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How Sauna & Cold Plunge Can Help if You're Dealing with Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is still deemed somewhat of a mystery. Doctors don’t fully understand it, and even experts will admit that there is still a lot to learn. But this unusual, tick-borne disease has gotten a drastic amount of attention in recent years as more and more people tell stories about their personal battles dealing with the disease. 

The History of Lyme Disease

Even the history of Lyme disease is perplexing. In 1975, in the small town of Lyme, Connecticut, children and adults started reporting a random slew of health issues — skin rashes, swollen joints, severe fatigue, and in some cases, partial paralysis. Health officials were suspicious that these strange symptoms were coming from some type of insect bite since the cases were occuring in the summer months and to folks living near heavily wooded and sparsely settled areas. 

This initial group of Lyme disease sufferers endured years without any firm answers about their illness. But in 1981, thanks to a scientist named Willy Burgdorfer, it was discovered that Lyme disease was caused by a bacteria, named borrelia burgdorferi, carried in mice and deer, and transmitted by deer ticks. Who knew such a small insect could wreak such havoc on the body!

Doctors started treating Lyme patients with a six or 12-week dose of antibiotics, and some people saw improvements, but not everyone was so lucky. Fast forward to today, a whopping 36 years later, and the medical community is still trying to figure out how to effectively treat Lyme disease.

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Lyme Disease Treatments Today

If patients seek medical attention immediately following infection, about 80% fully recover, which is a promising number! But for those who don’t get treatment quickly enough or maybe respond poorly to antibiotics (if you have an allergy to medication this can make things tough), symptoms can become debilitating. Lyme symptoms range from muscle aches, fatigue, fever, malaise, joint pain, digestive problems, foggy brain, anxiety, headaches, twitching, memory loss, seizures, paranoia, and much more which can persist for years and years. 

The difference in people’s experiences with the illness is so polar opposite that Lyme disease has been split into two categories: acute and chronic. 

For those whose symptoms persist with chronic Lyme, managing symptoms and finding relief can be a frustrating and slow process. And for those that want to go the more holistic route, the journey can look a bit different. So here’s a story of one of our Sauna House regulars, Whitney, who’s managing her Lyme disease with a natural treatment approach and weekly visits to Sauna House.

My Journey with Lyme Disease

I’ve been dealing with Lyme for about a decade now. I’m fairly confident that I got bit by a tick when I was living in Michigan, because there’s such a large population of them in that area of the country. However, I didn’t get diagnosed until after moving from Michigan to Asheville, and I’m not sure if what I had was an acute infection or a dormant infection. 

When I got diagnosed, I was working at a stressful job and training for the Biltmore half marathon, so my body was under a lot of strain both in terms of energy expenditure and stress. I remember I woke up one morning, and I couldn’t walk up a hill without feeling winded. On top of shortness of breath, I also experienced fatigue and intense brain fog. It honestly felt like the flu, so I thought I was just sick, but the symptoms didn’t go away, and that’s when I knew it had to be something else. 

When I was first diagnosed, there wasn’t a lot of info out there on Lyme disease or treatment for it. The tests aren’t always reliable either — someone can take it and get a false negative even though they have it, so because of a lack of information, my journey has consisted of a lot of trial and error to try and figure out what works best for my body. I decided to try herbal supplements and antibiotic treatment as my first approach, but now I’ve taken a more holistic approach to managing my symptoms.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout this process has been learning to listen to my body and learning to trust what I think it needs. My approach is to try and strengthen my body and build it up to the best of my ability with good nutrition and stress management, specifically. Since Lyme is an inflammatory disease, you want to try and reduce the amount of inflammatories in the body as best you can and that’s where sauna and cold plunge have definitely helped me a lot. Sauna is gentle and supportive and boosts the immune system which is really important when you’re dealing with Lyme disease. 

Sauna and Cold Plunge Benefits to Combat Lyme Disease

I do still have lingering symptoms, but they’ve gotten much better since I was first diagnosed. At the beginning, I was bed bound for a long time with fatigue and brain fog, and the brain fog was really tough, because I couldn’t think or remember anything. But now, I feel like I’m at a good place. I feel healthy and strong, but I definitely have to watch my energy expenditure and stress levels. If I use too much energy or get stressed, my symptoms flare, so I’ve used sauna and cold plunge to manage my stress and rejuvenate my body. 

I started using an infrared sauna right away when I began my Lyme treatment. My doctor actually recommended infrared sauna, because when you’re killing off the bacteria from the disease, you need to help your body detox, so the infrared sauna is great for that purpose. 

Sauna House didn’t exist when I first moved to Asheville, but when it opened, I became an annual member right away. I feel so much better if I can get into Sauna House at least twice a week to take a dip in the cold plunge and sit in the sauna. If I’m tired or have brain fog, and I get in the cold plunge, I feel almost completely normal — it’s amazing. In my case, I’m dealing with more inflammation, so the sauna and cold plunge really help with that.

Anytime I have a flare up or if I feel that my body needs some support, Sauna House is my go-to. I walk out of there feeling better. 

For anyone dealing with Lyme disease, my advice would be to focus on building up the body first. Build your lifestyle around supporting your body and making it as strong as possible — and using sauna and cold plunge can help immensely with that. 

*We acknowledge that everyone’s experience with Lyme disease is different, so be sure to talk to your doctor about what treatment options are best for you. That being said, hot and cold modalities are showing promise as a way to manage symptoms of Lyme disease, so if you’d like to give it a try, we hope you’ll come visit us!

Interested in a bathhouse visit to Sauna House to improve your health?

Whether you deal with Lyme disease, a chronic illness, or you’re just looking for a health boost, sauna and cold plunge offers many amazing benefits to the body. Check out our blog posts to learn more about what sauna and cold plunge can do for you! We look forward to seeing you at the bathhouse soon!

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January 03, 2023
By: Jen Richter