8 Benefits of Infrared Sauna Therapy

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Improve heart health and sleep, achieve clearer skin, reduce stress and fatigue, relieve pain from muscle aches and arthritis, detox the body AND burn calories? There isn’t much more any of us could ask for from a treatment….

Infrared saunas boast a long list of benefits begging the question, “Why doesn’t everyone have one of these??” For those who still need convincing here is an in-depth article surrounding the benefits of infrared saunas, recommended use and additional articles for more information.

Sauna vs. Infrared Sauna

Many may not realize there are several different types of saunas available:

  • Dry Saunas - heated with electricity, fire, gas, hot stones, etc

  • Steam Saunas - where water is poured over a hot object creating both heat and steam

  • Near Infrared Saunas - Higher frequency red light and near infrared light (0.8 – 1.5 µm) is used to heat the body from the inside out

  • Far Infrared Saunas (FIR) - Far-infrared light (5.6–1000 µm) is used to heat the body from the inside out

  • Full Spectrum Saunas - Saunas that utilize near, mid and far infrared wavelengths.

Dry Saunas/Steam Saunas

Dry saunas function by using direct heating methods to first heat a room and then through the warmth of the air heat a person’s body. Dry saunas can be unbearable for many simply because the temperatures inside need to be quite hot in order to actually begin heating the human body. The heat created by dry saunas can only penetrate through a few layers of the epidermis, raising a sweat and increasing heart rate.

Steam saunas are similar in that they first heat the air and then anything within the room. Also great for sweating and increasing heart rate, but the heat does not penetrate deeply into the body as with infrared saunas.

Infrared Saunas

As a group, infrared saunas utilize red light frequencies to first heat the body and then heat the surrounding room. Because infrared saunas use these red light frequencies the temperature of the actual room is much more bearable for most people. The infrared light is also able to penetrate the body on a much deeper level resulting in a host of amazing benefits.

Near infrared saunas increase mitochondria function, which in turn stimulates increase ATP production (cellular energy), reduces oxidative stress, inflammation and stimulates the healing process within cells. They are able to penetrate the body on the deepest level of all saunas

Far infrared saunas function by exciting the water molecules within the body, which can also stimulate mitochondria activity.

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Benefits of Infrared Sauna

  1. Relaxation/Better Sleep

  • Infrared saunas gently relax muscles

    • Unlike conventional saunas where the heat can be overpowering, infrared saunas gently warm the body in a comfortable environment

    • Muscles are heated and tension released

  • Infrared saunas reduce stress

    • Cortisol levels can be lowered and the stress response axis is balanced out allowing the mind to relax

2. Improved Mood and Cognitive Function

  • Infrared saunas increase endorphins and opiod production

    • Leads to improved mood and sense of well being

  • Infrared saunas stimulate neurogenesis

    • The growth of new neuronal cells

    • Also protects from cell damage

A recent study in Finland looked at 2,300 men who used an infrared sauna at least once a week for 15 minutes minimum. The participants were studied for 20 years after which researchers found that the men who used the sauna 4-7 times a week had “a 66 percent lower risk of developing dementia, and 65 percent lower risk of Alzheimer's, compared to men who used the sauna only once a week”.

3. Anti-Aging/Healing

  • Infrared saunas increase production of anti-aging agents

    • Heat shock protein, antioxidant enzymes, human growth hormone, insulin-growth factor 1. IGF-1

    • These growth hormones aid in both cell clean-up and new cell growth

  • Infrared saunas are anti-Inflammatory

    • Decreased inflammation paired with increase in anti-aging hormones allows the body to heal at an accelerated rate

  • Infrared saunas increase collagen production

    • Increased collagen allows for smoother, fresh, younger skin

4. Improved Heart Health

  • Infrared saunas normalize blood pressure

    • Elevated heart beat leads to increased circulation and lower blood pressure

  • Infrared saunas increase blood flow to vital organs

    • Increased heart rate raises blood flow and sends more blood to vital organs

  • Infrared saunas raise endurance

    • Raising heart rate increases the bodies endurance, when the heart rate is elevated in a heated environment the body is challenged even more producing greater endurance

5. Reduces Inflammation/Chronic Pain

  • Infrared saunas cause increased blood flow

    • This increase in blood flow brings fresh oxygenated blood to areas of inflammation and flushes away “stale” blood

  • Infrared saunas lower blood toxicity

    • This results in the smoothing of the walls in arteries, capillaries and veins, which significantly reduces symptoms of respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, colds, flu, sinusitis and congestion as it clears the inflammation, swelling and mucus clogged passages

  • Infrared saunas can improve or even cure many inflammation related illnesses

    • These diseases can include: psoriasis, eczema, pain from arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, etc.

  • Doctors frequently use infrared saunas as part of their treatments plans for patients with arthritis, joint pain, muscle injuries, etc. because of the incredible short and long term pain relief.

6. Increase Metabolism/Weight Loss

  • Infrared saunas increase calorie burning

    • As the body begins to heat the heart will begin to pump blood at a faster rate and begin sweating to control body temperature

    • This elevated heart rate is equivalent to a workout and a 30 minute session can burn between 300-600 calories

  • Infrared saunas increase metabolism and appetite

An interesting study in Japan paired infrared sauna use with a low-calorie diet in obese people for two weeks. After the two week period they found that body fat had been reduced in all participants by at least 4.5%!

7. Improved Skin/Cellulite Reduction

  • Infrared saunas improve skin problems

    • As previously mentioned, anti-inflammatory benefits significantly improve issues like eczema and psoriasis

  • Infrared saunas help with acne

    • A study in Germany found that regular sauna users had less sebum on their skin, a healthier pH and greater ability to retain moisture

    • Reduced inflammation allows irritated skin to heal and receive oxygenated blood cells which can heal acne and acne scars

    • The process of sweating clears pores of impurities preventing clogging

8. Detoxification

  • Infrared saunas detox at a cellular level

    • The heat of infrared saunas is able to penetrate the body deep within raising your core temperature and causing a sweat to break

  • Infrared saunas can detox the body of heavy metals

    • Sweating is the body’s natural way of detoxing and heavy metals in particular are excreted through sweat

    • The infrared rays are able to rid the body of heavy metal toxins accumulating in the cells

    • Infrared sauna use is a common treatment option for those with heavy metal poisoning (always consult a medical doctor before pursuing a new treatment)

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Recommended Use

Most medical doctors will recommend working up to sauna sessions of 30-45 (some recommend 20 minutes max; always consult with a medical professional first before beginning a new treatment) minutes three times a week. Start with a 10-20 minute session if you are able and as you begin to detox the body you will be able to withstand longer periods of time in the sauna.

As saunas are an incredibly safe and gentle treatment option many enjoy sauna sessions on a daily basis. Again, discuss with your doctor regarding length and frequency of sauna use for you specifically!

Other Tips

  1. Wait at least 1-2 hours after eating before sauna use if possible so the body is able to rest completely without the need to digest any food.

  2. Hydrate before, during and after! Especially after be sure to replenish lost fluids with water and/or electrolytes to prevent dehydration.

  3. Ease in to longer sessions. If you begin to feel lightheaded at any point rise slowly and end your session. The body will slowly begin to adjust and acclimate to the heat as time goes by. Start with 10-15 minute sessions and work your way up to 30-45 minutes.

  4. Set a timer or have a clock within view so you can closely monitor how long you have been in the sauna.

  5. Don’t go in alone or if you do be sure and let another person know you will be in the sauna and for how long so they can check on you if necessary.

  6. Wear lightweight clothing or a bathing suit and lay a towel underneath the body to absorb sweat.

  7. After about 5 minutes in the sauna try stretching different muscles of the body to aid in tension release and relaxation.

  8. Many enjoy playing relaxing music while in the sauna or listening to a meditation. Enjoy the time to yourself in whatever way you feel you are needing and will be the most healing!

  9. Shower or rinse of the body after sauna use to remove an oils that may have been excreted from the surface of the skin.

  10. Apply a moisturizer after use! Your heated skin and open pores will be able to absorb the optimal amount of moisture while still warm.

  11. Always, ALWAYS consult with a medical professional for an expert opinion on frequency and duration.

Sources

Effect of NASA light-emitting diode irradiation on molecular changes for wound healing in diabetic mice

Immunomodulatory effects of low-intensity near-infrared laser irradiation on contact hypersensitivity reaction.

Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review

Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr. Michael Breus

MyersDetox