Heat, Hydrotherapy and Heart Health

Heat, Hydrotherapy and Heart Health - sauna

Guest post by Fraser Smith, MATD, ND

It’s easier to prevent an illness than treat it, and when it comes to heart health, keeping the body in an optimally healthy state is a good insurance policy against premature aging of the heart and arteries. One beneficial practice that many people enjoy is hydrotherapy. This includes the use of alternating hot and cold moist applications, steam treatments, baths, and saunas. Water, and, the purposeful use of heat or cold are key in these treatments. This type of therapy can modulate the flow of blood, the circulation in the body, which stimulates nourishment to the body’s tissues, the clearance of waste from those tissues, and have overall relaxing effects.

Study Shows Sauna Treatments Lower Blood Pressure


Recently the Chicago Tribune  featured a very insightful article that summarized recent research published in the scientific literature. The study involved having middle aged adults take a sauna treatment and afterwards, measured their blood pressure, heart rate, and how flexible or elastic their blood vessels were. It turns out, that after the hydrotherapy treatment their heart rate went up, even though they had not been running or cycling. Moreover, their blood pressure dropped and their blood vessels became more elastic. This is an excellent state for the circulatory system to be in. What is surprising is that higher heart rate tends to drive blood pressure up (the faster “the pump” works, the more the pressure in our bloodstream gets cranked up). In this case, the whole circulatory system wound down -in a good way.

The study was done in Finland, where sauna treatments are very popular. Many countries around the world use heat therapy and hydrotherapy, including Sweden, Russia, India and many more. In naturopathic medicine, we make extensive use of hydrotherapy. It can be used, and tailored for specific complaints or for general health. Many of these patients have medical conditions that definitely requires some degree of medication. But not all healing comes in the shape of a pill. It can be surprising to some, that an agent as simple, easy to manage and inexpensive as water, along with heat and/or cold, can be a powerful influence on health. In naturopathic medicine, we believe that these are just the things that people need. When patients can use the best of all that medicine has to offer, good things can result.


Dr. Fraser SmithFraser Smith, MATD, ND is the chief academic officer for the ND program serving as Assistant Dean of Naturopathic Medicine at the National University of Health Sciences’ (NUHS) College of Professionals Studies. He is a Professor and author of the textbook, Introduction to Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Medicine. Dr. Smith is also the author of three additional books for the public, Keep Your Brain Young; The pH Balance Health & Diet Guide for GERD, IBS and IBD; and The Complete Brain Exercise Book. He is an editorial board member of the Natural Medicine Journal, and teaches Botanical Medicine, Pharmacology and Naturopathic History, Philosophy and Principles at NUHS. Dr. Smith is licensed to practice as a naturopathic physician in Vermont. He is past president (2008 – 2013) of the Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physicians.


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