Infrared Sauna Heat Shock Improves Immunity
In my research for the blog this week I came across a very interesting article published in June of 2016 in the medical journal Frontiers in Microbiology. The article summarizes the findings of a study conducted with the use of mice exposed to a deadly strain of influenza, the Avian Virus H5N1.
This flu strain is a highly contagious virus causing very serious human respiratory infection and has a high rate of morbidity. The study was conducted to see the effect of heat shock therapy in mice. In the abstract of the journal article the author states that:
“Short-term heat shock, as a stressful condition, could induce the expression of heat shock proteins that function as molecular chaperones to protect cells against multiple stresses.”¹
Of course, exposure to an infrared sauna session creates a condition of stress that requires the human body to acclimate to heat which causes a short term heat shock producing HSPs, or heat shock proteins, that can serve to improve the immune system.
In the study, mice were separated into two groups, those exposed to heat shock in an incubator, and those that were not exposed to heat prior to inoculation with the deadly flu strain. The results were pretty incredible.
The mice group that was not exposed to heat treatments began to die after day 7. The group exposed to the heat shock experienced a reduction of viral replication in lung tissue, less weight loss, and increased survival rate of the H5N1 infection. The data in the study reported that “short-term heat shock provided beneficial anti-HPAIV H5N1 properties in mice model, which offers an alternative strategy for non-drug prevention for influenza infection.”²
This study demonstrated that, through the stimulation of heat shock proteins in mice, a very effective immunity response was created in the host to counter against the infection by certain bacteria. This is important modern evidence proving the benefits of heat therapy for immunity.
But, we already know that heat exposure is an age old health practice and that sweating has been used as therapy for centuries.
An advocate of sauna usage, functional medicine expert Alejandro Junger, MD, reminds us that sweating inside heated enclosures has been a medicinal practice of cultures dating back to ancient Roman, Greek, and Russian civilizations, as well as that of Native American sweat lodges. Dr. Junger explains how sauna exposure can create a state of self-induced fever, which can condition the immune system for better performance. He points to the fact that skin is our largest organ and is a major toxic waste elimination channel, and through sweating, “one activates and intensifies the elimination of toxins.”³
It is well documented that sweating induced from exposure to an infrared sauna is seven times more effective for detox than that of exposure to a traditional, convection heated sauna. To the point of this article, though, sweating results from exposure to heat, and heat shock generates HSPs in humans. It has been demonstrated time and again that heat shock proteins improve the immune system!