You may have heard about all the wonderful health claims of the infrared sauna: anti-aging abilities, detoxification, weight loss and even more. But are these infrared sauna claims actually backed up and proven by science, and are there any infrared sauna dangers?
Like most heat treatments, there’s a lot of hot air out there … but that doesn’t mean an infrared sauna is bad for you. Quite the contrary, in fact, as research shows heart-healthy, pain-reducing, life-extending benefits of infrared saunas.
What Is an Infrared Sauna?
Historically, heat treatments have been used to help heal the body for thousands of years. “Hot air baths” and sweat lodges were used for busting stress, increasing relaxation and detoxification among Native Americans, Eastern Europeans and in Ancient Chinese Medicine. Many years ago, before the invention of focused light therapy, basic saunas were created by building a fire directly under an enclosed sitting area. The “sauna” was heated with hot rocks and other materials burning on a fire that carried heat and smoke up to the lodge.
About 100 years ago, advancements in sauna therapies were made when “light-near infrared lamp saunas” were first created by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. Since this time, they have come a long way, and today they’re used by holistic practitioners and various healers around the world.
Infrared saunas are a type of sauna that uses heat and light to help relax and detoxify the body. Also called far-infrared saunas or near-infrared saunas, these omit infrared light waves that create heat in the body, causing you to sweat and release stored “toxins.”
While ongoing research is still being done to determine their long-term effects and potential benefits, as of now infrared sauna treatments seem to be safe, inexpensive and powerful. These small devices are proving to help many people suffering from pain feel better — and also very importantly, more relaxed!
Anti-aging effects, increased detoxification, pain reduction, joint and muscle support, and cardiovascular healing are currently where infrared saunas are gaining the most attention. They’re believed to have a parasympathetic healing effect, which means they help the body handle stress better — an attribute that could mean one day they’re used for handling all types of diseases from insomnia and depression to hormonal imbalances and autoimmune disorders.
The interesting thing about these types of saunas is that they differ from “regular saunas” because their light directly penetrates your skin but does not warm the air around you. The temperature in your body goes up quickly, yet the light has no effect on your surrounding environment.
The results of an infrared sauna are produced at lower temperatures than a conventional sauna and might be tolerated better by people who can’t withstand the very high heats of other dry saunas or even steam rooms.
How Infrared Saunas Work
People who stand behind infrared sauna therapy believe it naturally has an inflammation-lowering effect, acts similarly to antioxidant nutrients, activates the cells, helps with wound healing, boosts the metabolism and helps remove toxins from the body.
FIR light waves are capable of altering cells, cell membranes, DNA/proteins and cell fluids, including and especially water molecules. At the cellular level, altered cell membranes and mitochondrial activity take place, which positively impact the metabolism.
Infrared light treatment usually works within just 15–20 minutes and can be capable of causing dramatic changes in body chemistry in some instances, helping restore balance in some people who suffer from chronic problems related to pains, inflammation, low energy and poor circulation.
Infrared sauna treatments cause reactions in the body, including:
- increased sweating (some people even report heavy or”vigorous sweating”)
- increased heart rate
- the same type of clarity-of-mind feelings as moderate exercise
- relaxation responses triggered by the body’s parasympathetic nervous system.
According to Dr. Lawrence Wilson, a licensed medical doctor and nutritional practitioner who has been effectively using infrared sauna therapy on his patients for over a decade, this type of treatment is one of the safest and most useful healing methods he’s come across when combined with other factors like a balanced diet.
Unlike other types of saunas, infrared saunas penetrate the skin and heat the body from the inside-out. They’re believed to reach deep inside the body and produce a heat that can be concentrated in a small area, which is why they don’t cause heat around the room.
Infrared Sauna Benefits
1. Improves Heart Function
A review by the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver found evidence supporting the use of infrared sauna treatments for normalizing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, treating congestive heart failure, and helping with chronic pain. (2) That means an infrared sauna is a good way to help prevent high blood pressure and improve heart health.
2. Helps Lower Chronic Pain, Including Pain from Arthritis
Researchers from Saxion University of Applied Science in the Netherlands found that infrared sauna treatments can help reverse chronic pain with little to no side effects. They studied the effects of infrared saunas in patients with rheumatoid arthritis over a four-week period, with a series of eight IR treatments. Sauna therapy was well-tolerated with no adverse effects,and experienced decreased symptoms of pain and stiffness.
Fatigue also decreased in both groups of patients compared to before beginning treatment, leading the researchers to conclude that infrared treatment has statistically significant short-term beneficial effects in patients experiencing pain without causing any worsening disease symptoms or unwanted side effects. (4)
3. Lowers Side Effects of Diabetes
Patients were tested at the Fraser Lake Community Health Center in Canada, undergoing 20-minute treatments three times weekly over a period of three months. Patients completed a 36-item short-form health survey before and after the treatment period. The results found that a significant percentage experienced improved physical health, general health and social functioning following treatments, as well as lower stress and fatigue levels. (5)
4. Improves Quality of Life and Overall Well-Being
For many years, patients suffering from chronic pains have used thermal heating treatments to find relief. Studies have found that regular and repeated thermal therapies are promising methods for lowering chronic pain that can interfere with quality of life without the need for medications.
Researchers from Nishi Kyusyu University in Japan found that infrared sauna heat therapy might work even better to lift someone’s mood and well-being when coupled with other holistic treatments.
Who Can Benefit from Infrared Saunas?
Researchers have been studying the effects of saunas for decades when it comes to pain management and relaxation. Infrared saunas are relatively new compared to conventional saunas but have picked up attention recently for helping naturally treat multiple health problems with little to no side effects.
Some studies have shown benefits of infrared sauna therapy for people with:
- cardiovascular disease
- high blood pressure
- congestive heart failure
- rheumatoid arthritis
- chronic fatigue
- poor digestion
- depression and anger
- chronic muscle and joint pains
- cellulite and water retention
Is It Safe, and What Are the Potential Side Effects?
How does an infrared sauna treatment feel exactly, and what can you expect?
Many people choose to undergo treatments at a spa.
Usually, someone sits allowing for the light to reach all sides of the body. Treatment time is 30 minute.
A lot of sweating should be expected, although it’s not painful and many people find it relaxing. Some find that afterward they feel a bit lightheaded and like they just came off a day at the beach! Drinking water and getting plenty of rest are recommended. Most people don’t feel any different otherwise, although in some people with high levels of pain, they report they feel an improvement almost immediately.
No serious adverse effects have been reported with infrared saunas.Schedule a Consultation