19 Amazing Reasons Why You Need An Infrared Sauna in Your Home—Immunity, Detox, Longevity, and More!
If you haven’t considered the healing power of heat, prepare to be amazed.
After you read this, you’ll know why I’m not afraid of a virus. For me or anyone else who lives in my house, I’m not even a little afraid. The first thing we do, upon the first symptom of illness, is turn on the sauna!
My infrared sauna is my favorite tool for getting healthy and staying healthy. I love having a relaxing escape in my home. In fact, I make it a priority to spend time in my sauna a few times a week, for most of the year.
After hearing the published research, you’re going to want an infrared sauna for your home. Before I tell you how that can be possible, and more affordable than you might think, let’s review all the impressive infrared sauna benefits.
[You can have a high-quality sauna in your home for only $1,300, for a limited time. Check It Out While You Can!]
In this article:
- Infrared Saunas and Your Immunity
- The Healing Power of Heat Isn't New
- Saunas Create Good Stress in Your Body: Hormesis
- Benefit #1 — Infrared Saunas Boost Immunity
- Benefit #2 — Saunas May Help Fight Cancer
- Benefit #3 — Saunas Are Good for Your Cardiovascular Health
- Benefit #4 — Saunas Support Longevity
- Benefits #5 — Saunas May Help Fight Diabetes
- Benefit #6 — Saunas and Detoxification
- Benefit #7 — Saunas May Support Healthy Weight Loss
- Benefit #8 — Saunas May Help Reduce Inflammation and Pain
- Benefit #9 — Saunas for a Healthy, Happy Brain
- Benefit #10 — Saunas May Help Improve Skin Health
- Benefit #11 — Saunas May Help Restore Energy and Improve Chronic Fatigue Symptoms
- Benefit #12 — Saunas May Improve Sleep and Insomnia
- Benefit #13 — Saunas May Provide Relief from Menstrual Pain
- Benefit #14 — Saunas May Help Relieve Allergy Symptoms
- Benefit #15 — Saunas May Help Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Benefit #16 — Saunas May Accelerate the Healing of Wounds
- Benefit #17 — Saunas May Improve Muscle Recovery
- Benefit #18 — Saunas May Improve Physical Performance and Endurance
- Benefit #19 — Saunas May Increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
- Why Infrared Saunas?
- The Sauna I Recommend
Infrared Saunas and Your Immunity
Of course, on everyone’s mind these days is our immune system—how do we optimize its performance to stay healthy and keep viruses and other pathogens at bay?
The good news is our bodies are designed to defend us against disease-causing microorganisms. And, we can take steps to support our immunity, naturally.
You might not realize that millions of airborne viruses1 are wafting around you on any given day. One square meter (about 11 square feet) of Earth’s surface is showered with hundreds of millions of viruses in a single day. Yes, hundreds of millions in a single day!
Every breath you take is full of viruses, and your body has hundreds of thousands of viruses in it at any given time. It’s not the exposure to viruses that makes us sick—it’s whether your body’s immune defenses are strong, healthy, and balanced.
How do we survive constant exposure to viruses, inside and outside us? Our immune system, that’s how. Specifically, our white blood cells, which produce the antibodies that seek and destroy the invading virus.
The good news? Spending time in an infrared sauna strengthens your immune system.
In addition, as you’ve probably been informed, those at the greatest risk of developing the severe symptoms of a certain recent virus have underlying health problems. These include heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory diseases, as well as cancer.
It makes sense. Your immune system is already on active duty, weakened by diseases and even the treatments for those diseases, and now another virus has entered the landscape.
Ready for some more good news? Infrared saunas have been shown to support and strengthen your health in each and every one of those diseases. Pretty remarkable, right?
The Healing Power of Heat Isn’t New
Ancient people understood the healing power of heat. Greek physician Parmenides said some 2,000 years ago:
“Give me a chance to create fever, and I will cure any disease.”
So, what is it about heat and spending time in a sauna that helps heal the body?
Saunas Create Good Stress in Your Body: Hormesis
While we’re often trying to get away from stress, some stress is good for you.
Short, mild levels of stress—unlike prolonged, chronic stress—makes us stronger and healthier, protecting us against many types of stressors. This low-level, beneficial type of stress is called hormesis, or eustress.
One example of hormesis is weightlifting. When we lift weights, we tear tiny muscle fibers—inducing stress on the tissues—which leads to more muscle tissue forming, as the fibers repair themselves.
Another example of hormesis is modified fasting. Restricting calories (low stress) triggers autophagy—cleaning out damaged cells and creating new, healthy ones.
Heat stress also triggers hormesis, which may be why saunas have such an incredible variety of benefits.
Infrared Sauna Benefits: 19 Science-Backed Health Benefits
The health benefits of infrared saunas are many, and every single one of these are supported by scientific literature:
- Boosts the immune system and the respiratory system, naturally
- May help fight cancer
- Good for cardiovascular health (reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke)
- Supports longevity
- Helps fight diabetes
- Supports detoxification of heavy metals and other stored toxins
- Supports healthy weight loss
- Reduces pain and inflammation
- Supports a healthy, happy brain
- Improves skin health (reduction in wrinkles, improved skin tone, etc)
- Restores energy and improves Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Improves sleep and reduces insomnia
- Reduces menstrual pain
- Helps relieve allergy symptoms
- Helps treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Accelerates wound healing
- Improves muscle recovery
- Improves physical performance and endurance
- Increases HGH, human growth hormone
Benefit #1 — Infrared Saunas Boost Immunity
Let’s start with everyone’s number one concern: staying healthy.
There are numerous immune-boosting solutions you’ve probably already added to your viral-busting arsenal. These include eating lots of organic fruits and veggies, including a good pro- and prebiotic supplement in your diet, and making sure you’re getting those health-supporting minerals that have been depleted from the soil.
Now, add the heat created by an infrared sauna, and you’ve given your immune system the best chance at overcoming foreign invaders.
Let’s take a look at why this occurs, and the science behind the immune-boosting properties of infrared saunas.
Infrared saunas raise your core body temperature, inducing an artificial fever. This "fake fever" stimulates the immune system, resulting in an increased production of disease-fighting white blood cells and antibodies—a classic example of hormesis (good stress) at work.
A 1% increase in body temperature results in a 40% increase in immunity, according2 to Nobuhiro Yoshimizu, MD, PhD, previous director of Yokohama General Hospital in Japan. Pretty amazing. (We’ll discuss Dr. Yoshimizu and his remarkable results with cancer and heat therapy in a moment.)
There are many more studies that demonstrate the immune-boosting effects of saunas. In a Finnish study3, athletes who took 15-minute sauna baths experienced an immediate increase in white blood cells, a marker of immune strength.
Infrared Saunas May Benefit the Respiratory System
Saunas have been shown to reduce the risk of developing respiratory illnesses as well as the chances of developing pneumonia — which is an especially important thing to consider at these times!
In a study4 published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, men who used a sauna at least twice a week were 30% less likely to develop life-threatening pneumonia. When they increased their sauna therapy to 4 times a week, they cut their risk of pneumonia by almost 40%!
In a study4 of almost 2,000 men, participants who used a sauna 4 or more times each week experienced a 41% lower risk of developing respiratory illness over a 26-week period, compared to those who used the sauna less than once a week.
Sauna use has also proven useful for other respiratory illnesses including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and congestion.
Can a Sauna Cure the Common Cold?
I raised my kids to get in the sauna the minute they started feeling a cold coming on. Research shows that regular sauna use can lead to significantly fewer incidences of the common cold.
When a group of Austrians used saunas regularly5 and another did not, the sauna group came down with half as many colds. The benefit was even more apparent after 3 months of sauna use, demonstrating the importance of regular sauna use over a prolonged period of time.
Benefit #2 — Saunas May Help Fight Cancer
“Research has shown that high temperatures (thermotherapy) can damage and kill cancer cells, usually with minimal injury to normal tissues,” according to the National Cancer Institute.6
Getting back to Dr. Yoshimizu, the doctor I mentioned earlier. This medical doctor specializes in the treatment of cancer in patients who haven’t had success with traditional medical therapies. His book, The Fourth Treatment for Medical Refugees, is about helping cancer patients when traditional medical treatments have failed them through the use of heat therapy and saunas.
His focus on heat therapy is a result of his work showing that cancer cells die at 103 to 104°F. At this temperature, your immune system is functioning at its peak performance. With continued sauna treatments, the immune system strengthens, and the cancer cells die off.
This effect continues even after you’re out of the sauna. Dr. Yoshimizu found that, with repeated sauna treatments, the resistance of cancer cells becomes weaker and weaker, the immune system gets stronger, and more tumor cells die away.
Heat makes cancer cells look distinct from regular cells, which creates an immune response that allows killer T cells and macrophages to go after cancer cells, according to Dr. Yoshimizu’s research.
Research from the Netherlands came to the conclusion7 that there is a clear rationale for using heat therapy for cancer treatment. Significant improvement has been demonstrated for tumors of the head and neck, breast, brain, bladder, cervix, rectum, lung, esophagus, vulva and vagina, and also for melanoma.
In a clinical study8 in the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy, far infrared therapy reduced tumor volumes by 86% in only 30 days.
Benefit #3 — Saunas Are Good for Your Cardiovascular Health
Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a heart attack or a stroke. Heart disease is, in fact, the leading cause of death for both men and women.
It is also one of the diseases that increases the risk of coming down with certain viruses and, should one come down with it, of developing more severe symptoms.
The good news is, cardiovascular benefits are perhaps the most profound and PROVEN health benefits of infrared saunas!
In 1981, the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association reported9 that the regular use of a sauna may be as good as exercise for your cardiovascular system.
The Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor study included more than 2,300 middle-aged men from eastern Finland. Men who used the sauna 2 to 3 times per week were 27% less likely to die from cardiovascular diseases. And even more exciting, men who used the sauna 4 to 7 times per week were 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related issues!
Another study10 found repeated sauna therapy to be helpful for people with coronary risk factors, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
And yet another study11 from Finland revealed that using a sauna 4 to 7 times a week could significantly reduce the risk of having a stroke.
Saunas May Help Reduce Blood Pressure
Several studies have confirmed that saunas help lower blood pressure.
In fact, a single sauna session has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve arterial health. Just one session!
After sauna therapy, participants in a Finnish study12 dropped their blood pressure by 7 points and increased the elasticity of their arteries.
Dr. Thomas H. Lee, a cardiologist and founding editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, confirmed these findings, saying13, “[Sauna] lowers blood pressure, and there is every reason to believe that its effects are good for blood vessels.”
Other studies14 back-up these effects, including one conducted on 1,600 Finns. Participants who took a sauna15 4 to 7 times a week cut their risk of high blood pressure by 50%, compared to those who used a sauna only once a week.
Benefit #4 — Saunas Support Longevity
Despite the messages we often get in our society, particularly in our current climate, age doesn’t have to mean declining health. I’m healthier in my 50s than I was in my 20s!
When you see the research, you’ll see why saunas are one of my top anti-aging, health-promoting recommendations.
Hormesis (good stress) appears to be a promising and effective approach for preventing or delaying age-related diseases—and for improving the quality of life in old age, according to an article16 published in The Journals of Gerontology.
Animal studies show heat stress increases lifespan, by as much as 15%.
Research confirms that heat stress increases human lifespan, as well. In Finland, where just about every home has a sauna, a large study17 over 20 years found that frequent sauna users, 4 to 7 times a week, were 40% less likely to die from ALL causes.
The Role of Heat Shock Proteins in Longevity
Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are a family of proteins18 that cells produce in response to heat stress, like using an infrared sauna.
Heat shock proteins help your body in many ways. Among these benefits, HSPs:
- Keep cellular proteins in order19
- Activate immune responses
- Lower inflammation
- Prevent and repair free radical damage
- Play a role in preventing autoimmune20 disorders and neurological conditions
HSPs show promise in “increasing longevity and a healthy lifespan of humans,” according to a review21 in the journal Redox Report.
When men and women were exposed22 to heat stress for 30 minutes at 163℉, their levels of these beneficial heat shock proteins increased by 49%!
Other research shows23 that the activation of HSPs is sustained over time, resulting in protective adaptations for your cells.
Sauna Use Actives FOXO3—The Longevity Gene
Heat also activates FOXO3—a gene linked24 to longevity.
FOXO3 is a master regulator, which manages genes involved in stress tolerance, and has many jobs to do. Among them, FOXO3:
- Tells your body to make more white blood cells (increasing immunity) and stem cells,
- Repairs25 damaged DNA
- Sends signals to your antioxidant and cancer-protective genes to get to work.
Several studies confirm its connection to longevity. A study26 of German centenarians linked the FOXO3A gene with the “ability to attain exceptional old age.”
Another study27 connected the gene with a lower rate of cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as higher physical and mental function.
Benefits #5 — Saunas May Help Fight Diabetes
Sauna use may help prevent type 2 diabetes and improve diabetic symptoms.
Patients with type 2 diabetes are low28 in HSP 70, a particular heat shock protein that has been clinically shown29 to increase with heat therapy, like sauna use.
Low-grade inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction both play key roles in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. A review30 on both animal and human studies regarding HSPs and their role in protecting a cell’s integrity concluded that increasing certain HSPs “represents a therapeutic avenue for obesity-induced insulin resistance.”
And here’s an exciting study31: insulin-resistant (diabetic) mice were exposed to 30 minutes of heat treatment 3 times a week for 12 weeks. They experienced a 31% decrease in plasma insulin and a reduction in blood glucose. So, basically, they became sensitive to insulin again.
Benefit #6 — Saunas and Detoxification
Detoxifying the body on a regular basis is one of the most important steps we can take to help our immune system function at its optimal levels.
Without this essential step, our bodies can easily be overrun with the massive amounts of toxins it faces on a daily basis—in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and even the products we use on our bodies and to clean our homes.
I call our current toxic environment the post-Dow and DuPont years.
“Of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States, most haven’t been adequately tested for their effects on human health,” according to the Natural Resources and Defense Council (NRDC).32 And over 400 of these chemicals have been identified in human tissue.
Many of these chemicals have been linked to arthritis, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, autism, and many more diseases.
Fortunately, having an infrared sauna in your arsenal of healing tools is a major step in the direction of releasing stored toxins and supporting your immune system!
The Role of Sweat in Detoxification
“Sweat is the only proven method for getting the most damaging toxins out of the body,” according to Sherry Rogers, MD, a leading environmental medicine authority, in her book, Detoxify or Die.
Toxicologists have shown33 that sweating is indeed an important method of excreting toxins. For example:
- In a review34 of over 100 studies, repeated sauna use reduced high mercury levels to normal. That’s impressive! The study also showed that arsenic, cadmium, and lead can be excreted through the skin in substantial amounts through sauna use.
- Saunas can help rid the body of Bisphenol A (BPA)35—a toxic compound in some plastics, which is now found in EVERY human body.
- Sauna therapy has proven to be useful for people with mold exposure and mycotoxins36.
In particular, infrared sauna rays penetrate deep into your tissues, causing fat cells to release toxins and pollutants, which are then eliminated through sweat.
How Law Enforcement and Rescue Workers Are Using Saunas for Detoxification
Law enforcement workers are often exposed to methamphetamine and other harmful chemicals. These toxins can lead to chronic symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems, as well as disability.
When the Utah Meth Cops Project treated37 affected police officers with sauna therapy and nutrition, the officers experienced significant health improvements.
Additionally, in the weeks and months following the attack on the World Trade Center, 40,000 rescue and clean-up workers were exposed to numerous toxic chemicals, such as PCBs.
This exposure led to symptoms, including chronic muscle and joint pain, intestinal disorders, and skin rashes, as well as an increase38 in respiratory and heart diseases.
When the workers underwent39 a sauna-based detoxification program, symptoms either entirely resolved or were significantly improved.
My Experience Using Saunas for Detoxification
The skin is the largest organ of elimination. But, in most people, it’s largely inactive because they don’t sweat regularly.
Before I owned a sauna, my body didn’t seem to know how to sweat. I didn’t even sweat when I ran a 10k in the summer. I also sweat very little in a hot yoga class. When most people around me were dripping sweat all over the yoga mat, so much that they needed a towel, I wasn’t sweating at all.
My infrared sauna opened up these detoxification pathways, my sweat glands, and now I sweat in hot yoga, or going for a run in the summer—and I’m really glad about that.
Sauna use helps optimize everyone’s system of detoxification through the skin. Even if you’re one of the people next to me in the yoga class already sweating!
To help my body’s largest organ of elimination do its job, I always dry brush just before I get in my infrared sauna. Skin brushing stimulates blood circulation and the lymphatic system, increasing the skin's ability to eliminate toxins.
Keep in mind that your liver and kidneys are still your body’s primary methods of detoxification. I believe undergoing a once or twice-a-year detox and liver cleanse is vital to long-term health. Using an infrared sauna while undergoing a dedicated detox is a double win!
Benefit #7 — Saunas May Support Healthy Weight Loss
As you’d expect, you lose water weight when you sweat in a sauna. But sauna use also helps you lose weight by burning calories and fat!
The metabolic changes spurred40 by the heat stress during a sauna session can burn up to 800 calories, with no adverse effects, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In Japan, sauna therapy has been found41 to significantly reduce both body weight and fat in obese patients.
Participants who spent 45-minutes in an infrared sauna 3 times a week lost 4% body fat in 16 weeks, in research42 conducted by Binghamton University.
In fact, weight loss is difficult to achieve until the toxins stored in our fat cells are released, and the chemicals and heavy metals that have lodged in our tissues are reduced. When you reduce toxicity, you lose the fat more easily because your fat stores, especially belly fat, don’t have a job to do anymore.
A lot of doctors recommend infrared sauna use to help patients move out of the plateau and begin to lose weight again. My friends Steven Masley, MD, and Joel Kahn, MD, both cardiovascular doctors, recommend a plant-based diet AND infrared sauna use to reach your weight goals and stimulate cardiovascular health.
Important note: I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t exercise. There are PLENTY of benefits to moving and stretching your body. I do both: I love the endorphins and benefits of exercise, and I love the endorphins and benefits of my sauna, too!
Benefit #8 — Saunas May Help Reduce Inflammation and Pain
Using heat to decrease inflammation may seem like an odd therapy. After all, isn’t ice used to reduce inflammation?
Some impressive proof shows that saunas CAN help reduce inflammation.
Dr. Jari Laukkanen of Finland found43 that using the sauna significantly decreased C-reactive protein, the main marker of systemic inflammation. And the more frequent the sauna use, the more inflammation levels were lowered.
Infrared heat penetrates into muscle tissues, as well as joints. This is one of infrared heat's greatest gifts—the ability to penetrate44 deep into the body. The result is increased circulation that delivers nutrients to joints and muscles, accelerating repair and increasing flexibility.
Saunas have been shown to reduce pain. Some examples:
- Chronic pain. A Japanese study45 in the journal Internal Medicine showed that chronic pain patients experienced a nearly 70% reduction, after the first session of infrared sauna therapy.
- Headache. Regular sauna bathing has been found46 to substantially improve headache intensity.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology reported47 that the use of infrared saunas produced significant short-term beneficial effects in those with rheumatoid arthritis, including reduced pain, stiffness, and fatigue, and a trend toward long-term beneficial effects.
- Fibromyalgia. When patients with fibromyalgia syndrome received Waon therapy (sitting in a far-infrared dry sauna for 15 minutes before being covered by a warm blanket for an additional 30 minutes) for 12 weeks, all patients experienced48 a significant reduction in pain—by 33-77%. The reduction in pain remained relatively stable during the 6-month follow-up period, suggesting lasting benefits.
Benefit #9 — Saunas for a Healthy, Happy Brain
Heat stress can make your brain and nervous system grow new neurons, which is fantastic news for people in midlife or older age.
The all-important plasticity in your brain increases, helping keep you young and smart as you get older—and having more neurons also helps you avoid anxiety and depression.
Sauna use can also help increase the production of norepinephrine, which increases your alertness, attention, brain functioning speed, and enhances memory formation and recall.
In one study49, men more than quadrupled their norepinephrine levels after a single sauna session. And in another study50, women nearly doubled their norepinephrine levels after two brief sauna sessions a week.
Saunas Make You Feel Calm and Happy
In today’s current environment, we need all the help we can get when it comes to maintaining an upbeat, positive attitude. And yet this type of attitude is one of the key factors in strengthening the immune system!
When first-year law students were tested for their immune response in relation to their optimism levels, a study51 found a stronger cell-mediated immunity response (cells responding to invading viruses or bacteria) when students were optimistic. When optimism dropped, their immune systems weakened.
My favorite thing about saunas, because you really feel it every time you get in your sauna, is the feel-good endorphins you produce.
Endorphins help manage pain and give you that “reward” in your brain that makes you feel hopeful, happy, and calm.
You produce serotonin, which also increases feelings of happiness and calm. And another brain chemical you may not have heard of, called dynorphin, makes you more sensitive to the endorphins, so you feel their effects even more.
Saunas for Better Mental Health (Including Depression and Anxiety)
“The greatest mental health benefit of a sauna is the act of just sitting still for a defined period of time,” New York City-based psychotherapist Paul Hokemeyer said52.
The heat helps quiet your mind. Dr. Hokemeyer goes on to say, "For anyone who suffers from a mood disorder, such as anxiety and depression, it’s a wonderful way to self-soothe and change the emotional and cognitive state in a relatively short period of time.”
In a study53 of 30 physically healthy adults who were diagnosed with depression, in one session of heat therapy—just one!—they experienced an acute antidepressant effect that lasted for 6 weeks after treatment. Imagine the effects of continued sauna use.
Forty-five men and women participated in a Japanese study54 measuring the effects of sauna therapy on psychological states. All 6 factors of mood measured—tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, vigor, fatigue, and confusion—showed significant improvement.
After 20 sessions in an infrared sauna, patients at Kagoshima University Hospital reported55 significant improvements in symptoms associated with mild depression, such as fatigue, appetite loss, and the inability to relax.
In a global sauna survey56, using saunas 5 to 15 times per month was associated with higher mental well-being scores, compared to those using saunas less frequently.
Saunas May Improve Memory and Help Prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia
We’re all hoping to avoid dementia and losing our memory. And some promising research is showing how sauna use might help!
In a 20-year study57 conducted at the University of Eastern Finland, men who took a sauna 4 to 7 times a week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia. And the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was 65% lower than those who took just one sauna a week.
Protein misfolding is associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. So this protection of the brain may be due, in part, to heat shock proteins' ability to repair and maintain proteins.
Another benefit of heat is the increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein repairs and protects your brain cells, while at the same time speeding up the growth of new ones and enhancing the repair of DNA.
Unfortunately, levels of BDNF decrease as we age. And they’re reduced in brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases.
One study58 showed an increase in BDNF after just 20 minutes of induced hyperthermia!
All in all, saunas produce an outstanding combination of healthy chemicals in your body to raise your spirits, keep your brain sharp, and make you feel good.
Benefit #10 — Saunas May Help Improve Skin Health
Spending time in a sauna gives you a host of both practical and visual benefits for your skin.
Your complexion, as well as your skin tone and elasticity, are improved. In fact, you’re likely to find that after you spend time in an infrared sauna, your skin will be noticeably different--and others will notice it, too.
A study59 in The Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy showed significant improvements in skin appearance after regular near-infrared use.
Participants experienced a reduction in wrinkles and crow’s feet, as well as improved skin tone, including softness, smoothness, elasticity, clarity, and firmness.
Collagen, the protein responsible for the skin’s strength and elasticity, has been shown to increase following heat therapy. This increase is due to hormesis, the “heat stress” mentioned earlier, prompting skin cells to repair.
Repeated mild heat stress affects60 the skin’s fibroblasts, cells responsible for creating connective tissue and making collagen, ultimately reducing oxidative damage and activating antioxidant and repair processes.
In addition, the increased circulation brings additional oxygen and nutrients to the skin’s surface, improving skin color and giving you a healthy glow.
Saunas May Help Reduce Cellulite
Cellulite is the dimpling, orange-peel-like appearance that occurs on the surface of the skin.
It’s thought to have many causes, including lack of exercise, poor eating habits, heavy metal toxicity, as well as a sluggish circulation. As we’ve discussed, infrared saunas address many of these conditions.
Because of infrared radiation’s ability to penetrate into the subcutaneous tissues, it is able to raise the internal temperature, increasing the heart rate and improving localized blood circulation.
While studies haven’t been conducted specifically on saunas and cellulite, numerous studies have combined modalities. One study61 applied infrared light along with radiofrequency and a suction-based massage device. About 99% of patients noticed an overall clinical improvement.
Numerous spas around the world use infrared saunas to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Using a dry brush on your skin before you get in your infrared sauna stimulates your lymphatic system, and can increase the elimination of toxins trapped in fat cells.
Benefit #11 — Saunas May Help Restore Energy and Improve Chronic Fatigue Symptoms
If you’re experiencing a lack of energy, reducing your stress levels should be one of your primary considerations. Chronic stress can deplete the nutrients needed to create energy, such as vitamin B-662 and magnesium63.
Several studies64 have been performed regarding the effects of Waon therapy on chronic fatigue syndrome. Waon therapy is a Japanese heat therapy, which consists of 15-minute sessions in heat followed by 30 minutes of reclined rest wrapped in a towel.
Patients experienced dramatic improvement in fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, and low-grade fevers after 15 to 25 sessions of thermal therapy. Their improved health continued a year after their treatments and showed no signs of relapse.
Also, 10 patients who underwent heat therapy 5 days a week for 4 weeks perceived a significant reduction in fatigue65, as well as reduced anxiety and depression.
Benefit #12 — Saunas May Improve Sleep and Insomnia
Sleep is so important when maintaining a healthy immune system. It’s been shown66 that even one night of insufficient sleep (less than 7 hours) can result in a decreased immune response.
Unfortunately, sleeplessness is often the norm with 1 in 4 people experiencing insomnia67 every year. Turn on the T.V., and you’ll see about a dozen commercials touting the benefits of chemicals to lure your body into a blissful slumber. Unfortunately, these drugs often come with a host of side effects, like dizziness and memory loss. Plus, it’s not uncommon for rebound insomnia to occur once someone tries to stop taking sleeping pills.
An infrared sauna, on the other hand, doesn’t come with a list of side effects.
The deep heat supplies a relaxing experience that eases stress and offers sleep-supporting relaxation. Particularly, the far-infrared rays have been shown to improve the quality of sleep68.
In a global sauna survey56 of 472 participants, 84% reported improved sleep. Most sauna users cited improvements in sleep lasting one to two nights after using a sauna.
Benefit #13 — Saunas May Provide Relief from Menstrual Pain
Heat is a well-known therapy69 that can offer great relief for women who experience menstrual cramps. Heat from a sauna can help, too.
In fact, studies show that with infrared rays, the effects on menstrual pain are even greater!
When 104 patients70 with painful menstruation wore a belt containing far-infrared-emitting minerals with hot packs, or a placebo, those with the packs containing the minerals maintained a decrease in pain even after the treatments had stopped.
When one group71 of women wore a near-infrared ray LED belt while another applied hot packs during painful menstruation, the group that felt the effects of infrared light experienced less pain, in both intensity and duration.
Benefit #14 — Saunas May Help Relieve Allergy Symptoms
Millions of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies every year, whether it be from dust mites, animal dander, mold spores, or pollen emanating from trees, grasses, or weeds.
The irritating symptoms often lead sufferers to choose over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines and decongestants. While these medicines may relieve symptoms, they can also cause side effects, ranging from drowsiness and dizziness to confusion, headaches, and muscle spasms.
Allergies represent an immune system gone into overdrive, so treating the disease, and not the symptoms, can be found by strengthening the immune system and relieving our bodies of their toxic burden.
A study72 conducted in Thailand found that just 30 minutes in a sauna, 3 days a week for 6 weeks, resulted in a significant decrease in the participant’s allergy symptoms.
Another study73 found that far-infrared therapy significantly improved symptoms including eye itching, nasal itching and stuffiness, and sneezing.
Benefit #15 — Saunas May Help Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is associated with an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria, which causes74 an imbalance in the microflora found in the gut.
It’s been linked to numerous gastrointestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and systemic issues, such as diabetes and obesity.
So, how does an infrared sauna help heal your gut?
Healing occurs, once again, from the elevation in body temperature — this beneficial stress boosts the immune system to rid the body of the bacteria and other toxins that cause an imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract.
The improved blood supply to the gut also delivers essential nutrients that help heal and repair the intestinal lining.
Benefit #16 — Saunas May Accelerate the Healing of Wounds
Wounds that once healed in days can take weeks as you age.
Due to infrared rays’ ability to promote faster cell regeneration and tissue growth, wounds can repair quickly and infections can be prevented.
Studies75 on rats showed that infrared rays increased the release of the growth factor, as well as anti-inflammatory cytokine TGF-B1, which led to an activation of fibroblasts — cells that play a critical role in wound healing.
Benefit #17 — Saunas May Improve Muscle Recovery
If you’re an athlete, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the pain associated with pushing your body that extra mile. Increasing recovery time is a priority when it comes to reducing pain, as well as increasing stamina and endurance.
While plenty of research76 reveals that whole-body cryotherapy (cold therapy) accelerates recovery, far-infrared therapy, as compared to passive modalities, also enhances the recovery of exercise-induced muscle damage. Performing both may be the best answer to a quick recovery!
Benefit #18 — Saunas May Improve Physical Performance and Endurance
While we’re discussing the benefits infrared saunas offer athletes, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss two very important effects that far-infrared heat provides: hyperthermic conditioning and reduced glycogen depletion.
Hyperthermic conditioning refers to your body’s response to very hot conditions. Your body’s responses include increased plasma volume, increased red blood cell count, and increased blood flow to the heart and skeletal muscles. This, in turn, brings additional nutrients to your muscles, reducing the rate of glycogen depletion and the point at which muscles “eat themselves to feed themselves.”
Glycogen is the stored glucose and carbohydrates found in your muscles, liver, and brain. During exercise, your body first burns fat for fuel and then switches over to glycogen as the activity is extended. Once glycogen is depleted, muscle tissues break down protein to make glucose, leading to muscle damage and extreme fatigue.
Extending glycogen stores offers athletes and those looking to increase their endurance and performance a dramatic benefit.
When study77 participants spent 30 minutes in a sauna just twice a week for 3 weeks, they increased the time it took to run until exhausted by more than 30%. Another study78 noted reduced glycogen depletion among participants who were heat acclimatized during exercise by 40 to 50%. Remarkable!
Benefit #19 — Saunas May Increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is one of the hormones responsible for increasing lean muscle mass, reducing fat tissue, and maintaining bone mineral density. In our 30s, this important hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland starts to decline.
Symptoms of HGH deficiency in adults79 include weight gain around the middle, dry skin, and fatigue—leading to possible anxiety and depression and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Some athletes turn to injecting HGH, a practice that is banned in practically every professional sport, and one that can lead to harmful side effects.
Fortunately, there are ways to optimize your HGH level, one of which is the use of an infrared sauna.
One study80 in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism showed a significant increase in HGH when participants spent time in heated rooms. When combined with exercise, levels of HGH increased even more.
Another study81 found a 16-fold increase in HGH in volunteers that used a sauna twice a day for 7 days.
Why Infrared Saunas?
As a culture, we’re not getting enough sun. We’re losing the healing benefits people got naturally for thousands of years. Infrared saunas offer some of the same benefits of sitting under the sun, without the risks of UV rays.
Saunas use the same type of radiant heat—so you get all the positives of the sun without the dangerous effects of solar radiation. In fact, infrared is so safe it’s used in hospitals to keep newborn babies warm.
The reason infrared heat is the ideal source for healing lies in its ability to penetrate44 deep into your skin, safely raising your body’s core temperature and increasing all the incredible health benefits associated with heat.
Traditional saunas heat the atmosphere and the surface of the skin. Infrared saunas heat your body from the inside out, detoxifying and revitalizing cells, and thereby providing greater health benefits.
I really can’t stress enough the importance I place on the regular use of an infrared sauna to create a healthy, energetic, and long life. In fact, I put it right up there with a whole-food, mostly plant-based diet and regular, enjoyable exercise!
Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
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