Do Sauna Therapy and Exercise Raise The Level of Tetrahydrobiopterin?
Tetrahydrobiopterin deficiency is a rare disorder that increases the levels of several substances, including phenylalanine, in the blood. Phenylalanine is a building block of proteins (an amino acid) that is obtained through the diet. It is found in all proteins and in some artificial sweeteners. If tetrahydrobiopterin deficiency is not treated, phenylalanine can build up to harmful levels in the body, causing intellectual disability and other serious health problems.
High levels of phenylalanine are present from early infancy in people with untreated tetrahydrobiopterin deficiency. Infants with this condition appear normal at birth, but medical problems ranging from mild to severe become apparent over time. The signs and symptoms of this condition can include intellectual disability, progressive problems with development, movement disorders, difficulty swallowing, seizures, behavioral problems, and an inability to control body temperature. There is even research showing that Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and autism can result from deficient BH4.
Sauna therapy may act to increase BH4 availability via stimulation of Tetrahydrobiopterin. See the details on this government site PubMed.
Increased BH4 synthesis in surface tissues of the body will produce increased circulating BH4, which will feed BH4 to other body tissues that may have been BH4 deficient. Similar mechanisms may act in vigorous exercise due to the increased blood shear stresses and possibly also heating of the exercising tissues and heart.
There is a large and rapidly increasing number of diseases that are associated with BH4 depletion and these may be candidates for sauna therapy. Such diseases as hypertension, vascular endothelial dysfunction, multiple chemical sensitivity and heart failure are thought to be helped by sauna therapy and chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia may also be helped and there are others that may be good candidates for sauna therapy.
This all deserves further study, but for now, sauna therapy looks exceedingly promising for a host of medical problems. Today’s New York Times carried a story about the ever increasing incidence of autism in the U.S. with about 1 in 150 babies born with autism-including Aspberger’s Syndrome-an astonishingly high number. If sauna therapy can help even a small percentage of these children, it’s worth trying.