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Do Infrared Saunas Really Work?

  • Infrared saunas use safe radiation to generate heat instead of hot air or steam
  • Infrared saunas may be helpful for joint pain and stiffness, depression, oxidative stress, and enhancement of cardiovascular health. 

Infrared saunas can improve your health and help you reach your fitness objectives. An infrared sauna can boost your overall wellbeing. 

Many health benefits can be derived from infrared technology. For instance, it helps relieve joint pains and improve the function of the blood vessels. Unfortunately, it can’t achieve miracle results that many people want, such as detoxification, prevent cancer, enhance weight loss, or boost the immune system. 

What Is an Infrared Sauna? 

An infrared sauna is a sauna device that uses infrared lights to create heat as opposed to those that have integrated heaters that create steam or blow hot air. 

This is how most Infrared saunas look like 

Infrared Sauna

The price range goes from $1,000 to about $5,000 for the top models. 

The infrared sauna has heating elements that produce infrared lights. This light is similar to the everyday light we see, but it produces more heat.  So, it increases the internal body temperature when it shines on the skin the way the conventional sauna does. 

How Safe is an Infrared Sauna?

The infrared light that infrared saunas emit is electromagnetic radiation. Many people think that this radiation could be associated with nuclear technology, Chernobyl, or cancer. However, this is not the case because not all types of radiation are bad. 

The word “radiation” is a generic term that is used to describe different types of energy that fall within the electromagnetic spectrum. In plain term terms, almost every matter you know emits radiation, from the bulb you use in your house, to the ground you are standing on, and the screen you are watching presently. 

The factors that make radiation harmful is the type of energy waves it carries and the duration of exposure to the radiation. 

The safest types of radiations are the large, low-frequency waves.  The types that are produced by radio devices. On the other hand, small, high-frequency radiation like that of the sun can burn your skin. 

The chart below shows you how different radiation looks. Some can be bigger than an entire building, while some kinds can be smaller than an atom. 

The type of radiation that causes cancer are X-rays, gamma rays, and certain types of ultraviolet rays. The general principle that governs radiation is that the radiations become less harmful the more you move away from the end of the spectrum. 

The chart above shows that the infrared wave is located within the safe spectrum, and the wavelength is larger than that of visible light we see every day. As such, infrared sauna does not have any negative side effects. In contrast to negative assertions, you might have read on the internet, there is no logical reason why infrared sauna could be harmful to the body. 

How Can You Benefit From Infrared Sauna?

Several infrared sauna companies claim that it performs wonders for almost any ailment you might have. They claim it melts fat like ice without the need to exercise, it whitens teeth, and gives you solid rock erections! 

Perhaps that is why some people go to the extremes and dismiss the infrared sauna as one of those ephemeral hypes that will soon fizzle away. But let's look at the objective facts about these lightboxes from the scientific perspective. 

Although there is a need for further research to resolve unanswered questions, some studies have proved that infrared sauna has many health benefits.  

Infrared Sauna and Weight Loss

All types of saunas can promote weight loss because it causes people to sweat, thereby reducing water retention.  However, bear in mind that you do not necessarily lose fat when you lose weight. 

For you to lose fat, your metabolic rate needs to increase, but the sauna doesn’t have that type of effect. Rather, it makes you feel hot so that you can sweat.  Sweating does not burn calories; it simply shows that your internal temperature is high, so your body needs to sweat to lower its temperature.

Detoxification with Infrared Sauna

Some people argue that heavy metals and other artificial chemicals stored in the fatty cells can be excreted through sweat when fat cells are burned. So they claim that infrared sauna detoxifies the body by increasing sweat secretion.

This claim sounds plausible, but since the sweating is not a result of burning fats, detoxification cannot take place.  Although an infrared sauna will make you sweat, it does not burn fat or remove toxins from your body. 

Infrared Sauna and Joint Pain

This is the first credible claim.

Studies have proved that infrared sauna is effective in reducing joint pain and stiffness in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

The four-week study subjected the participants to an hour in the infrared sauna every week.  Although the positive changes are not significant, prospects are high. Prolonged exposure to infrared sauna should yield better effects.

There are no scientific facts that explain the healing effects. However, researchers think it might be a result of the anti-inflammatory effect of infrared radiation. It was also observed that the improvement persists after stopping using the sauna. This shows that the infrared sauna has a profound effect on alleviating the symptoms.

Infrared Sauna and Cardiovascular Health

Some studies show that exposure to an infrared sauna may increase the elasticity of blood vessels, thereby helping cushion the effects of changes in blood pressure.

A stiff blood vessel is a symptom of most cardiovascular diseases. That is why any solution that increases the elasticity of blood vessels is good for health. The mechanism that brings about the elasticity is not yet known. But scientists believe it might be as a result of an increase in the production of nitric oxide, which increases the flow of blood.

Additional studies proved that infrared sauna lowers the blood pressure, which is good for your general wellbeing. Although the mechanism that causes this response is not yet known, the soothing effect of the sauna can be a factor that contributes to the lowering of the blood pressure.

A similar study also shows that infrared sauna reduces oxidative stress, which causes several ailments, including cardiovascular diseases.

It is important to note that the subjects of these studies are people who are suffering from cardiovascular diseases. But with the level of physiological response observed, chances are high that infrared sauna would be beneficial to healthy people as well.

Infrared Sauna and Performance

In a study that involved two groups of runners, the first group was made to sit in an infrared sauna, 30 minutes after a workout session, while the other group did nothing. After the space of two weeks, the group that used the infrared sauna ran 20% longer than the group that didn't.

Although this finding sounds impressive, after studying the rest of the paper, you will realize the evidence is not conclusive

The first shortcoming is that the study was not blinded. In essence, both the researchers and the subject knew the group that was using an infrared sauna. This fact alone can make the result biased.

The second weakness is that the study involved just six people, which is a small sample for such an experiment. A study that uses a small sample size cannot be regarded as authoritative because of the high probability that the effect resulted from random chance.

However, in spite of the shortcomings, an infrared sauna can cause a little increase in blood volume. Such a small effect can improve the performance of an athlete in hot weather. Besides this fact, there is no other evidence that backs the effect of infrared sauna on performance.

Infrared Sauna and Recovery

There's some evidence from research that supports the fact that infrared saunas can help athletes recover after strength and endurance training. This effect is attributed to an improvement in neural recovery.

However, this research has flaws similar to the one one that analyzed the effect of infrared sauna on performance. The study is not blinded, the sample size is small, and the result has not been replicated by other studies. Therefore, one cannot conclude that an infrared sauna has a positive influence on post-exercise recovery. 

Infrared Sauna and Mood

Some studies have proved that infrared saunas are effective for improving mood and reducing anxiety and depression in people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers attribute this effect to a reduction in oxidative stress. However, this inference is not authoritative because oxidative stress was not measured in the study.

An interesting fact that calls our attention is that the improvements did not take place during the sauna session. Moreover, the effects also increased over time, ruling out the action of the placebo effect in the experiment.

So, does infrared sauna provide a viable solution for people suffering from depression? 

We cannot judge conclusively at this time due to insufficient research to back up the claims. However, if the claim about a reduction in oxidative stress is true, the infrared sauna would be effective in balancing mood. 

Infrared Sauna and Skin Health

Claims from certain quarters assert that infrared sauna improves skin health and complexion. They said it even helps reduce aging lines, pigmentation, and wrinkles.

According to the proponents, all these beneficial effects result from the opening of the skin pores so that dirt and toxins can be excreted from the body.

This claim is not true. 

Change in temperative does not cause a significant increase in the size of pores. Even if this is the case, it cannot change your complexion or improve your skin health. Also, there is no scientific evidence that infrared sauna can provide such benefits. 

Infrared Sauna and Cancer 

The more aggressive promoters of infrared sauna say it is effective in boosting the immune system to remove carcinogenic substances from the body. Some even claim that it can kill cancer cells directly. However, no evidence has been put forward to support these claims.

Infrared Sauna and Illness

Some studies have found that those that use sauna frequently suffer from colds with less frequency. Although the researchers cannot find an explanation, they think that an increase in mucus production can be a possible reason. The body secretes mucous cells to eliminate germs.

Note that the researches are basically observatory studies that are useful for proposing hypotheses. There is a need for further studies to establish the cause of the effects observed. So, based on the evidence, one cannot confidently affirm that infrared saunas can enhance immunity. However, it would be more accurate to say that infrared sauna seems to play a role in reducing susceptibility to sickness. 

What’s the Best Method of Using Infrared Sauna?

The light waves must penetrate the skin before an infrared sauna can be beneficial. So, any obstruction to the radiation can reduce its effectiveness. That is why you should expose your naked body inside the sauna, it is better to expose your skin directly to the radiation. 

Secondly, you should not wear makeup or use lotions, creams, sunscreen,  deodorant, or other substances that cover your skin surface. 

Finally, you should avoid taking a bath or having a shower before an infrared sauna session. Skin moisture can block the infrared light from the sauna. 

Bear in mind that there are no rules or guidelines regarding the duration of each session and frequency of exposure. For most studies, the duration of the exposure ranges from 15 minutes to an hour, and the frequency spans from every day to 1-2 times per week. 

So, you should consider taking a media position. Thirty minutes per day, 3-4 times a week would be excellent. 

What Type of Infrared Sauna is the Best? 

There are various types of infrared lights and the benefits that each provides differ. This type of radiation is classed into three based on their wavelength.

  • Near-infrared rays: the wavelength ranges from75 to 1.5 micrometers (millionths of a meter).
  • Medium-infrared rays: the wavelength ranges from 5 to 5.6 micrometers.
  • Far-infrared rays; the wavelength ranges from 6 to 1,000 micrometers. 

In principle, lights with longer wavelengths will penetrate the body more and have a greater impact.  That explains why high-quality infrared saunas radiate far-infrared rays, these types are the most beneficial. So, if you are shopping for an infrared sauna, you should check the label for the ones that produce infrared rays that ranges between 6 and 20 micrometers in width.   

Some sauna vendors boast that their device emits multiple types of infrared rays. If that is the case, there is no evidence to prove that such a feature offers additional benefits. 

The type of wavelength is the most important criterion for selecting an infrared sauna. After that, it boils down to your personal preference. The Clearlight Sanctuary 2 is great. 

A Final Note on Infrared Sauna 

Infrared saunas are becoming more popular recently, and its for a good reason. 

Studies have shown that these lightboxes can: 

  • Alleviate joint pain and stiffness
  • Decrease oxidative stress
  • Improve mood  

They might also be useful for the following: 

  • Providing relief for chronic fatigue symptoms
  • Enhancing cardiovascular health
  • Improving performance and recovery 

Finally, there is no evidence that infrared saunas can: 

  • Enhance weight loss
  • Prevent the common cold
  • Detoxify your body
  • Enhance skin health
  • Combat cancer
  • And so on 

As you can see, the infrared sauna is useful for health and wellness therapy. However, some of the embellished claims by enthusiasts are not true.

 

Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/infrared-sauna/faq-20057954

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