Since ancient times, heat treatments have been used to heal the body and remove the stored toxins. Sweat lodges and hot air baths were used by Native Americans, Ancient Chinese and Eastern Europeans for detoxification, releasing stress etc.
A sauna, also known as a sudatory is a small building or room, built specifically to provide this experience. Earlier, saunas were heated using rocks kept on flames for several hours and the heat produced by this was transported to the lodge using chimneys. This heat, and the steam produced by it causes the bathers to perspire. It is this perspiration which is said to give the most benefits.
About a century ago, advancements in sauna therapy were made with the invention of infrared saunas.
What are Infrared Saunas?
Infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses infrared heaters to generate infrared light which releases heat due to conversion of energy. This is absorbed by the surface of the skin which heats up the body and releases the stored toxins in the form of sweat.
Infrared saunas are currently being used for improved detoxification, decreasing joint and muscle pains, cardiovascular diseases and to fight aging.
- Also Read: 25 Great Benefits of Massage Therapy
Infrared saunas are of three types:
- Near infrared saunas are used for wound healing, improving immune function, anti-aging and for oxygenation of cells.
- Middle infrared saunas are used primarily for improved circulation, weight loss, pain relief and relaxation.
- Far infrared saunas are used for detoxification and lowering blood pressure.
10 Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas
Here are 10 of the best health benefits of Infrared Sauna Therapy:
The average human being carries around 700 pollutants in their body at any given point. It has been found that compared to traditional saunas, infrared saunas increase the removal of toxins by about seven times.
Provided that sweat contains both hydrophilic (water soluble) and lipophilic (fat soluble) components, it is the ideal pathway for removal of various toxins including heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury and xenobiotics (substances foreign to a specific environment) like BPA, PCB’s and phthalates.
Due to pollution, the sweat pores get blocked and toxins get accumulated. When a person undergoes an infrared sauna therapy session, the temperature of the body increases. This gives a signal to the body to sweat vigorously to reduce the body temperature. This causes the sweat pores to open up and release the toxins which build up in the body over a long period of time.
This also results in increased production of collagen (hormone responsible for supple skin) and elastin (hormone responsible for elastic skin) while at the same time improving supply of nutrients to the skin. This results in fairer and healthier looking skin.
#2. Improves Circulation:
When undergoing infrared sauna therapy, the core temperature of our body increases. This, in turn, increases the rate of heartbeat. This effect is similar to when we exercise. This brings along with it all the indirect benefits of exercise. The heart pumps harder and faster, which increases circulation temporarily.
The enhanced flow of blood helps the epithelial cells which line the arteries to get rejuvenated and perform better, hence resulting in overall better circulation in the long term.
#3. Promotes Healing:
Infrared sauna therapy is highly recommended to athletes and those who indulge in excessive physical activity. The reason for this is simple. People who have a more active lifestyle are more prone to certain kinds of injuries such as muscle pulls, muscle tears, ligament strains, bruises and general muscle tiredness.
The increased circulation caused by the heating up of the body helps the blood to carry more nutrients to these sites. An excess supply of nutrients ensures that these injuries can heal faster, which results in faster recovery from injuries.
Hence, nowadays, several therapists are recommending infrared sauna therapy to even normal people who suffer from injuries to help them recover faster.
#4. Helps to Reduce Blood Pressure:
Infrared sauna therapy is known to reduce the blood pressure levels as well. The fact that exposure to infrared rays causes increase in blood circulation is well known. But what is not known to most people is that this is achieved by the dilation of the blood vessels. And, as we know, the wider diameter of blood vessels automatically helps to reduce the blood pressure.
#5. Aids in Weight Loss:
Obesity is perhaps the leading cause of deaths in adults today due to the innumerable complications and diseases it causes. One way to supplement your weight loss strategy in addition to exercise and diet is using infrared sauna therapy.
Since infrared saunas increase the core temperature of the body which increases the rate of heartbeat, similar to when we are exercising, our body expends more energy to cool down the core and this leads to weight loss.
According to an article titled “Effect of Sweat” in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a 30-minute infrared therapy session could roughly burn around 600 calories. This means that over a week of infrared sauna therapy, a person can lose up to half a kilogram, or one pound.
#6. Helps To Improve Body Shape And Structure:
It also helps to reduce the overall aesthetics of the body by reducing the amount of cellulite which in turn reduces the ‘pudginess’ of the body. Cellulite is the superficial pocket of trapped fat which is responsible for dimpling of the skin. Its presence is observed in about 90% of adult women. The main areas of prevalence of cellulite are the buttocks, thighs and abdomen. Infrared treatment improves circulation and increases sweating which helps in clearing the pockets of cellulite.
#7. Cures Insomnia:
Due to the stressful life we lead today, it is very common for people to suffer from reduced quality of sleep, or even difficulty in falling asleep. This condition is called insomnia.
When a person undergoes infrared sauna therapy, it is obvious that the circulation increases, causing more blood to flow through the body and cause the body to heat up. This causes the body to sweat. Sweating is known to release toxins in the blood. Several of these toxins react with the hormones in the body which help the person to relax and attain a peaceful state of mind. Once these toxins are eliminated, the body finds it a lot easier to relax the muscles and help in achieving a higher quality of sleep.
The hypothalamus is that part of the brain whose primary function is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. Infrared treatment stimulates the hypothalamus which increases the release of hormones and controls biological processes like sleep, mood, blood pressure etc.
#8. Improves Metabolism:
Far Infrared waves, which are the type emitted by infrared saunas have the capacity to alter cells, cell fluids, DNA, Proteins housed within the cells and cell membranes.
At the cellular level, they are known to interact with and modify the mitochondria, which is called the powerhouse of the cell. This positively impacts the metabolism process that occurs within the mitochondria and ensures that the generation of energy in the body becomes more efficient.
#9. Helps in Pain Management:
Infrared saunas are known to help in reducing pain in several conditions which plague a variety of people. This is caused due to the effect the Far Infrared rays released by the infrared saunas have on the body. These rays cause the parasympathetic nervous system to cause the body to feel relaxed. This feeling of relaxation further signals the brain to release hormones called endorphins. These are called happiness hormones which help to block pain and induce relaxation and reduce stress.
Some people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (long term autoimmune disorder that affects joins typically wrists and hands) and ankylosing spondilytis (long term inflammation of the joints of the spine) were found to have reduced pain, stiffness and fatigue during infrared sauna therapy.
The infrared rays also balance the levels of the hormone cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. The heat produced by this therapy also increases the circulation of nutrients like glucose, fatty acids and amino acids to the sore muscles while reducing the amounts of lactic acid and other metabolic byproducts in that region. This causes a significant reduction in the pain.
Hence it can be said that infrared saunas help alleviate pain by both blocking the transmission of the sensation of pain, and also reducing the effect of the actual cause of the pain.
#10. Increases Longevity:
Human beings have two ages- chronological age (the actual time at which we age) and biological age (the rate at which our cells grow). According to some studies, short term stress helps us build resistance to long term chronic stress. In the same way, when we sit in an infrared sauna, the heat stress so produced helps in the production of heat shock proteins which play a pivotal role in repairing damaged proteins and protection of DNA. The gene FOXO3 also known as the “longevity gene” is activated by heat and studies suggest that activated longevity gene increases a person’s chances of living a long and fruitful life which is free from debilitating diseases which can seriously hamper the quality of life as well.