EP 153 – Eat This: The benefits of hot, cold from saunas and cold plunge therapy 

Ever taken a sauna or a cool dip or shot in the shower? Well, the hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, cold, or in Chris’s case, hot, hot, hot only, could be the least intense activity that could improve your health and prolong your life?! Spending time in a sauna or a minute or three in a cold shower or plunge, heat therapy, and/or cold therapy is known as contrast therapy, is on trend right now, but when you look under the hood of it all, it’s for about a million good reasons. Headlines, research papers, and magazines like Men’s Health say regular sauna use can prolong your life and protect your heart. The stats from the research show that if you use a sauna for 30 minutes 2 to 3 times a week, there can be around a 22% reduction of dementia and a 27% risk reduction of dying from a cardiovascular event like a heart attack. If you make it into a hot box four times more a week, you could reduce the probability of dementia by 65% and your risk of death by 50%. And that’s all-cause mortality, by the way, not just from a heart attack. As for cold plunging, you can look to Wim Hof, the world expert on the benefits of cold therapy, as one of his three pillars in the Wim Hof method for health. Cold therapy can lift your mood and help your mental health, speed up your sluggish metabolism, decrease inflammation, swelling, and sore muscles (think about putting ice on an injury), and be used to speed up recovery after physical exercise, and support your immune system. 

The long list of what sauna use can increase is long but worth knowing. From increasing growth hormone, speeding up your metabolism, which is your ability to burn calories, increasing the elimination of toxins, and improving blood flow and circulation that takes toxins out of the body is very much needed these days. You know that saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – that’s in relation to a body process called hormesis – more on that later in the show, but for now, today on EAT THIS with Lianne, the hot and cold of contrast therapy, how getting hot and sweaty can help prolong your life and a loooong list of other health benefits that don’t take all that much effort and give a LOAD of health rewards. 

Can getting hot and sweaty make you happy? It can, in many more ways than where your mind went. So let’s first address that, shall we, so that we can get it out of the way … could a sauna give Viagra a run for its money? I’ll leave that for you to test for yourself because if you want to improve your microcirculation and, therefore, sex life, chaps, a sauna can boost nitric oxide that helps to dilate blood vessels; gents, think of the blood vessels that you’d like great blood flow to – yep, you can thank me later. The other aspects of mood and mental health are that sauna can help you relax and regulate the levels of cortisol in your blood – that’s the hormone that is released when you’re stressed. If the levels get too high, your sleep is thrown off, and after what we talked about in episode 150 about sleep, you’ll know that the better your sleep and sleep cycles, the better your mood. A sauna can help stimulate the production of serotonin, the happy hormone that makes you feel good. Then there’s the release of dopamine you can get from a cold plunge benefits include a release of norepinephrine and dopamine, helping us feel pleasure as part of the brain’s reward system. What would make many of us feel better is better cognitive function and performance, am I right?! Oh, and reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s because of the increase in Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor or BDNF that promotes the survival of our existing brain cells and the growth of new, healthy new brain cells. Yep, you’ll sleep better tonight if you sauna or cold plunge, but knowing there’s more you can do to avoid these awful diseases, can put your mind at rest too. 

You know that saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – that’s in relation to a body process called hormesis. Hormesis acts as a beneficial stress to the body as it comes in short-lived doses of stress and activates positive response patterns in the body. For instance, intermittent fasting, hot and cold therapy, and even radiation therapy for cancer are known to benefit certain types of cancers. All of these are just enough to knock you out of the comfortable homeostasis and can activate a variety of cellular mechanisms and signaling pathways that promote stress resilience, repair cellular damage (by a process called autophagy), repair DNA, combat oxidative stress, produce new mitochondria, reduce inflammation, support elimination of toxins, improve blood sugar regulation, reduce risk of cancer, and more. All this from heating things up. Today’s guest is helping people get healthy by dropping off the sauna in their driveway with a pivot to his business during the pandemic.

Ryan Markham has been an action sports athlete for over 30 years and has coached freestyle skiing and mountain biking for a decade. He is a proud dad of two girls, and he owns Markham Works in a local town about 90 minutes from me called Collingwood, which I absolutely love. He sells and builds saunas, wood-fired cedar tubs, and outdoor furniture. He took on homeschooling his kids during the pandemic and took more time on his wellness line of products that now include cold plunge pools. 

As with so much changing, he has found a new niche, and as we love to support local entrepreneurs, Scott, who we talked with about the Berkey Water system that I have in my kitchen in episode 61, introduced us, and I invited Ryan on to educate us more about the benefits of what he talks about day in and day out, the benefits of hot and cold therapy, and what his customers have found to benefit their lives.

Topics we discussed:

  1. How did you get started in the sauna industry?
  2. Have you seen sauna use become more on trend of late?
  3. What kind of saunas do you make? How does that differ from an InfraRed sauna?
  4. What feedback have you had from your clients about the benefits to their health?
  5. When it comes to cold plunge, what should people be looking for if they want to do this at home?

So it doesn’t take that much time out of your day to get your body into a sauna, and whether you follow with a cold plunge or shower that’s up to you. The sauna has its own benefits, with or without what Chris says he will never do. It’s advised that you spend no more than 2 to 5 minutes in a cold plunge and another 12 to 15 minutes in a sauna, but this depends on the person.

  • Increases heat shock proteins that kill bad cells and help clean up proteins that help muscle recovery and growth. 
  • It increases white blood cells and helps your innate immune system and, kind of like, a fever. It can help to kill off bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses by preventing a virus from taking hold and replicating itself with you as its host. 
  • Improves insulin sensitivity which means your cells are more able to accept the insulin that it releases in response to your last carb or sweet meal or treat. 
  • Heat and sauna encourage detoxification of heavy metals: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, as well as BPA and phthalates. 
  • It acts as pain relief for all the anti-inflammatory support.  
  • A sauna can reduce stress hormones by encouraging the release of the hormones noradrenaline, adrenaline, and cortisol, which initiates an anti-inflammatory response. Some say it can make you happier. 
  • Has a positive effect on BP, reduces inflammation and increase heart rate, and possibly more of a workout for your heart. 
  • Eliminating toxins through the largest excretory organ – the skin in sweat. Some toxins only come from the skin and don’t go through urine and stool. 
  • We live in a very comfortable climate, with the thermostat in the right spot. We have a comfort crisis going on right now, and being uncomfortable with being too hot or too cold is avoided at all costs. When you apply stress to the body, it elicites an effect that can really make us stronger. 
  • Your metabolism increases by 350% after one minute in a cold plunge. Along with burning 600 calories in the sauna, that’s a fairly stationary workout to kick start metabolism and support weight management. 

With all these benefits, perhaps we need to become more link those in Finland who treat the sauna more like their daily shower. And as I have a sauna in the amenities of my condo building, I will make better use of it. Along with some of my Take This by Lianne Kid Boost or Skin Boost in my water bottle for antioxidants and superfoods, my body will be detoxing and repairing at a beautiful pace, with my BDNF positively impacting my brain, my mental health, and the anti-inflammatory benefits felt throughout my body. Will you give it a try? 

Learn more about Ryan Markham here:


Get a chance to win a swag bag from Markham Works!

Enter here.

This giveaway is open to all 🇨🇦🍁listeners. Must be 18+ to enter.

The giveaway ends March 17th. Good luck!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *