by Dr. Will Cole

Infrared saunas are one of my go-to wellness tools that I recommend to patients in my functional medicine clinic who are wanting to take their healing to the next-level. I personally use infrared saunas to stay on top of my own wellness game.

What is an infrared sauna?

Infrared saunas differ from traditional saunas with their use of infrared thermal light. These work to penetrate past your body’s skin barrier to raise your core temperature. Whereas traditional saunas have to first heat the air and then use that heat to bring up your body temperature. This allows for you to spend more time inside infrared saunas since they don’t get as hot overall.

What are the health benefits of infrared saunas?

Infrared saunas help to heal many chronic health problems through targeting key underlying factors that contribute to many of these illnesses. Here are just a few of the reasons why I love infrared saunas:

1. Lowers inflammation

Almost every health problem – autoimmune conditions, digestive issues, brain problems, and hormonal imbalances included – can be traced back to inflammation gone wild. Infrared saunas naturally calm down inflammation in the body.

2. Restores energy

A recent study showed that after 20 days of consistent infrared sauna use, participants with chronic fatigue syndrome saw significant improvement in their symptoms.

3. Supports detoxification

The amount of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis has risen exponentially. This rise of toxins is pervasive in our environment and bodies with more and more studies linking our exposure to the rise of autoimmune and other chronic diseases. Sweating is the body’s way of naturally detoxing , so with a simple sauna session, you can help flush out these chemicals.

4. Enhances brain function

BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factors, increase with sauna use and are responsible for facilitating the growth of new brain cells to improve memory and brain function.

5. Boots immunity

Raising body temperature is a natural way to help your immune system fight off viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.

6. Reduces chronic pain

Research shows that infrared saunas can reduce pain even for those dealing with painful conditions like, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, and rheumatoid arthritis, by releasing your body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, which have an opioid-like effect.

7. Improves skin health

People who used saunas had an improvement in both skin hydration and overall complexion.

8. Eases stress and anxiety

You can down green juice and kale all day, but if you also feed your body a slice of stress every day, your body will still have a problem. Studies show that chronic stress raises inflammation which is linked to multiple different health problems. Infrared saunas promote relaxation and give you a chance to zen out and recharge. Sauna use can restore balance to the (HPA) axis, when out of whack, is responsible for adrenal fatigue. And the rise in BDNF levels also works to improve depression and anxiety.

9. Increases longevity

Consistent sauna use has been shown to dramatically reduce the risks associated with heart disease as well as your risk of dying from other health causes. In fact, those who use saunas between four to seven times a week are 48 percent less likely to die from heart disease compared to those who only used a sauna once a week.

10. Prevents cancer

Infrared saunas can also benefit cancer patients. One study found that a one-hour sauna session at 109 degrees F killed off bone cancer cells.

Are infrared saunas safe?

Recommended treatment times for infrared saunas range from 10 to 30 minutes, and with proper use, pose no serious side effect risk and are safe for the majority of people. Due to the higher temperatures and sweating, some people can experience lightheadedness. It’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated since you are losing fluids through sweating. Also, if you have heart problems, are on medications, or are sensitive to heat, it is always a good idea to talk with your doctor to make sure sauna use is right for you.

What should you look for in an infrared sauna?

When choosing an infrared sauna system, be mindful that there are three different types of wavelengths that are used – near, mid, and far – with each one having their own individual benefit. Near doesn’t go as deep past the skin barrier but are great for targeting surface problems like aging and wound healing. Mid goes deeper and works well to reduce ongoing pan. Far goes the deepest past the skin barrier and works the best to soothe inflammation and promote detoxing. You also want to look for brands that test for EMFs, electromagnetic fields, since in high doses can be harmful to your body, especially if you plan on using this sauna on a regular basis.

There are many fantastic brands, but my personal favorite is Sunlighten since they go above and beyond with testing and providing low-EMF infrared sauna systems.

Photo: @PeopleImages

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