Article by: Ben Edwards, MD Veritas Medical
“The known benefits of infrared sauna’s are numerous, broad reaching and ever growing.
Many cultures throughout time, from Native Americans to ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese, have utilized some version of saunas because of the healing benefits. Although these cultures couldn’t “prove” all the health benefits with scientific studies, the practices were passed down from generation to generation because they helped people feel better. Today with modern technology we are beginning to understand the “why” behind how these saunas are able to positively impact human physiology. Here is a list of just some of the proven beneficial affects of saunas:
- Chronic pain
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis pain scores improved
- Depression and anger
- Poor sleep
- Cellulite reduction
All these benefits and more that we haven’t even proven yet are mediated by various pathways in the body that are stimulated or turned on by these infrared waves and the heat that is generated. For example, “heat shock proteins” are induced by infrared heat and these proteins help cells live longer, repair themselves better and prevent cellular damage from free radicals and inflammation (centurions have been shown to have more heat shock proteins). Also, just like during exercise, the body produces sweat and the heart starts to work harder to deal with the heat, the effects of which are improved detoxification and improved cardiovascular fitness. Another healthy aspect of saunas is that beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters are produced in response to the infrared waves which helps mood and sleep.
Traditional saunas heat up the air around you (thus the potential uncomfortable, suffocating or stuffy feeling) but infrared saunas don’t. Infrared rays just heat up your body by penetrating 1 1/2 inches into your tissue and heats those tissues up dramatically, causing your body temperature to rise, sweat to be produced and all the above proteins, hormones and neurotransmitters to be released. The rays are exciting or energizing the mitochondria (the energy factories) in the cells which cause them to work better and we know sluggish mitochondria are linked to everything from heat failure to cancer to autism. But, besides improving mitochondrial function these rays also “structure” the water inside and around your cells. Structured water is an entire different topic but a very important one I encourage you to learn about. For now I’ll just say that if all infrared saunas did was structure the water inside and around your cells it would be well worth the health benefits, but it does this and so much more too!
Here is just a sampling of scientific studies showing the various benefits of infrared saunas:
- German study found that the skin of regular saunas users could better hold moisture and maintain a healthy skin pH
- One Brazilian study found that a near infrared treatment further enhanced the cellulite-reducing effects of regular treadmill exercises
- A Japanese study also found that far-infrared ray exposure improved sleep quality in both rats and an insomniac human subject.
- While a study from the Canadian Journal of Diabetes found that patients receiving far-infrared sauna therapy showed “a trend toward decreased waist circumference.”
- Binghamton University study an average of three times a week of infrared sauna produced a loss of up to 4% body fat in sixteen weeks.
- A systematic review in 2012 found that toxic heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury are found in sweats of people who are exposed to these harmful metals. In a case report, they found that mercury levels normalized with repeated sauna treatments.
- According to a review of all of the published scientific literature about these infrared saunas, the biggest researched benefit seems to be the coronary benefits, most notably in their ability to help normalize blood pressure and reduce the chance of congestive heart failure.”