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Article: The Endocrine Effects of Repeated Sauna Bathing on Testosterone Levels

The Endocrine Effects of Repeated Sauna Bathing on Testosterone Levels

The Endocrine Effects of Repeated Sauna Bathing on Testosterone Levels

Written by Chris Lang

 

Regular sauna use can arguably have numerous positive effects in general. With prolonged, frequent sessions, it’s been suggested that increased testosterone levels are one of these many benefits.

Testosterone plays an important role in the development of male reproductive tissues, bone density, as well as muscle and hair growth. By supplementing your lifestyle with repeated sauna bathing, you can assist this process by improving your cardiovascular function, removing toxins, and reducing stress on your body.

This article will explain the impacts of sauna use on testosterone and the scientific backing behind the effects of repeated sauna sessions, as well as how to optimize testosterone production. Keep reading to learn more.

Understanding Sauna and Its Impact on Testosterone

The word “sauna” originates from the Finnish word “savu” which means smoke. Early saunas were essentially a hole in the ground with a fire in the middle and surrounded by stones that people would sit around. The fire would then heat up the stones to create a steamy environment.

As sauna design evolved, they went from wood-fired stoves to electrical heaters and improved ventilation systems to help control the temperature and humidity of the room. Not only unique to Finland, but sauna use has also been identified in ancient Rome, Russia, and as far away as Japan with their “onsens.” All of these cultures used their version of the sauna as a place to socialize, relax, and promote circulation.

Saunas are not only a great place to socialize but also for people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing. The high sauna temperature affects the endocrine system by reducing the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) and insulin released into the bloodstream.

The Science Behind Sauna and Testosterone

The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland located in the brain control the production and regulation of testosterone in the body. In short, signals are sent from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland by releasing a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).

When GnRH is detected, the pituitary gland produces follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), and luteinizing hormones (LH,) which make their way to the testes or ovaries. Once FSH and LH arrive at their destination, Leydig cells will create testosterone, which is then transported to target tissues in the blood, bound to sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).

Effects of Cortisol on Testosterone Levels

Cortisol is the stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands in response to external stress-inducing situations. It’s useful for regulating many of the body’s processes, including testosterone levels, blood sugar, and combating inflammation. However, prolonged cortisol release will have negative effects.

For example, cortisol will naturally inhibit testosterone levels by limiting SHBG activity, so by reducing cortisol levels, testosterone transport can remain unimpeded. This means it’s best to try to limit stress, and, therefore lower the levels of cortisol in the body.

Since cortisol inhibits testosterone levels within the body, and regular sauna helps you reduce cortisol release, regular sauna use can have a positive impact on testosterone levels by negating the endocrine effects of this hormone.

Effects of Thermal Stress on Testosterone

Thermal stress is triggered when the body exceeds the upper or lower boundaries of its critical temperatures, this can affect hormone levels of cortisol and testosterone. A recent study suggested that the endocrine effects of repeated sauna use can significantly decrease cortisol levels within the body while only slightly increasing testosterone levels.

This suggests that while repeated sauna use might not inherently increase testosterone levels by large amounts, reduced cortisol levels within the body allow for increased production and maintaining levels of testosterone.

Additionally, you might correlate this to the question, “Does sauna help sore muscles?”Since it does, it has an added benefit on relaxation and further production of endorphins.

Sauna Sessions and Testosterone: Benefits and Risks

There are several benefits and risks to both testosterone and your overall health when using sauna bathing regularly.

Benefits of Sauna Sessions

By having a regular sauna experience, you can attain several benefits, including:

  • Helping testosterone production indirectly by lowering cortisol and insulin levels through reduced physical and mental stress.

  • Improved cardiovascular health via increasing blood flow throughout your body.

  • Reduced inflammation of the muscles and pain relief.

  • Giving you a better night’s sleep.

  • Detoxifying your body.

  • Improving joint health, making sauna good for arthritis.

Risks Of Sauna Sessions

The risks of sauna use can both be apparent and unseen:

  • If sauna usage is irregular, you can see a temporary rise in cortisol levels through thermal stress which will inhibit testosterone distribution.

  • Dehydration from high levels of bodily fluids lost over the session, possibly leading to headaches and strain on your organs. This is a potential risk if you have worked out recently or are on diuretic medication.

  • Temporary reduction of sperm count. A study in 2018 on Finnish men using the sauna for 15 minutes, twice a week, for three months, found sauna use to have a negative impact on sperm count. However, these effects were found to be reversible.

It’s important to mention that saunas are to be enjoyed in moderation and not to be used more than once a day for longer than a 15- to 20-minute session. Additionally, you should consume plenty of water to replace lost fluids and seek advice from a health professional if you’re on prescribed medication.

Sauna Types and Their Influence on Hormones

There are many types of saunas. However, the three most notable modern types are wet saunas, dry saunas, and infrared saunas.

Dry sauna

This is the traditional Finnish style sauna, often made of wood, and uses dry heat to warm the body. Powered by an electric or wood-fired heater, it warms up rocks to create an air temperature of around 90.6 degrees Celsius. The humidity levels of this sauna remain low at between 5% and 10% but can increase up to 30% when water is poured on the stones to create steam.

The higher heat in a dry sauna promotes perspiration, which assists in detoxification and weight loss. It can help stimulate the production and release of endorphins, which are hormones that naturally enhance your mood and reduce stress. Additionally, the heat levels in a dry sauna increase levels of the human growth hormone (HGH), which is important in promoting muscle growth and improving the body’s metabolism.

Wet Sauna

A wet sauna –also known as a Turkish bath- resembles a Finnish sauna in that it’s a wood-lined room but instead features a central stove. Temperatures in this room can reach around 49 degrees Celsius. They either contain a steam generator, or water is poured on the hot stones that sit atop the stove to create steam. Wet saunas achieve a humidity level of 100%.

The lower heat levels of the wet sauna aren’t as effective at producing endorphins as a dry sauna because the experience is less intense. However, the high humidity can open up pores and improve circulation and skin cleansing than its counterpart. This has a more pronounced effect on the respiratory system and has a better chance of relieving congestion and assisting with the breathing process as a result.

Infrared Sauna

The infrared sauna is a subtype of dry sauna. It uses infrared lamps to penetrate the top layers of skin and heat up the body from the inside. It has a lower operating temperature and minimal humidity. However, the internal heat makes it as effective as a traditional sauna in improving blood flow and relaxation.

Sauna Effects on Cortisol Level

The difference in effects on cortisol level response between dry and wet saunas is negligible because of the thermal stress involved of using a sauna is similar. When deciding on which sauna to use that can affect testosterone levels more, other factors might be more interesting to consider, such as choosing a dry or wet sauna for a cold.

This means personal preference matters when deciding on a sauna to buy. Whether simulating the dry heat of a desert, or the high humidity of a tropical rainforest, both saunas have similar capability to manipulate cortisol and insulin levels.

Psychological Responses to Thermal Stress

Under thermal stress conditions like those simulated in a sauna, a healthy body can experience several psychological responses and adaptations. These can include:

  • Increased sweating as the primary reaction to heat stress, this has the knock-on effect of causing dehydration as the body loses fluids that aren’t replaced.

  • Enhanced heart rate as more blood is pumped to the skin for cooling purposes.

  • Dilation of blood vessels close to the skin to transfer heat from the body’s core to the surface of the skin.

  • If exposed to thermal stress regularly, a healthy individual will find they can adapt to higher and sustained temperatures and humidities. This helps to gain a more efficient cooling process and an improved heat tolerance.

Lifestyle Factors and Testosterone Optimization

By combining physical activity, correct nutrition, and stress management techniques, you can experience greater health benefits, especially when using sauna therapy regularly and in moderation.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle is important to gain the most benefit from sauna therapy and to improve hormonal health. A study into the effects of a single sauna session between athletes and non-athletes found the athletes experienced a greater hormonal change after their session. This included a larger production of white blood cells, and a greater percentage decrease of cortisol levels within the athletes’ systems compared to the non-athletes.

Optimize Testosterone Production Through Nutrition

Healthy fats, zinc, and magnesium have all been attributed to enhancing testosterone production. By adding ingredients like fatty fish, oysters, and leafy green vegetables to your diet, you can give your body the best chance to boost testosterone levels.

Ensure Stress Management

Stress management is incredibly important in keeping hormones like cortisol from inhibiting testosterone distribution. By avoiding stressful situations, increasing endorphin production, and benefiting from cortisol-reducing sauna therapy, you’ll reap the benefits of a healthier body and mind by reducing stress levels.

It’s important to realize that using all of these methods in conjunction with each other is vital to optimizing hormone management.

Sauna Therapy, Testosterone, and a Healthier You

While it can help to know the science behind testosterone production and sauna use, the bottom line is that sauna has a positive effect on your body and overall wellbeing.

It’s important to remember that sauna use by itself doesn’t directly increase testosterone levels within the body. Regular sauna therapy can help create the conditions that allow testosterone production by reducing the amount of cortisol within the body. Additionally, detoxification, stress relief, and enhanced thermal regulation all help to enhance your mental and physical wellbeing and also create the conditions to influence testosterone production.

Remember to follow a holistic approach by combining a fitness regime, good nutrition, stress management, and regular sauna use to optimize testosterone production. Additionally, if you’re considering a lifestyle change to try increasing your testosterone production, you should first consult a health professional.

And when you’re ready to take a plunge and get a personal sauna to boost your health, check out the Komowa collection. Make regular sauna sessions a lifestyle choice. Elevate testosterone, relieve stress, and improve your health—one sauna session at a time.

 

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