I’m really excited to share the health benefits of infrared sauna therapy. We’ve been testing it for a while in my home, and the results are nothing short of amazing.
But first, I want to back up and explain why we looked into it. And it’s a long story, but I want to explain why we looked into it. I’m sure many of you can relate.
My husband struggles with a lot of health issues – including celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative disc disease (he has been told by several doctors he will need to eventually get spinal fusion surgery), and Lyme disease.
The good news is that we’ve been able to heal his gut and take care of his celiac through a gluten-free, real food diet. That’s why I started this blog. Essential oils (where to buy) have been amazing in help him with tired muscles after a surfing workout. Supplements (he loves BLM and Sulfurzyme – where to buy) help to support his bones, muscles, ligaments and overall wellness.
But there was still something missing. And then we had an AHA! moment.
About a month ago, we went to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We were there sans kids so we could visit the Young Living farm out there, as well as take a mini holiday to the Galapagos. At home in San Diego, he can barely walk a few blocks around the neighborhood, and if he does he’ll be out the rest of the day because his back will be sore. When we take family trips to theme parks, he has to rent those electric scooters to get around the park. Yes, really. In Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, we walked for miles. Literally, miles! I had my FitBit and actually kept track. One day we did a 7-mile hike, and he was fine. We just used some essential oils to help with tired muscles.
So what happened? It took us a while to figure it out, but we did. He needs heat. He needs to sweat. It’s that simple.
We live in San Diego, Calif. While the weather is typically moderate, the winters do get down to about 40 degrees. The summers can get hot – upwards of 90 degrees. But it’s more a dry heat. I find that I don’t sweat as much here in San Diego even in the summer compared to when I’m in Hawaii or other tropical destinations.
Once we figured out he needed heat and sweat, I started looking into what we could do for him. And then my friend Kelly over at Primally Inspired wrote a blog post about the Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas. As I read it, I kept thinking about how infrared sauna therapy could help my husband.
The history of saunas
Saunas have been around for thousands of years. It was made popular in Finland and used as an ancient form of a bath. It was where women delivered their babies, and where the Finnish would go to celebrate and bond with each other. In those, underground pits were dug up and stones were heated to high temperatures and then water was thrown over the hot stones to produce steam.1 This steam causes the body to sweat, which then aids in the detoxification process and other health benefits.
Sweating in itself helps to flush toxins out of the body. That’s why wearing traditional deodorants and antiperspirants are harmful to the body – as they inhibit the body’s natural detoxification process.
What is the difference between a regular sauna and infrared sauna?
Most of us are familiar with sauna structures in our fitness gym or spa, which are typically traditional saunas. They operate at high temperatures – usually 160-200 degrees – with a low level of humidity. That’s way too hot for most people – and exactly why I thought I didn’t like saunas. It was merely too hot for me with the steam. This type of sauna may not be as effective for your health as it just heats the air around you, usually via steam.2
Infrared saunas use far infrared energy to heat the body. This is the same type of heat produced by the sun and our bodies (read more on the benefits of thermography and infrared heat), so it’s very safe. So it’s a direct source of heat rather than traditional saunas, which use indirect heat (i.e. steam) to heat the body. You get all the benefits of sunlight therapy without the harmful UV rays.
In addition, infrared saunas are used between 110 to 140 degrees – which is much lower and more tolerable than traditional saunas.3 There’s also no pre-heating like traditional saunas, which can help to cut down on energy costs too. I find that I’m able to tolerate 150 degrees without feeling too hot. It’s more of a gentle heat. That’s why I prefer infrared saunas over conventional ones.
One thing to watch out for is EMF – electromagnetic fields. Some infrared saunas may emit expose you to EMF, so it’s important to look for one that doesn’t emit EMF or emits low EMF. Keep reading for tips on how to choose an infrared sauna.
What are the health benefits of infrared saunas?
You know that sweating is good for the body. But what else can it do?
- Burns about 600 calories (in a 30-minute session) as the heat generated by the infrared sauna increases core temperature similar to a workout4
- Flushes toxins and heavy metals out of the body5
- Promotes the body’s natural ability to fight infections, bacteria and viruses (goodbye, common cold!)5
- Aids in opening up the nasal passages (great for sinus issues)5
- Increases metabolism and may help with weight loss5
- Helps to clear skin of impurities and may help with acne or blemishes5
- Promotes healing and skin regeneration5
- Improves blood circulation5
- Helps to oxygenate tissues5
- May help to reduce cardiovascular risk factors5
- May help to relieve chronic fatigue6
- Provides pain relief to those with back issues, arthritis, sore muscles and joints6,7
- Promotes recovery after exercise8
- May help to reduce the appearance of cellulite9
This is small list to get you thinking about how infrared saunas can help you. Do your own research to learn more. There’s some interesting research on how infrared sauna therapy may even help to improve positive behavior in kids with autism.10 And that’s just scratching the surface. There’s much more research out there on the health benefits of infrared saunas on cancer, depression, heart disease, etc.
As I mentioned earlier, check out Kelly’s blog post on Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas over at Primally Inspired. She’s done a lot of research and has great information to share.
Our experience with an infrared sauna
In just a couple of sessions, my husband noticed immediate results. He has low back and joint pain, and he said he felt pain relief pretty quickly. He started off at 130 degrees for 5 minutes, and worked his way up to 150 degrees for 30 minutes. He’s been using it consistently to help with his back pain – and now he can’t imagine life without it. The heat from the sauna and the sweating have been instrumental in helping him to get through the winter here in San Diego, which is usually a time when his joints and low back pain are at their worst. So if you feel like the cold weather has a negative effect on your back or joints, I would definitely recommend checking out an infrared sauna.
One day he wasn’t feeling well. He had a cold and had honestly felt like he couldn’t even go into work that morning. He sat in the sauna for 30 minutes, and said after he was done he felt like a new man. He didn’t feel sick at all and actually felt well enough to go to work. He had a headache, body aches, a stuffy nose and a mild cough. When he emerged from the sauna, he said he felt relief from most of the symptoms.
I started using the infrared sauna to help detoxify my body and clear my skin. I’m prone to breakouts (especially that time of the month), and now I feel like my skin is clearer. It’s like getting a facial without having to fork out money to the spa. In addition, I love sweating and could lose a few pounds that I’ve gained during the winter.
How to buy an infrared sauna
There are a lot of infrared saunas out there. Remember to look for ones that have low to no EMF. A standalone unit can cost about $1,000-3,000.
I personally wanted to try it before committing a huge investment. So I opted for a portable infrared sauna. I really like this one – yes, I know it looks like a human toaster. But it works really well! There’s a foldable stool you can sit on, which allows you to stick your head and hands out to read or do other things. We prefer to take the stool out, and sit criss-cross on a towel with our hands and feet in the sauna to get the benefit of whole body sweating.
The unit itself isn’t very big. We have it in our bedroom. And it’s portable so you can move it to another room pretty easily or pack with you to take on the go. I know it looks a little weird, but trust me – it’s been a huge help with my husband and his chronic back pain.
Tips when using an infrared sauna
- You will sweat a lot, especially as you start getting to 20-30 minute sessions. Be sure to replace the electrolytes in your body as you will lose them through sweating. Try this Homemade Electrolyte Drink you can make with just a few ingredients.
- Start with low heat. Our portable infrared sauna had a starting heat of 130 degrees. We gradually increased the heat as we became comfortable – about 5 degrees each week until we hit 150 degrees.
- Start with 5 minutes. In addition to starting with low heat, you should also begin with a short amount of time to get used to the infrared sauna. We started at 5 minutes (we didn’t do much sweat at that point), and gradually increased to 30 minutes. We added 5 minute increments each week until we got used to it.
- Sit on a towel to absorb the sweat. Believe me, after 15-20 minutes you’ll be dripping in sweat, so be sure you’re sitting on a towel to keep your sauna clean.
- Take off all clothing. Trust me, you’ll be sweating a lot.
- After a sauna session, try taking a cool or warm shower (not a hot one) to stimulate your body. The transition from hot and sweating to cool can really help with overall cardiovascular wellness.
So who’s going to take the plunge and try an infrared sauna? I want to hear from you!
Photo credit: DepositPhotos.com/dlpn, BigStockPhotos.com/BillionPhotos.com, Amazon
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