Q: My husband and I lived in Finland for a year. We took a sauna regularly in the university recreation center across the street from our apartment.
Our first sauna bath (in the apartment building of Finnish friends, years previously) had felt very odd. We’d stayed in because we saw that our friends were not toasting to death nor fainting. After a couple of times, we got addicted to the feeling of sitting quietly in the dry heat and sweating for about 10 or 15 minutes, followed by a dip in a cool lake or swimming pool.
We really miss it now that we’re back in the States. Saunas in the U.S. tend not to be as nice as those in Finland. They are rarely accompanied by the possibility of cool bathing — just cold showers, which are not so pleasant! Please remind us again of the health benefits of saunas.
A: A recent review in the journal Experimental Gerontology (Oct. 15, 2021) listed many health benefits associated with regular sauna bathing. It promotes cardiovascular health by relaxing blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, increasing heart rate, lowering cholesterol and improving blood flow through peripheral arteries.
In addition, regular sauna bathers appear less likely to suffer from depression or neurodegenerative diseases. It would be a good idea, however, for older people or those with chronic health conditions to check with their doctors before spending time in a hot sauna.
Q: Recently I started having insomnia several nights a week and also foot and leg cramps. I had read for years about putting soap under the bottom sheet for such nighttime cramps.
A month ago I got a bar of lavender soap and put it in the bed near my feet. My sheets smell heavenly!
I have not had a single foot or leg cramp since putting the soap there. And my insomnia is now nonexistent! I wake up well rested. I don’t know why it works, but it really does!
A: There is a surprising amount of research on “aroma inhalation therapy” for insomnia. A systematic literature review in the journal Medicine (March 5, 2021) evaluated 34 studies.
The authors conclude, “Inhalation aromatherapy is effective in improving sleep problems such as insomnia.” Also: “Among the single inhalation methods, the lavender inhalation effect was the greatest.”
You can learn much more about the benefits and risks of lavender in our book, “Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.” It is available under the Store tab at PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q: Your readers often request information on IBS. I would like to offer a suggestion that may help. Many years ago, I read that adding ¼ teaspoon of corn syrup to the baby’s formula might offer relief from constipation. It worked like magic.
Fast-forward a few decades, I was bothered with frequent bouts of diarrhea from IBS. Remembering what had worked for my daughter, I wondered if removing corn syrup from my diet would make a difference. I could not believe how many items in my pantry not only contained some form of corn syrup, but often listed it as the first ingredient. Getting rid of it has made a huge difference for me.
A: High-fructose corn syrup is found in a surprising variety of processed foods. A small scientific study concluded, “Fructose, in amounts commonly consumed, may result in mild gastrointestinal distress in normal people.” (Journal of the American Dietetic Association, October 2005.) Gas, rumbles, loose stools and stomachache are the most common symptoms associated with too much fructose.