Sweating has been used as a form of therapy for thousands of years to cure numerous diseases. With the rise in number of gyms and spa parlors, it has been gaining popularity in our country as well. Steam and sauna are available in most spas and gyms around the valley. Along with their health benefits, it is also important for us to know that it may not be suitable for everyone.
Hence, to understand the possible benefits, health risks and precautions of steam and sauna bath, we at The Week spoke to Reena Shrestha, director of Heritage Spa at Basundhara, Kathmandu. Here is everything you need to know about steam and sauna bath.
Sauna is a room that is heated to 50 degrees Celsius and then gradually the temperature in the room increases up to 95 degrees Celsius. Also known as dry heat, humidity in a sauna room is often 10 to 20 percent.
One of the biggest health benefits of sauna bath is that it helps in releasing stress. “A lot of diseases that we suffer from are stress related and this dry heat provides stress relief in a number of ways,” says Shrestha. Sauna relaxes body muscles, improves blood circulation, and stimulates the release of endorphins, which is body’s natural chemical that helps you feel good.
“If you have muscle or joint pain, sauna helps to soothe such aches. Sauna causes blood vessels to dilate and increases blood circulation. With the rise in blood circulation, our body’s natural healing process also speeds up,” she adds.
Many of us do not sweat actively on a daily basis. But as we all know deep sweating has a lot of health benefits. During sauna, our sweat glands get stimulated and our body starts sweating actively primarily to maintain our body temperature. In the process, many toxins are removed from our body.
“Sauna is one of the best ways to detoxify our body,” says Shrestha adding that a sauna bath also helps in cleansing our skin. Deep sweating removes dead cells and bacteria from our epidermal layer. Hence, it can make our skin look soft and help in bringing out a natural glow.
Risks and precautions
“Using sauna occasionally is said to be safe for most people. But people especially with cardiovascular disease should always consult a doctor before going for a regular sauna bath,” says Shrestha adding that people with high or low blood pressure should also consult a doctor before making use of the sauna facility at their gym.
It is often observed that jumping into a cool swimming pool or having a bath with cold water right after sauna can cause rise in blood pressure. Hence you should refrain from doing so and let you body cool down naturally before you hop into the shower. Also, sauna bath can even lead to fall in blood pressure. Those with low blood pressure must seek expert help before going for sauna.
“If you have had a cardiac arrest once, you should speak to your doctor first before using sauna,” adds Shrestha.
Also to avoid any kind of mishaps, avoid alcohol if you use sauna regularly as it causes dehydration. A person should also limit the time they spend in sauna to maximum 20 minutes and first timers should limit their stay to 5 or 10 minutes only.
One must also remember that you lose a lot of water in your body by sweating. Therefore, it is important to drink two to four glasses of water after you have been in the sauna. Women who are pregnant and people who are ill should refrain from using the sauna.
Steam rooms are enclosed spaces heated with steam where the temperature is maintained around 40 degrees Celsius.
Steam room can significantly improve your cardiovascular health as it improves circulation of blood in the human body. Improved circulation leads to healthier heart.
“Steam baths can also help in lowering blood pressure. This is also one of the primary reasons why people feel relaxed after taking a steam bath. A steam bath also reduces the amount of cortisol that our body produces, which is a hormone that regulates the stress level in a body,” explains Shrestha.
A steam bath also warms the mucus membrane of our body and encourages deep breathing. This is extremely beneficial in treating cold and sinus infections. It also helps clean all the toxic chemicals trapped inside our skin. Regular steam baths can help you get a clearer and even skin tone.
“Steam room like most hydrotherapy helps in boosting our immune system. Using steam room regularly will help in building your immunity and keeps you healthy for a longer time,” she adds.
Health risks and precautions
A steam bath has a lot of health benefits but it can also be dangerous if you overuse them. “Do not stay in a steam room for more than 15 minutes as it can dehydrate you,” says Shrestha.
Steam room can even host others germs. Steam is not enough to kill bacteria and, in fact, it may increase the growth of some types of bacteria due to the warm temperature. “Steam room should not be used if you are pregnant or if you are just recovering from surgery,” concludes Shrestha.