Healing Power of Heat
When you think about healing and healthy lifestyle, a few things obviously come to mind. Fresh food, exercise, and people smiling whilst practising yoga. But what if I were to tell you there are magical powers to even the simplest forms of heat. Take it as a hot water bottle, a sauna, or a bath, heat has a lot of physiological benefits and it’s something you should be taking advantage of!
It’s interesting to observe that the immune system is very temperature sensitive, the most obvious example being a fever. When someone has a fever their body is increasing their temperature to, firstly, increase circulation, allowing immune cells and healthy blood to reach the site of the infection, and secondly, to attempt to overheat and essentially cook the infection to death. With this in mind, providing heat to the body when it’s trying heat itself up can be very helpful in overcoming whatever you’re fighting. More interestingly, higher temperature exposure has been proven to, in mice, actively destroy cancerous tumours  and that for every degree increase in temperature the strength of the treatment doubled. Although the study reports temperatures of 49°, the pattern of increased immune response follows at lower temperatures, and can still have a beneficial therapeutic effect.
Pain and Inflammation
Full body temperature increaser, such as with saunas and baths have shown a remarkable reduction in pain and inflammation, particularly with potentially immune related pain conditions such as arthritis. Some documented physiological effects include reduction in inflammatory immune molecules like pro inflammatory cytokines, and increased activation of heat shock proteins that can reduce pain. This article shows multiple applications of heat therapy, notably heating pads, for the pain reduction in conditions from arthritis to back pain and even reduction in pain caused by trigger points.
As previously touched on, heat causes the veins, capillaries and various other blood vessels to dilate (vasodilation) allowing nutrients, oxygen and other important blood borne compounds to get where they are needed.
Two well documented theories behind how heat can contribute and induce detoxification. The first and quite obvious being sweating. This PDF discusses the improved effect of a more modern technology, the far infrared sauna. With seemingly higher efficacy and safety, this sauna claims to be able to achieve the effects of higher temperature exposure but at lower temperatures, inducing increased detoxification through sweating. Secondly, heat has been shown to increase urinary excretion of certain mycotoxins, and it stands to reason that excretion of other potentially harmful chemicals would also increase.
I think it’s fairly safe to say everyone enjoys the feeling of getting warm after being cold for hours. Snuggling up with a hot water bottle or having a nice hot bath is one of the most soothing, comforting and relaxing things you can enjoy, and health is just as much about enjoying yourself as it is about taking care of yourself.
Applications of Heat!
Now we know how beneficial exposure to heat can be, we can evaluate the different applications of heat exposure and decide evaluate what technique will work best for you.
Bathing is one of the most traditional forms of heat therapy. You can think natural hot springs, the Roman bathhouse, and even modern day spas. A great thing about natural springs and some spas are natural minerals present in the waters. It is well accepted that mineral deficiency and malnutrition have profoundly negative effects on health and development. Although its argued whether the skin has the ability to absorb these minerals there are plenty of historical and anecdotal (myself included) records of people having received great benefits from these springs, and baths infused with the minerals found in these springs like magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt – named for the spring it was discovered in Epsom, England
Hot water bottle
The Tried and true method of comfort heating, hot water bottles are very accessible, convenient and effective, cold under your covers? Hot water bottle. Period pain/cramps? Hot water bottle. Cold feet whilst fasting? Hot water bottle. An easy tip for cold feet, don’t even bother with a true hot water bottle, just get a regular 2l bottle of water and add some hot water, the plastic is much more durable and you can rest your feet on the bottle without the fear of damaging it.
Probably the most convenient of everything mentioned here today, heating pads. like a sometimes portable, fast, and lightweight hot water bottle, heating pads can be used to apply quick and effective relief. Most effective on joints, due to the ability to wrap the pad around the joint. Also excellent for backache, if you purchase the adhesive chemical heat pads you can put one on your back and get on with your day with reduced pain, and my nan can attest to that!
A sauna, essentially a hot room, with varying levels of humidity depending on the variety is a Finnish tradition. The room is designed to get extremely hot and cause the occupants to perspire. This can be great because you aren’t submerged and are able to wipe and dab the sweat off of your body, which helps prevent reabsorption of any perspired toxins.
However you manage to get your heat it, make sure you do! Don’t underestimate the power of the seemingly little things! I hope you have a good day, stay warm.