By Michelle Robin, DC
Due to their clinically proven health benefits, infrared saunas are now being used in medical practices, wellness clinics and health spas around the world. They are also manufactured in several sizes and sold to individual consumers who want to relax and reap their health benefits at home.
Many people are unfamiliar with infrared heating technology and even fewer know about the medical research promoting infrared saunas for clinical weight loss, heart health, pain relief, detoxification and muscle recovery.
Instead of using convection heat (like an oven) found in conventional saunas, infrared saunas use infrared light waves to warm the body. This light is invisible to the human eye and is capable of penetrating deeply into the body’s tissues for a deeper core sweat. These heaters produce infrared heat to warm the body, rather than the surrounding air. As a result, the air temperature in an infrared sauna is much lower than a typical sauna, which helps make the experience more pleasant. Infrared, which naturally occurs in sunlight, is the safest form of heat and is used in hospital incubators for newborn babies.
Several health benefits discovered
Though always considered safe by the medical community, doctors are now discovering the many health benefits of infrared saunas, including significant passive weight loss. For example, by calculating the heart-rate increase during a 30-minute infrared sauna bath, the average person can burn up to 600 calories.
In a 2010 study published by the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, medical researchers found infrared sauna treatment to significantly lower blood pressure and induce weight loss, in addition to reducing waist circumference, especially for patients forced to be sedentary due to medical conditions. As a result, medical experts have started to promote infrared saunas as a valid intervention for congestive heart failure (CHF), hypertension and obesity.
Infrared heat has also been proven to support cardiovascular health. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports that infrared sauna treatments improve heart muscle functioning in congestive heart failure patients. It was noted that two weeks of sauna therapy increased blood flow through the heart and reduced systolic blood pressure. These results were supported in a study performed at the University of Missouri, Kansas City in 2005 where blood pressure dropped an average of 6.5 points in six weeks via infrared sauna treatment. And again in a 2010 study by Canadian doctor Richard Beever, MD on Type 2 diabetes sufferers, where infrared heat therapy was found to decrease patients’ systolic blood pressure by an average of six points.
Detoxification benefits of infrared saunas are also notable. For example, Seattle, Wash., neurologist, Deitrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, found the sweat from those using a conventional sauna was 95 to 97 per cent water, while the sweat from those bathing in an infrared sauna was 80 to 85 per cent water; the non-water portion being cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, toxic heavy metals, sulfuric acid, sodium, ammonia and uric acid. As a result, those who bathed in an infrared sauna purged literally 10 times the amount of toxins one would sweat out in a normal sauna. This is why holistic doctors often prescribe infrared sauna treatment for individuals with mercury or other heavy metal toxicity.