I’ve always known that spending sometime in a sauna is therapeutic. I didn’t know how much so until I started using an infrared sauna. The type of heat is much more penetrating and therefore much more therapeutic. The experience is very pleasant and renovating. Heating the body with near, mid and far infrared light has a host of benefits that are summarized in this table taken from Dr. Jay Davidson.
My favorite way of enjoying sauna is in combination with water! Get hot in the sauna for 30 or 40 min, then take a cold plunge in the pool and alternate hot jacuzzi with cool pool a few more times. This contrast is truly therapeutic. The sauna produces internal heat that burns up toxins, the cold plunge stimulates the entire body from cells to skin and nerves to leave you renovated and relaxed.
If you are weak, ill or recovering from illness, my recommendation is to start slow and easy with any contrast temperatures. See more recommendations below.
Creating stresses like these helps you develop stamina and resilience to stress and disease. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to intentionally create mini-stresses that stimulate the healing response. Exercise is one of those stresses, so is fasting.
If in the past you have felt uncomfortable in a sauna, I can tell you that the experience in an infrared sauna is very different. The heat can be modulated, there are no hot rocks to put water on to increase the heat. You can access light therapy with all the colors of the rainbow to stimulate or calm the heart, nerves, mind, also for tissue healing. If bored or restless, you can entertain yourself with a book, music or a podcast.
If in the past you have felt fatigued, dizzy or light-headed in a sauna, it could be because:
you may be electrolyte deficient
lacking good fats (fatty acid deficient)
having a high toxic load
unknown food intolerances or allergies
being possibly hypothyroid
See below some recommendations to prevent these issues.
The benefits of sauna are immense...
increased oxygenation to peripheral tissues and cells
increased elimination of harmful metabolites, heavy metals and solvents through the skin via sweat
decreased burden on the liver due to increased elimination through the skin
relaxation and down time along with warmth
increased metabolic rate due to increased temperature
increased heart rate which provides heart rate variability
Detoxification occurs by heating the body directly, causing a rise in core temperature which produces a release of toxins at the cellular level. The body will detox from chemicals, heavy metals, candida, yeast, fungi. Detoxification lightens the toxic load improving immunity and strengthening all biochemical processes so the body is better able to fight disease.
Infrared heat is more effective in moving toxins through the skin than traditional saunas because in a far infrared sauna only 80 to 85% of the sweat is water with the non-water portion being cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, toxic heavy metals, sulfuric acid, sodium, ammonia and uric acid.
The sauna I use is Sunlighten which has a highly-efficient and patented Solocarbon far infrared heating technology which is proven to raise core body temperature by two-to-three degrees. Instead of simply heating the ambient air to draw out toxins, this sauna detox heats deeply inside your core to expel them.
Relaxation - Unlike traditional saunas which operate at extremely harsh temperatures, infrared is a gentle, soothing and therapeutic heat that promotes relaxation and improved sleep.
Weight Loss - Studies have shown that benefits of an infrared sauna session can burn upwards of 600 calories while you relax! As the body works to cool itself, there is a substantial increase in heart rate, cardiac output and metabolic rate, causing the body to burn more calories.
Pain Relief- Infrared sauna heat penetrates tissue, joints and muscles to relieve anything from minor aches and pains to chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. Sauna therapy can help decrease pain and muscle spasms and to speed up recovery time.
Blood Pressure Reduction - infrared saunas induce a deep sweat to make the heart pump faster, which in turn increases blood flow, lowers blood pressure and helps circulation. There is evidence to show that using an infrared sauna a couple times lowers blood pressure. Clinical research has shown a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure which are key factors in maintaining a healthy heart.
Improved Circulation - Heating the muscles with infrared rays produces an increase in blood flow similar to that seen during exercise. Regular infrared sauna use – especially in the mid infrared range – can significantly stimulate blood flow up to twice the normal rate. This is equivalent to a cardio workout.
Skin Purification - The near infrared wavelengths are the most effective for healing the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin. Near infrared treatments stimulate collagen production to reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin tone. Far infrared wavelengths target deeper down, removing toxins that can have a negative impact on your skin.
Wound Healing - The Solocarbon Full Spectrum infrared heating technology in Sunligthen saunas has the unique ability to heal wounds faster and minimize scarring through the use of near infrared LEDs. Scientific research has concluded that near infrared therapy greatly enhances the skin’s healing process by promoting faster cell regeneration and human tissue growth. Human cell growth increases to repair wounds and prevent infection.
Cell Health, Muscle Recovery & Immunity - Near infrared light therapy stimulates the circulatory system and more fully oxygenates the body’s cells. Better blood circulation means more toxins flow from the cellular level to the skin’s surface to improve cell health, aid in muscle recovery and strengthen the immune system.
Types of Infrared Levels
Near-infrared levels are best for wound healing and increased immune function, uses special LEDs to permeate the outer surface of the skin and promote cell health and skin rejuvenation. LEDs are effective because they can trigger a natural photo-chemical reaction (similar to how plants use chlorophyll to convert sunlight into plant tissue).
Mid-infrared levels are ideal for increasing circulation and promoting muscle relaxation, help in pain relief and weight loss.
Far-infrared levels are used primarily for detoxification purposes, help pull toxins from the cells and lower blood pressure.
The Effect of Infrared Sauna on Cancer Cells
For cancer specifically, infrared sauna treatments are exceptionally promising because of the selective toxicity they have on cells. In a nutshell, the hyperthermic effects of infrared radiation are only harmful to malignant cells, as was explained by Dr. Irvin Sahni in a Truth About Cancer documentary series interview. Dr. Sahni says that normal healthy cells are essentially immune to infrared radiation, while cancer cells are hyper-thermically challenged:
“…by exposing your body to that heat, you’re selectively killing or eradicating those less viable cells, those cancer cells, without hurting your normal cells. And so a far infrared sauna is useful because it can help you sweat, excrete toxins, and in theory eliminate cancer cells which can’t survive the heat as well as the normal cells.”
Another study published in the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy found that after just 30 days of infrared treatment, tumor-infected mice saw reductions in their cancerous masses of up to 86% even with low-temperature infrared exposures of as little as 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celsius).
Another study out of Japan found that infrared-induced, whole-body hyperthermia helped strongly inhibit the growth and spread of breast cancer cells in mice, without causing any harmful side effects.
From Dr. Mercola about infrared sauna:
The typical infrared sauna sold in the U.S. is far-infrared. These low-energy wavelengths provide virtually no photo-biomodulation health benefits; they only heat your body superficially
The near-infrared wavelengths can penetrate up to 4 inches into your body’s tissues. The incandescent light bulb is the most efficient way to heat tissue because it is mostly near-infrared
Only a few percent of solar radiation are far-infrared. About 40 percent of the sunlight spectrum is near-infrared
Sunlight and incandescent light interacts with light receptor proteins called chromophores in your body. When light hits the chromophores, they activate a variety of biological processes. Near-infrared also activates the mitochondrial chelating systems in the cells
Near-infrared light therapy stimulates your mitochondria to release nitric oxide and boost ATP production which, together, promote healing effects such as DNA repair and cellular regeneration
Research has shown that people who use a sauna two or more times per week can significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and their rates of dementia.
A meta-analysis of all of the medical literature on dry sauna from 2000 to 2017, published in Evidence Based Complimentary & Alternative Medicine Journal, April 2018, where researchers review 40 studies that included almost 4,000 patients found the following:
reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack and sudden cardiac death
lowered blood pressure
lower risk of stroke
reduced risk of dementia and other neuro-cognitive changes
reduced risk of pulmonary disease such as asthma and lung infections like influenza
decrease risk of rheumatologist and immune disorders
decrease in pain conduction such as arthritis and headaches
decreased risk of death
improved quality of life
Why is sauna so good?
Sauna raises whole body temperature which activates metabolic changes such as neutralizing inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, increase nitric oxide bioavailability, increased insulin sensitivity, and improved vasodilation, significant reduction in dementia, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, reduced pain, improved blood perfusion to the brain and other organs, decreased blood pressure, improved insulin sensitivity, reduced asthma risk, reduced pain, improved quality of life and more…
Raising the core body temperature and increasing circulation very similar to exercise.
So, if you can’t exercise, then one good alternative is sauna.
People who might benefit most from routine exercise (those recovering from cancer, those with metabolic and weight issues, those with high stress loads, those who must sit for long periods of time at work, those recovering from trauma, etc…) may find it difficult to participate in regular exercise… so for them the answer may be using a sauna to raise basal metabolic temperatures.
How to start using an Infrared Sauna
Dr. Ben Lynch, ND recommends and I concur with some modifications:
Use it at least once a week and up to three times a week, for a time period of at least 15 minutes and a maximum of 60 minutes, with temperatures in the range of 120-145°F.
Hydrate before, during and after sauna, and be sure to fully cool off recovering for several minutes resting at room temperature, taking a brief swim or a shower.
Some guidelines when using a sauna:
THE DAY OF THE SAUNA
Upon waking, have a glass of filtered water with electrolytes or a pinch of Celtic or Himalayan sea salt.
Have a healthy breakfast with protein, fat and some carbs. A protein smoothie is great – with some veggies and/or fruits, seeds and healthy oils.
It’s best to sauna any time prior to a few hours of bedtime. If you sauna too late, it may keep you up at night. For others, it may help you sleep. Take a mental note of how you sleep after sauna and make adjustments if needed.
Make sure you get some good quality oils in you – in the smoothie as explained above or if not, then olive oil on your salad. Healthy fats are needed to protect your cell membranes and brain during sauna (fish oil, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed butter).
JUST BEFORE SAUNA
Prepare a liter or more of filtered water with electrolytes.
Take several towels with you so you towel off the sweat.
CONTRAST HOT to COLD
Contrast is simply shocking your body from the heat of the sauna to cold. This is a very powerful technique and quite effective.
Don’t do contrast if just starting out or if you have asthma. Start using temperature contrast after two or three sauna sessions.
Full body plunges into a very cold bath is most effective.
The next most effective is close access to a shower – set to very cold.
If you cannot do any strong contrast, then just do local contrast on your head. Get your head under some cold water.
Doing contrast up to three times is great during one sauna session.
Only do contrast if you are feeling strong. Do not do them if you feel weak or tired. Only do as many contrast sessions as you feel you can handle.
Shower with soap and water. Wash your hair.
Dress warmly and comfortably. Wear socks and stocking cap.
Eat a light snack. No dried foods. No cold foods. Soups, broths, steamed veggies are great. Don’t burden your liver with a high protein, high fat meal right now.
Take the rest of the day easy. No more physical activity. Just read, relax, listen to music or even better – sleep.
You likely will continue sweating. If you do, change your clothes before you go to sleep – and ideally take a rinse in the shower before bed.
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