There is a lot of mixed information regarding the use of saunas for diabetics. In all cases, diabetics should consult a doctor before using a sauna. Before doing so, however, it is a good idea to be informed of the benefits and concerns of saunas and diabetics.
Basic Physiological Reaction to Saunas
When the human body is exposed to the kind of intense heat produced by a sauna, the capillaries dilate, so the heart has to work harder to send blood to them. Because high blood pressure and other heart concerns are common for diabetics, it is clear to see the potential danger of saunas for diabetics. Additionally, saunas typically dehydrate the body by releasing sweat through the skin’s pores. This also poses a potential danger for diabetics.
Effect of Heat on Insulin Absorption
According to a 1980 study published by V.A. Koivisto in the "British Medical Journal," “the rate of insulin delivery from the injection site affects the blood glucose concentration.” Exercise accelerates insulin absorption, while rest can slow it. Because the blood flow in the skin is dependent on environmental temperature, the heat in saunas accelerates blood flow and, therefore, insulin absorption. Koivisto's study, which looked at diabetics in Finland who regularly take saunas, revealed that after the sauna, blood flow decreased, which slowed down insulin absorption.
Saunas with Infrared Lamps
Infrared lighting has been shown to improve the condition of diabetic neuropathy. Infrared lighting reduces the numbing conditions and causes molecules of nitric oxide to be released from hemoglobin in the bloodstream, which, in turn, increases blood flow. This is particularly beneficial to diabetics who suffer from poor blood circulation to the feet and other extremities. Saunas with infrared lamps are also less hot than typical saunas, so the heart does not have to work so hard in these saunas to manage the heat.
For diabetics to get the benefit of saunas, especially saunas with infrared lighting, the level and intensity of the heat must be monitored and kept within moderate limits. With a doctor’s approval and careful moderation, diabetics should be able to enjoy the benefits of a sauna without harm. The key, of course, is in moderation. Diabetics should also be especially careful to keep hydrated and to replenish the body with minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium and zinc after spending time in a sauna.
If you are diabetic and want to take a sauna, you need to know your condition and be aware of symptoms that should cause alarm. First, you should consult your doctor before taking a sauna. Second, look for a sauna that makes use of infrared lighting, as this is most beneficial to diabetics. Finally, take precautions to not overheat and to replenish your body with fluids and minerals after the sauna.