What’s the difference between a traditional and far-infrared sauna?
Traditional sauna uses heat and humidity to warm the air, which in turn warms your body. There are increasingly more controlled studies being completed utilizing “Far”-infrared sauna (FIS). FIS uses light to create heat and only heats 20% of the air, leaving 80% of the heat available to heat the body. This in turn warms the body more efficiently at lower temperatures with warm and dry heat, making FIS more accessible to people who cannot tolerate the excessive heat and humidity seen in traditional sauna. By breathing cooler air, many users of FIS report a feeling of warmth and well-being as an after effect.
The appeal of saunas is that they cause reactions, such as vigorous sweating and increased heart rate, similar to those experienced during moderate exercise. FIS may induce up to 2 to 3 times the volume of sweat produced in a traditional sauna while operating at significantly cooler temperatures. In addition, infrared heat panels are so safe that they are even used in hospital nurseries to warm newborns.
What are the benefits of using a sauna?
Many medical journals tout the benefits of sauna. In an article published in 1981 in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), the authors found that “regular use of sauna may impact a similar stress on the cardiovascular system, and its regular use may be as effective, as a means of cardiovascular conditioning and burning of calories, as regular exercise.” In 1982, JAMA authors noted, “A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna, consuming nearly 300 kcal, which is equivalent to running 2-3 miles. A heat-conditioned person can easily sweat off 600-800 kcal with no adverse effects. While the weight of the water loss can be regained by drinking water, the calories consumed will not be.”
“Far”-infrared sauna is great for the traditional uses of meditation and detoxification. Detoxification of the body can optimize the efficiency of the immune system. Toxins in the body can accumulate in the skin and the liver and sweating is one of the body’s natural ways to remove toxins. As a result, detox helps avoid disease, prevent illness and improve general health and vitality. FIS heats the body from the core, therefore, it allows you to sweat up to 7 times more toxins than traditional saunas. Daily sweating can help detox the body as it rids itself of accumulated heavy metals as well as alcohol, nicotine, sodium, and sulfuric acid. FIS helps with acne by purifying the skin and cleansing the pores thus ridding accumulated dirt, cosmetics, blackheads and dry skin cells. Less toxins in the skin means healthier skin with improvements in skin complexion, tone, texture, elasticity and overall appearance.
A weight loss benefit can be seen with FIS. Studies show that just 30 minutes can burn upwards of 600 calories! When using FIS core body temperature increases and the body works hard to cool it down which then causes an increase in heart rate, metabolic rate and cardiac output allowing you to burn calories while you relax. Cardiac improvement can be seen in congestive heart failure, and improved circulation benefits individuals with high blood pressure, sciatica, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins. FIS can help you maintain healthy levels of your stress hormones, like cortisol, thus leading to relaxation, better sleep and an overall feeling of being refreshed and rejuvinated. FIS works by deeply penetrating joints, muscle and tissues, which increase circulation and speeds oxygen flow. Many physicians recommend FIS for pain relief and to athletes for sports injuries, fibromyalgia, and other chronic pain syndromes.
In 2009, authors published a study in Clinical Rheumatology. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis were treated with infrared sauna. After 4 weeks and a total of 8 treatments, pain and stiffness decreased significantly and improvement was seen in fatigue. In yet another article published in 1994 in Respiration, authors found “sauna therapy can help respiration in patients with asthma and bronchitis, and lung function was improved in patients with COPD”. Japanese and Chinese practitioners have utilized FIS and have noted benefit in the following: Arthritis (TMJ, Traumatic, Rheumatoid, DJD), compression fractures, muscle tension and spasms, post-exercise muscle pain, bursitis, low-back pain and lumbar strain, menstrual pain, joint stiffness and eczema.
Depending on the degree of detoxification needed, benefit with “far”-infrared sauna was seen in many studies in as little as 15-30 minutes 3 to 5 times weekly. In patients who require a higher degree of detoxification, daily treatment may be more beneficial. By utilizing detoxification through diet and FIS, in addition to the restoration of necessary levels of nutrients, optimal healing and well-being can be accomplished.