The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), consisting of the sympathetic and parasympathetic components, operates below consciousness to control these systems. The ANS controls heartbeat, digestive function, respiratory rate, salivation, stress and immune response, dilation of pupils, sexual arousal and adrenaline secretions of excitatory hormones. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems balance out each other, working together or sometimes inhibiting specific responses. In allergy patients subpar or hypo-sympathetic inhibiting activity allows for the over response of the immune system. The ANS then over responds in a big way to supress this over response when it may not be necessary.
Allergies include stuffiness, itching and sneezing and can be caused by pollen, dust and animal dander. An inflammation of the nasal airways, allergic rhinitis is linked with a sensitized immune system that overreacts to what should be a benign stimulant. For example, cat hair should not be a cause for concern to your health, right?
Khon Kaen University, Thailand Study
Current medicinal therapeutic options include avoidance, drugs and immunotherapy, but recent investigations suggest that to eliminate allergies an infrared sauna may be used to modify the body’s ANS. The clinical findings from the School of Physical Therapy, Khon Kaen University, Thailand, were published in their June 2013 article in the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology.
The study looked at the impact of six weeks of sauna treatment on the ANS, peak nasal inspiratory flow and lung function in patients suffering allergies. They were looking to see if infrared sauna use shifts the body’s ANS and therefore impacts the underlying cause of the allergic reaction?
The 26 patients were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis. Some received health education and otherwise maintained a normal life. The sauna group received sauna treatment over a six-week period, three days per week, totaling 30 minutes. Heart rate variability (HRV) was measured to study the autonomic nervous response including the balance of sympathetic to parasympathetic activity; peak nasal inspiratory flow and lung function were measured at the beginning and after three and six weeks of sauna.
There were significant changes in HRV after six weeks of sauna indicating a favorable shift in ANS for treatment of allergic rhinitis. The high frequency or overactive component of the ANS was lower while the low frequency inhibiting component was higher in the sauna treatment group than the control patients. The peak nasal flow and the forced expiratory volume were “significantly higher” in sauna patients. The six weeks of repeated sauna treatment can increase sympathetic activity as well respiratory volume in patients with allergic rhinitis, the article says.
Journal Ter Arkh, Russia Study
In a Russian language journal doctors who used sauna therapy for children with atopic dermatitis, which can be allergy related, found it “improves the condition of their autonomic nervous system.” They noted the “marked clinical response” that could “necessitate long-term sauna treatment to cure this disease.”
In the journal Ter Arkh, the use of an infrared sauna as part of therapy of 107 patients with asthma and chronic bronchitis “resulted in a rapid time course of clinical symptoms of diseases, reduced the adaptation period at a health resort, produced a bronchodilatatory effect and helped to return cardiodynamics to normal…”
Each symptom of rhinitis was rated on a 4-point scale according to severity. During the period of far infrared therapy, the symptoms of eye and nasal itching, stuffiness, rhinorrhea and sneezing were all improved. Smell impairment was not improved until after the last treatment. No obvious adverse effect were observed in the patients during treatment and follow-up. The scientists concluded that FIR therapy “could improve the symptoms of AR” and “might serve as a novel treatment modality.”