By Dr. Nasha Winters, ND, FABNO

We all want to be comfortable. We automate the home thermostat so the central air will turn on before we get home from work, we close the windows in the car to feel the cool breeze of the air conditioner as we drive, and we exercise with a fan blowing out of the treadmill. Many people do not think twice before taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to suppress a fever.

But all of this climate control—of our bodies and around our bodies—may not be in our best interest.

Body temperature naturally changes according to a daily rhythm, so that it is lowest at night and higher during the day. Body temperature also increases in response to infection (a fever) as a way to mobilize immune cells. Researchers at the Universities of Warwick and Manchester have recently found that “the hotter our body temperature, the more our bodies speed up a key defense system that fights against tumors, wounds, or infections.”

The researchers discovered that body temperature regulates proteins called Nuclear Factor kappa B (NF-κB). NF-κB proteins move into and out of cell nuclei, turning genes on and off. Unregulated NF-κB can lead to uncontrolled inflammation, like in psoriasis, arthritis, or other inflammatory diseases. Regulated NF-κB keeps inflammation in check and primes the immune system to better fight off infections and abnormal cells.

The key finding of this recent research was that higher body temperatures speed up the activity of NF-κB, and lower body temperatures slow it down. The researchers say that this might explain why shift workers (who disrupt their daily rhythm by not sleeping at night) are at an increased risk for inflammatory diseases. This might also explain why fevers and elevated temperatures help the body better fight off infections.

In addition to sleep, fevers, and exercise, saunas are another effective way to modulate body temperature. Saunas encourage sweating and bump up body temperature. I have long promoted saunas as a way to encourage detoxification and to reduce body levels of toxins, like bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. This new research now suggests that saunas may also be an effective way to activate the immune system.

Clinics around the globe use sauna therapy to support detoxification. I recommend using an infrared sauna at home, three days per week for 30 minutes each day. You can take niacin (about 100 mg) before using the sauna, dry-brush your skin for 20 minutes, exercise intensely for 20 minutes, and then sit in the sauna. This combination will optimize the benefits you will receive from using a sauna.

It is easier to make sauna therapy a consistent habit if you have one at your home. If you are interested in learning more about saunas or purchasing one, check out Sunlighten here.