Infrared Saunas: 10 Reasons To Make Them Part Of Your Self-Care Routine
Infrared saunas are one of my top go-to wellness tools. It’s something I recommend to my patients at my functional medicine clinic who are looking for next-level ways to boost their healing and something that I use on a regular basis to stay on top of my wellness game.
What is an infrared sauna?
Infrared saunas1 are not the same as traditional saunas. Infrared saunas are different because they use infrared thermal light to penetrate your body’s skin barrier in order to raise your core temperature whereas conventional saunas have to heat the air in the sauna before it can actually heat you. Because of this, an infrared sauna gets less hot overall, allowing you to spend more time inside enjoying the benefits.
What are the health benefits of infrared saunas?
Infrared saunas are able to target key factors that contribute to many chronic health problems. Here are some reasons I love my infrared sauna:
1. Infrared saunas and inflammation.
Out-of-control inflammation is linked to just about every health problem we face. Autoimmune conditions; digestive, brain, and hormone problems all have inflammation as their commonality. Infrared saunas are an effective, natural way to calm inflammation throughout the entire body.
2. infrared heat for chronic fatigue.
After around 20 days of using a sauna every day, chronic fatigue study participants saw a significant improvement in symptoms of their chronic fatigue syndrome.
3. Infrared saunas to support detoxification.
One of the many factors at the root2 of this rise of chronic and autoimmune diseases are toxins, which have risen astronomically during this time period. Environmental toxins, which were never known to humanity until relatively recently, are pervasive in our environment and in our bodies. Sweating is one of your body’s natural ways of clearing out toxins, so by promoting sweating with your sauna session, you are helping flush these out.
4. Infrared saunas for better brain function.
Sauna use increases something called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factors. BDNF encourages neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells, which is crucial for improving brain function and memory.
5. Saunas for fighting infection and boosting immunity.
Raising body temperature in saunas can be an effective natural way to help the body to kill off bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and viral infections.
6. Infrared saunas for chronic pain.
Studies have shown3 that infrared saunas are able to reduce pain even for those suffering from painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic headaches, and fibromyalgia. Saunas cause the release of endorphins, opioid-like chemicals that are your body's natural painkillers.
7. Infrared saunas for improved skin health.
Sauna use was associated in studies with an improvement in skin hydration and overall complexion.
8. Infrared saunas to reduce stress and anxiety.
You can be the poster child for clean eating, but if you are feeding yourself a giant slice of stress every day, you aren’t doing your body any favors. Research shows that long-term stress raises inflammation levels and is linked to many health problems. Relaxing in an infrared sauna gives you a chance to recharge and soothes stress levels. Studies have shown that sauna use can balance the brain-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the cause of what is commonly known as adrenal fatigue. And because sauna use increases BDNF, this also helps with anxiety, depression, and overall mood.
9. Infrared saunas for increased longevity.
Regular sauna use has been shown to considerably decrease risks of heart disease and lead to a lower chance of dying from all causes. Studies have shown that people who use saunas four to seven times a week have a 48 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease over those who used the sauna once a week.
10. Infrared sauna for cancer prevention.
Sauna use has also been shown to be beneficial for cancer patients. Research found that sauna treatment for an hour at 109°F caused the death of bone cancer cells.
Are infrared saunas really safe?
Since most recommended infrared sauna treatment times range from 10 to 30 minutes, no serious side effects are associated with this proper use. Saunas are considered very safe for most people. The most common side effect is, because of the heat and subsequent sweating, some people can feel some lightheadedness. If you are using any kind of sauna, make sure you are drinking plenty of water so that you are well-hydrated. If you are sensitive to heat, have heart problems, or take medications, it is always a good idea to talk about sauna use with your doctor.
What should you look for in an infrared sauna?
When choosing an infrared sauna system, be mindful of the type of infrared wavelengths they use; near, mid, or far and what you want to use it for: Near doesn’t go as deep and can help on the surface level by helping fight against aging and heal wounds. Mid goes a little bit deeper into the body to really help reduce any chronic pain. Far goes the deepest to draw out toxins and calm inflammation. Look for brands that test for EMFs or electromagnetic fields, which can be harmful to your body in large doses. There are many great sauna brands out there, but I am a big fan of companies like Sunlighten, who go above and beyond in providing ultrasafe low-EMF sauna systems.
Have more sauna questions? We sat down with Higher DOSE founder Lauren Berlingeri to talk about the benefits of getting your sweat on.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.