You may have heard about the wonderful health claims of the infrared sauna: anti-aging abilities, detoxification, weight loss, and more. However, like with most treatments, you may be wondering if these claims are really just a bunch of hot air. In the case of infrared saunas, the truth is quite the contrary. In fact, research confirms the heart-healthy, pain-reducing, life-extending benefits of infrared saunas.
Infrared saunas are a type of sauna that uses heat and light to help relax and detoxify the body. These treatments are gaining attention as a safe, inexpensive, and powerful way to accomplish a number of health benefits. They’re believed to have a parasympathetic healing effect on the body, meaning they help the body handle stress better. This is an attribute that shows promise for handling all types of diseases from insomnia and depression to hormonal imbalances and autoimmune disorders.
The interesting thing about infrared saunas is that they differ from “regular saunas” because their light directly penetrates your skin, but does not warm the air around you. Because of this, the results of an infrared sauna are produced at lower temperatures than conventional saunas, meaning they are more easily tolerated.
Infrared sauna therapy has been shown to have an inflammation-lowering effect, act similarly to antioxidant nutrients, activate the cells, help with wound healing, boost metabolism, and help remove toxins from the body, among many other benefits.
A single sauna session stimulates the immune system. White blood cell, lymphocyte, neutrophil, and basophil counts are all increased, which may translate to fewer illnesses.
In a six-month study, participants who engaged in regular sauna sessions had significantly fewer colds than the control group over the same time period. Saunas might also reduce oxidative stress, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and degenerative diseases. Infrared saunas are also shown to have the following physiological effects:
- Cardiovascular –Heart disease was once contraindicated for saunas, but more and more research is proving the opposite to be true—that saunas are not only safe, but beneficial for people with cardiovascular disease.
- Blood Pressure –Nitric oxide, a vasodilator, increases during sauna use, which may be one mechanism by which sauna therapy has been shown to lower blood pressure.
- Lipid Profiles –Regular infrared sauna use has been shown to improve lipid profiles. Research has shown that total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol decreased after three weeks of sauna use in men and blood plasma volume increased. In women, research has shown a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and an increase in HDL cholesterol after two weeks of sauna therapy.
- Fitness –Probably at least partially due to its cardiovascular benefits, sauna use can improve athletic performance. Studies of both runners and cyclists have shown improved performance after regular sauna therapy.
- Detoxification –We are all consistently exposed to thousands of environmental toxins and we don’t yet understand the long-term health effects of the vast majority of them. Sweating as a means of detoxification is a controversial topic, but there is no denying that our sweat contains toxins like BPA, phthalates, and heavy metals.
- Studies have also shown that infrared sauna use offers the following additional benefits:
- Reduced pain in patients with fibromyalgia;
- Increased weight loss and decreased cellulite;
- Skin purification;
- Reduced fatigue, anxiety, and depression in individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome;
- Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia;
- Improved relaxation and decreased mental complaints in patients with depression;
- Improved insulin sensitivity;
- Improved digestion;
- Lower rates of depression and anger;
- Decrease in chronic muscle and joint paints;
- Improved respiratory symptoms, including vital capacity, minute ventilation, and forced expiratory volume of lungs.
A lot of what the body experiences in a sauna is similar to what happens during exercise—increased heart rate, nitric oxide, acute metabolic rate, and oxygen consumption to name a few. Because of this, many of the benefits of saunas discussed above are also benefits of regular exercise. While we’re not suggesting you replace your fitness routine with sauna therapy, incorporating infrared sauna use into your wellness routine can help tremendously to keep you healthy. It is also an excellent treatment for those who are not able to exercise due to injury or illness.
Infrared sauna is just one of the many therapies we offer at The Institute. If you would like more information regarding infrared sauna therapy or any of the treatments, therapies, or services offered at The Institute of Natural Health, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at the inhstl.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 3:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.