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Benefits of Hyperthermia
The body protects itself from viruses, bacteria, and other harmful substances through
the use of numerous defense systems. One of these is fever. Fever raises the body's
temperature above normal in an attempt to destroy invading organisms and sweat impurities
out of the system. Fever is a highly effective and natural process of curing disease and
restoring health, and has been recognized as such for thousands of years. Hyperthermia
deliberately creates fever in the patient in order to utilize this natural healing
A state of hyperthermia exists when the body temperature rises above its normal level of
98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. An increase in body temperature causes many physiological
responses to occur in the body. Hyperthermia takes advantage of the fact that many
invading organisms tolerate a narrower temperature range than body tissues and are
therefore more susceptible to increases in temperature (they may die from overheating
before harm is done to human tissue). Examples are viruses such as rhinivirus1
(responsible for one-half of all respiratory infections), HIV (human immuniodeficiency
virus),2 and the microorganisms and bacteria that
causes syphilis and gonorrhea.3
Hyperthermia treatments may not be able to kill every invading organism, but they can
reduce their numbers to a level the immune system can handle. Hyperthermia stimulates the
immune system by increasing the production of antibodies and interferon (a protein
substance produced by virus-invading cells that prevents reproduction of the virus).
Hyperthermia is also a useful technique in detoxification therapy because it releases
toxins stored in fat cells.
Hyperthermia can be produced either locally or over the whole body. Locally-applied
hyperthermia is most often employed to treat infections such as upper respiratory
infections (with inhalation of steam or a local application of diathermy), or for infected
wounds in a hand or foot (generally produced with immersion in a hot water bath).
Whole-body hyperthermia, on the other hand, is used when there is a general infection,
when a local application is impractical, or when a general whole-body response is
For whole-body hyperthermia, practitioners normally utilize the methods of full-immersion
baths, steam baths, and blanket packs. For a localized application, immersion baths,
steam, or, occasionally, diathermy are used.
Hyperthermia in all of its forms is often employed in the treatment of bronchitis,
pneumonia, sinusitis, and other conditions of the lungs and body cavities, and is used as
a modality for physical therapy.
Conditions Benefited by Hyperthermia
Hyperthermia can be used in the treatment of upper and lower respiratory tract infections,
bladder problems, and urinary tract infections such as cystitis.
Douglas Lewis, N.D., Chair of Physical Medicine at the Bastyr College Natural Health
Clinic in Seattle, Washington, states that a hot immersion bath, if done without raising
body temperature and heart rate too quickly or too high, can be used as an adjunctive
treatment for a "diverse number of diseases - from upper respiratory infections and
sexually transmitted diseases to cancer and AIDS." Hyperthermia in the form of hot
baths has also proved useful in the treatment of herpes simplex and herpes zoster
(shingles). At first the treatment aggravates the situation, but conditions improve
considerably after a short time. It is also useful in treating the common cold and flu, as
well as chronic fatigue syndrome.
Bruce Milliman, N.D., of Seattle, Washington, reports success using artificial
hyperthermia as the central element in a treatment program for CFIDS. Dr. Milliman's
treatment involves artificially inducing fever in order to augment the body's ability to
fight viral infections. Patients must commit to a three-week course of treatment during
which they stay home, get total bed rest, and undergo the fever treatment three times
daily. To induce hyperthermia, the patient soaks in a bath (as hot as is tolerable) for a
full five minutes, while drinking a twelve-ounce glass of tepid water mixed with two
thousand milligrams of vitamin C. Emerging from the bath, the patient quickly dries off
and gets into a bed prepared with flannel sheets and wool blankets, placing a hot water
bottle under the breast (women) or over the liver (men), and remaining under the blankets
for twenty minutes. This procedure stimulates a natural fever response and the body will
sweat profusely in its attempt to return to normal body temperature.
According to Dr. Milliman, fever is one of the immune system's natural adaptive
mechanisms, and "turning up the thermostat" enhances immune response. He reports
a 70 to 75 percent success rate with his patients who follow this protocol for the full
Dr. Lewis has also had good results treating chronic fatigue syndrome with hyperthermia.
For certain cases, Dr. Lewis prescribes hyperthermia as a form of self-care. In one
instance, he suggested a patient take hot tub treatments at home three to four times
weekly. "During the following year," Dr. Lewis reports, "her condition
improved wonderfully. While not fully recovered, her energy level is substantially higher,
and she credits this to her hot tub routine."
Acute viral infection is another condition Dr. Lewis treats with hyperthermia. In one
case, a patient came to him suffering from a combination of pneumonia and bronchitis. His
infection had initially been treated with natural remedies, and then antibiotics, both of
which produced only minor results. Dr. Lewis prescribed two treatments of hyperthermia
forty-eight hours apart, with an additional treatment given at home one week later. The
patient began to improve with the first treatment and was significantly better by the time
of the final treatment. "In treating acute conditions" Dr. Lewis says,
"sometimes the patient will have more difficulty tolerating higher temperatures than
those who are suffering from chronic conditions. As fever response is stimulated, however,
usually a higher tolerance follows."
At a Natural Health Clinic of Basyr College, hyperthermia is commonly used in the
treatment of HIV and other chronic and acute viral infections. In 1988 and 1989, the
Natural Health Clinic conducted a "Healing Aids Research Project" (HARP).
Hyperthermia treatment was included in the treatment protocol developed for the study
because of it's immune-stimulating, detoxifying, and disinfecting properties.
According to Leanna Standish, N.D., Ph.D., Director of HARP,
participants reported that hyperthermia was the facet of their treatment that had the
greatest impact. They found a decrease in night sweats and in the frequency of secondary
infection. Also, many participants reported having a greater sense of well-being after
hyperthermia treatments. 4
Laboratory research has proven that HIV is temperature sensitive
and suffers greater inactivation at progressively higher temperatures above 98.6 degrees
Fahrenheit. For example, after thirty minutes heating in a water bath at 107.6 degrees
Fahrenheit, 40 percent inactivation of HIV has been reported, and at 132.8 degrees
Fahrenheit, 100 percent inactivation.5 "I don't
believe that hyperthermia is the answer for all HIV patients," says Dr. Lewis,
"but I do think it is an appropriate adjunct treatment for all but a few very sick
Current medical literature is filled with references to the use of hyperthermia in
confessional medical settings as an adjunct cancer treatment. Studies have shown that
hyperthermia treatment modifies cell membranes in such a way as to protect healthy cells
and make tumor cells more susceptible to chemotherapy and radiation.6 This makes hyperthermia a useful adjunct in cancer therapy,
as its application enables the use of lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation.
Other studies have
shown that hyperthermia treatments play a role in stimulating the immune system. White
cells counts appear to drop immediately following treatments, but rise within a few hours.
Not only do the number of white cells increase, but their ability to destroy target cells
appears to increase as well.7 A recent study has shown
an increase in the production of interleukin-1 (a compound produced by the body in
response to infection, inflammation, or other immunologic challenges) with whole-body
hyperthermia.8 These studies indicate that increased
body temperature plays a positive role in the healing process of the body. According to
A.C. Guyton, M.D., an authority in the field of medical physiology, the metabolic rate
would be increased 100 percent for every 10 degrees centigrade rise in temperature.9 This increased metabolic rate no doubt accounts for some of
the increased immune activity.
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