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Article: Does Sauna Help With Bloating, IBS and Digestion? Answered.

Does Sauna Help With Bloating, IBS and Digestion? Answered.

Does Sauna Help With Bloating, IBS and Digestion? Answered.

Written by Chris Lang

Saunas, long revered for their relaxing and soothing ambiance, have gained widespread attention for their potential benefits in the health department. From boosting skin health to reducing the risk of heart problems, saunas offer a holistic approach to wellness and overall well-being. As researchers continue to push the boundaries of sauna studies, a new question arises: does sauna help with bloating? And that’s precisely what this article will answer.

Though usually not as severe as some of the other symptoms and conditions a sauna can help with, bloating can significantly impact your quality of life. Most people who experience bloating describe their symptoms as moderate to severe, potentially causing extreme discomfort and adversely affecting their daily activities.

This article will examine whether using the sauna regularly can help reduce bloating caused by various factors or alleviate some of its symptoms. While on the topic of gut health, it will also explore whether frequent sauna bathing can aid digestion and soothe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) flare-ups.

Understanding Saunas and Bloating

Before looking into the possible link between saunas and bloating, let’s examine each element independently.

What Is a Sauna?

Using sweating as a therapy is by no means a new concept. Sweathouses have been used for centuries, going back to the Mayans. However, the modern idea of a sauna in the Western world is typically associated with the Finnish sauna.

In this context, a sauna refers to a specially designed room that uses a heat source to make you sweat. The heat source is of great importance, as it primarily dictates the type of sauna experience.

Generally speaking, there are three types of saunas – traditional, infrared, and wet.

A traditional sauna resembles the original Finnish sauna the most. It usually relies on wood burning to reach the desired temperature, which can go as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit. These high temperatures are paired with low humidity levels, which is why these saunas are often called “dry saunas.”

As you can probably guess, wet saunas are the complete opposite. Instead of emitting dry heat, they embrace high humidity to create a distinct sauna experience. This type of sauna (or steam room) also has a significantly lower temperature, typically capping at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

The same can be said for the infrared sauna, which typically heats up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. But the lower temperature isn’t the only difference between this type and the traditional sauna. Infrared saunas approach heat therapy entirely differently by using infrared heaters to directly target the body of the sauna bather. In other words, they don’t heat the air around you to help you sweat; they warm your body directly.

Since there are some claims that heat can exacerbate bloating, steam rooms and infrared saunas are generally considered the better options for those looking for some help with bloating.

Bloating and Its Causes

Given how many people deal with bloating during their lifetime, you probably already know about bloating. But let’s cover all the bases.

Bloating is a condition characterized by a feeling of tightness, fullness, or swelling in the abdomen, often accompanied by increased gas and discomfort. The discomfort can range from a mild nuisance to intense pain that may impact daily activities.

But why does bloating occur?

The answer to this question varies, as bloating can result from a range of factors. With this in mind, let’s review the most common among them.

Excess Gas

As a byproduct of digestion, gas is a natural occurrence. However, too much gas certainly isn’t. Excess intestinal gas typically suggests a disruption in the normal functioning of your digestive processes, which causes you to bloat. This can result from overeating or a range of medical conditions, including the following:

  • Carbohydrate malabsorption

  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

  • IBS and other functional digestive disorders

A Digestive Issue

Not all digestive issues are caused by a gastrointestinal disease. Some might occur from a buildup of digestive content that can cause bloating and the uncomfortable feeling of tightness in your abdomen. Such a buildup may come from the following:

  • Constipation

  • Bowel obstruction

  • Recent weight gain

A Hormonal Imbalance

The menstrual cycle is another common cause of bloating. But that’s not the only female-only process that causes bloating. Hormonal fluctuations can also contribute to bloating. Worst of all? They can do so from various angles. For instance, estrogen spikes can cause water retention, while progesterone can cause excess gas by slowing your metabolism.

Can Saunas Help With Bloating?

Now that the groundwork is covered, let’s answer the titular question – does sauna help with bloating?

Sauna Benefits

As more health benefits of saunas emerge, so do more questions. Is sauna good for the lungs? Does sauna help lymphatic drainage? While the answer to these (and most similar questions) is usually affirmative, this article won’t explore the full scope of sauna health benefits. It will only focus on those that can help reduce bloating or alleviate the symptoms caused by bloating and other digestive issues.

Sauna Can Aid Detox

One of the medical suggestions for battling bloating is minimizing your exposure to toxins, as these can harm your gut health. This can be accomplished by eating organic food and avoiding environmental pollutants.

But even with these precautions, you’re likely to encounter toxins in your daily life. The solution? You must find a way to detoxify your body.

Now, there has been a lot of debate on whether sweating can truly remove toxins from your body. Some consider it a myth, while others strongly believe in the efficacy of sweating in this regard, with Persians leading the race.

A 2019 study found that sweat contains some toxins, supporting the notion that sweating can eliminate specific substances. Though further research is needed to prove a definite link between sweating and detoxification, the initial findings are more than promising.

Sauna Can Support Weight Loss

The role of saunas in weight loss is another highly contested topic within the wellness community. People who oppose this idea argue that the sauna might make you lose weight, but the lost weight is nothing more than water weight. In other words, the weight reduction comes from the lost fluids, not fat.

But while eliminating excess water might not be enough for long-term weight loss, it’s undoubtedly helpful for reducing bloating. Since sauna bathing helps you reduce water retention almost instantly, it also helps you feel less puffy and bloated immediately after leaving the cabin.

Sauna Can Help to Reduce Stress

A 2018 review presented various health benefits of regular sauna bathing supported by numerous medical studies. Stress relief was one of those benefits. But what does reducing stress levels have to do with bloating?

Stress is actually a well-known trigger for various stomach problems, from bloating to IBS. In other words, using regular sauna bathing to manage your stress levels successfully can help minimize the risk of experiencing stomach issues.

Sauna Can Offer Pain Relief

Unfortunately, using the sauna can’t always help reduce bloating, as thermal therapy can’t prevent some of its causes. However, this doesn’t mean a sauna session is completely useless.

Several older studies have found that using a sauna can help alleviate pain, from lower back pain to arthritis. These healing properties result from how sauna bathing impacts your body.

When you use a sauna, your body’s core temperature rises. As a result, you start to sweat profusely. Excessive heat also causes blood vessels to dilate, which can instantly improve circulation.

The enhanced blood circulation, paired with better delivery of oxygen and nutrients, can bring comfort to the aching area or, in this case, your stomach.

Sauna Can Protect Gut Health

According to an older study, sauna use might have a protective effect on gut health. How?

Sauna bathing stimulates the release of brain-gut peptides, which help reduce inflammation and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. The same study suggested that heat shock can also help activate the digestive system, enhancing its function and motility.

Since maintaining your gut health is essential to preventing bloating and other digestive issues, regular sauna bathing can indirectly help you achieve just that.

Reducing Bloating in a Sauna

As you can see, sauna bathing can help you combat bloating and other digestive issues indirectly in several ways. By reducing water retention, providing stress and pain relief, and enhancing blood circulation, sauna sessions take part in a holistic approach aimed at reducing bloating.

However, remember to stay hydrated when using the sauna. Though the goal is to eliminate excess water, overdoing it can lead to dehydration, which can have potentially severe consequences for your body. So, drink plenty of water before, during, and after you sweat in a sauna to avoid dehydration and keep the experience safe and comfortable.

As for poor digestion and IBS, the conclusions are pretty similar. Sauna bathing can help with these issues indirectly by doing the following:

  • Soothing inflammation

  • Reducing pain

  • Boosting gut motility

  • Providing stress relief

Considerations and Precautions

As beneficial as it is to sit in a sauna daily, there is a right and wrong way to go about it.

Consultation With Healthcare Providers

First things first, if you have any doubts about your safety, make sure to consult with a healthcare provider before using a sauna. For people with specific medical conditions, this consultation becomes obligatory.

People who have experienced any of the following events or conditions should avoid sauna bathing altogether:

  • Recent heart attack or stroke

  • Severe heart disease

  • Heart failure

  • Pregnancy

  • Orthostatic hypotension (sudden low blood pressure)

As for people with medical conditions like high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or less severe heart problems, a professional consultation should resolve any doubts about the safety of the sauna.

Proper Sauna Usage

Now, even if you’re completely healthy, you still must follow some guidelines to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the sauna.

As far as safety goes, arguably the most important guideline to remember is to avoid alcohol consumption before using the sauna. Though there have been promising findings in research on the sauna’s role in alcohol detox, no alcohol should be consumed even close to your sauna session as this can intensify the heat’s effects and lead to dehydration.

As for efficiency, use the sauna at least four times a week for the best results. However, limit each session to 20 minutes at most (30 if using the infrared sauna), as prolonged exposure to heat can lead to adverse effects, such as heat stroke.

Potential Risks and Precautions

Suppose you use a sauna primarily to reduce bloating. If that’s the case, you should also know that there are some indications that heat can exacerbate bloating. To avoid this unfortunate scenario, limit your time in a sauna and continuously listen to your body. If, at any point, you feel ill or more bloated, leave the sauna immediately.

Ideally, you should invest in an at-home sauna, giving you complete control over the temperature settings. Sauna bathing at a lower temperature can bring health benefits without worsening symptoms.

If you feel any significant discomfort during or after using the sauna, it’s best to seek medical advice.

Reduce Bloating Sauna Style

By now, it’s probably clear that the answer to the question, “Does sauna help with bloating?” is yes. This help might come indirectly, but it’s help nonetheless. After getting the green light from a medical professional, purchase an at-home sauna from Komowa and start experiencing the many health benefits of sauna bathing, with less bloating being just the tip of the iceberg.

 

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