Infrared sauna therapy has become a hot topic lately. Media websites abound with talk of the potential benefits of infrared heat on the body’s tissues, as well as the ‘detoxifying’ nature of healthy sweating.
Can an infrared sauna really help with issues ranging from blood circulation to Alzheimer’s disease? It sounds like a lot. In this blog post, we’re going to look at some of the data and health information available on these products and see what all the fuss is about.
First, let’s have a look at how infrared sauna therapy is supposed to work.
What are the Benefits of Infrared Light?
Infrared (IR) heat in saunas comes from either:
- Near-infrared light
- Far-infrared light
- A combination of both
An infrared sauna works by using this to warm the body from within. So what’s the difference, and which is best?
Near-Infrared vs Far Infrared Sauna
The ‘near’ in ‘near-infrared’ describes how close the light is to the spectrum visible to the human eye. Near-infrared is similar to the kind of light we get from the sun in this regard. The spectrum visible to the human eye runs up to 700 nanometers (nm). A near-infrared sauna runs just above this.
There are many purported benefits to the 810-830nm range. These include promoting muscular recovery and helping joints to heal through collagen production.
It penetrates up to 5mm into the skin and through this can have a positive effect on ATP production. ATP is a molecule that is essential for cells to function properly.
A far-infrared sauna runs higher above the spectrum visible to the human eye. Far-infrared doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the tissue as near-infrared (only 0.1mm). It reacts with water in the body and can cause positive changes in the body’s protein structures.
Users of a far saunas report benefits including a reduction in joint pain and improved circulation. For this reason, a far-infrared sauna may be helpful to those suffering from conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, as well as those at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Improved product development means that now, many saunas use a combination of both types of infrared therapy. The health benefits of each type of sauna bathing can be extensive, so why miss out?
What Does Infrared Therapy Do?
In a far-infrared sauna, the deeper effects are felt as heat that penetrates into the body. This kind of heat affects the way molecules in your cells bond, which promotes healing and reduces muscle soreness.
Through improving heart health and thus improving circulation, infrared saunas may reduce the risk of heart disease and increase blood flow. High blood pressure is one of the most common health problems today, and there’s evidence that far-infrared sauna use can reduce this.
Beyond promoting heart health and aiding with muscle recovery, studies including one by Lee et al show that infrared saunas can help treat aging skin and aid with weight loss.
Everyone’s paying attention now! It’s time to move onto the big question: do these products remove toxins from your body?
Do Infrared Saunas Really Detoxify Your Body?
Sauna therapy works by heating your body from the inside. As with a traditional sauna, the heat makes you sweat and increases your heart rate. But what are the benefits of sweating?
Does Sweating Remove Toxins?
‘Detox’ gets bandied around a lot these days. This is partly thanks to business interest turning it into a marketing term. There are questions over what it means, and if it’s even a real thing.
In this case, detoxifying means that heavy metals and other chemical compounds (toxins) that build up in your body are expelled by prolonged perspiration.
Data from peer-reviewed studies, such as this one conducted by Sears et al, suggests that sweating helps remove excessive content of metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. People will always ingest some of these naturally, but we also take in a lot of chemical compounds that our bodies don’t fully know how to process.
Regular sauna use for periods of longer than 30 minutes elevates the body temperature enough to increase the blood flow and cause significant perspiration. This facilitates the removal of said toxins. Excess hormones that impair the endocrine system are also released in sweat during this time.
Detoxifying can help the immune system by reducing harmful content. Allowing the body to function more efficiently can also promote pain relief. A combination of near and far-infrared sauna therapy can have far-reaching health benefits.
Can Infrared Sauna Therapy Help You Lose Weight?
When your core temperature increases, your heart rate increases and you burn a significant number of calories in a prolonged sauna session. So amongst myriad other health benefits, infrared saunas are also great for weight loss!
It’s estimated that in a half-hour session of infrared sauna therapy, people can burn between 200 and 600 calories. This is dependent on individual metabolism and heat levels, amongst other things. You can use tracking technologies to monitor how much energy you burn while relaxing.
How Often Should I Use an Infrared Sauna?
The benefits of far-infrared heat are extensive, but as with any treatment, you should be careful not to go overboard.
Using Infrared Saunas for Health Benefits
Using a sauna can certainly help with pain relief. For those who suffer chronic pain, this is amazing and it’s tempting to get as much as you can.
However, you need to be careful. Using a sauna will dehydrate you, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Frequent dehydration can cause headaches and compromise the immune system.
It seems paradoxical that those with heart conditions need to show extra care when saunas can reduce the risk of heart disease. Any activity that raises the heart rate can be risky for patients with heart conditions, though.
Whether you use a public or private sauna, recommendations should be available for safe use. We know – it’s like the privacy terms with website services, you never actually read the little white booklet. Honestly, though, it’s a good idea.
Speak to your physician before using an infrared sauna for health purposes. They should be able to give you advice as to whether it might present a health risk.
If you suffer from kidney disease, dermatitis, or are pregnant, you should certainly also speak to your doctor before use.
Using Infrared Saunas for Weight Loss
Infrared saunas help to burn energy and so can help with weight loss. However, they’re not designed to slim you down quickly. Using a sauna every day won’t bring the benefits you might hope for and could be dangerous.
Every time you sweat, you dehydrate. Drinking plenty of fluids goes some way to remedying this. However, water doesn’t contain calories, and your body isn’t designed to lose massive amounts of weight quickly.
The best advice is to use your sauna to lose weight gradually as part of an exercise program. You can do this while enjoying the wider health benefits of far-infrared therapy. Don’t rush to become the version of yourself you want to see – it doesn’t work!
Which is Better – Infrared or Traditional Sauna?
One of the greatest benefits of the infrared sauna is that it is cheaper to run. A traditional sauna requires steaming an entire room, which is expensive in terms of energy cost.
Think of it as like listening to a song on Spotify vs streaming a video on Youtube. The data use on your phone is going to be far less impacted by the more efficient service.
They’re also more practical. You can have an infrared sauna room in a New York apartment. If you tried that with a traditional sauna, either you’d have a severe damp problem or a very viable business idea.
Some people value the atmosphere and traditionalism of steam saunas. There’s a lot to be said for that – we love them too! On the other hand, you might say that the health possibilities of infrared sauna therapy are just too good to pass up.
One final thing worth remembering is that mental well-being is improved by good health. With an infrared sauna’s capacity to reduce pain and repair muscles, this is simply invaluable.
Conclusion: Good for Your Health, Good for Your Wallet
Infrared saunas are hot property for a reason. The potential health benefits are exciting and the relatively low cost puts sauna therapy in reach for so many more people.
Find the best infrared sauna for your home now. Live well and let your glow come from within!