Saunas have been around for thousands of years, first made popular in Finland, where women would deliver their babies and the Finnish would celebrate. During those ancient times, they were basically underground pits that had been dug up, with stones heated to high temperatures and then water was thrown onto the hot stones to produce steam, causing the body to sweat, aiding the detoxification process and offering other healing benefits too.
Hot air baths and sweat lodges were also used for detoxification, relaxation and stress relief as part of ancient Chinese medicine and among Native Americans as well. It was about 100 years ago when more modern saunas were first created, and since then, there have been numerous advances. Today, they’re used by all types of people around the world, including holistic practitioners and various healers.
An infrared sauna is a kind of sauna that utilizes light and heat in order to trigger relaxation and detoxification. You’re probably aware of how a standard sauna works, if you’ve seen or used one at a spa or gym. They operate at very high temperatures, generally in the 160 to 200 degree range, with a low level of humidity. That’s not only uncomfortably hot, but they may not be as effective when it comes to health benefits, as they simply heat the air around you.
An infrared sauna, on the other hand, uses infrared energy to heat the body – the same kind of heat given off by the sun, and by our bodies, meaning it’s very safe. The infrared light waves create heat in the body that cause you to sweat and release toxins. It penetrates your skin but does not warm the air around you, causing body temperature to go up quickly, yet the light has no effect on the surrounding environment, which is why you can use safely use them in your own home. They provide the benefits of sunlight therapy minus those harmful UV rays.
Infrared saunas tend to be used in the 110 to 140 degree range, which not only cuts down on energy costs, but they’re a lot more tolerable to most people. In fact, infrared heat is the very same heat used to warm premature babies in the hospitals. The bottom line is that while research is still ongoing to determine all of the long-term effects and possible benefits, they are considered to be inexpensive, safe and very beneficial.
7 Remarkable Benefits of An Infrared Sauna
Our bodies have incredibly powerful detox capabilities on their own, however, with so many toxins in the world that we live in, it’s taxed with a very heavy load. Consider that the average person is said to have an estimated 700 pollutants in their body at any given time – in a newborn’s cord blood alone, researchers commissioned by the Environmental Working Group discovered there were more than 200 chemicals. Additionally, experts have found that anywhere from one-third to half of the U.S. population has a MTHFR genetic mutation, which may suppress the detoxification process. As you might imagine, eliminating all of the possible toxins found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the household products we use and so on, can make it a nearly impossible task, which is why our health can benefit by finding ways to support detoxification naturally.
An infrared sauna encourages sweating, which in turn, helps to flush out those toxins to reduce the toxic load. An infrared sauna in particular actually causes more profuse, deeper seating that enables the body to eliminate a higher percentage of toxins as compared to a traditional sauna. Dr. Rhonda Patrick of FoundMyFitness, who holds a PhD. in biomedical science, has noted in an audio podcast that as sweat contains both water soluble and fat soluble components, it’s an ideal elimination pathway for many types of toxins, including arsenic, lead, mercury and xenobiotics like BPA, phthalates, and PCBs. Many studies have confirmed the same.
As sweating eliminates electrolytes along with those toxins, it’s also important to replace them. You’ll want to drink lots of water anyway to stay hydrated and by adding a big pinch of sea salt, you can take care of both at the same time.
2. Stress relief and relaxation
Stress relief practices and relaxation are just as important to anyone’s health as detoxification. Infrared sauna therapy promotes relaxation by helping to keep cortisol levels in the body balanced. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone, and if there is an excessive amount it can result in a host of health problems, including a weaker immune system, increased belly fat, insomnia and more.
The heat generated by the sauna will also help to relax muscles and relieve tension throughout the body, allowing you to relax and de-stress. While your cortisol levels may remain the same or rise slightly when the body is exposed to heat stress, as soon as you step out, they’ll drop, setting a new baseline that’s even lower than it was before, leaving you especially relaxed. This kind of sauna therapy also helps to stimulate the release of serotonin and dopamine, those “feel good” neurotransmitters.
3. Relieving pain
People have been using saunas for pain relief for centuries, and studies have confirmed its beneficial effects on relieving chronic pain following regular use, particularly when it comes to relieving the pain of arthritis, back problems, and sore muscles or joints. In fact, some research has shown that regular use of infrared saunas may reduce pain enough so that it no longer interferes with the quality of life or requires the need for pharmaceutical medications.
A 2005 study out of Saga, Japan’s Nishi Kyusyu University found that this therapy may work even better at boosting one’s mood when combined with other holistic treatments like exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy. Patients suffering from chronic pain were divided into two groups – one received multi-disciplinary treatments and no infrared heat therapy, while the other received all forms of treatment, including exercise therapy, rehabilitation and cognitive behavioral therapy along with regular use of thermal therapy using infrared saunas. In both groups, patients rated themselves on pain, depression, and anger before and after treatment. Both groups experienced decreased symptoms in all areas following treatment, however, pain and anger were significantly lower in the group that received infrared sauna therapy. After two years of treatment, more than three-quarters of the group receiving the sauna therapy were able to return to work, however, only 50 percent of the group that did not receive it felt good enough to return.
4. Encouraging weight loss
All of that sweating you’ll do while you’re in an infrared sauna will register immediately on the scale as weight loss. Of course, most of that will be “water weight” which will return as soon as you’re hydrated again. However, there is evidence that these saunas, because of their ability to penetrate the skin more deeply and raise the metabolic rate, can help the body burn off anywhere from 200 to 600 calories in a 30-minute session. Researchers wrote in a 1981 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that after studying the effects of an infrared sauna, that a half-hour session managed to burn roughly 600 calories.
As the heat generated by an infrared sauna causes the body’s core temperature to increase, that can also lead to a higher heart rate, the same heart rate increase one experiences with exercising, it can trigger the body to burn more calories, resulting in weight loss. That’s because it has to work harder to lower your core temperature, and/or keep up with the increased heart rate.
5. Fighting the flu or a cold
If you feel like you’re about to get sick, one of the best ways to stop a cold or the flu in its tracks is to get into an infrared sauna as it boosts blood circulation and helps to stimulate the production of white blood cells, aiding the immune system’s response to invaders. All of that makes the body a much less hospitable environment for germs to thrive, and a better place for them to die. This is the same process that makes sitting in the sauna good for muscle recovery following an intense workout too.
6. Younger looking, glowing skin
Regular use of an infrared sauna may also bring the reward of younger looking, glowing skin. That’s partly due to increased blood circulation, which improves the delivery of nutrients to the skin. The infrared wavelengths also help to increase collagen production, which makes the skin more supple.
7. Supporting heart health
The higher temperatures in a sauna that can increase the heart rate to a level often achieved by moderately intense physical exercise may also help to support health. Infrared saunas are also well-known to lower blood pressure, which offers a similar effect. A study out of the University of Eastern Finland published in a Harvard Medical School article that tracked middle-aged men for an average of 20 years found that 49% of the men who went to a sauna once a week died, compared to 38% of those who sat in a sauna two or three times a week, and only 31% of those who went four to seven times each week. They also noted that frequent sauna visitors were associated with reduced death rates from stroke and cardiovascular disease.
How to use an infrared sauna at home
Fortunately, you can reap all of the benefits of an infrared sauna right at home. Compared to the traditional type, they’re ideal for relatively small spaces as they’re quite compact. They’re also more affordable and consume less energy.
Here’s a look at a variety of some of the best available options.
Radiant Saunas BSA6310 Rejuvenator Portable Sauna.
If price is a major concern, this portable sauna is available on Amazon at a very affordable price. It’s Amazon’s best selling portable sauna and is made from tough, moisture-resistant material. It’s easy to set up – in fact, you don’t even need any tools, and you can easily fold it up for storage, or for travel. It has a hand-held controller and automatic timer option, along with five levels of pre-set heat temperature options with a built-in thermostat that can reach a 150-degree maximum temperature.
Far Infrared Portable Sauna + Negative Ion Detox.
Another very reasonably priced option for those who want a budget infrared sauna is this Far Infrared Sauna on Amazon, this one is also easy to setup and easy to use. It’s highly rated and features intelligent automatic temperature controls for various levels of heating. Like the Radiant sauna, it also doesn’t use up a ton of energy. What makes it standout, however, is that it includes a negative ion detox feature that’s believed to enhancing the cleansing/detoxifying effects.
NH Lifestyles 2-Person Far Infrared Sauna.
If you’re looking for a sauna that’s a more permanent feature of your home, this sauna is one of the highest rated of its kind. It was the best seller on Amazon in 2015 and is made of quality Canadian hemlock wood. It seats two comfortably, yet it’s small enough to put in your bedroom. It’s easy to assemble with buckle panels that snap together, and it’s also simple to take apart and move around should you need to. While it is designed for indoor use, it can be used outside in a covered space. It also has lights and an excellent sound system. Currently, it sells from this page on Amazon.
HeatWave Sante Fe SA2412DX Infrared 3 Person Carbon Sauna.
If you want something even bigger and better, this 3 person sauna sells here on Amazon. It’s made of hemlock wood, and has a tongue and groove assembly, making it easy to put together. Very attractive, it has a bronze tinted glass door and panels, so you can see out, along with a CD player and MP3 plug, radio, speakers, and exterior LED panels. It even includes accessories like towel hooks, a magazine rack and back rests.