Hot Springs Benefits & Contraindications

Hot Springs Benefits

Imagine soaking in your bathtub, the serenity, the peace, that sensation of all your tension and stress are just melting away. Now, take that feeling and amplify it by a thousand. That does not even begin to cover that pure bliss of a soak in one of the world's many mineral hot springs. These springs are naturally occurring water pools formed due to geothermal activity; the pressure and temperature farther away from the surface provide the heat. Here is all you need to know about nature's very own hot tubs and mineral water hot springs benefits.

Hot Springs Benefits and Contraindications

Hot springs are traditionally thought to receive a life-force energy known as "qi" from the earth (the earth the spring arose from), water (contained within it), fire (the warmth and heat of the spring water), metal (from all the minerals contained in it) and wood (from the surroundings); the five Chinese phases. It is believed to provide harmony to our body and mind while balancing and grounding us.

Some of the hot springs benefits

Blood circulation improvement. While soaking the skin absorbs the various minerals present in the springs which increases the body's hydrostatic pressure. This increases circulation and oxygen flow.

Stress relief. Psychologically as well as physically (relaxation of muscles due to heat) soaking is calming. The increase and the corresponding decrease in body temperature lull you into a deep sleep.

Pain relief.  Mineral hot springs water manage arthritis pain. An Israeli study found that mineral hot water improves fibromyalgia pain.

Skin conditions improvement. High sulfur and silica content help to relieve certain skin conditions, treat skin rashes and infection, smooth and tighten the skin.

Detoxification. Stabilizes the endocrine system and sweating helps in the release of toxins.

Immunity boosting. Iron along with other trace minerals boosts the immune system.

Hot Springs Risks and Safety Tips

While there are numerous hot springs benefits, there are some things to be cautious about as well.

| High Temperature

It is a known fact that hot springs temperatures range from mildly warm to dangerously hot. Extremely hot temperature can be enough to cause second- or even third-degree burns on an individual. Before entering hot springs, always test water temperatures.

Prolonged soaking (20 minutes and more) may lead to hyperthermia when body temperature raises to increases to 102°F (38.9°C). If the body temperature increses to 104°F (40°C) or higher, you put yourself at great risk for heatstroke. Heatstroke can cause irreversible damage to the brain and other organs.

| Sulfur

Sulfur can trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Talk with your health provider if you think you have the allergy to sulfur.

| Naegleria fowler Ameba

An ameba known as Naegleria fowleri is found around the world. Most cases of infections have been caused by ameba from warm freshwater including rivers, lakes, hot springs, and poorly maintained swimming pools. Infections can occur when people irrigate their sinuses with contaminated tap water. It is recommended to never lower the head into the water as an ameba can enter into the system via the nose and destroys the brain tissue. This condition is known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis or naegleriasis which is a potentially lethal brain infection.

Heart Health

Soaking in hot water of mineral springs can increase heart rate and lower blood pressure. Rapid heart rate rises cause a drastic drop in blood pressure that, in turn, shocks the body and can lead to lightheadedness, fainting, and even cardiac arrest. But changes in temperature which occur gradually is what causes improvement in cardiovascular function. People with heart conditions should ask their doctors before hot tub or hot springs entering.

| Pregnancy

It is also advised for pregnant women to maintain a safe distance from hot springs as it can cause neural tube defects (brain and spinal cord damage) in the baby and miscarriage. Also, a few studies suggest a small increased risk for other birth defects such as a heart defect, an abdominal wall defect, or oral cleft. Hot water of springs or tubs, as well as sauna and steam room, can raise body temperature to 102°F (38.9°C) for 10 minutes triggering hyperthermia. If you are pregnant and decide to use hot springs, hot tub or sauna, limit your session to 10 minutes or less.

That brings this discussion to its final conclusion. It must be evident by now that the numerous benefits of a soak in these mineral hot springs far outweighs the few precautions that need to be taken. It would truly be a shame for anyone to miss out such a beautiful and enriching (literally!!) experience, for the mind, body, and soul.

1. Jacob N. Albin, et al. "Spa Treatment (Balneotherapy) for Fibromyalgia—A Qualitative-Narrative Review and a Historical Perspective". Published online 2013. NCBI
2. "Parasites — Naegleria fowleri — Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) — Amebic Encephalitis" CDC
3. Chambers CD. "Risks of hyperthermia associated with hot tub or spa use by pregnant women". 2006. Birth Defects Reseach (part A)
4. Edwards MJ, et al. "Hyperthermia and birth defects". 1995. Reprod Toxicol 9(5):411.
5. Milunsky A, et al. Maternal heat exposure and neural tube defects. 1992. JAMA 268(7):882.

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