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Steam Rooms - How It Works

Although often misunderstood as a symptom of disease, fever actually is a part of the body's natural healing response. Steam baths, sauna, and other heat-inducing treatments elicit similar healing responses in the body, and consequently are often called "artificial fevers".

Hippocrates, the founder of Western medicine more than two-thousand years ago said, "Give me the power to create a fever, and I shall cure any disease."

Although the artificial fever induced by sweat therapy does not have the comprehensive effect of real fever, it still produces a striking effect on a number of bodily processes.

There is evidence that artificial fever works as an immune system stimulant by increasing the number of white blood cells in the body. In a 1959-review of studies on the effects of heat treatments, Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. Wakim and colleagues cite findings indicating that the number of white blood cells in the blood increased by an average of 58% during artificially induced fever. Researchers also have found increases in the activity of the white blood cells during induced fever.

In addition, as in the case of bodily induced fever, the raised temperature during the artificial fever reduces the growth rate of most bacteria and viruses, giving the immune system time to mobilise its own forces. Indeed, many regular steam or sauna bathers have experienced that a good, long sweat bath at the early onset of a cold or flu can help ward off the disease before in manifests as actual symptoms.

Apart from the immune system-stimulating effects of sweat therapy, many thought it as one of the most effective and painless detoxifying treatments available.

Heat speeds up the chemical processes in the body, making steam and sauna bathing one of the simplest and most comfortable ways to rid the body of accumulated toxins. As the pores open up and the million of sweat glands start to excrete, the body rids itself of metabolic and other waste products. Sweat contains almost the same elements as urine, and for this reason, the skin is sometimes called the third kidney. It is estimated that as much as 30% of bodily wastes are eliminated by way of perspiration.

However, more than common metabolic waste products are secreted through the skin. Natural health practitioners often notice that when heavy smokers get a steam bath for a body wrap (where the body 'simmers' for up to 45 min. Under hot covers), they will leave a yellow residue on the towels. Reino Tarkianinen, President of Finlandia Sauna, reports that when the company replaces sauna benches from public baths, a thick, black layer of accumulated tar can be found underneath the benches.

In Finland, research is being done on the use of sweat therapy in the treatment of people who are chemically affected. The purifying effects of perspiration could also be behind claims that steam and sauna treatments can help cur or control such ailments as acne and arthritis.

Last but not least, steam and sauna bathing produces powerful therapeutic effects simply by increasing circulation. As the carrier of the rebuilding forces of the nutrients to all parts of the body, the bloodstream plays a crucial role in the maintenance of health.

Steam and sauna treatments have a stimulating effect on the cardiovascular system. The pulse rate increases from 75 beats per minute to between 100-150 beats per minute during a 15-20 minute treatment. This increases blood circulation, but not blood pressure, since the heat also causes the tiny blood vessel in the skin to expand, accommodating the increased blood flow. The dilation of the capillary vessels enables the bloodstream to carry great amounts of nutrients to the skin, enhancing the nutritive status of the skin. The flushed, youthful look that steam and sauna bathers maintain for up to several hours after treatment is due to this effect.

Sweat treatments can also be enjoyed on their own, as a workout for the cardiovascular system, a deep-cleansing treat for the body, an immune system booster, and a soothing and invigorating refreshment for the mind.

There are a few precautions to keep in mind. Because of the increase in cardiovascular activity caused by the high heat, sweat therapy is not recommended for people with heart disease or other cardiovascular problems. Individuals with high blood pressure should first consult their doctor.

In addition, the treatment is not advised for pregnant women, small children, or the elderly. Do not take a sweat treatment if you have a fever or an open wound. If you have been working out, be sure that your body has had time to cool down before exposing it to the heat of a sweat bath.

The main thing to keep in mind is to enjoy the process. Do not push your body beyond its comfort level; the point is not to sweat it out the longest, but to allow your mind and body to luxuriate in this health-enhancing and invigorating miniature spa treatment.

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