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March 2007 - Vol 4, Issue 3
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We've nearly survived another cold, bleak, Portland winter. Although the hot days of summer seem far off in the future, sauna is one way to get warm, at least for a while. Our counterparts in other northern regions regularly use sauna, especially this time of the year. In this issue you will learn all about sauna and the potential health benefits of this ancient tradition.

Stay tuned for information on the health benefits of dietary fiber in our April e-newsletter.

Don't forget to check out our recipe of the month. Whether you are a fan of lentil soup or not, this is a recipe you will want to try out.

Portland Health and Wellness is anything but your typical medical clinic. We offer health-based cooking classes, a drop-in weight control group for men and women, and group psychotherapy for individuals with eating disorders. We continue to offer individual healthcare services, workshops and classes on various health topics, and our year-long comprehensive weight reduction program. Victoria Mosse, MA, ATC, CNT, offers pilates at ph&w; on Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings.

Our clinical team is committed to providing cutting-edge healthcare services. Donald Altman, MA, in addition to being a counselor, is a former Buddhist monk and award-winning writer. He offers '12 Weeks to Mindful Eating', a program he created to help individuals develop a healthier relationship with food, as well as workshops on stress management and mindfulness. Donald also offers individual counseling at ph&w.; Juleeanna Andreoni, MS, RD , is a clinical nutritionist with a broad range of experience. She is certified in adult, adolescent, and childhood weight management. Juleeanna has appeared on AM Northwest. Christine Howard, PsyD continues to provide individual psychotherapy and is now offering group psychotherapy for individuals with bulimia or binge eating disorder. Marcela Vinocur, MD serves as the director of PH&W;'s unique weight reduction program and maintains a psychopharmacology practice.

  • Feb 26.......Letting go of Diets
  • Mar 7........12 Weeks to Mindful Eating
  • Mar 10.......Cooking for Men who Hate to Cook
  • Mar 24.......Cooking for Diabetes Made Easy
  • Apr 7.........Mindful Cooking/Mindful Eating
  • Apr 7.........Cooking with Greens

  • Ongoing groups include a weekly drop-in weight loss group on Mondays from 12:30 to 1:30 pm (led by Juleeanna Andreoni, MS, RD / cost:$15 per session) and weekly group psychotherapy for individuals with binge eating disorder or bulimia on Mondays from 5 to 6:30pm (led by Christine Howard, PsyD / cost: $45 per session). Please call us for additional information.

    For up-to-date information about our upcoming workshops and classes, please check our website or give us a call. Registration and payment in advance are required for all ph&w; events and space is limited to 12 (cooking classes are limited to 6). We strongly encourage early registration.

    Although sauna is not nearly as popular in Oregon as it is in Finland (where there are an estimated 2 million saunas for a country with 5 million inhabitants), there are many reasons to try it out. Winter is the time of the year when going into a hot, steamy room sounds appealing, but sauna can provide therapeutic benefits year-round. In addition to learning about the health benefits associated with the regular use of sauna, this article will also explore the history of sweat baths.

    Sauna has a long and tumultuous history. While many people think of Finland as the birthplace and capitol of sauna, the origin of sweat bathing likely goes back several thousand years. The exact birthplace of sauna is unknown, but it is likely that sweat baths were used by many cultures throughout the world. The Finnish sauna, the Russian bania, the Turkish hamman, the Japanese furo, the Mexican temascalor, and the Native American sweatlodge are all terms used to describe sweat bathing. Our ancestors as far back as 6,000 years ago likely used sauna as a means of promoting good hygiene and relaxation. Primitive sweat houses were actually holes dug into the ground and heated by fire pits. When the Finns abandoned their nomadic lifestyle, sauna likely evolved from portable structures similar to Native American sweatlodges to small, wooden structures. These structures were often used for multiple purposes, including a place for giving birth and healing the ill. During the 1700s, there was great pressure on Finland to abandon saunas altogether. By then, this form of bathing had lost favor in most of Europe, largely as a result of the Reformation movement. Despite the pressure, Finns continued their use of sauna. Sauna gained popularity in Finland and abroad after World War II.

    Sauna is more than a recreational activity. In addition to aiding in relaxation, sauna bathing produces some transient cardiovascular and hormonal changes. Sauna is widely used by the Finnish throughout the lifespan; it is well tolerated by most healthy adults, including women with uncomplicated pregnancies, and children. Although there have been concerns about pregnancy and the use of hot tubs, there is no evidence linking regular use of sauna to birth defects or indicating that sauna bathing should be avoided during pregnancy.

    There are several studies suggesting that long-term sauna bathing may help lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension. In a recent literature review, sauna bathing did not impose a risk to medically treated and stable patients with hypertension, coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure. There is limited data indicating that use of sauna may lead to improvement in patients with chronic congestive heart failure. A small study recently found that use of sauna daily for 2 weeks in patients with at least one coronary risk factor resulted in decreased systolic blood pressure as well as reduced levels of 8-epi-prostaglandin F(2alpha), thereby aiding in the prevention of atherosclerosis. In stable patients with congestive heart failure, sauna bathing was found to significantly improve exercise tolerance in a small study.

    Sauna bathing produces transient improvement in pulmonary function; this may provide some relief to individuals with asthma and chronic bronchitis. In individuals with rheumatic disease, use of sauna may help alleviate pain and improve joint mobility. There are reports that individuals with psoriasis may find sauna bathing beneficial. Sauna therapy may be useful for chronic fatigue syndrome, but more research is necessary.

    As healthy as sauna may sound, there are a few conditions in which use of sauna should be avoided altogether. If you have recently had a heart attack, or have unstable angina pectoris or severe aortic stenosis, you should absolutely not use sauna. If you are on medications to lower your blood pressure, you should exercise extreme caution as your blood pressure may drop precipitously after sauna bathing. Individuals with atopic dermatitis may experience increased itching as a result of sauna bathing.

    There is very little research on the use of sauna in individuals with diabetes. Since it may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, it is possible that sauna therapy may be beneficial for diabetics. Diabetic patients should check with their physicians prior to initiating sauna therapy. For most people with stable coronary heart disease, including an old myocardial infarction (heart attack), sauna bathing is safe and may even offer some health benefits. The number of people who experience acute heart attacks or sudden death in saunas is extremely small. Avoiding alcohol consumption during sauna bathing (which increases the risk of low blood pressure, arrhythmia, and sudden death) and limiting the amount of time you spend in the sauna can help minimize risks.

    The bottom line on sauna: it may offer some benefits to your health in addition to providing an opportunity for relaxation. If you are healthy, sauna can help you relax and experience a greater sense of well-being. Sauna?s role in the prevention of disease in healthy individuals has not been well-studied. If you have any of the health issues mentioned above, make sure you consult with your physician prior to using the sauna. There is limited but encouraging research on the potential health benefits of sauna. In some cases, sauna may provide health benefits above and beyond the benefits associated with relaxation.
    creamy lentil soup

    This thick and creamy soup is easy to prepare and tastes great. Although you will need to allow several hours of preparation time, it is worth the wait!

    May be prepared in advance and re-heated. Makes 4-6 servings.

    2 c of lentils, sorted and washed; 4 c of boiling water; 1 small onion; 3 stalks celery ; 1 c chopped frozen spinach; 1 TBSP tomato paste; 1 ham hock; 1/2 tsp marjoram; salt and pepper to taste.

    SORT and WASH lentils and place in a crock pot (or sturdy pot.) COVER lentils with boiling water and turn crockpot on high. ADD ham hock to pot. Cook for 1 hour. SLICE celery and onion and SAUTE in olive oil until onions are soft and translucent. ADD onions and celery to soup. ADD tomato paste and marjoram. Continue to COOK until the lentils are soft. When lentils are fully cooked, remove about a cup of soup and PUREE in a blender. ADD this puree back to the soup. ADD the chopped spinach. STIR well and season with salt and pepper to taste. PLACE soup in bowls. GARNISH with parsley. Serve with warm, crusty bread. ENJOY.

    copyright 2007 portland health and wellness

    We are very interested in your comments and suggestions. Please let us know if you have a topic you would like to see covered in future newsletters. We look forward to hearing from you.


    the staff of
    Portland Health and Wellness

    phone: 503.236.4506