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Infrared Saunas 101

Aug 15, 2019

My path into wellness started by my search for good science. With the topic of toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields, there are many conflicting and alarming opinions. So when I started researching this topic (for what later became research for my book A to Z of D-Toxing), I hunted down good studies (objective, replicated, well-designed) and stats.

As I explore ways to detox and heal in the most natural (least harmful) ways available to most of us, the good studies and stats become more sparse, even for remedies that have been used for millennia. The health benefits from saunas is one such thing.

When I search for the science on the benefits of saunas and infrared saunas, the results are imperfect. But there seems to be strengthening consensus that there are various benefits. For example, there have been claims that you can sweat out toxins, and that infrared saunas can help you detox and sweat even more effectively. Below is a small sample of what I found.

  • In a 2017 article in the New York Times "Can You Sweat Out Toxins?"(1), the first paragraph reads:

The body does appear to sweat out toxic materials — heavy metals and bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in plastics, for instance, have been detected in sweat. But there’s no evidence that sweating out such toxins improves health.

  • In a 2012 article "Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review," published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, it concluded:

Sweating deserves consideration for toxic element detoxification.

What was thought-provoking for me was meeting a woman years ago who had undergone chemotherapy for her breast cancer. She said: "Infrared saunas keep me functional." She said that time in an infrared sauna detoxes her brain of the accumulated drugs from her cancer treatment. 

Since then, I have met people who suffer from Lyme disease. And some of these people feel similarly: that time in an infrared sauna keeps them "functional."

These stories along with others and my own research inspire me to carve out time for infrared saunas.

While I love time in my infrared sauna, which is by Sunlighten, I continue to seek more answers to my questions. One book that was very helpful was Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing by Dr. Lawrence Wilson.

While the benefits of saunas continue to be debated publicly and maybe scientifically, people have been enjoying them for centuries. I find it to be relaxing, cleansing, and it feels like the most effective way to clear my brain. It also improves my skin appearance.

Sunlighten is the company that I purchased my infrared sauna from (and I am now an affiliate partner). Alicia Botyrius of Sunlighten answered a few questions to shed more insight on infrared saunas.

 

Q1: How are the benefits from an infrared sauna different than the traditional saunas that most people know? 

A1: Traditional saunas provide convectional heat that creates an environment around 200 degrees. The convectional heat warms the air but isn’t able to be absorbed in a human body. As a result, a person experiences a very hot uncomfortable session. For many people its difficult to breathe because the air burns the nasal passage and the heat stimulates a surface level sweat. Infrared saunas use the infrared spectrum to provide a very comfortable environment. The ideal temperature range is 120-135 and the infrared energy is absorbed in a body which raises core temperature and induces a deep detoxifying sweat.

In order to effectively detox, a person needs to be in a parasympathetic state where their body is in the rest and recovery mode. Infrared saunas are comfortable enough to allow someone to relax completely and allow their automatic nervous system to enter the parasympathetic state. Traditional saunas are such a hot environment that it is difficult to relax the body and mind.

Q2: How are the rays from a tanning bed or the sun different than the waves from an infrared sauna? 

A2: Tanning beds use the ultraviolet spectrum to create a tan. Infrared saunas use the infrared spectrum which is invisible light that is felt as a warm nurturing heat. Infrared saunas do not tan or burn skin.

Q3: How frequently should someone spend time in an infrared sauna to start benefiting from it?  

A3: The ideal time is 30-40 minutes three times a week. If someone is detoxing from heavy metals or mold they should slowly build up to the 30 minute time, if they detox too quickly they will feel sick as the toxins are purged.

Q4: Are the electromagnetic fields from an infrared sauna a health risk? 

A4: Sunlighten is a wellness company celebrating our 20th anniversary. All of the products we manufacture are based in wellness. The EMF have been third party tested and are safe to use.

There are many reported benefits from using an infrared sauna. They include support for cell health, muscle recovery, immunity, lower blood pressure, improved circulation, pain relief, relaxation, anti-aging, weight loss, wound healing, and detoxification.

Q5: How would you describe the science that exists to support those claims? 

A5: There are many studies around infrared saunas as more people prefer holistic treatments versus pain medications. Sunlighten conducted a clinical trial which showed a statistically significant reduction in blood pressure from using our sauna 3 times a week for 6 weeks. 

Q6: What are some health risks from using an infrared sauna?  

A6: Dehydration is the main risk. The Sunlighten heaters are 99% emissive and create a very deep sweat. People need to hydrate before, during and after their sauna sessions.

Q7: Should users of infrared saunas take any precautionary measures to protect their eye health? Could the heat and deeper penetration of waves put eye health at risk?   

A7: Sunlighten saunas do not use red light (which can be harmful to eyes), we utilize near infrared which is invisible energy and safe for all body parts.

Q8: Are there studies that support the effectiveness of using an infrared sauna to manage or prevent lice or to kill bed bugs?  

A8: The increased temperature will make an uncomfortable environment for any bug but we haven’t seen research showing it will prevent an infestation.

 

Explore which Sunlighten Sauna could be yours

People often think that a Sunlighten sauna is more expensive and bigger than they are. Once my mother realized that a Sunlighten sauna was the size of one of her closets and less money than she thought, she wanted to learn more about whether the dimensions would work in her apartment. Click here to explore models and prices.

 

 

References

(1) Weintraub, 

(2) Sears et al. "Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review." Journal of Environmental and Public HealthPublished online 2012 Feb 22. doi: 10.1155/2012/184745

 

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