9 Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas
An Infrared sauna can be a powerful tool in the battle to overcome illness or in simply improving your overall health. These powerful detoxification devices are similar to conventional saunas that you may see at the gym, but differ in how they expose your body to heat. Infrared saunas, often sold as units that easily fit into your house, help the body by eliminate harmful toxins and help many different circulatory and metabolic functions. They are known to have no health risk at all for people of any age, be much more efficient and natural than traditional Scandinavian saunas. Here are a few of the benefits associated with the use of infrared saunas. (click on the benefit to advance it’s section):
- Improves Circulation
- Aids In Weight Loss
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Improves Immune Function
- Improves Insulin Sensitivity
- Increases BDNF & Stimulates the Growth of New Brain Cells
- Enhanced Athletic Performance
You are also encouraged to listen to Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s Podcast on Sauna Use and Building Resilience to Stress
In the episode Dr. Patrick talks about how heat stress from using the sauna makes the body more resilient to the stresses of aging, possible reasons why one study associated sauna use with up to a 40% lower all-cause mortality as well as a 50% lower cardiovascular disease related mortality, how it enhances athletic endurance, staves off muscle atrophy, improves regrowth of muscle after disuse, and some of the profound effects on the brain, including the growth of new brain cells, improvement in focus, learning, and memory, and even potentially ameliorating depression and anxiety. She also talks about how BPA, PCBs, phthalates, and other metals are excreted through sweat. In addition, she addresses some practical applications like temperature and duration in the sauna, the difference between a dry, wet and infrared sauna, sauna timing, as well as other forms of heat stress such as steam showers, hot baths, and hot yoga.
Infrared Saunas use powerful heaters to send out infrared light, which is easily absorbed by the human body. Regular saunas heat up the body by first heating the air, or by heating up the wood in the room which then makes contact with the human body. While both methods accomplish the same goal, infrared saunas are able to do so much more efficiently. This means that your body will heat up faster, achieving the same powerful benefits found from traditional sauna therapy, even quicker! The efficiency in heating and lack of cumbersome components like heat rocks and large electric/coal heaters make a home infrared sauna a perfect idea for many! Below you’ll find a detailed look at the many benefits of infrared saunas, as well as several infrared sauna reviews for those that are considering purchasing one for their homes.
The Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas
Detoxification is a great way to help your body recover from chronic health issues such as autoimmune and toxin-induced conditions. Detoxification is a multi-phase process that begins with the mobilization of toxins, and ends with the elimination and excretion of these substances out of the body. The two primary detoxification pathways are the skin and the GI tract, both of which are the bodies largest surface areas.
With sauna use, detoxification begins as your body begins to open it’s skin pores and sweat out fluids. This type of infrared detoxification is much more effective because the body is heated up from the inside—out, as opposed to the outside—in with traditional Scandinavian-style saunas. This means that toxins built up in deep tissues and organs are able to begin their release, often helping to relieve long-suffered chronic health issues.
The effectiveness of this therapy can be exponentially enhanced by incorporating the GI tract into the elimination process. This can be accomplished using the combined strategies of a niacin flush, coconut charcoal capsules, and shower hydrotheraphy. Please click on the links for detailed information on the elements of this detox therapy however, (1) 20-30 minutes prior to entering the sauna you would take 100-200mg of niacin, but not just any niacin and it must be Nicotinic Acid. (2) You should then enter the sauna and begin your 30-60 minute session. (3) After the niacin flush begins and at least 20 minutes prior to the end of your sauna session, you should then take two to three of the coconut charcoal capsules. (4) Immediately after exiting the sauna you will shower alternating between hot and cold. Complete three to five hot and cold cycles by starting with hot water for about one-two minutes and alternating with cold bursts for 30 seconds. Alternating hot and cold increases circulation by driving blood from the skins surface back to your core thereby pumping your lymphatic system and encouraging lymphatic flow which in turn helps to dump the bodies toxins into the GI tract where they are adsorbed by the coconut charcoal capsules and eventually excreted out (if the charcoal capsules are not utilized the toxins are likely to be re-adsorded into the body).
‘Detoxification’ by medical terms is only in the liver. But to mobilize things quickly, you have to use this kind of mobilization and elimination system.
Sauna can be a powerful tool to effectively eliminate a range of stored toxins in your body including: BPAs, PCBs, phthalates, and other toxic metals all of which are excreted through sweat.
>> The average person is likely to have more than 500 – 1,000 times higher levels of toxic chemical in the fat compartment of their bodies, which includes all fatty adipose tissues, brain and lipids in blood, than what is revealed in their blood serum
>> A simple way to “detoxify” more correctly to mobilize and eliminate is to optimize your lean body mass, because most of the toxins are fat soluble and are released when the fat is burned for fuel or energy to maintain the body functions
>> The commonly used term “detoxification” is the mobilization and elimination of toxic chemicals, either through your skin and/or GI tract, which are the two organs that have the largest surface areas compared to other organs
>> Other organs also assist in the elimination process, but they are slower. A safe and effective way to detox is to use a combination of niacin, exercise, sauna and hydrotheraphy
2. Improves Circulation
Saunas help improve circulation by increasing your body temperature, forcing your body to work to cool itself. It accomplishes this by circulating fluids including blood to the skins surface, which in turn pumps the lymphatic system which together mobilizes toxins and sweat. While certainly no replacement for daily exercise, routine time spent in saunas can help promote many of the same circulatory benefits found in daily running or walks. For those caught in the modern rat race, it can often be hard to find time every day to go to the gym or running. One strong selling point of home infrared saunas for many is that you don’t have to worry about your children or animals like you would in going to the gym—you’re still right there at home!
3. Aids in Weight Loss
Infrared saunas can help promote healthy weight loss by giving your body a metabolic kick start similar to what can be experienced through rigorous exercise. In one study researchers found that body weight dropped by almost and entire kilogram (2.2lbs) after one hour in the sauna! In addition to the direct weight loss through fluids and the boosting of metabolic processes (an hour in the sauna is estimated to burn 200-600 calories), your body will likely begin to lose weight naturally as a by-product of the release of long-held toxins—simply because it is able to function more naturally!
A study involving a group of women riding stationary bicycles demonstrated a 444% increase in weight loss for the group exposed to near infrared light when compared to the exercise only group.
4. Lowers Blood Pressure
Sauna sessions typically increase heart rate by a factor of about 20%, which is a indicator that overall vascular resistance has lowered. Regular usage of saunas would conceivably help promote a long-term reduction in blood-pressure, bringing along all the related benefits of lowered numbers. Research has been spotty over the years regarding the safety of saunas for use by patients with cardiovascular conditions, but modern conclusions state that many cardiologists have concluded such exposure to short-term heat poses no threat whatsoever.
5. Improves Immune Function
It’s no surprise, with all the other amazing health benefits of infrared saunas, they are also able to help fight off common colds. In fact, one study found that regular sauna use can eliminate the likelihood of getting sick by 50%! While saunas seem much more enticing in the winter months as a great way to boost your core temperature back to a comfortable level, while increasing blood flow to your organs including those that regulate your immune system and help fight off those nasty winter bugs like the flu!
6. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
The heat from saunas promotes muscle growth by improving insulin sensitivity and lowering muscle protein catabolism. Periods where the body is hotter than average (also called hyperthermia) has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in obese diabetic mice. These mice were given hyperthermic treatment for 30 minutes, 3 times a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the mice had a 31% decrease in insulin levels and a significant reduction in blood glucose.
Why is that important for athletes? Because insulin affects muscle growth directly, balanced levels of insulin will aid in better muscular hypertrophy over time. Another test done with rats showed that after 30 minutes in a sauna, heat-shock proteins were released, and this prompted a 30% increase in muscle regrowth when compared to a control group.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is a synergistic, foundational biochemical that addresses the serious muscle loss and atrophy that typically occurs with aging. The higher your levels of HGH, the healthier and stronger you will be.
Once you hit the age of 30, you enter what’s called “somatopause,” at which point your levels of HGH begin to drop off quite dramatically. This decline of HGH is part of what drives the aging process, thus maintaining your HGH levels gets increasingly important with age.
While some athletes choose to inject HGH for its performance-enhancing potential, it is a banned substance in nearly every professional sport. Injecting HGH is not recommended due to: the potential side effects, the cost and, more importantly, its potential to cause more long-term harm than good.
8. Increases BDNF and Stimulates the Growth of New Brain Sells
Sauna use combined with exercise may lead to even greater, synergistic increases in HGH as well as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is beneficial for your brain and stimulates the growth of new brain cells.
9. Enhances Athletic Performance
Because infrared light can heal, regenerate, and stimulate damaged tissue, it can increase athletic performance.
Athletes can use IR light before or after exercise to enhance their performance and recovery 6 .
According to data from over a thousand athletes, near-infrared light can increase muscle mass gained after strength training, as well as decrease muscle stress and inflammation 7.
Keep in mind that when you sweat, you lose a lot of minerals and even vitamins, so make sure you replenish with electrolytes and potassium. Coconut water is an excellent rehydrator. It’s a powerhouse of natural electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants and phytonutrients, and is low in sugar. You need vitamins and minerals especially magnesium, sodium and potassium and if you use the sauna regularly it is critically important that you replenish these nutrients. We also recommend Pure Encapsulations Electrolyte/Energy Formula and Nutrient 950 Multi-Vitamin.
Types of Home Infrared Saunas
Most saunas found in local gyms or health clubs are those of traditional Scandinavian style—consisting of coals on top of an electric heater, with some water to add occasional steam to the room. Finding a business that offers access to these powerful infrared saunas can be quite difficult, usually impossible for those not living in larger cities. With the growing awareness of the powerful health benefits of infrared saunas, many companies have started making infrared saunas for home installation.
While the thought of ordering a sauna online may seem a bit odd at first—it’s become quite commonplace these days! For prices ranging from $200 for simple ‘portable’ infrared saunas to well over $15,000 for luxury models, there is an infrared sauna for nearly every preference and price range. Another bonus—Most come with FREE Shipping! Broadly speaking, there are two different types of consumer infrared saunas: portable saunas and permanent saunas. While technically both types are, in fact, portable—though one is much more so.
Wood Infrared Saunas
This type of infrared sauna represents the vast majority of products available on the market. While these models aren’t considered portable, they also aren’t permanent additions to your home in the way that hiring a contractor to build a sauna in your home would be. These non-portable saunas are simply larger designs that involve some careful planning and muscle to move around. These models typically feature anywhere from 4 to a dozen or more carbon EMF emitting heaters, can seat multiple people at once, are made from toxin-free natural woods, and even come with such amenities as built-in MP3 players!
While the market for portable infrared saunas is pretty small, there are TONS of higher-quality infrared saunas to choose from. For the sake of simplicity, these types of saunas will be broken down into three categories—Good, Better, and Best. As expected, the price for each model goes up along with the quality, so it’s important to know which features are available, which ones are most-important to you, and which ones you can do without. With these aspects in mind, you’ll be able to pick out an excellent home infrared sauna without spending more than you can afford.
These are the saunas that are priced at under $1,000 dollars, cover all the essentials functions, but lack a lot of the bells and whistles. The low end of this category is usually around $899, but can sometimes offer better deals seasonally and during sales. Fortunately, most all of these units are available with free shipping—which is great considering they can weigh over 250 pounds! To ensure you are getting a quality product, you should confirm the unit you are considering has toxic-free materials, easily powered components, at least 4 EMF emitting heat sources, and the ability to be powered by regular household power outlets. The units typically only produce far infrared heat and therefore are less effective and provide fewer benefits than full range units. Here’s a short list of several infrared saunas that fall into this category:
- Alicante 1-2 Person Sauna from Dynamic Saunas
- Barcelona 1-2 Person Sauna from Dynamic Saunas
- Signature One 1 Person Infrared Sauna from Sunlighten Saunas (6 low EMF solocarbon heaters)
Better Infrared Saunas
These saunas offer better materials, are more durable, low EMF far infrared heaters, they have higher seating capacities, , CD/MP3 player hookups with speakers, have 6 or more heating elements (usually limited single range far infrared), and offer digital control panels which allow very accurate temperature control. In addition to excellent temperature control, many of these types of home infrared saunas offer the ability to set user preferences, track patterns, and help make suggestions for extended usage. These saunas are typically priced anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 dollars dollars, and offer free shipping in most cases. Most can be powered by a common household outlet, and powered by a normal household circuit. Here is a short list of some of the infrared saunas that fall into the ‘better’ category:
- Sunlighten Signature Three 3 Person Infrared Sauna (10 low EMF solocarbon heaters)
- Crystal Saunas BH350 6 Element 3-4 Person Infrared Sauna
- HeatWave SA1320 10 Element 3-4 Person Infrared Sauna Corner Unit
Best Infrared Saunas
The home infrared saunas in this category represent the cream of the crop, and can range in price from $2,500 and up. Every sauna in this category should feature an ample amount of low EMF full spectrum heating elements that produce near, mid and far infrared providing all 10 of the aforementioned health benefits. These units are often wi-fi enabled with LCD touch screen controls that provide very accurate temperature control as well as DVD and Netflix functionality, and an extended warranty. These saunas often feature furniture-grade wood finishing, offer materials from sustainably-harvested reserves, feature many other therapeutic benefits such as light therapy, have high-quality tempered glass doors, and may often require the use of a 20 amp circuit (pretty common, but double check) or two common household outlets. While these saunas are much more expensive than the ‘Good’ and ‘Better’ categories, they offer much fuller experiences—and are still considerably cheaper than the cost of having a custom sauna built into your home by a licensed contractor. Here is a short list of saunas that fall into this category:
- JNH Lifestyles Freedom 4 person Corner Unit Infrared Sauna
- Clearlight CE-C 4 Person Corner Unit Infrared Sauna
- Dynamic Saunas Monaco 6 person 15 Element Infrared Sauna
- Sunlighten mPulse Empower (17 Full Spectrum Infrared Heaters – The FIRST and ONLY 3-in-1 Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna – Near, Mid and Far)
Bonus: Over The Top Infrared Saunas
These saunas are anything but practical, have lavish designs, don’t necessarily fall into any single style, and offer plug and play versions of saunas for prices often larger than a custom install would cost. There’s no telling what the power consumption for many of these are, or how many extra features are packed into them. This category is usually reserved for people that have the money to get the best, but are too short on time to schedule a custom installation. Here’s a list of a few of the infrared saunas in this category:
- Harvia Sauna Rondium Deluxe (Looks like a ’50s Diner!)
- VIVO Jade Capsule Sauna (Looks like a spaceship)
The Infrared Sauna Benefit
The takeaway, hopefully, from this article is that research has demonstrated that spending time in infrared saunas can benefit your health in many ways. From improved circulation to lowered blood pressure, the range of benefits are wide. Infrared Saunas are much more efficient in their ability to promote internal detoxification, are effective at much lower temperatures than traditional Scandinavian-style saunas, and are available for purchase on the consumer market! The handful of home infrared saunas listed here represent only a few of the great options available for those seeking to buy an infrared sauna for their home. These saunas come with all sorts of features, have an option in nearly every price range, and often come with free-shipping and lifetime warranties. The benefits are clear, the prices are accommodating, and the thought of having a sauna in at home to sit in during the colder months of the year are just about enough to make anyone want an infrared sauna of their own!