The Headache over Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism- or underactive thyroid- is a condition in which you have low hormone levels because your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of them, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) are two hormones produced by your thyroid gland that help control body temperature, affect your heart rate and maintain the rate that your body uses carbohydrates and fats. Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland loses its ability to produce the proper amount of hormones for your body. People to most likely have hypothyroidism are women, particularly those older than the age of 60. Symptoms rarely show up in the beginning, but over time patients can see a variety of hypothyroidism signs depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency they have in their body. Some symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, an increased sensitivity to cold, muscle weakness, pain in your joins, thinning hair, depression, muscle aches and more. The first step is getting tested to confirm that a slow thyroid is the culprit behind your sluggish metabolism. Thyroid hormones are one of the three major factors that control your metabolism and weight, according to an article published by the Huffington Post. Anyone with a Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level more than 3.0 is considered to have hypothyroid, according to the more recent guidelines of the American College of Endocrinology. Furthermore, the article states that stress negatively affects your thyroid function and regular sauna sits are an option to reduce stress levels and help improve thyroid function.
The History of Sweating to Better Health
Sweating is a therapy practice that dates back thousands of years. According to Harvard Health Publications, the Mayans used sweat houses approximately 3,000 years ago. There are several different types of saunas including electrically heated, wood burning, a steam room and a far-infrared sauna. Traditional saunas use heat to warm the air around you, while an infrared sauna heats your body directly. 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. Saunas cause vigorous sweating and an increased heartrate, similar to the affects triggered by moderate exercise. If you cannot tolerate the heat of a conventional sauna, a more accessible way to achieve these affects would be through an infrared sauna because they produce the same results at lower temperatures.
Benefits of Infrared Heat to Treat Hypothyroidism Side Effects
Saunas have been shown to provide improvement to patients with mild depression, which is one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. In one study, 28 patients that reported appetite loss, fatigue and mild depression were split into two groups- one for treatment and one as the control. The test group of 14 patients participated in 20 far-infrared sauna sits for 15 minutes each, followed by 30 minutes of bed rest under a blanket. When compared to the control group- the sauna patients reported significant improvements in their ability to relax and their appetites. In another study reported by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health it was stated that patients who sat in a sauna for 30 minutes had an increase in (TSH) and the amounts were exaggerated if a glucose dose was taken orally at the beginning of the experiment. Additionally, T3 also increased in the sauna, but was stifled by the higher glycemia. Researchers found that TSH response to the sauna was certainly seen in young men between the ages of 20 and 25, but absent in middle-aged men ages 50 to 55.
Sweat in A Sauna and Lower Stress Levels
Stress can negatively affect your thyroid and the amounts of hormones it produces. 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. Additionally, saunas may help improve hypothyroid patients that experience fatigue. Dr. Wilson also reported that researches in Finland found that sauna use aids in a deeper, more restful sleep. If you are considering incorporating regular sauna sits into your health routine to aid in side effects from hypothyroidism, be sure to speak with your doctor first and foremost before adding it to your life. When you start with the sauna, it is recommended that you do not spend any longer than 10 minutes your first time in. Experts recommend slowly increasing the time you spend in a sauna and never mix alcohol intake in with your sauna use, instead be sure to drink two to four glasses of water following your sauna sit.
Resources: Mayo Clinic Staff “Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid),” Mayo Clinic; Mark Hyman, MD, “6 Steps to Heal Your Thyroid,” Huffington Post, June 17, 2016; Matsuda A, Nakazato M, Kihara T, et al. Repeated thermal therapy diminishes appetite loss and subjective complaints in mildly depressed patients. Psychosom Med 2005;67:643-647; Strbak V, Tatar P, Angyal R, Strec V, Aksamitova K, Vigas M, Janosova H, “Effects of Sauna and Glucose Intake on TSH and Thyroid Horomone Levels in Plasma of Euthyroid Subjects,” U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, May 1987, 36(5):426-31. “Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing,” by Dr. Lawrence Wilson