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6 Ways Saunas Can Improve Your Brain

Besides their use in high-end spas, saunas aren’t very popular in the United States. But in Finland, they are just as popular as taking a shower, with about one sauna per home on average.

Not only can saunas be good for you physiologically but they can also offer some great benefits for your brain. Here are just some of the advantages of sauna use.

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Sharpen And Enhance Memory

Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that helps with focusing and storing memories in times of emotional stress. This might explain why we remember the smallest of details during tragic life events. You can recall where you were and what you were doing at the time.

This neurotransmitter surges during times of physical stress as well, like exercise or too much heat. Male subjects who sat in an 80-degree sauna until exhaustion saw a 300% increase in norepinephrine, according to one study. So sauna use can be a great way to boost this neurotransmitter if you need help refocusing.

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Multiple Sclerosis Prevention

The fatty layer that surrounds neurons and aids in thought transmission is called myelin. The immune system of someone with multiple sclerosis destroys myelin.

Research has found that when a woman with multiple sclerosis becomes pregnant, she goes into remission from MS. This is because during pregnancy the hormone prolactin aids in myelin restoration. But this hormone is also present in men who use saunas at 80 degrees. The increase in prolactin in men is ten times more after sauna use.

This kind of heat therapy, however, didn’t prove effective in patients who already had MS. Some participants actually experienced worsened cognitive function, but only temporarily.

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Grow New Brain Cells

Exercise can increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a key modulator of neuroplasticity. This protein can help strengthen long-term memories, heal trauma, minimize anxiety, and aid in creating new connections in your brain. This protein increased in participants who used a sauna after a workout, according to a small study.

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Treats Depression

After 6 weeks of heat treatments, participants with depression showed significant improvements in symptoms. When compared to antidepressant treatment, the effects were over two times stronger. One important component in this is proteins called dynorphins.

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Dynorphins help boost endorphin receptors and help make you more receptive to the nice-feeling effects after exercise or sauna use. Dynorphins create a feeling of discomfort. Although it’s unpleasant, this temporary feeling helps to increase your receptiveness to feeling good after the sauna or a workout.

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Fight Brain Plaque

Brain proteins can become deformed and create clumps. Proteins like beta-amyloid comprise some of that plaque found in people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Heat shock proteins are activated with heat stress, like after exercise and sauna use. These proteins can help prevent the disfigurement of beta-amyloid and prevent these clumps in the brain.

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Reduce Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease

Men who utilized saunas between 4 and 7 times weekly, reduced their risk for Alzheimer’s disease by 65%, according to observational research in Finland.

This research only shows causality. Because it is so commonplace to use saunas in Finland, it’s not seen as a health practice. So this notion that sauna use is actually providing positive benefits to participants is strengthened.

While saunas are not so common in the United States, if you have a gym membership or regularly attend a spa that has access to saunas, it might be worth your while to try it out for yourself. Not only is the sauna a good post-workout routine, but it could potentially help in warding off illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and treating your depression. 

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