Lyme disease is becoming an increasingly prevalent illness in the United States; the symptoms are distinctive, but many people are inaccurately diagnosed. Can sauna bathing be a good treatment supplement for Lyme disease?
When used in conjunction with conventional antibiotic treatment, infrared saunas are helpful in treating deer tick-borne Lyme disease. They aid in raising the core body temperature to 106°F which will kill Borrelia burgdorferi and remove neurotoxins. Fifteen minutes 3 times a week will help reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system.
Continue reading to learn what Lyme disease is, if the sauna is good for Lyme disease, and about the infrared sauna treatment protocol and Herxheimer reactions.
What is Lyme disease?
So, what exactly is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a vector-borne bacterial infection (caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi) that is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black-legged tick. Deer ticks, which are very small and may be difficult to see, are the primary carriers of the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
It’s most frequently contracted during the summer months in the Northeast and upper Midwest region of the U.S. because ticks are in the nymphal stage and are less likely to be detected. Additionally, they’re found in wooded, grassy areas and tend to bite people on their scalp, groin, back of the neck, and legs.
There are several ways to identify whether or not you’ve been bitten. We’ll get more granular below.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
The symptoms of Lyme disease can be very diverse and are often mistaken for other illnesses.
Common early (3-30 days) Lyme disease symptoms include:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash
Common late-onset (1 month+) Lyme disease symptoms include:
- Severe headaches
- Neck stiffness
- Nerve pain
- Brain and spinal cord inflammation
- Facial palsy
- Lyme carditis
- More EM rashes
If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to more serious health problems, like permanent nervous system damage.
Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms.
What is the current treatment process for Lyme disease?
Most treatments for Lyme disease involve using modern medicine.
The official current medical treatment plan for Lyme disease includes:
- Blood tests to check for Lyme disease and monitor your condition during treatment.
- Finding and removing the tick (if it’s still attached).
- A short stint of oral antibiotics (doxycycline or amoxicillin) to stop the growth of bacteria.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
If the Lyme disease is aggressive or late-stage, 3-4 weeks of antibiotics may be necessary.
Can sauna help treat Lyme disease?
Preliminary evidence shows that sauna exposure may be beneficial to treating Lyme disease.
A 2020 research study suggested that pairing an anti-microbial-based protocol with infrared sauna exposure can help to treat the symptoms of Lyme disease. The patient showed a notable improvement in resting blood pressure and sodium levels after 10 sauna sessions (3 per week for 2.5 weeks) was added to her treatment plan.
Furthermore, a 2015 study published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal detailed several unorthodox alternative therapies, including sauna bathing, to treat Lyme disease. Infrared and steam saunas were shown to aid in forcing pathogens out of the cells.
Sweating is one of the main ways our body removes toxins, especially the ones associated with Lyme disease. Because those infected have overloaded and weakened livers and kidneys, sauna bathing can help alleviate some of that stress by dispelling harmful neurotoxins via the apocrine sweat glands.
Benefits of using a sauna for Lyme disease
There are some other advantages of “sweating it out” if you have contracted Lyme disease.
Using a sauna may also help to:
- Reduce inflammation
- Stimulate the immune system for disease-fighting
- Balance the autonomic nervous system
- Command antibacterial action
- Improve oxygenation
- Increase circulation
- Alkalize the body
- Stabilize enzymatic activity
- Reduce pain
All of these benefits work together to help treat Lyme disease and alleviate its symptoms.
However, ultimately, it’s important that you consult your doctor or a qualified healthcare professional before starting sauna therapy for Lyme disease.
How does the sauna help the body detoxify?
How does the sauna detoxification process work with regards to Lyme disease?
As mentioned above, Lyme disease-affected patients typically experience weakened kidneys and livers due to the presence of excessive neurotoxins. Sauna bathing can help redirect the removal of these detrimental compounds to the apocrine sweat glands in order to take some of the pressure off of excretory organs.
The neurotoxins produced by Lyme disease are fat-soluble and can remain in our bodies for extended periods of time if not removed properly. Sweating can help to expel these substances more quickly and thus, reduce the negative long-term impacts associated with Lyme borreliosis.
Additionally, infrared light exposure, in particular, has been shown to increase blood circulation by penetrating muscles and subcutaneous tissue more effectively. This enables oxygen, immune cells, and nutrients to reach troubled areas and fight off Lyme disease.
This is one of the many reasons why infrared types are the preferred sauna for treating Lyme.
Is Lyme disease affected by heat?
Raising core temperature can be a powerful tool for those with Lyme disease.
Overall, heat kills bacteria and is able to destroy the cell structure of Lyme disease pathogens. Raising a person’s body temperature to 106°F has the ability to kill off Borrelia burgdorferi. This also holds true for any other chronic bacterial infections, such as H. pylori and periodontal bacteria.
Another important job of heat is to disrupt biofilms that form around the spirochete (spiral-shaped bacteria). These biofilms prevent the antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease from reaching the pathogen.
Infrared sauna treatment protocol for Lyme disease
If you’re seeking to add sauna visits to your Lyme disease treatment plan, here’s the best way to do it.
Infrared sauna treatment protocol for Lyme disease should include:
- Using the medical treatment prescribed by your physician, in conjunction with sauna visits.
- Visiting an infrared sauna 3 times per week for 15 minutes each session.
- Aiming to raise your core body temperature to 106˚F (the sauna temperature should be around 120˚F).
Hydrate and listen to your body if you feel faint or dizzy.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Visiting the sauna is not intended to be used as or to replace conventional medical treatments for Lyme disease, but rather as a way to supplement medical care and help treat symptoms. Always consult your doctor first to confirm this is a safe practice.
Infrared sauna and Herxheimer reactions
If you’ve done some research, you’ve probably come across the term “Herx” or Herxheimer reaction.
The Herxheimer reaction is basically an immune response that occurs after spirochetes are eliminated. People taking antibiotics for Lyme disease often experience a Herxheimer reaction from killing off Borrelia burgdorferi, which can include flu-like symptoms, pain, and fatigue. It generally occurs 48-72 hours after initiating antibiotic treatment and can last for weeks.
If you do start to experience this “healing crisis,” make sure to drink plenty of water, take extra vitamins and supplements recommended by your doctor, eat healthy foods, and take sauna breaks if you feel ill to avoid overexertion.
While a Herx reaction may be a good sign that you’re killing the right bacteria, it can also be mistaken for an adverse drug reaction (ADR). Consult with your doctor to differentiate the two.
In summary, an infrared sauna is a good tool for treating Lyme disease. The heat is able to kill off Borrelia burgdorferi, while sweating induces the removal of harmful neurotoxins.
Always make sure to discuss sauna treatments with your physician first rather than attempting to self-diagnose!
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