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Gut health affects the entire body, so improving it can have many benefits. Good gut health can lead to improved mood, better digestion, increased energy, higher immunity, more efficient nutrient absorption and better overall health.
Understanding the scientific facts behind these conditions can offer insight into why certain treatments help manage them, which in turn can give individuals greater control over their health.
In this blog, we'll explore the science behind how an infrared sauna session could be good for your gut health, possibly improve your digestion, reduce bloating, and soothe IBS flare-ups.
We'll also delve into the impact that a sauna has on the gut microbiome, and how it can serve as a new physiological challenge model for intestinal barrier function.
If you're looking to improve your gut health, join us as we dissect the connection between the sauna and better digestion!
Infrared Sauna Benefits for Gut Health
Have you ever heard of the exceptional advantages of utilising an infrared sauna? Far-infrared heat not only enhances blood circulation, and diminishes inflammation but also aids in detoxification.
More importantly, it advances intestinal health by fortifying cell walls and encouraging the production of molecules that foster a beneficial environment in your gut.
Finally, sweating can help prevent leaky gut syndrome by facilitating the removal of harmful toxins and acidity from the body. Before we examine the impacts infrared sauna has on gut health, let's take a detour to explain the gut microbiome and why that's important for overall gut health.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome refers to the microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. These beneficial bacteria and other organisms collectively make up a highly diverse ecosystem that contributes to digestion, nutrient absorption, immune system regulation, and protection from pathogens. Specific strains of gut microbes have been linked to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even mental illnesses like depression. By maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, individuals can support their overall health by helping keep the gut microbiome balanced.
10 Tips for Improving the Gut Microbiome
Caring for your gut microbiome is a key aspect of maintaining good health, and there are several easy steps you can take to improve its well-being. By following these tips, you will be on your way to promoting the optimal function of your gut microbiome and better overall wellness. Here are the 10 tips for improving your gut microbiome:
Avoid inflammatory foods: Stay away from dairy products, gluten, sugar, alcohol, processed foods, and trans fats as they can cause low-grade inflammation in your body.
Eat for your gut bacteria: Instead of eating to please your taste buds, focus on nourishing your gut bacteria by consuming fibre-rich foods such as vegetables, psyllium husks, onions, garlic, apples, and fermented foods.
Stay hydrated: Dehydration can hamper the normal functioning of your gut bacteria. So, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Reduce stress: High-stress levels can negatively affect your gut microbiome. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga to manage stress.
Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can compromise the functioning of your gut bacteria. Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help improve the diversity and abundance of your gut microbiome.
Take antibiotics only when necessary: Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of your gut bacteria. Use them only when necessary and as prescribed by your doctor.
Consider probiotic supplements: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help improve the health of your gut microbiome. Consider taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.
Minimise exposure to toxins: Exposure to toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, and pollution can harm your gut bacteria. Minimise your exposure to such toxins by eating organic foods and avoiding polluted environments.
Seek professional help: If you're experiencing gut-related health issues, consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice and treatment.
Is Sauna Good for the Gut?
Yes, sauna therapy can be good for gut health. One study looked at investigated the effects of sauna bathing on the release of brain-gut peptides in seven women. The women underwent a 20-minute sauna bath and the study focused on the levels of different peptides in the blood during and after sauna bathing in women.
Brain-gut peptides are signalling molecules that play a crucial role in the communication between the brain and the gut. They regulate various functions in the digestive system, including the secretion of digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, and motility of the digestive tract. Brain-gut peptides also play a role in the regulation of appetite, satiety, and energy metabolism.
This research suggests that sauna use may have a protective effect on gut health. The effects sauna use had on the production of peptides have been shown to modulate the immune response, reduce inflammation, and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. During heat exposure, there was an increase in PP and motilin levels, which suggests that the digestive system becomes more active. This heightened activity could have the potential to enhance gut motility and function.
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Does Sauna Affect the Microbiome?
Yes, sauna - specifically far-infrared sauna - has been shown to affect the microbiome in mice. One animal study suggests that far infrared rays may have potential benefits for gut health by modulating gut microbiota composition and stimulating the expression of SCFA-sensing receptors.
The researchers found that far-infrared rays can change the types of bacteria in the gut to be more helpful and less harmful. These findings in mice could potentially mean the same for humans, making our gut healthier and reducing symptoms of gut-related problems like stomach pain or diarrhoea. It could also help the gut by making certain chemicals that can help us stay healthy, work better and even prevent us from getting sick.
While these results look promising, human trials are needed to determine if far-infrared rays have the same effect on the human microbiome as it does on mice.
Is Sauna Therapy Good for the Microbiome?
No, it is undecided if a sauna is good for the microbiome due to a lack of scientific evidence. The previous medical studies mentioned have shown a positive effect sauna therapy has on brain-gut peptides, and positive effects on the gut microbiome in mice, however, no study has yet to show positive effects of sauna on the human microbiome.
One human study aimed to investigate the effects of post-exercise sauna bathing on the specific microbiome of 15 young males. Participants underwent 60 minutes of cycling, 3 times a week, followed by a 30-minute post-exercise dry Finnish sauna session. After 4-weeks, no significant difference in the abundance of the selected microbiome was found in the participants. It is unclear if the results suggest that sauna has no effect, or if exercise has an effect equal to, greater or non-impacted effect on the microbiome tested.
Is Sauna Good for IBS?
No, there is a lack of evidence that directly proves that the sauna is good for IBS. However, there is potential for infrared sauna benefits to support IBS symptoms. Could the sauna be potentially good for IBS? Yes, the sauna is potentially good for IBS symptoms due to its ability to support healthy gut function and other factors associated with IBS. Factors that play a role in IBS include:
the presence of inflammatory markers
levels of beneficial bacteria
and sensitivity to psychological stress
Similarly, infrared sauna benefits are complimentary to these factors of IBS, including:
support digestive enzymes for gut bacteria
increase in PP and motilin levels for better gut motility
stress relief and improved mental state
One study investigated the effects of sauna-induced dehydration on intestinal barrier function. Strengthening the gut barrier (or “intestinal permeability”) has been linked to improved symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. This is because a strong gut barrier helps protect against inflammation and the overgrowth of bacteria in the colon.
Additionally, it reduces food intolerances and sensitivities which can be a major trigger for IBS flares. A stronger gut barrier may also help decrease irregular intestinal motility, leading to more regular bowel movements and fewer constipation-like symptoms of IBS.
The researchers found that sauna-induced dehydration increased intestinal permeability without causing substantial damage to the enterocytes. They also observed increases in certain markers, such as lipopolysaccharide-binding protein, IL-6, and IL-8, suggesting that this model could be used to assess the efficiency of interventions aimed at strengthening the gut barrier function.
The sauna-induced dehydration protocol was well tolerated by most participants and could be used in clinical trials to study the effects of medical or nutritional interventions.
Do Saunas help with Digestion?
No, there is very limited evidence to suggest that saunas help with digestion. While the studies mentioned earlier show that sauna use and infrared saunas may have a positive effect on the gut microbiota and overall gut health, the link between saunas and digestion doe snot yet exist.
However, infrared sauna health benefits include similar outcomes of actions that do support digestion, such as managing your stress. If you have issues with digestion, then regular infrared sauna bathing may be a safe and positive solution for improving digestion, however, it is not recommended to use a sauna directly after eating.
Does the Sauna help with Bloating?
No, saunas have not been scientifically proven to help with bloating, and similar to the above question, there is a lack of conducted studies to determine an answer. However, infrared saunas can help lower inflammation in the body, support digestive enzymes and improve motilin levels - all of which support healthy gut function and combat irritability. If you suffer from bloating and you have eliminated other causes such as diet or lack of exercise, then infrared saunas are a safe and healthy activity that may potentially help with your bloating issues.
Can you go to the Sauna on an empty stomach?
Yes, it is advised that you visit a sauna on an empty stomach. When you enter an infrared sauna you want your body to be able to focus completely on cooling itself down. If you're digesting food, then your body is burning energy trying to break down and absorb nutrients, and if you overcomplicate its ability to do so by forcing it to deal with heat stress then the body will struggle. If you can, always wait at least 2 hours after a heavy meal before you use an infrared sauna.
Is it OK to fast and sauna?
Yes, it is ok to be fasting and using the sauna. Intermittent fasting is a great way to improve mental clarity, cleanse the digestive tract, increase metabolism and detoxify the body. Using an infrared sauna during intermittent fasting is a great way to further enhance these benefits as the infrared sauna raises the body temperature, activates the cardiovascular response, and promotes healthy enzymes in the gut and hormone production in the body. When conducting a long fast, it is important to listen carefully to your body while undergoing an infrared sauna as you may be more susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Infrared Saunas Health Benefits
Infrared sauna therapy works by heating the core body temperature high enough to induce heavy sweating. This process in the human body has an unusual healing effect on many health conditions, showing significant improvement for fatal cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, weight loss, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, chronic heart failure, fatal coronary heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Repeated thermal therapy such as regular sauna has clinical effects on cardiovascular health by dilating the blood vessels and increasing the heart rate. This produces an effect similar to moderate exercise, without the creation of metabolic waste products, impact on joints or effort.
Interestingly, regular sauna treatment also provides similar effects on the nervous system as exercise, being able to calm the mind, de-stress and improve relaxation. Sauna sweating also helps eliminate harmful substances from the body such as toxins and heavy metals. Infrared saunas have even been used to detoxify the LA police force with methamphetamine exposure.
A simple sauna visit can provide tremendous benefits, both long-term and immediate, to gut health and much more.
Can a Sauna help with Gut Issues?
While it is clear that sauna use can be beneficial for gut health and general well-being, the exact mechanism by which saunas provide this benefit remains unknown. It is important to remember to stay hydrated while using a sauna and take other preventive measures as listed in the tips provided above.
Research also indicates that infrared sauna therapy has potential benefits for the gut microbiome, such as modulating its composition and stimulating the expression of SCFA-sensing receptors. Although there is more research in progress, science hasn’t yet been able to determine whether saunas directly help with digestion and bloating issues. Nevertheless, the combination of lower inflammation levels, improved motilin production and other related advantages speaks volumes about their potential benefits for gut health.
Investing in an infrared sauna to help improve your lifestyle could be extremely worthwhile if you are already suffering from poor gut health or just looking for ways to better maintain it. If this blog post has got you interested in finding out how many calories you can burn during an infrared sauna session then try our free calculator! With regular use of your home infrared sauna, you could improve your overall health both inside and out.