Author Nenah Sylver, Ph.D.

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Excerpts from the Holistic Handbook of Sauna Therapy:

Table of Contents and Index

History of Sauna Therapy

Sauna and Alkalization

Sauna and Weight Loss

Sauna and Fever

Sauna and Pesticides, Heavy Metals

Sauna Building Materials

Sauna Clinic and Spa Locations







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335 Pages, $34.95   

The Holistic Handbook of Sauna Therapy
By Nenah Sylver, Ph.D. 
335 Pages, $34.95

The Purpose and Effects of Fever

The elevated body temperature that we call fever is a different phenomenon from the elevated temperature that occurs during sauna therapy. However, there are many similarities between the two. Also, medically induced high fevers are often induced with special heat cabinets or used as a treatment along with regular sauna therapy. Therefore, I want to discuss what happens in the body during normally occurring fever and medically induced fever.

Fever is a condition in humans and all warm-blood animals that naturally occurs during illness, when the temperature rises as part of the body’s immune response. As mentioned earlier, a generally safe zone of temperature increase is considered to be about six degrees Fahrenheit (a little more than three degrees Celsius). However, during serious illness, the body temperature may rise by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit (about four degrees Celsius). Such high temperatures constitute a medical emergency.

One major purpose of fever, as described by Stephen E. Langer and James F. Scheer in Solved: The Riddle of Illness, is that it “encourages quick inflammation in the immediate area of an infection and keeps it from spreading.”18 I will address this phenomenon in the next chapter in my discussion of endogenous biological materials.

Another purpose of fever is the production of heat. First, the macrophages (immune cells that destroy microbes) send a hormone-like biochemical message to the brain that a fever is needed in the body. Then the brain signals the thyroid and adrenal glands to work together to speed up the body’s metabolic rate so that extreme heat is produced. All of this raises the “set point” of the body’s temperature. Raising the set point means that the baseline for the minimal amount of heat required by the body rises, just as when you turn up the thermostat on the heating system in your house. The hypothalamic portion of the brain, knowing that more internal heat is required, then sends a biochemical message in the form of a thyrotropin-releasing hormone to the pituitary gland. The pituitary, in turn, transmits thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid gland. In response, the thyroid secretes extra thyroxin, which increases the rate of cellular metabolism throughout the body. At the same time, the adrenal glands secrete epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones help increase the metabolism by stimulating activity in certain tissues such as heart and skeletal muscle, by dilating blood vessels, and by altering the blood flow. Part of this increase in metabolism stimulates the process of perspiration. Langer and Scheer write:

Experiments by G.W. Duff and S.K. Durum showed that at two degrees centigrade [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] of fever, certain immune system defenders—T-cells and antibodies— increased by 2000 percent over their number at normal body temperature. Similar findings were reported by another research team. Antibody production in the spleen cells has been found to increase dramatically during a fever. Scientists have concluded that the hormone-like substances, called interleukin-1, set off body defense cells to fight infection and also send the brain signals to increase body temperature to provide an ideal climate for the multiplication of defense cells. Many physiologists believe that human beings are equipped with a temperature regulation system which puts a ceiling on fever at approximately

41.11 degrees centigrade (106 degrees Fahrenheit).19 In addition to the above research, a 1937 study by a Mayo Clinic doctor on “The blood picture before and after fever therapy by physical means” (using the hot air Kettering hypertherm sauna) found a 58% increase in white blood cell count after fevers of 104° to 106.8°F (40° to 41.6°C) were induced in subjects. Moreover, the white blood cell increase remained several hours after the fevers were induced. Not only are the body’s immune defenses marshaled through fever, but many pathogenic microbes cannot survive in temperatures above, say, about 105°F (40.6°C). For instance, the growth rate of the polio virus is reduced up to 250 times at 104°F (40°C). The Lyme disease spirochete (a dangerous corkscrew-shaped bacterium) dies at the same temperature.

Temperatures of about 106°F (41.1°C) cause the death of the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium, which causes pneumonia, middle ear infections, arthritis, and inflammation of the heart, brain, intestinal, and spinal cord membranes.

High heat also kills tumors: cancer cells die at temperatures from about 104°F to 107°F (40°C to 41.7°C). Dr. Jeffrey Freeman, founder of the Europa Institute of Integrated Medicine, explains the mechanism of this process:

Researchers have found that the blood vessels in normal tissue actually open up (to dilate) when heat is applied, in an effort to flush out the heat and cool the cell environment down. Because a tumor is a more tightly packed group of cells, blood circulation is restrictive and sluggish. When heat is applied to the tumor . . . temperature continues to rise to destructive levels. This process continues over a period of time even after the treatment....The tumor cells are now extremely susceptible to destruction by radiation or by additional heating.20

Artificially induced hyperthermia (an abnormally high body temperature, or fever) can be created when heat is applied either to the entire body, or to individual areas when the cancerous tissue is local and circumscribed. Sometimes, minute amounts of mistletoe (mistletoe is lethal in large doses) are injected to produce heat. Or, the doctor can inject other herbs or drugs, or use hot water, far infrared, or some other heat-generating method. After the client’s temperature is raised to that of a high fever, ice or cold water are carefully applied and the temperature returns to normal. This takes place in a highly controlled environment with various life support monitoring equipment, where blood glucose, electrolytes, and other vital sign levels are very carefully watched. Freeman notes that many types of cancer respond well to hyperthermia: cancer of the bladder, bowels, breast, liver, lung, lymph, prostate, stomach, and uterus. “Cancer patients whose previous treatments have proven unsuccessful may benefit from hyperthermia,” he writes. “Most patients receiving hyperthermia find it very tolerable....There is no danger” as long as the person is monitored by the physician. The machines used for the therapy are water-cooled, thus maintaining a constant temperature. Those receiving allopathic care such as radiation or chemical treatments “are able to reduce the dosage....This results in far less [overall] toxicity [to the body].”21

In all high-temperature treatments for illness, the microbe-killing capacity of fever is augmented by the body’s increased production of white blood cells as part of a heightened immune response. That is why a hot bath, exercise or a sauna at the beginning of a cold or flu can prevent it from escalating, or stop it entirely.

People do not need to be technologically advanced to understand the benefits of hyperthermia. In the West Indies, natives suffering from syphilis or cancer have cured themselves by deliberately subjecting themselves to infections from such high fever diseases as malaria and typhoid. And the survival function of high temperatures is so important that animals whose bodies are unable to generate a fever by themselves will purposely manipulate their environment to create one. Langer and Sheer report:

[R]esearcher M.J. Kluger and his associates [made] a stunning discovery on infected lizards. Lizards do not have a built-in fever-generating system such as ours and must find fever-inducing sources on the outside. The Kluger team learned that sick lizards have an instinct which makes them seek hot environments in order to raise their body temperatures to fever level when they are sick. Infected fish, too, swim to warmer water to raise their temperatures and combat illness.22

When one is ill, microbes are destroyed by more than the direct “cooking” effect of high heat. They are further disabled because, during fever, the body uses a different kind of fuel for energy than when it is experiencing normal temperatures. Ordinarily, the body takes glycogen (a long chain sugar molecule) that is stored in the liver and breaks it down into glucose (a simpler form of sugar), which then circulates through the bloodstream to supply energy to the body cells. The drawback is that pathogenic microbes as well as the body’s tissues use glucose for energy. However, at high enough temperatures, the body metabolizes fat (and in extreme conditions, protein) in addition to glucose to meet its increased energy needs. “By switching to energy sources other than glucose, the body lowers its glucose levels in the blood plasma,” explains Dr. MacKay. “The reduction of plasma glucose helps curtail the possible proliferation of bacteria.” 23

Nature is elegant; it always has more than one purpose for any function. In a striking synchronous chain of events, while the body is generating a fever it also produces extra enzymes, which immune cells require in order to break down toxins and foreign particles. MacKay notes that since high heat destroys enzymes, the body will create heat shock proteins if the fever continues. These proteins bond to, or “chaperone,” the enzymes to protect them from the high temperatures. Fever also produces changes in the blood’s concentration of neurotransmitters and peptides (made from amino acids, the building blocks of protein). These affect the brain by inducing relaxation (which is why sick people want to rest), thus allowing the body to focus solely on healing.

The feverish body also secretes certain hormones such as beta-endorphin, norepinephrine and possibly even growth hormone. Beta-endorphin is an endogenous (meaning “produced by the body”) painkiller, similar in chemical composition to synthetic morphine. As you might imagine, the alleviation of pain is an indispensable function for people who are injured or ill, which is why heating pads, sweating, sauna bathing, and other ways of increasing body heat relieve pain. Norepinephrine dilates the blood vessels and changes the blood flow in the body. Growth hormone promotes lipolysis, or a breakdown of fat stores as an energy supply (a convenient function, since the body is quite busy and needs fuel)—although different studies have yielded somewhat contradictory data about whether or not body heating causes a significant increase of growth hormone. One 1980 study shows an increase in growth hormone resulting from a session of body heating. Kukkonen-Harjula and Kauppinen write that “usually” there is an increase of growth hormone, although individual differences are “considerable” and younger people have a greater increase than the elderly. But they cite another finding, that though there is a substantial increase of growth hormone at first, as sauna bathing continues the levels decline.24 Medical doctor William Rea, who specializes in environmental illness, writes in Chemical Sensitivity: “The different results of these studies [about the changes in growth hormone levels] may be due to variations of total body pollutant load in the researchers’ respective patient populations.”25 Therefore, whether sauna therapy increases the production of growth hormone is apparently dependent on several factors. (Conceivably, if the body could safely be brought to high enough temperatures in the sauna—especially if the sauna uses far infrared radiation (FIR) as its heat source—a fair approximation of a fever condition, as well as increased amounts of growth hormone, might be produced. Why FIR could make a difference will be discussed in Chapter 4.)

The Body’s Heat Adaptation Mechanisms

I should mention at least briefly some of the mechanisms the body develops to adapt to continuous heat, whether it’s from living in a tropical climate or taking lengthy daily saunas. When someone is regularly exposed to heat for about four to six weeks, the body increases its sweat output, usually from about one to three quarts per hour. As the periods of sweating become more numerous, the loss of salt—which at the beginning is a substantial 15 to 30 grams a day—decreases over time, usually diminishing to 3 to 5 grams a day. This is because the cortex of the adrenal glands secretes more of the hormone aldosterone, which causes the sweat glands to reabsorb sodium from the kidneys before the sweat is released through the skin. However, the potassium salts in the body still tend to be excreted. Since the body requires a precise balance of sodium and potassium, the potassium must be replenished, either through supplements or potassium-rich foods such as bananas. As the person becomes even more experienced at sweating, still less salt is excreted, and even the potassium does not have to be replaced as much.

Another adaptation of the body to sustained heating, worth mentioning again, is the continued production of “heat shock” proteins. These protect the enzymes so necessary for thousands of chemical reactions in the body.

Despite the body’s adaptability to heat, however, it cannot adapt well indefinitely to very high temperatures. Dr. Kellogg was aware that although applications of heat can be stimulating and refreshing, there is a point at which heat is no longer beneficial. An overheated body becomes exhausted and no longer responds as it should. The augmented enzyme output suffers, because some of the proteins that comprise the enzymes are heat sensitive and are destroyed above a certain heat threshold. The skin can become burned. In addition, continual body heating without any respite actually causes a decrease in the body’s ability to perspire, since in an overwhelmed system the brain overheats and the hypothalamus shuts down, no longer able to perform its temperature-regulating function. Under such conditions, where the heat remains too high with no relief, heatstroke can result. It generally begins with fatigue and dizziness or light-headedness, and if not treated can end in unconsciousness and even death. The differences between simple heat exhaustion and the medical emergency of heatstroke, along with their respective treatments, are discussed in detail in Chapter 7.

The type of sauna one uses, and the application of cold after the heat, may determine how much benefit one derives from sauna therapy. Of course, there is obviously a difference between being in a very hot room for 15 minutes, as opposed to an hour, or being in 180°F (82.2°C) for half an hour, as opposed to 80°F (26.7°C) for half an hour. Your own sensations are a valuable guide in showing you how much heat is too much.

For these reasons, Dr. Kellogg did not leave people in his light cabinets for too long. He also gave his clients sponge baths or immersed them in cold water before re-introducing them to the light cabinet. In addition, he installed fans in his later model saunas so that the perspiration would be whisked away immediately. Leaving sweat on the skin for prolonged periods can cause unhealthful conditions such as prickly heat rash. People unused to sweating should be acclimatized to sauna therapy slowly and remain comfortable. Also, plenty of mineralized water should be available to replace the fluids and electrolytes lost through perspiration. (Electrolytes are minerals in a particular form. They are discussed in more detail in Chapter 3.) Kellogg wrote:

For producing the [desired] effects, long applications are not necessary. Three to six minutes [in the light cabinet] are ordinarily sufficient. The duration of the [sauna] bath need be only enough to produce moistening of the skin from perspiration. In certain classes of cases, [however,] longer baths are needed. This is especially true of obesity, rheumatism, gout, and in diabetics who are strong and not emaciated. In these cases it is necessary to continue the bath sufficiently long to produce an elevation of temperature, so as to stimulate oxidation of the protein wastes. For this purpose the duration of the bath should be fifteen to thirty minutes, or until the temperature taken in the mouth reaches 100° to 100.5°F [37.8° to 40.6°C].26

Kellogg is an invaluable resource, integrating serious and meticulous medical research with a well-rounded holistic approach. No one today could find legitimate fault with his methodology, despite the fact that his book is almost 100 years old. Most of what he wrote is as applicable today as it was a century ago. Those portions that are no longer pertinent say more about how much sicker people are today, than they do about the quality of Kellogg’s work.


This book offers patients and practitioners life-saving information not available anywhere else in print or on the internet. If you would like to learn more about the book before ordering it, feel free to browse these excerpts, which are available online, free of charge:

Table of Contents and Index  History of Sauna Therapy  Sauna and Alkalization

Sauna and Weight Loss  Sauna and Fever  Sauna and Pesticides, Heavy Metals

Sauna Building Materials  Sauna Clinic and Spa Locations



The Holistic Handbook of Sauna Therapy
By Nenah Sylver, Ph.D.
Paperback Book, 335 Pages, $34.95

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(530) 541-7200




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