Oxidative stress and free radicals
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron that are highly reactive and can damage other molecules in the body. They are produced as by-products of normal metabolic processes, but also by external influences such as UV radiation, smoking or environmental pollution.
Antioxidants are molecules that can neutralize free radicals by donating an electron to them. The body makes some antioxidants on its own, but we also take in many through food. When there are too many free radicals and not enough antioxidants to neutralize them, it can lead to cell damage and various diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
Sauna and oxidative stress
Numerous studies show that regular sauna sessions can reduce oxidative stress in the body. A study in the Journal of Human Hypertension showed that regular sauna sessions can lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function, suggesting a reduction in oxidative stress (Laukkanen et al., 2017). Another study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that sauna sessions can increase the concentration of antioxidants in the blood and reduce the amount of free radicals (Sutkowy et al., 2014).
It is known that heat can increase the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Nitric oxide is a gas released by the endothelial cells that line the inner walls of blood vessels. It plays a key role in regulating blood circulation by dilating blood vessels. This is a generally accepted fact and is supported by numerous scientific studies.
Tips for reducing free radicals
In addition to regular sauna sessions, there are other ways to reduce oxidative stress in the body and decrease the amount of free radicals:
- Healthy diet: a balanced diet rich in antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are particularly rich in antioxidants.
- Regular exercise: Regular exercise increases blood flow and the body produces antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.
- Avoiding pollutants: Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and pollution can increase the production of free radicals in the body. It is therefore important to avoid these factors as much as possible.
- Getting enough sleep: adequate sleep is important for the body’s regeneration and can help reduce oxidative stress.
Regular sauna sessions reduce oxidative stress in the body and decrease the number of free radicals. In addition, eat healthy, exercise regularly, avoid pollutants and get enough sleep to reduce oxidative stress in the body and stay healthy.
- Laukkanen, T., Khan, H., Zaccardi, F., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2017). Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA internal medicine, 177(4), 548-553. Link to the study on PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25705824/
- Kukkonen-Harjula, K., & Kauppinen, K. (2006). Health effects and risks of sauna bathing. International journal of circumpolar health, 65(3), 195-205. Link to the study on PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16812890/
- Sutkowy, P., Woźniak, A., Boraczyński, T., Mila-Kierzenkowska, C., & Boraczyński, M. (2014). The effect of a single Finnish sauna bath after aerobic exercise on the oxidative status in healthy men. Scandinavian journal of clinical and laboratory investigation, 74(2), 89-94. Link to the study on PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24593004/