Natural Remedies for Endometriosis – Sauna & Cold Water Therapy
Here’s a fun fact for you. On average, women will spend 7 years of their life menstruating. That’s nearly 10% of the average life expectancy for women in the US. Mind = blown. What’s even more mind-blowing is that for such a common and natural occurrence, the conversation around menstrual cycles, and women’s health in general, is so hush-hush.
Well folks, times are changing, and we’re here to address a condition that impacts about 10% of people with a uterus - endometriosis.
What exactly is endometriosis, and how can sauna and cold water therapy help as natural remedies for endometriosis?
What Happens When You Have Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic medical condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, known as endometrial tissue, grows outside the uterus. Endometrial tissue forms in the uterus each month in preparation for supporting pregnancy, but if no fertilization occurs, the body sheds this tissue. Normally, this tissue is shed during menstruation (a period), but in people living with endometriosis, the endometrial-like tissue is unable to escape from the vagina and becomes trapped in other areas of the body. This trapped tissue can lead to pain, inflammation, and even the formation of adhesions that can bind organs together.
The chance of you knowing at least one person in your life managing endometriosis is very high, and they are likely doing so quietly while carrying on with their day-to-day the best they can. We’ve all heard the phrase, the squeaking wheel gets the grease. So when it comes to women’s health issues, maybe it’s time we get a little squeakier!
How to Treat Endometriosis
Treatment for endometriosis is mostly geared around managing symptoms. Over-the-counter pain management, surgery to remove adhesions, and birth control for hormonal impacts, to name a few. There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are more holistic options out there and significant lifestyle changes that can lessen the severity of the condition and the way it manifests in the body.
Believe it or not, sauna and cold water therapy may be a helpful tool for those living with endo, and here’s why.
Benefits of Using a Sauna and Cold Water Therapy for Pain Management
Time in the sauna encourages the production and circulation of more endorphins. Endorphins essentially block the nerve cells that receive pain signals, so your perception of pain is decreased significantly with an endorphin boost. You see this effect from cold water therapy too! Cold water therapy releases tons of norepinephrine into your system, numbing your pain receptors.
A Sauna Detox of Xenoestrogens
We often talk about the detoxification impacts of sauna and how that may purge heavy metals from the system or even help you recover from a big night on the town, but it goes far beyond that! Unfortunately, most of us are living with xenoestrogens in our system. These are endocrine disruptors named for their estrogen-mimicking behavior. Xenoestrogens are everywhere - in skincare products, food, plastics, and many household cleaning items - and their build-up in the system is linked to breast, testicular, and prostate cancer, early onset puberty, miscarriages, and you guessed it, endometriosis. Sauna use stimulates circulation, pushing these toxins from your tissue out through your skin’s surface .
Benefits of Using a Sauna for Inflammation
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease at the end of the day, so creating a lifestyle that reduces inflammation levels in the body is critical in managing the condition. Adopting a low-inflammation diet is a place that many will start, but consider adding sauna and cold water therapy to your regimen. The benefits of using a sauna offer anti-inflammatory effects, from improving circulation to releasing heat shock proteins, which have their own anti-inflammatory properties. Even the detoxification occurring due to increased sweating lightens the load on the immune system and aids in inflammation control.
Stress Relief from Sauna Use and Cold Water Therapy
Stress is a part of everyone’s life, but people dealing with chronic illness have another layer to deal with. And you know what typically exacerbates systems of chronic illness further? Stress! How cruel and unusual.
So, managing stress levels is critical in managing endometriosis. Cold water therapy is especially helpful on this front.
When you enter the cold plunge, you’re essentially forcing your body to shut down its sympathetic nervous system, or the “flight or fight” response. As blood shunts to your core to preserve your vital organs, your heart rate drops significantly, and norepinephrine is released. This is due to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your “rest and digest” state. The more time we can spend in the parasympathetic state, the less stress hormones we have circling through our system, greatly benefitting both our overall mental and physical well-being .
We believe that sauna and cold water therapy have the ability to serve everyone. Whether you’re on a personal fitness journey, looking for pain relief, managing chronic illness, or simply adding another tool to your wellness toolkit, contrast therapy is a practice that we believe should be made more accessible to anyone who needs it.
1. Keast, Marja Leena RPT; Adamo, Kristi B. MSc (2000). The Finnish Sauna Bath and Its Use in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation.
2. Jamie Douglas, Daniel J. Plews, Phil J. Handcock, and Nancy J. Rehrer (2015). The Beneficial Effect of Parasympathetic Reactivation on Sympathetic Drive During Simulated Rugby Sevens. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance