Winter is here again. It’s dark earlier, it’s wet and cold outside. Time to pay a little extra attention to your mental and physical wellbeing. And, what better way to do so than a visit to the sauna? Boosting your natural immunity while relaxing. Pure heaven!
Immunity, a term that seems to be everywhere these days. But what exactly is it? You have a natural defence system that helps your body fight off invaders such as bacteria, viruses and allergens. Your skin, for instance, is the first line of defence, after which your lymph glands spring into action. They produce white blood cells that kill the bacteria. Other organs, such as your heart and spleen, are also activated.
Sauna boosts your immunity
How does having saunas boost your immunity? This happens in several ways. The heat induces an artificial fever in your body. Your body temperature rises about two degrees. That is enough of an increase to make your body work hard, because it wants to cool down again. Your blood vessels, both in your skin and organs, dilate as a result of the heat. When you cool down afterwards, this causes them to constrict again. This way, you train your body so that it becomes more efficient at adjusting to changing temperatures.
How does your skin react? Throughout the different skin layers, there are sensors that respond to heat. In addition to your blood vessels dilating, you start to sweat. This is your body’s attempt to restore balance. Waste products that were built up in your body’s tissues are now being released and removed. Among them, excess sebum. This also increases hydration of the epidermis and helps restore a potential PH imbalance more quickly. The result? Not only does your skin look cleaner, but it’s actually healthier too!
What is the role of your lymph glands in all of this? They produce more, as well as more active, white blood cells. It’s precisely these cells that help fight allergens, bacteria and viruses. At the same time, your heart starts beating faster, pumping up to three times more blood around your body than when at rest. This boosts blood flow throughout your body. The heat your body is unable to get rid of through sweating is stored in your organs. As soon as they are saturated, your body goes into full alarm mode, clearly signalling that enough is enough. That is the moment that you need to leave the sauna cabin and go cool down.
The perfect sauna session
But what is the best way to cool down? Don’t jump into ice-cold water straightaway. First, go outside for some fresh air and take a few deep breaths in and out. In the sauna, condensation forms in your alveoli. By breathing in and out like this, you help your lungs cool down properly. Do wear slippers when you go outside on your short walk, because when your feet get too cold, you cool down too quickly. You can wear a towel if you want to, but you don’t have to. Only once you have stopped sweating completely, should you go have a cold shower.
Start by cooling down your feet and lower legs, followed by your arms and torso, and finally, your head. The cold water makes your blood vessels constrict, stopping your body’s natural way of cooling down. If you also want to have a dip in the plunge pool, make sure to have a cold shower first. A proper cool-down stimulates the major organs in your body. If you continue to sweat after a day of sauna or have a headache or experience dizziness, you probably didn’t cool down properly.
The perfect sauna session looks like this: start by having a lukewarm shower to warm up (this also prevents your sweat from smelling when you are having your sauna); then, spend about 15 minutes in the sauna. The whole cool-down process should also be about 15 minutes, followed by a 15-minute rest before starting all over again. Make sure to drink enough water during your wellness day to keep your fluid levels balanced.
Worried that you might catch a cold during your sauna session? Don’t be, your body temperature is raised enough that you definitely won’t get ill from spending those few minutes outside in the fresh air.
What sauna suits you best? A Finnish sauna, an infrared sauna or a steam bath? In a Finnish sauna, it gets very hot, with temperatures of 90°C and above being quite normal. Think that you wouldn’t be able to stand this kind of heat? Thanks to the low humidity, it really isn’t that bad. Also well worth trying is an Aufguss session. Here, water is poured onto hot stones. This makes the temperature rise even more quickly, so that your body is hit with a blast of steam, making you sweat even more. A unique experience! An infrared sauna is a little less hot, with normal humidity, which means that you will be able to manage a bit longer in this sauna compared to a Finnish sauna. Also, an infrared sauna heats you up from the inside, as opposed to a Finnish sauna, which heats up the air around you. Finally, there is the hammam. This is the least hot option, with a high humidity level. The result is that your sweat doesn’t evaporate, because the air is already saturated with water vapour. A steam bath is perfect for when you have a bit of a cold, but still want to enjoy the heat. The vapour keeps your mucous membranes moist, thinning your nasal mucus. An ordinary sauna is not such a good idea when you are ill, especially not when you have a fever. ‘Prevention is better than cure’ really does apply here! Scientific research has shown that people who regularly have saunas are 30% less likely to catch a cold.
Feel like having a sauna? Check out the stunning castle estate of Thermae Boetfort in Melsbroek or the green wellness centre of Thermae Grimbergen on the outskirts of Brussels. At both centres, you have the option to enjoy your sauna and wellness in swimwear or in the nude, with the public baths consisting of two separate areas with several saunas, steam baths, swimming pools, relaxation pools and much more. They also provide a daily wellness programme with Aufguss, scrubbing and relaxation sessions. Prefer your sauna and wellness in a little more privacy? Book your session in one of the centres’ private saunas. And, with a beauty clinic, hotel and restaurant as additional facilities, Thermae Boetfort and Thermae Grimbergen really do have everything you need for the perfect wellness visit!
Thermae Boetfort, Sellaerstraat 42, 1820 Melsbroek, +32 2 759 81 96
Thermae Grimbergen, Wolvertemsesteenweg 74, 1850 Grimbergen, +32 2 270 81 96
For every 100 euros you spend on gift vouchers at Thermae Boetfort and Thermae Grimbergen from 1 to 31 December 2021, you will receive one free day pass. This day pass is valid for six months and can be used from Monday to Friday, except during public and school holidays. The gift vouchers are valid from the day after purchase.