Endocrine Effects of Sauna Bath

SRI Team

Principal Investigators

Ilpo T. Huhtaniemi, Jari A. Laukkanen

Publishing Date

2020

Citation

Summary

Ilpo Huhtaniemi and Jari Laukkanen reviewed years of studies and other academic publications to create a comprehensive analysis of the endocrine effects of sauna. While most of the information is from studies having taken place 20-30 years ago, the pair assembled newer findings in conjunction with original studies to create a full picture of what is known about the effects that sauna can have on this particular element of human health- the endocrine system. From the research emerged key insights that serve to both further the study of the health benefits of sauna as well support what we already know about sauna’s positive effects on human health.

Key Insights

“Sauna bath brings about numerous acute changes in hormone levels, partly akin to other stressful situations, partly specific for sauna. ” Huhtaniemi and Laukkanen reported that stress-related hormones increased in production when taking sauna, most closely related to the stress response triggered by the ever-rising temperature of the hot room. There were subtle changes in hormonal response between the sexes, with women exhibiting greater variations as a result of taking sauna. The report states that these hormonal responses are short-lived, and decrease in intensity with regular sauna use. Despite the research finding a variety of hormones affected by the use of sauna, there remain large holes in harnessing this information effectively. This report revealed that the methods of adaptation (to hormonal changes due to sauna use) are poorly investigated, meaning we are still unsure how exactly sauna use affects those in different physical conditions and varying levels of sauna exposure. Another area for further investigation is in the mechanisms of the subjective feeling of well-being after taking sauna- we are still unsure why and how exactly sauna gives us all these amazing feelings.

Takeaways

Because the mechanisms of observed hormonal changes upon taking sauna are still largely misunderstood, this report serves as another important stepping stone toward our understanding of the health benefits of sauna. The authors provide three actionable next steps to continue the progress made by first understanding the various hormonal changes:
  • Study of the adaptation mechanisms of hormonal change, including the variable effects of sauna on spermatogenesis.
  • Study the mechanisms of the subjective feeling of well-being upon sauna bath.
  • Study the effects of transient hormonal responses on individuals in suboptimal health.
We know our bodies are reacting to sauna, but the next step is to figure out the mechanisms involved to further understand the positive health benefits of sauna.

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