Sauna Detoxification Program for Firefighters Improves Health
That’s the headline on a story from the Ocala, Florida paper.
Whether or not you think John Travolta or Scientology has any merit, read the article to see what one small town fire department did for it’s firefighters and how much the firefighters appreciated the health intervention.
The key to the detoxification? Sauna sessions. Think about it…taking a daily sauna just might make you feel better!
Article By Dave Schlenker of the Ocola paper.
Helen Hunter recently jumped into the local roller-derby circuit.
This is an appropriate footnote about the always-on-the-go Ocala firefighter. Hunter is pushing 40, and she smiles at the mere thought of derby competition.
She will tell you with complete conviction the healthier she is, the better she can fight fires for the taxpayers who pay her salary. She is passionate about performing at her best, physically and mentally.
And that’s how John Travolta came into her life.
Hunter and 14 other local firefighters recently completed – or are completing – an extensive detoxification program funded by $26,000 that Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston raised at their Ocala “From Paris With Love” gala in April 2010.
The detoxification requires daily saunas, niacin pills, showers, aerobic exercise, more saunas and then more showers. The idea is to cleanse the body of toxins and other harmful substances.
Hunter was in good health before she opted for detoxification. But, being a firefighter for 16 years, she has been exposed to toxins and suffers from achy joints from hauling equipment and climbing out of fire trucks.
“A week into it, my joint pain was gone,” she said last week of the detoxification program. She also touts another notable result: “Overall mental clarity; stress just effuses away.
“Something positive happened every day.”
So what, exactly, is detoxification?
“This is not a health program, it is a wellness program,” said Brett Miller with the Heroes Health Fund, a nonprofit group that helps fund detoxification programs. “We work with medical professionals.”
It is an extensive, month long (more or less) regime designed to rid the body of harmful substances and amp up energy. This detoxification program is based on a book by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. It is not, advocates stress, a Scientology program.
Travolta, a faithful Scientologist who lives in Anthony, Florida has helped start similar programs elsewhere in the United States and vowed to do the same with seed money from the “Paris” party.
Toxins are stored in the body’s fatty tissue, where they are excreted by sweating, explained Dr. George Yu, a surgeon and professor at George Washington University who champions detoxification.
But the treatment has critics who contend it is unproven and lacks necessary medical research. Dr. Frank Fraunfelter, medical director for city and county fire departments, has many reservations.
“From my perspective, there is a lack of hard evidence. I, as a physician, would not recommend it,” said Fraunfelter, whose job covers Marion County Fire Rescue and the cities of Ocala, Dunnellon and Belleview. He wants more information, particularly on the vitamins used and the daily niacin dosages. Too much niacin can be toxic, he said.
He strongly advises potential participants to consult with their personal physicians.
Advocates and participants say personal physicians are, indeed, part of the process. Hunter said she had to consult with her doctor and get his permission before starting the program. She also consulted with her personal trainer, who helped monitor her progress and endurance along with people from the program.
She said there were constant health assessments. One woman served as a “sauna supervisor” to make sure nobody was overdoing it, she said. They also kept daily journals.
“They just wanted to keep us healthy,” Hunter said.
Locally, 11 men and four women were selected for the program. Miller said applicants were screened with blood tests and medical exams before being accepted. Medical professionals also compiled thorough toxin-exposure histories, he added.
“I will admit it was tough,” said Ocala Fire Operations Chief Jim Ganter, who also went through the program. He had no reservations going into it, thinking – at the very least – he would be exercising often.
Like Hunter, his aches and pains subsided; plus, he said, “mentally, I seem even more crisp.” He said he even noticed his dry skin – a problem since childhood – cleared up early into treatment.
City firefighters were allowed to use their sick leave for the program, and Hunter took off all 33 days of treatment. Others did the same, but some whose work is less physical and office-bound – such as Ganter – went to work after the morning detoxification sessions. He said he also worked some weekends to make up the time.
County fire Chief Stuart McElhaney said the detoxification treatments were “not really a county program,” but his department accommodated the few county fire personnel who participated. Like the city, those who continued to work through the program were not front-line fire responders.
McElhaney said he is not 100 percent sold on detoxification, but noted some of workers who participated said they thought they felt better.
Hunter, though, has no doubts about detoxification.
After the treatment, she discussed her experiences in a video. In it, she was asked if she wanted to say anything to the Travoltas for bringing the program to Ocala. Upon recalling her words, the rumble-and-tumble firefighter paused before speaking.
“I thanked them hugely for the opportunity to do this,” she said, fighting back tears. “For these people to do something like that off the cuff was amazing. It was a totally selfless act. That’s why there was no quitting.”
We continue to hear good things about the detoxification power of sauna use from our Olympic Hot Tub sauna owners. Maybe it has to do with sticking to a daily regime. Maybe it has to do with making other dietary and wellness changes. There is one thing we know for sure: sweating is good for you. There’s no debate about that!
The Good Sweat starts with a Finnleo Sauna from Olympic Hot Tub.
Relax for Life™