Temperature and the Microbiome

Two years ago I wrote about Infra-red saunas and that studies showed that they were effective in reducing symptoms in CFS. There have not been much published since then that is clearly applicable to CFS:

  • In conclusion, deep penetration of infrared heat (approximately 3-4 cm into fat tissue and neuromuscular system) with mild temperature (35-50°C), and light humidity (25-35%) during FIRS bathing appears favorable for the neuromuscular system to recover from maximal endurance performance.” [2015] – comparing traditional sauna to infra-red sauna.
  • “Ten consecutive inpatients with CFS stayed in a 60°C sauna for 15 minutes and then rested on a bed under a blanket for an additional 30 minutes outside the sauna room. The treatments were performed once a day, five days a week for four weeks…

    Perceived fatigue significantly decreased after therapy, although no significant reductions were observed during therapy. In addition, a negative mood, including anxiety, depression and fatigue, and the performance status significantly improved after therapy. However, the levels of pain and vigor did not change significantly.“[2015]

For those in the US:  35C = 95F,  50C = 122F.

Microbes exist by responding to environmental conditions; i.e if the temperature changes because the water in a river moves from high altitude to lower altitude the microbial system will respond.” [source]. pH (acid or base) is know to effect most bacteria significantly.

In this post, I am exploring the aspect of environmental temperature on the microbiome.

Temperature and Past Research

There has been many studies over the years that found certain bacteria had ideal temperature ranges [1963]. In [2012], ignoring environment temperature on mice used in experimental studies was identified as a major cause for failing to see similar results with humans .. “Studies dating back at least to the 1940s indicate that ambient temperature profoundly alters the course of infection in diverse rodent models… ambient temperature directly correlates with host responsiveness—lower temperatures leading to impaired immune responses … However, considerable data suggest that the cold stress endured by laboratory mice—a practical paradigm followed for nonscientific reasons—profoundly affects mouse (patho)physiology in ways that directly impair the modeling of human homeostasis and disease in mice.”

A 1965 study is particularly interesting because it compared raising and lowering of temperature in mice. “Acute exposure of mice to an environmental temperature of 5C or 37C  reduced . [specific bacteria]. from a high of 2300 to an amount less than 40”. Normal body temperature for a mouse is 35.5C. Thus a raise of 2C had a significant impact.

A recent study [Dec 2015] with mice found that temperature impacts the general composition of the microbiome.

In the experiment, the cold triggered an initial slight drop in temperature, causing the mice to burn fat and lose weight. Blood sugar levels dropped as well, and the cold mice became more sensitive to insulin. What’s more, their microbial makeup shifted significantly. Notably, a microbe called Akkermansia muciniphila, which is associated with obesity and diabetes, virtually disappeared,… Barbara Cannon, a physiologist at Stockholm University, is surprised at the degree of the effects, particularly how quickly the metabolisms of mice living with the bacteria of cold-adapted mice changed. “I find it very remarkable that transplanted microbiota can continuously double the metabolic rate of mice and look forward to an explanation of the mechanism,” she says.

POINT: In mice, environment temperature has been known to impact infections and immune responses for a long time.

Human Studies and Reports

Burrill Crohn (Crohn’s Disease is named after him) had a 45% success rate by purposely inducing a fever. [1936].


The observation, that cancer patients who experienced a feverish period after surgery survived significantly longer than patients without fever, and the fact that spontaneous tumor remission was observed mostly after a fever period, was the rationale for the artificial induction of fever (“fever therapy”)…the epidemiology of cancer incidence and the incidence of febrile infections have been shown to have an inverse correlation and additionally, spontaneous remissions repeatedly have been reported to be associated with febrile infections (reviewed in ref. 20)….  Engels’ studies demonstrate a cancer risk for people who never experienced an infectious disease calculated with odds ratio (OR) of 2.5 to 46.2. Sinek61 finds similar results in 232 cancer patients, which he compared with 2.444 controls. … Rønne could associate a missing history of measles in childhood with increased cancer risk for a variety of tumors in a historical prospective study. Out of 353 individuals with a negative history of measles 21 developed cancer versus only 1 case out of 230 controls with a positive history of measles (p < 0.001).”“[2013] – [Sidebar:this has implications when it comes to vaccines — the side effect may be 20x higher cancer risk!!! I could not find any studies comparing vaccinated, not-vaccinated with measles,  not vaccinated without measles , and vaccinated-with measles (some do happen!). Such a study would clarify matters. Combination of vaccine-strain measles and mumps virus synergistically kills a wide range of human hematological cancer cells: Special focus on acute myeloid leukemia [2014]. suggests some interesting aspects.

In Volume VIII, Nervous and Mental Diseases [1922], inoculation of Malaria had a “unique and astonishingly successful treatment”. Note: That Dr Philippe Bottero also had reported remissions from psychological disturbances with tetracyclines — suggesting some conditions are connected to the microbiome.

Low Thermometer Readings in CFS

Sub-normal readings of temperature in CFS patients have been well known for years (and generally ignored by established medical practices). I recall reading studies where CFS patients ingested devices to record internal temperatures and the results was normal temperatures in the body core [1998] [2001]. The low temperature appears to be a body surface phenomena .  Far Infrared(FIR) sauna applies to these surfaces. One could speculate that there are reserves of bacteria/microbiome in these areas that are dependent on the lower temperatures and those would be impacted by the FIR.

Bottom Line


The nordic habit of going into a hot sauna and then jumping into an ice covered lake may actually have significant benefits to regulating gut bacteria. Is there a Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish CFS group that would like to put this to the test???

This is not available to most people. We do see that Far Infrared Saunas are available and have been demonstrated to have positive impacts in actual studies on CFS patients. How it impacts may be many faceted, but it is likely that one facet is alteration of the microbiome.

FIR sauna will not cure, but they may be a contributor to a remission when done in conjunction to other things.