Saunas: The Benefits of Elevating Human Temperature

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For centuries, humans across the planet have observed an improvement in health that accompanies the regular use of a sauna. The belief that saunas can make the body stronger and more resistant to illness is widely held in areas such as Northern Europe, but the larger medical community has always been tepid in its support, preferring treatment- based approaches to wellness-based approaches.

However, an associated idea is getting attention from medical researchers looking at fever — a temporary rise in body temperature which mimics the effects of a sauna.

As even small children know, the body naturally raises its own temperature in response to bacterial and viral infections. In these common, everyday cases, body temperature may rise from 98.6 to 101 or perhaps as high as 104 degrees.

This process has been observed for millenia, but only recently have scientists begun to take a closer look at why the body does that. And — surprise, surprise — they are discovering that nature has good reason for its actions.

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As Medical News Today put it recently: “Fevers aren’t just a byproduct of our immune response [to illness]. In fact, it’s the other way around: An elevated body temperature triggers cellular mechanisms that ensure the immune system takes appropriate action against the offending virus or bacteria. So say researchers hailing from two academic institutions in the United Kingdom: the University of Warwick in Coventry and the University of Manchester. Senior researchers Profs. David Rand and Mike White led teams of mathematicians and biologists to understand what happens at cellular level when fever takes hold.

“Their findings . . . reveal that higher body temperatures drive the activity of certain proteins that, in turn, switch genes responsible for the body’s immune response on and off, as required.”

Essentially, the argument is this: When illness strikes, the body promotes the healing process through an elevation in temperature — that which we call a fever. In other words, instead of a result of the impairment, fever is the action the body takes to help it get well.

Perhaps it takes someone from outside the medical community to suggest the next logical step: If fever is a get-well mechanism, then mimicking a fever by raising body temperature through use of the sauna may well tap into these same natural healing powers.

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