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Rhonda Patrick: The Benefits of Sauna

Updated: Feb 9

Podcast Release Date: 4/13/2022

Podcast Length: 01:26:11

3 Key Takeaways

  1. 2-4 sauna sessions per week has been linked to dramatic increases in overall health

  2. The most optimal sauna temperature is around 174 degrees Fahrenheit

  3. Coupling sauna use with regular exercise yielded the best results for heart health and longevity


In this episode Dr. Rhonda Patrick and her guest Kyle Allred, discussed the benefits of using a sauna, including its ability to help with depression and increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). They also provided details on what to do while in the sauna and tips for maintaining health before and after.

Summary of Sauna Benefits:

  1. Saunas are a special kind of heat therapy that can improve health

  2. Research shows that people who use saunas two to three times per week have less risk for heart problems and sudden death when compared to individuals who do not regularly use them

  3. People who used saunas regularly had a 40% decrease in all cause mortality (risk of dying)

  4. Individuals who used saunas daily had even better out comes

  5. Sauna bathing also helps lower blood pressure similar to the effects of exercise

  6. Studies have correlated heat therapy with increased brain function and decreased risk of cognitive disease such as dementia and Alzheimer's

  7. Studies showed a 20% decrease in these cognitive conditions with sauna use

  8. Some people that used heat therapy 7 days per week experienced a 66% decrease

  9. For best results the temperature should be around 174 degrees Fahrenheit

  10. The amount of time in the sauna depends on how often you use them

  11. 15 minutes 2-3x per week is recommended for most

  12. Safe to do 7 days per week

  13. Native Americans, Russians, and Finns have been using saunas or hot baths for hundreds of years to help preserve health

Heat as an Aerobic Exercise Mimetic

  1. The cardiovascular system is like the body's delivery truck

  2. It carries blood to all your organ systems

  3. Decreased cardiovascular health leads to onset of disease

  4. The best way to increase heart health is through regular exercise and a healthy diet

  5. Research has shown that using a sauna offers similar effects as exercising

  6. Similar to exercise, people who use the sauna 3-4 times weekly experienced a 24% decrease in blood pressure

  7. Some individuals who used the sauna daily experienced a 46% decrease in blood pressure

  8. Even one time use of sauna was associated with a momentary decrease in blood pressure

  9. Similar to exercise Sauna exposure has been linked to endorphin release

  10. This can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression

Effects of Heat Acclimation on Endurance

  1. Regular Sauna use can help people adapt to hot environments quicker and easier

  2. This can be very advantageous to athletes who compete in new places

  3. For people who do not exercise regularly, frequent sauna exposure can make it easier to accomplish physically demanding tasks

  4. People who use the sauna regularly are able to exercise at a higher intensity without a rapid increase in body temperature even in hot environments

Benefits of Heat Shock Proteins

  1. Heat shock proteins are activated by Sauna exposure

  2. These proteins help eliminate senescent (bad) cells and help healthy cells become more resilient to stressors

  3. This can reduce plaque build up and inflammation in the arteries

  4. They might also improve blood flow to the brain

  5. This can reduce the chance of cognitive decline

  6. Regular sauna use can increase these proteins by 70%

  7. This helps improve longevity

Sauna and Depression

  1. Research has shown that an increase of 1-2 degrees in core body temperature can stimulate "antidepressant" neurotransmitters in the brain

  2. This occurs because heat exposure stimulates Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and endorphins responses

  3. These effects have been known to last up to 6 weeks after one sauna session

  4. BDNF helps existing neurons survive as well as helping adults grow new ones

Cellular Repair Mechanisms Elicited by Sauna Use

  1. Humans evolved to need stress in our lives

  2. Doing things like sauna, exercising, and fasting can help your body by activating pathways that make it stronger and healthier

  3. These stressors also make the body more resistant to disease

  4. These pathways work against inflammation, aging, toxins from the environment, and even damage done to cells or DNA inside them

Prevention of Muscle Atrophy Through Sauna Use

  1. Saunas help your body by using heat to make it easier for proteins in muscles to fold correctly

  2. This prevents break down and reduces muscle atrophy

  3. This is also helpful to reduce muscle wasting after sports injury

  4. People with disabilities can use the sauna as a form of moderate-intensity aerobic activity

Detoxification of Heavy Metals

  1. Saunas can help us get rid of bad metals in our bodies such as aluminum and cadmium

  2. Sweating helps to remove these toxins from the tissue

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

  1. Heart rate variability is important because it measures how well our heart can handle stress

  2. HRV score is determined by calculating the time between heart beats

  3. Exercise and saunas have been shown to help improve this number by activating the parasympathetic nervous system

  4. This helps us stay calm in stressful situations

The Synergy of Sauna Use and Exercise

  1. Sauna and exercise are both good for you, but if you have to choose one then it is best to pick exercise

  2. Studies show that people who do aerobic exercise plus sauna together get better cardiorespiratory fitness than those who just did either one alone

Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Saunas

  1. In general, both traditional and infrared saunas offer great benefits

  2. Traditional saunas are typically warmer

  3. Some people argue that this increase in heat is crucial to promote adaption

What Does Rhonda Do?

  1. Dr. Rhonda Patrick has a specific sauna protocol that she uses in her life

  2. She recommends people use the sauna at 174 degrees Fahrenheit and 10 to 20% humidity

  3. She recommends 19 minutes or longer if you want to get the most benefit out of it

  4. Dr. Patrick also likes to do high-intensity exercise before going into the sauna as this helps increase body temperature more rapidly

  5. Frequency is 4-7 times weekly

Who Should Not Use Saunas?

  1. Children and pregnant women should use caution before entering a sauna

  2. They are not able to regulate their core body temperature as efficiently

  3. Drinking alcohol is dangerous before entering a sauna

  4. People who have diagnosed heart conditions should talk to a doctor before using the sauna

  5. This is because heat therapy can alter blood pressure

Sauna and Blood Sugar

  1. Dr. Rhonda Patrick says sweating in a sauna can make it look like your glucose levels are higher

  2. This is because you are losing water and the concentration of sugar appears to be more without any real change happening

  3. Long-term use of saunas has been linked with improved fasting glucose and better insulin sensitivity

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