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The Next-Level Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas

Next-Level Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas Dr. Will Cole

What is an infrared sauna?

Infrared saunas use infrared light to penetrate your body’s skin barrier to raise your core temperature. This is different from a traditional sauna that has to heat the air before it actually heats you. Because of these differences, infrared saunas get less hot, allowing you to spend more time inside reaping the benefits.

Infrared saunas typically emit far infrared, but the infrared spectrum consists of three different wavelengths – each with their own healing capabilities. Near infrared (NIR) penetrates the least past the skin barrier to help more on a surface level by fighting against signs of aging and helping to heal wounds. Mid infrared (MIR) goes a little deeper to help reduce inflammation and chronic pain and far infrared (FIR) goes the deepest into the body to help with chronic pain as well as draw out toxins. I always recommend Sunlighten to anyone looking for an infrared sauna as they are the only brand to offer three separate heating elements to deliver all three at peak wavelengths. The mPulse line has preset wellness programs, including one for pain relief.

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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 (1) 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 (2) 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 (3) viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.

6. Reduces chronic pain

Research shows (9) that infrared saunas can reduce pain even for those dealing with painful conditions like, fibromyalgia, (10) chronic headaches, (11) and rheumatoid arthritis, by releasing your body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, which have an opioid-like effect.

Inflammation

Infrared saunas work to stimulate circulation to bring down inflammation throughout the whole body. They also have the ability to increase the production of white blood cells which help fight inflammation and calm swelling to alleviate chronic pain. (12)

Fibromyalgia

An estimated 6 million Americans are afflicted with this chronic condition that causes fatigue, headaches, and stiffness and pain in muscles, joints, and tendons. A Japanese study showed that after just one infrared sauna session, patients experienced a 70% decrease (13) in their pain levels!

Chronic fatigue syndrome

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome one must be experiencing muscle pain and pain in multiple joints without redness or swelling for at least six months. A 2005 study showed that after 15 to 25 sessions, participant’s symptoms such as fatigue and pain were drastically reduced. Even after discontinuing treatment, symptoms either didn’t return or get worse.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is also associated with an overload of toxins in the cells. Infrared saunas work wonders for detoxing the cells since sweating promotes the secretion of toxins.

Arthritis

Research has shown (14) that infrared saunas can reduce pain in people suffering from severe conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Infrared wavelengths promote circulation to help relieve stiff joints and sore muscles.

7. Improves skin health

People who used saunas had an improvement (4) 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 (5) balance to the (HPA) axis, when out of whack, is responsible for adrenal fatigue. And the rise in BDNF levels also works to improve (6) 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. (7)

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 (8) bone cancer cells.

Vibration Therapy

Vibration therapy is just one more way to ease chronic pain by using low frequency vibration to contract and relax muscles – 30 to 50 times every second – it gives the whole body a workout just from standing or sitting still to increase blood flow, strengthen joints, and increase growth hormone to repair and regenerate muscle and reduce overall pain.

Sunlighten has enhanced the sauna experience with the amazing benefits of vibration therapy with the addition of their SO Sound Therapy option. This technology uses sound waves synergistically with their infrared saunas to deliver the most targeted relief for chronic pain. The SO Sound System attaches to specific locations in the Sunlighten sauna to emit tactile elements from the music it produces. Unlike a subwoofer where the volume has to be really load to experience the vibrations, the SO Sound System produces soft musical harmonic resonance to produce the same effects on your body.

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?

You 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.

If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer webcam as well as in-person consultations for people across the country and around the world.

Photo: @PeopleImages

References:

  1. Masuda A, Kihara T, Fukudome T, Shinsato T, Minagoe S, Tei C. The effects of repeated thermal therapy for two patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. J Psychosom Res. 2005;58(4):383‐387. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2004.11.005
  2. Powell JJ, Van de Water J, Gershwin ME. Evidence for the role of environmental agents in the initiation or progression of autoimmune conditions. Environ Health Perspect. 1999;107 Suppl 5(Suppl 5):667‐672. doi:10.1289/ehp.99107s5667
  3. Ostberg JR, Patel R, Repasky EA. Regulation of immune activity by mild (fever-range) whole body hyperthermia: effects on epidermal Langerhans cells. Cell Stress Chaperones. 2000;5(5):458‐461. doi:10.1379/1466-1268(2000)005<0458:roiabm>2.0.co;2
  4. Kowatzki D, Macholdt C, Krull K, et al. Effect of regular sauna on epidermal barrier function and stratum corneum water-holding capacity in vivo in humans: a controlled study. Dermatology. 2008;217(2):173‐180. doi:10.1159/000137283
  5. Kukkonen-Harjula K, Oja P, Laustiola K, et al. Haemodynamic and hormonal responses to heat exposure in a Finnish sauna bath. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1989;58(5):543‐550. doi:10.1007/BF02330710
  6. Maniam J, Morris MJ. Voluntary exercise and palatable high-fat diet both improve behavioural profile and stress responses in male rats exposed to early life stress: role of hippocampus. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010;35(10):1553‐1564. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.05.012
  7. Laukkanen T, Khan H, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen JA. Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):542–548. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187
  8. Hou CH, Lin FL, Hou SM, Liu JF. Hyperthermia induces apoptosis through endoplasmic reticulum and reactive oxygen species in human osteosarcoma cells. Int J Mol Sci. 2014;15(10):17380‐17395. Published 2014 Sep 29. doi:10.3390/ijms151017380
  9. Oosterveld FG, Rasker JJ, Floors M, et al. Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects. Clin Rheumatol. 2009;28(1):29‐34. doi:10.1007/s10067-008-0977-y
  10. Matsumoto S, Shimodozono M, Etoh S, Miyata R, Kawahira K. Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011;17(3):162‐166. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.08.004
  11. Kanji G, Weatherall M, Peter R, Purdie G, Page R. Efficacy of regular sauna bathing for chronic tension-type headache: a randomized controlled study. J Altern Complement Med. 2015;21(2):103‐109. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0466
  12. Kandolf-Sekulovic L, Kataranovski M, Pavlovic MD. Immunomodulatory effects of low-intensity near-infrared laser irradiation on contact hypersensitivity reaction. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2003;19(4):203‐212. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0781.2003.00040.x
  13. Internal Medicine (Tokyo) Aug 15, 2008;47(16):1473-6. [E-pub ahead of print] PMID: 18703857, by Matsushita K, Masuda A, Tei C. The First Department of Internal Medicine, Kagoshima University Hospital, Kagoshima, Japan.
  14. Oosterveld FG, Rasker JJ, Floors M, et al. Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects. Clin Rheumatol. 2009;28(1):29‐34. doi:10.1007/s10067-008-0977-y

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.

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