The infrared sauna is one of my favorite health tools. In this post, you’ll learn about the many health benefits of infrared sauna, the difference between near, mid and far-infrared waves and what each is best for, and how to get the most out of your infrared sauna experience. I will also let you know the exact sauna I recommend and why it’s so special (hint: it contains a Himalayan salt wall … ahhhhhh!).
Infrared sauna is a popular health modality for good reason. Let’s first look at all the benefits one derives from it.
Perhaps its best-known property is boosting detoxification in the body. It does this by mobilizing toxins out of both adipose (fat) cells, and organs and tissues; switching on the sweat glands, and using our skin as the organ of elimination. Did you know that we have on average 650 sweat glands, and that our skin covers roughly 20 square feet, accounting for 15% of our body weight? These three factors together means that we have an amazing system for sweating out toxins from the body, given a little help from the infrared heat waves.
We all are exposed to a myriad of toxins ranging from heavy metals to mold toxins; toxins from medications; and toxins from bacteria, parasites, viruses and yeast; toxins in our food and water. Infrared saunas have the potential to help eradicate all of those toxins.
Given that so many people have gene mutations such as MTHFR, COMT and CBS, its doubly important that we pay close attention to supporting the body’s natural detoxification mechanisms.
Reducing oxidative stress
Oxidative stress is also known as free-radical damage. It is something that occurs naturally and automatically through the process of metabolism, and ultimately if not countered, it will lead to cellular damage and cell death. Our bodies have certain mechanisms in place to slow this process down (including antioxidant creation to counter the free radicals), but anything we can do to reduce oxidative stress will have an anti-aging and disease-preventing impact.
Opening detox pathways inside the cells is crucial to allow the body to naturally produce healthy antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione, catalase, and amylase – all substances that support phase 1 and 2 liver detoxification.
We know that toxins create more oxidative stress. Toxins also damage the mitochondria, the little powerhouses in our cells that produce our energy units, or ATP. By stimulating detoxification, infrared sauna can both reduce oxidative stress by clearing the damaging substances that create more free radicals; and improve mitochondrial function giving us more ATP, and thus more energy.
Boosting metabolic function
Did you know that you can burn up to 600 calories in a 40-minute session of infrared sauna? That sounds way more relaxing and way more fun to me than running off 600 calories. Now granted, cardiovascular fitness and moving your body is important, so let’s not do away with that. But a bonus of boosting your metabolism and burning a few extra calories doesn’t go astray.
If your blood isn’t moving swiftly and efficiently throughout your body, things slow down and become sluggish. You feel more fatigued, since oxygen is not diffusing efficiently through your tissues, and toxins are building up.
Infrared sauna can help reduce hypercoagulability of the blood, as well as helping to open up microcirculation. These two things combined mean that blood is able to reach deeper into the tissues, thus bringing more oxygen and nutrients in, and transporting more carbon dioxide and toxins out. This makes for healthier tissues, greater detoxification, and more energy, as cells and tissues are more oxygenated and vital.
Overcoming infection and boosting immune function
Many common pathogens are heat sensitive, which means that they become vulnerable and can die as your body temperature goes up. This is the premise behind more extreme hyperthermia treatments, whereby clinics heat up the body to incredibly high temperatures to try to kill off infections. Infrared sauna isn’t going to put your body in an extreme or dangerous situation, but it can definitely help to boost your body temperature so that your own immune system is mobilized and can fight better, as well as creating an environment that threatens the survival of the very pathogens you don’t want in your body.
Near Versus Far Infrared
There are different types of infrared waves – near, mid and far. Logically enough, they differ in the depth of penetration of your tissues.
Near-infrared are the shortest of the infrared heat waves. They penetrate the skin layers and are therefore most beneficial for skin conditions, cell health and immunity, and pain relief.
Mid-infrared waves penetrate more deeply into the body. They provide pain relief, improved circulation and weight loss.
Far infrared waves penetrate the deepest, accessing deep tissues and organs and having the more pronounced detoxification effect. They also promote weight loss, pain relief and blood pressure regulation.
In my view having a combination of the different types of infrared waves is ideal to get the benefits of all of them.
What To Look For In a Sauna
Many of my patients ask me if they can just go to their local gym and utilize the sauna there, though it’s not infrared. I warn them against doing that for a couple of different reasons.
Firstly, non-infrared sauna simply doesn’t have the same detoxification effect. It is typically much hotter, and those heat waves don’t penetrate the tissues in the same way that infrared does. This is the way I think of it, even though it’s a bit of a crude analogy. If you put a steak on a really hot grill, it will sear it on the outside but won’t really cook it throughout. Whereas if you put a steak on a lower temperature grill, it’ll cook through much better as the heat will get to the middle of the steak. Now in terms of sauna, there are also differences in the actual types of heatwaves, not simply the temperature, but I think you get the picture. It is the infrared waves that promote the detoxification, not just the heat. Not all sweating is created equal!
I also find that non-infrared sauna promotes a lot more heat intolerance. It’s harder on the body to be in an environment of that high temperature, and many people feel somewhat drained afterwards. It’s harder to stay in a regular sauna for the length of time required as well – many people feel overwhelmed by the heat and have to get out after a few minutes.
So infrared is key.
The next thing to look out for is that the sauna must be made of a hypoallergenic wood such as cedar or basswood. Also it is important that it does not have any toxic glues or resins. Can you imagine heating up those toxic glues and resins and then breathing them in throughout the sauna? Talk about counter-productive. The sauna must also have minimal EMF output. So many people are becoming more EMF sensitive these days, which is understandable given how abundant they are in our environment. Having a sauna that gives of high EMFs (and many of them do), is also highly counter-productive and damaging for your health.
The sauna that I use and recommend checks all those boxes. Plus there is one MASSIVE benefit that you won’t find anywhere else … (drum roll please) …
A Himalayan Salt Wall Built In!!
This is the part I find really exciting. Himalayan salts are natural minerals that not only boost the detoxification power of the infrared sauna, but have other benefits as well.
Just to give you some background – the earth we live on is made up of both negative and positive ions, both which can impact our health considerably. Negative ions are most prevalent in nature – if you think about walking along the beach with your feet in the water, being near a waterfall, or the smell and feel of the air after a big thunderstorm – those are all situations where negative ions are abundant.
Positive ions, on the other hand, can have a detrimental effect on our health. I mentioned the increasing impact of EMFs from our cell phones, computers and other electronic devices. They all drain the negative ions and give rise to more positive ions in our environment. This imbalance in ionic charges can have a disastrous and far-reaching impact on our health.
Himalayan sea salts generate negative ions, so having a salt wall as part of the infrared sauna boosts the health benefit exponentially. Research on negative ions shows that they can have antidepressive activity, boosting mental clarity and wellbeing. The serotonin-boosting property also helps to promote restful sleep. Negative ions have a relaxing effect on the nervous system, decreasing blood pressure and normalizing respiratory rate. They also enhance energy levels and focus, and can reduce headaches.
Imagine all of that, coupled with the detoxification effect of the infrared waves themselves? That leads to a powerful modality that could potentially benefit every single health condition, along with preventing health problems down the road and slowing the cellular aging process.
How To Start Infrared Sauna Therapy
Depending on your level of sensitivity, I recommend starting “low and slow”. Start at 90 degrees for 5-10 minutes; and work up gradually. Remember if your body is in a toxic, acidic state, it may take time for it to shed those toxins, and it might be a little bumpy! You can help by taking electrolytes after each session to make sure your electrolytes are being replenished and not depleted. If you feel a bit yuk after in the beginning, you can also take binders such as activated charcoal a couple of hours after your session. Drink TONS of water, perhaps adding some lemon juice or lemon essential oil. If you want to boost detox further, try dry skin brushing before your sauna for a little extra oomph. Aim for 30-40 minutes at 140 degrees three to four times weekly.
Because I want you to be able to experience this amazing sauna, I have a little something for you. Click here to see the actual sauna range I use and recommend. Use code “drnicola100” for $100 off.
I’m so excited to have found Saunas.org. The quality of their saunas is 2nd to none – no toxic glues or resins, almost zero EMFs, high quality, hypoallergenic wood. And the only sauna to have a Himalayan salt wall built-in for the extra health benefits of the negative ions. Infrared sauna is something the whole family can enjoy and derive benefit from.