Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hot Springs

My wife and I took a quick break at Gold Fork Hot Springs, south of McCall, Idaho. The hot springs are laced with lithium salts, but I began to wonder if the more profound healing effects of hot mineral waters are due to the warming of inflamed, or perhaps chilled and hibernating, bodies.

The heat sensors in your skin respond to vanillin-like molecules, e.g. hot pepper capsaicin, or elevated temperature to cause a sensation of warmth. Thus the vanillin receptors are proteins embedded in the membranes of nerves and they bind the molecules of the appropriate shape, the receptors change shape and start an electrical signal that moves to the brain. We experience that as warm or hot, depending on the intensity of the signal.

The nervous system also responds by a returning nerve signal that releases anti-inflammatory hormones in the tissue from which the original hot signal arose. This is the reason that heat applied to an inflamed wound will reduce swelling, redness, etc. Capsaicin or castor oil applied to the same general area will also reduce inflammation, because capsaicin and castor oil (ricinoleate) bind to the same vanillin receptors.

I think that hot springs are anti-inflammatory, because they stimulate vanillin receptors over a large portion of skin and stimulate body-wide suppression of inflammation. This would suggest that many inflammation-based diseases would benefit from hot springs, saunas, sweat lodges and other types of heat treatments. Because cold/menthol receptors are involved in a parallel anti-inflammatory response, the sauna to snow alternation may make a lot of sense for reducing chronic inflammation.

Fever and chills may also be related to these effects. Sudden shifts in the temperature of tissues may disrupt the equilibrium between the tissue and a quiescent pathogen. Heat treatments may similarly disrupt the chronic, bacterially-induced inflammation that some postulate to be the basis for many degenerative diseases.


Dr. Art Ayers said...

See my comment below on Rattlesnake venom. Also see my other articles on omega-3s and inflammation.

Ellie G said...

I have visited several hot springs in colorado over the past few years and I have had an odd experience all times...gas.
I start to feel very bloated after about 30minutes in a mineral pool, and once led to extreme abdominal pain. Any insight?