What are the health benefits of an infrared sauna?

Posted by JNH Lifestyles on 20th Aug 2021

Health Benefits of an Infrared Saunas

The health benefits of infrared saunas are supported by extensive research conducted around the world. These studies have scrutinized the effects of infrared saunas and discovered that there are a myriad of health benefits.

Pain Relief

Infrared saunas are extremely popular among various groups of people for many different reasons. Athletes use them to help recover from injuries or workouts, while others living with chronic pain may need them to improve their quality of life.

Injury Recovery

The ultimate goal of rehabilitation is to reduce pain and improve flexibility, range of motion, functional strength, power, speed, agility and endurance to a point that is equal or close to the individual's pre-injury state. In recent years, doctors and physical therapists have acknowledged the benefits infrared saunas can have on individuals who are recovering from an injury.

These benefits stem from the fact that both full and far infrared sauna sessions can stimulate the body’s natural healing power. In fact, infrared heat waves have been proven to promote muscle repair and adaptation by influencing muscle cells to activate molecular processes.

They also stimulate the release of nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator that increases lymphatic drainage from the injury site. This helps minimize swelling and relieve pain.

Acute Pain

A common cause of temporary pain is muscle soreness, typically experienced after a strenuous workout. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it can also affect athletic performance and/or daily activities.

For years now, athletes and gym-goers have used infrared saunas to relieve or prevent this type of pain. Research has shown that infrared sauna therapy (both far and full spectrum) used before strength training can help reduce the levels of lactate and C-reactive protein.

Both of these chemicals are associated with inflammation and tissue damage. Furthermore, the accumulation of lactate is the main cause of muscle soreness. By reducing the levels of lactate and C-reactive protein in the body, infrared saunas ensure maximum recovery with reduced post-workout pain.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain affects 1.5 billion people in the world, and in most cases, treating this condition is difficult. Patients often don’t have good treatment options aside from taking pain medication, which may lead to other health issues such as peptic ulcers or addiction.

This is the case of patients with fibromyalgia - a condition that is characterized by musculoskeletal pain, areas of tenderness all over the body, fatigue and sleep disturbances.

The pain from fibromyalgia doesn’t seem to follow any physiological law or have an explanation. This often leads to a misdiagnosis or failure to treat the condition correctly. Additionally fibromyalgia has been linked to psychiatric disorders like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

Since there is no clear diagnosis for fibromyalgia, patients oftentimes resort to alternative therapies to calm their symptoms, such as Infrared sauna therapy. This powerful treatment has been proven to provide the relief many fibromyalgia sufferers are searching for. In 2008, Japanese scientists ran a study that involved 13 patients suffering from fibromyalgia who were treated with infrared saunas. The subjective perception of pain had a significant decrease in these patients after just one infrared sauna session.

Joint Pain

Joint pain is a typical complaint for people over the age of 40. Depending on severity, it can cause varying degrees of disability and make everyday activities difficult.

One of the most common reasons for joint pain is osteoarthritis, which progresses slowly and tends to affect the wrists, hands, hips and knees. This pain is caused by the breakdown of the cartilage in the joints that serve as a cushion and shock absorber.

While joint pain caused by osteoarthritis can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen, physicians have seen significant benefits of infrared sauna therapy to treat this condition.

Infrared saunas seem to modulate the immune system by reducing the expression of cytokines, like IL-6 and prostaglandin E2, in a more efficient way than over-the-counter pain medication. These chemicals are associated with inflammation and pain, and are partly responsible for the symptoms and progression of osteoarthritis.

Infrared sauna therapy was proven effective in 2019 when researchers exposed patients with knee osteoarthritis to infrared waves three times per week for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, these patients had a significant reduction in pain and an improvement in their functional activities and quality of life.

Immune System

The immune system is comprised of organs, cells and proteins whose purpose is to protect us from germs (bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi), harmful substances and unwanted cell changes like the ones seen in cancer. It's important that the immune system stay healthy and strong to quickly detect and fight any foreign invaders.

The most common reason our immune system becomes weak is due to stress. Our natural defenses are closely related to emotions and mood. Whenever we experience high levels of stress, it can result in the suppression of many immune responses.

Other aspects such as bad nutrition, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and excessive drinking can lead to a weak immune system. As we grow older, the effectiveness of our immune responses diminish because the number of cells that destroy pathogens also decreases, with fewer antibodies being produced.

Infrared saunas have been associated with an improved function in weakened immune systems. A study in 2015 compared the white blood cell profiles of subjects before and after a sauna session. They found an increase in the number of all types of white blood cells, including lymphocytes, which are the most important cells in the immune system.

Another study from 2018 demonstrated that infrared waves can slow down the involution of the thymus. This organ develops and matures T-cells to carry out immune responses when we're younger but shrinks as we grow older.

Weight Loss and Metabolism

One of the most sought-after infrared sauna benefits is weight loss. When using an infrared sauna, the body temperature increases and elicits several physiological changes, particularly within the circulatory system.

To maintain thermoregulation, the heart needs to pump blood to the surface of the skin to release heat. During this process, the heart can reach 120-180 beats per minute. This change in heart rate mimics the similar levels reached during aerobic exercise. As a result, you can potentially burn surplus calories in a 30-minute session.

By using your infrared sauna several days a week, you can accumulate a caloric deficit. This paired with good nutrition and exercise may help you lose weight. This was demonstrated in a study from Binghamton University in New York. Over a four month period, subjects used an infrared sauna for 45 minutes three times a week. In the end, the infrared sauna group had a four percent decrease in body fat.

Infrared saunas can also boost your metabolism. Infrared heat waves penetrate our bodies and interact with cells by stimulating the mitochondria. Mitochondria are commonly referred to as the powerhouse of the cell.

This means that they produce all of the energy needed for metabolism. As a result of the stimulation of the mitochondria, your cells will produce energy more efficiently, which is beneficial during workout sessions.

Mental Health

In recent years, there has been an increase in public awareness about the importance of mental health and its influence on overall health. It is now understood that what goes on in our brain isn’t limited to thoughts and emotions. It also affects the rest of our body, incuding our organs, and can lead to weakened immune systems and cardiovascular diseases.

Research has demonstrated that infrared saunas can help with different mental health issues. For example, infrared waves stimulate neurons and cause an improvement in mood, appetite and attention in subjects suffering from depression.

In 2015, a study reported that patients with anxiety reported an improvement in their symptoms 2 weeks after an infrared light treatment. The effects of infrared saunas are not limited to these two disorders but also help with sleep disorders and stress.

Sleep

Sleep disorders are common in the general population, leading to decreased cognitive performance and negatively affecting productivity and mood. The effects of sleep deprivation are not just limited to cognitive and psychological disturbances, but can also deteriorate your overall health - increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. For these reasons, getting a good night's sleep while maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is essential for your health.

Studies have demonstrated that subjects who were exposed to infrared waves before sleep reported an improvement in the quality of their sleep. Researchers have also found that experiencing whole-body hyperthermia leads to an increase in slow-wave sleep, which is associated with many cognitive processes like memory consolidation. As a result, these subjects woke up feeling more rested in the morning.

Stress Relief

It's common to experience stress, but undergoing stress on a chronic basis can have negative implications on a person's health. Stress can come from a number of different sources including a job, family circumstances, the news, and social media. When it becomes overwhelming, stress management is vitally important to avoid any chronic health conditions.

When this happens, it is commonly recommended to exercise, practice a sport or meditate to reduce stress because these activities release chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins can improve your mood and make you feel good. They are responsible for "runner’s high," the state of euphoria that runners experience.

But exercise is not the only way you can stimulate the release of endorphins. Studies show that when infrared saunas increase your body temperature, it also stimulates the brain to release these same endorphins, making infrared saunas a great way to mitigate stress.

Healthy Heart

Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in the world, even in those younger than 70 years of age. In order to decrease cardiovascular risk, many lifestyle modifications are recommended, particularly regarding diet and physical activity.

Another proven therapy is the use of infrared saunas. When used consistently, infrared saunas can modify certain aspects of your cardiometabolic characteristics, such as the lipid profile. Infrared waves have been shown to increase the levels of HDL and reduce the levels of LDL and triglycerides. LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides are involved in the onset of cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease and strokes.

On the other hand, higher levels of HDL offer protection against this disease. This change in the lipid profile elicited by infrared waves has been shown to be highly beneficial and thereby significantly decreasing cardiovascular risks.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a factor that greatly increases the risk for cardiovascular disease as well as other conditions such as chronic kidney disease. Infrared saunas have been proven effective in decreasing blood pressure by stimulating the release of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is a vasodilating chemical naturally found in our bodies. It works by relaxing the smooth muscle in the artery walls, leading to a decrease in vascular resistance.

Blood Circulation

If you have been experiencing tingling and numbness (AKA pins & needles) in your limbs, you may be having problems with your circulation. While these symptoms may seem harmless at first, when not addressed, can lead to more serious cardiovascular problems.

Infrared saunas have proven to improve circulation as a result of the changes they cause in the circulatory system. By increasing the body's temperature, infrared waves increase blood flow and heart rate.

To compensate for this change, vasodilation takes place, causing blood vessels to become more pliable, improving blood flow to the limbs. Please consult a doctor prior to attempting to resolve chronic tingling and numbness symptoms yourself.+

Detoxification

As people living in an urban society, we're constantly exposed to contaminants from the environment we live in, the food we eat and the hygienic products we use. These can accumulate in our bodies and cause hormonal imbalances, DNA disruption and other health issues. Infrared saunas are considered an ideal way to detoxify your body. This is due to the intense sweat they induce.

Sweating

Researchers who conducted a study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health reported that certain chemicals (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury) are prominent in sweat, prompting perspiration to be considered a viable means for toxic element detoxification.

Another study published in the same journal concluded that induced sweating appears to be a potential method for the elimination of Bisphenal A (BPA). BPA is a chemical contaminant that has been associated with adverse effects on human health.

Skincare

Infrared saunas have the potential to work wonders on the skin, especially if the sauna outputs near infrared waves. If you're interested in an infrared sauna for skin-related issues, we recommend a full spectrum infrared sauna. Full spectrum saunas emit far, mid and near infrared, providing a powerhouse of infrared therapy to the body.

Acne

In several studies, near infrared waves found in full spectrum infrared saunas have been effective at reducing lesions associated with acne vulgaris. Several accessories for infrared saunas are also found to optimize these effects.

Anti-aging Properties

A 2014 study from Japan demonstrated an increase within collagen density in the skin of 113 volunteers after only 15 sessions of near infrared light treatment. Collagen is a protein in skin that helps maintain its firmness. As we grow older, collagen density begins to decrease and as a result, the skin begins to sag and wrinkle. By using full spectrum infrared saunas, you may prevent this decrease and promote the synthesis of new collagen.

Reduce Eczema

Infrared saunas have been used to aid the treatment of eczema. This is due to their ability to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the synthesis and release of proinflammatory cytokines, which are associated with flare-ups.

Furthermore, by modulating the sympathetic nervous system, infrared saunas may reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can cause the onset of lesions.

Arthritis

Arthritis affects approximately 54.4 million people in the United States. It is characterized by joint inflammation, pain, stiffness and a limited range of motion. Infrared saunas have shown promise in relieving the side-effects of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Researchers from the Netherlands studied the effect of infrared saunas in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. After only one session, the patients reported a decrease in their pain and stiffness. The treatment continued for 4 weeks, with patients reporting the same decrease, as well as feeling less fatigued.

Common Cold Symptoms

Sauna bathing has been associated with a reduction in the incidence of the common cold. This may have to do with the fact that during sauna sessions, our bodies release heat shock proteins. Heat shock proteins aid other proteins to fold correctly and are known for helping the immune system fight off viruses that cause the common cold.

Simply put, infrared saunas have numerous health benefits, all of which can be experienced without ever leaving your home! The simplicity of infrared saunas allows for easy self-installation in virtually any home, regardless of size. This advancement in sauna technology provides everyone the opportunity to benefit not only from heat therapy, but from infrared sauna therapy.

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