How Stress Affects The Body

If you suffer from chronic stress, the symptoms of stress may affect your health, although you may not realize it. While you might think that an illness is causing you to have symptoms such as a lack of appetite, sleeping problems, and an upset stomach, long-term stress may be responsible. Stress symptoms can affect your mood, behavior, and your body. Left unchecked for a while, stress may contribute to several chronic health problems including, but not limited to: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. The average stress levels in the United States rose from 4.9 to 5.1 on a scale from 1 to 10, according to an annual stress survey performed by the American Psychological Association in 2015. The main reasons listed for causing stress included money and employment. Stress symptoms on your body may include the following: fatigue, problems sleeping, upset stomach, changes in your sex drive, headaches, chest pain, and tension in your muscles. If you experience chest pain, particularly if it occurs during physical activity along with shortness of breath, pain shooting into your shoulder and arm; sweating, and/or dizziness, seek emergency help right away. These could be the symptoms of a heart attack and not just the effects of stress.

Stress Relief from Infrared Saunas.

If you have symptoms of stress, consider exploring steps to manage your stress. Set aside time to get regular physical activity. Get lots of rest, choose healthy diet habits, and avoid excessive alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco use and the use of illegal substances. Additionally, consider taking regular saunas because saunas can also help to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. According to the book “Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing,” written by Dr. Lawrence Wilson, several studies have shown that regular sauna use lowers levels of cortisol, which is the body’s main stress hormone. Dr. Wilson writes that research has shown that sweating increases relaxation, which reduces anxiety and the feeling of frustration.

What Are The Benefits of Infrared Saunas?

There are several different types of saunas including electrically heated, wood burning, a steam room, and a far-infrared sauna. In infrared saunas, special lamps use light waves to heat a person’s body instead of the entire room. Infrared saunas are one of the few mediums that provide infrared heat in a controlled environment. Infrared heat is an invisible electromagnetic wave with a wavelength longer than that of visible light that helps improve blood flow. Typically in a traditional sauna, the surrounding air is heated up to about 185 degrees, which then heats your body. However, in infrared saunas, the temperature only reaches about 140 degrees. Infrared rays penetrate your body more deeply, which causes your body to start sweating at a lower temperature than in a traditional sauna. According to a 2009 review of evidence done by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, researchers found that infrared saunas produce a lighter demand on the cardiovascular system, so they in turn might be beneficial to people who lead a more sedentary life due to medical issues. Furthermore, the review, which covered nine studies, it found limited evidence for improvement in chronic pain and “limited moderate evidence” for improvements in blood pressure and symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Lowering High Blood Pressure with Sauna Use

Symptoms of stress include muscle tension, headaches, and high blood pressure. Studies have found that regular sauna use can lower the risk of high blood pressure. A 2015 study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, found an association between regular sauna use and a lower risk of fatal heart disease. The study involved more than 2,300 middle-aged men in Finland and found that the more often a man took a sauna the lower his risk was to fatal heart disease and death. The researchers for that study also found a connection between regular sauna use and a lower risk of dementia, high blood pressure, and other benefits. In Finland where saunas are very prevalent in the culture, it was hard to find subjects who did not use them at all, so the study of men was done by those who used them more or less frequently. While researchers did note that it is not exactly known why men who took more frequent saunas had greater longevity, whether it is the relaxation time spent, leisure time, or the effects of heat in the room. One of the authors of the study noted that the research team believes both heat and relaxation are important factors because heart rate increases with full-body heat exposure and that helps to improve cardiac output.

Infrared saunas are also used in Waon therapy. Developed in Japan, Waon Therapy translates as “soothing warm therapy.” The therapy is comprised of 15-minute intervals in the heat, followed by 30 minutes of reclined rest while wrapped up in a towel. Saunas are a relaxing option for those who need to reduce their stress levels. People who take regular saunas are advised to drink lots of water before and after use to stay properly hydrated. Anyone with heart disease should consult a doctor before use.

Resources: American Psychological Association; “Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing,” by Dr. Lawrence Wilson; U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health; Laukkanen T, Khan H, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen JA. Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events [published online February 23, 2015]. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187.