Warmth For Allergy

Sauna Impacts Autonomic Nervous System

Warmth For Allergy - Healthy Living Magazine

Warmth For Allergy - Healthy Living Magazine

Also called the visceral nervous system, the autonomic nervous system (ANS), consisting of the sympathetic and parasympathetic components that must be balanced for peak function, operates below consciousness though it controls our bodies without exception. The ANS revs and brakes heartbeat, digestive function, respiratory rate, salivation, stress and immune response, dilation of pupils, sexual arousal and adrenaline secretions of excitatory hormones. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems balance out each other, working together or sometimes inhibiting enzyme cascades, secretions and white blood cell responses. In allergy patients subpar or hypo-sympathetic inhibiting activity allows for the over response of the immune system. The ANS is tilted favorably towards sending out a massive army when maybe only a sniper is required.

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Stuffiness, itching, sneezing and a rhino horn for a nose are not the only blemishing costs of allergic rhinitis. Pollen, dust and animal dander cost us in dollars too. These allergic rhinitis triggers are responsible for proliferation of the sixth most common chronic illness worldwide with approximately $5.6 billion spent in direct medical and other costs.

An inflammation of the nasal airways, allergic rhinitis is linked with a sensitized immune system that overreacts to what should be a benign stimulant. After all, no dog’s or cat’s hair ought to be deadly, right?

Medicine’s current therapeutic options include avoidance, drugs and immunotherapy, but recent investigations suggest that to eliminate allergies an infrared sauna may be used to modify the body’s ANS. These clinical findings from investigators at the School of Physical Therapy, Khon Kaen University, Thailand, were published in their June 2013 article in the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology.

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The study looked at the impact of six weeks of sauna treatment on the ANS, peak nasal inspiratory flow and lung function in patients suffering allergies. Could sauna shift the body’s ANS and therefore impact the underlying cause of the allergic reaction?

The 26 patients were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis clinically by an attending physician and assigned into two groups. Some received relevant health education and otherwise maintained a normal life. The sauna group received sauna treatment over a six-week period, three days per week, with six sets of five minutes per set per day totaling 30 minutes. Each five minute set alternated with a five minute period of rest. The sauna’s infrared spectrum worked beneath consciousness to alter fundamental physiology without the patients knowing. Heart rate variability (HRV) was measured to study the autonomic nervous response including the balance of sympathetic to parasympathetic activity; peak nasal inspiratory flow and lung function were measured at the beginning and after three and six weeks of sauna. Baseline characteristics for the control and sauna treatment groups were comparable. There were significant changes in HRV after six weeks of sauna indicating a favorable shift in ANS for treatment of allergic rhinitis. The high frequency or overactive component of the ANS was lower while the low frequency inhibiting component was higher in the sauna treatment group than the control patients. The peak nasal flow and the forced expiratory volume were “significantly higher” in sauna patients. The six weeks of repeated sauna treatment can increase sympathetic activity as well respiratory volume in patients with allergic rhinitis, the article says.

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In a Russian language journal doctors who used sauna therapy for children with atopic dermatitis, which can be allergy related, found it “improves the condition of their autonomic nervous system.” They noted the “marked clinical response” that could “necessitate long-term sauna treatment to cure this disease.”

Infrared saunas and other infrared instruments represent the future of medicine, says an article in the November 2012 issue of Photonics & Lasers in Medicine. Far-infrared (FIR) is an invisible electromagnetic wavelength longer than that of visible light. It has been used to treat vascular diseases as a result of an increase in blood flow. At the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, it is explained that far infrared radiation is a subdivision of the electromagnetic spectrum that is considered a “promising treatment modality.” Saunas delivering pure FIR radiation (eliminating completely the near and mid infrared bands) are “safe, effective and widely used sources to generate therapeutic effects.”

In the journal Ter Arkh the use of sauna as part of therapy of 107 patients with asthma and chronic bronchitis “resulted in a rapid time course of clinical symptoms of diseases, reduced the adaptation period at a health resort, produced a bronchodilatatory effect and helped to return cardiodynamics to normal…” The article went on to say that sauna was “a pathogenetic therapeutic method” for patients with “obstructive syndrome” in bronchopulmonary disease.

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The objective of a 2007 study was to evaluate the clinical effects of infrared therapy in patients with AR. Thirtyone patients were enrolled. Every day patients recorded their symptoms in a diary before and during treatment. Each symptom of rhinitis was rated on a 4-point scale according to severity. During the period of FIR therapy, the symptoms of eye and nasal itching, stuffiness, rhinorrhea and sneezing were all improved. Smell impairment was not improved until after the last treatment. No obvious adverse effect was observed in the patients during treatment and follow-up. The scientists concluded that FIR therapy “could improve the symptoms of AR” and “might serve as a novel treatment modality.”

Advanced home sauna models allow users to adjust infrared sauna frequency for different health issues: detoxification, pain, weight loss. The LCD display should allow one to monitor calories burned and, if opted for, heart rate and other metabolic parameters.

REFERENCES
Hu KH, Li WT. Clinical effects of far-infrared therapy in patients with allergic rhinitis. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2007; 1479-1482. Kholopov AP, Iusupov M, Kravchenko AN, Gordeev FP, Pletenchuk LA. [Use of the sauna in the complex health resort treatment of patients with nonspecific bronchopulmonary diseases]. Ter Arkh. 1985;57(10):55-58. Kunbootsri N, Janyacharoen T, Arrayawichanon P, Chainansamit S, Kanpittaya J, Auvichayapat P, Sawanyawisuth K. The effect of six-weeks of sauna on treatment autonomic nervous system, peak nasal inspiratory flow and lung functions of allergic rhinitis Thai patients. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2013 June;31(2):142-147. doi: 10.12932/AP0262.31.2.2013. Menger W, Menger D, Menger H. Effect of sauna baths on respiratory function in children with asthma syndrome. Prax Klin Pneumol. 1983 Aug;37(8):304-307. Pashkov VK, Ogorodova LM, Gontarskaia VM, Pashkova EN. The sauna in the treatment of children with atopic dermatitis. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2000 July-Aug;(4):37-39. Vatansever F, Hamblin MR. Far infrared radiation (FIR): its biological effects and medical applications. Photonics Lasers Med. 2012 Nov 1;4:255-266.
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