas can boost your immune system.

Survival rates increased when Finnish men did more sauna sessions per week.

The heat from infrared saunas can reduce muscle and joint pain.

High temperatures from saunas can kill cancer cells often without damaging healthy cells.

Staying hydrated is a must before each sauna session.


How You Can Start Using Saunas

1. Find a sauna in your local area

2. Use a sauna detox program

3. Buy a sauna

Action Steps

There are ways to utilize the health benefits of saunas. If you have a bathhouse or gym nearby, you can probably find a sauna there. Try to use saunas in combination with different detox programs. 

The niacin sauna protocol is a great one. It helps you remove heavy metals and other toxins from your body. You can download our free heavy metal detox guide below to learn more.

Heavy Metal Detox

Find Out How To Detox From Heavy Metals

Download this free e-book to learn how to detox from heavy metals using saunas and other methods.

There is also a possibility to buy a sauna for your home. The cheapest way to get a sauna is to purchase a portable infrared sauna. It is easy and fast to assemble, and you often don't need tools.

You can't go wrong with this portable infrared sauna when it comes to saunas. They have many health benefits that the most expensive and fancy saunas have.

You might want to consider visiting a sauna dealer to demo or test other types of saunas. By knowing where you will place your sauna, you can narrow your selection. 

Finding the perfect location for your sauna can be a struggle if you are already tight on space. If you have a wide-open basement, this is an ideal location to create your spa. 

When selecting a sauna, you need to account for the number of people using the sauna at a given time. If you hope to enjoy the sauna with your family, this will impact your choice.

Also, make sure that you let a professional build your sauna. I knew a guy that installed a sauna himself. Not long after that, the building burnt down to the ground.

Resources:


About the author 

Simon Persson

Simon Persson is a holistic cancer blogger passionate about natural health remedies. When he is not blogging, he enjoys nature, cooking, sports, and learning about the latest gadgets on the market.

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