Table of Contents
- What Is a Sauna?
- History of Saunas
- What are Infrared Rays?
- What are Far Infrared Saunas?
- How Infrared Saunas Work
- Benefits of Far Infrared Saunas
- Precautions and Instructions
When you think of saunas, you think of people sweating with maybe a towel wrapped around their bodies.
This exactly how they look but have you ever wondered how much benefit they obtain from this simple activity?
You could write a book on how perspiring helps your skin stay in shape and good health; the further benefits of sauna heat and the perspiration resulting from it are another stories altogether.
Recently, infrared saunas have become very popular among sauna goers.
Read on to know the reasons, but before that here is some useful information to help you understand the many benefits of the sauna in a better way.
What Is a Sauna?
A sauna is also called a sudatory, but you will rarely hear that term.
It is essentially a room, or a facility, where you go to experience heat for its many benefits for the body.
The heat sessions can be dry or wet in nature.
When they use water and heat it to form steam for perspiration, this is called a wet heat sauna.
On the other hand, if you want a dry heat session there will be no steam involved.
A far infrared sauna does not use steam, and so it gives you a dry heat session.
History of Saunas
Sauna is considered a Finnish tradition, and even to this day, you will find a sauna facility in almost every house.
Finnish people used saunas not only to warm their bodies temporarily but also to keep away from the winter chill.
Finnish people would traditionally heat the stones using a fire made from wood.
They would then pour water over the stones to make steam.
This steam would heat the room to such a temperature that people inside the sauna would feel the need to remove their clothes.
The interesting part of this is that humans have always found relief in using heat to detoxify their bodies.
However it was called, ancient peoples were using heat to perspire and obtain other benefits.
The proof lies in the fact that indigenous saunas exist in Mexico and in Guatemala.
In these regions, they are called Temazcals.
These sauna-like heat lodges were made of stone and clay.
Even the Koreans have their version of the sauna, which is called Hanjeungmak.
Hanjeungmak was built more like a dome-shaped structure and is said to have disease-treating properties as well.
What are Infrared Rays?
Infrared rays, or as they are commonly known infrared radiation, are electromagnetic rays but fall within the group of safe EM rays.
The dangerous electromagnetic rays are x-rays, microwaves, and ultraviolet rays.
Infrared rays are 100% safe just like visible light.
Infrared radiation is becoming more and more popular for its heating qualities, and this is why most manufacturers of heaters and water heating systems are looking for ways to utilize infrared rays in their appliances.
The good news is that infrared saunas already utilize them for their amazing benefits.
Now, what does “far” mean in far infrared saunas?
To put it simply, on an electromagnetic spectrum you have three infrared ray types, based on their frequencies.
The three types of infrared rays on the spectrum are near infrared rays (NIR), mid-infrared rays (MIR) and far infrared rays (FIR).
When you say a far infrared sauna, you are talking about a sauna that uses those far infrared rays for heating your body.
What are Far Infrared Saunas?
Why you have a dedicated name for far infrared saunas is because traditional saunas did not use to operate this way.
The heat inside an infrared sauna increases due to light or infrared rays.
On the other hand, in the old traditions, they would collect wood, burn that wood, and thereby heat the stones.
These stones then released the heat that was then used to warm the room.
The best thing about infrared saunas is that they offer milder temperatures as well.
The older, more traditional saunas can get too hot for some.
How Infrared Saunas Work
Infrared saunas can appear different in different places.
Overall, they look similar to other traditional saunas.
As you enter the room and seat yourself on the bench, infrared rays fall on your body and, as they are naturally designed to do, they heat your body up.
The temperature you feel in an infrared sauna might not be as extreme as that of a traditional sauna.
However, you get better relaxation and benefits from infrared saunas because these rays go much deeper into your body.
In a traditional sauna, you will experience different heat levels within the sauna room.
In far infrared saunas, temperature difference becomes irrelevant due to the nature of heat.
The radiation emitters have to be on at all times because you want your body to receive infrared rays constantly.
The most important thing to know about far infrared saunas is that due to the deep penetration of infrared rays into your body, they make you sweat profusely without requiring the temperature to be too high.
In an infrared sauna, you will commonly experience temperatures of up to 140-degrees Fahrenheit.
In a traditional sauna, the heat is commonly close to 180-degrees Celsius and even higher close to the roof.
In a traditional sauna, you will change your position to be closer to or farther from the roof if you want to change the temperature you are experiencing.
In an infrared sauna, you just have to adjust your body exactly to be in front of the emitters so you receive maximum infrared rays.
Benefits of Far Infrared Saunas
By now, you must have a good understanding of infrared saunas, how they work, their differences from traditional saunas, and some history of saunas.
This is when we discuss the most important question regarding far infrared saunas – their benefits.
Do they really have any health benefits? Are those benefits backed by science?
Read on to find out.
Better Heart Health
The Department of Family practice at UBC (University of British Columbia) discovered through research that a person who spends time in an infrared sauna can benefit from it in terms of heart health (1).
The biggest benefit of using an infrared sauna is that your blood pressure becomes normalized.
In addition to that, cholesterol normalization also occurs.
Spending time in an infrared sauna can also help an individual fight chronic pain.
Congestive heart failure is another condition that can be dealt with using this type of sauna.
The Journal of The Japanese Circulation Society also published some research that fully backs the findings mentioned in the previous passage.
People with ventricular arrhythmias can benefit greatly by spending time in an infrared sauna.
The best temperature to gain these benefits is considered 60-degrees Centigrade.
The best results can be observed when a person takes a bath in such a sauna repeatedly over a period of time.
Patients who have always lived with the threat of heart failure can also trust this treatment for helping them prevent it (2).
The research that studied these results divided people into two groups: a group that would take an infrared sauna bath, and the other group that wouldn’t.
The sauna bath temperature was set at 60-degrees Celsius, and every time they were given the bath they spent 15 minutes under the infrared rays of the sauna.
After taking infrared rays for 15 minutes these people rested for half an hour.
When the heart rates between the two groups were compared, the group that underwent sauna treatment showed signs of improved and normalized heart rate.
Help with Diabetic Side Effects
People who have been diagnosed with diabetes type II can seek an improved life by taking regular far infrared sauna baths.
This claim has been substantiated by a study in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Patients with type II diabetes often complain about being tired all the time and feeling depressed.
The overall quality of their life is marred by diabetes.
According to the study, far infrared saunas help these people with improved well-being.
In addition to that, these baths also help mitigate the pain.
The abovementioned study was performed in Canada at Fraser Lake Community Health Center.
The people chosen for the study took infrared sauna baths for 90 days, 3 times every week.
Each sauna bath session lasted for up to 20 minutes.
When these individuals were questioned about their physical health and overall feeling after the completed sessions, they stated a feeling of improvement in their overall body health.
They also stated that they did not feel as tired as they did before the treatments.
The sessions also helped them to reduce stress (3).
Alleviating Arthritis Pain
Arthritis pain can be agonizing, especially when someone has been recently diagnosed with the condition.
This particular study was conducted in the Netherlands at the Saxion University of Applied Science.
The patients that were chosen for this study had rheumatoid arthritis.
The study continued for nearly one month in which the patients were given infrared sauna baths 8 times in total.
No patients in the study complained about any adverse effects of the treatment.
However, most patients described their experience by saying that their pains were alleviated.
They also felt relaxed and their body stiffness was reduced.
Individuals that participated in this study also claimed that their levels of fatigue had decreased significantly.
The researchers noted the results and concluded that infrared sauna sessions can help patients with arthritis in alleviating their pain.
This reduced pain might only last for a short time, but there were no side effects of the treatment in these patients (4).
Weight loss has become one of the biggest problems for people in not only the U.S. but also all around the world.
Obesity is increasing worldwide as people find ways to earn online, food is available for online orders, and earning power increases.
Weight loss might not be the most direct benefit of bathing in infrared saunas, but there is definitely some effect.
When you relax and take an infrared bath, the deep heating effect of the infrared rays warms the core of your body.
This increases your heart rate, which is something that people usually achieve when they are exercising.
Your body then tries to bring the temperature back to normal, and this struggle causes you to burn calories.
Once again, this is not just what people like to say about their infrared baths but is a benefit backed by studies.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is an article called Effect of Sweating.
According to this article, a person that sits in an infrared sauna for nearly half an hour could easily burn close to 600 calories (5).
You will face significant debate when talking about the detoxification benefits of infrared saunas.
People may say that human bodies already have a complete system that detoxifies it perfectly.
But you have to keep in mind that on average there are 700 pollutants that attack a person on a daily basis, and nobody’s system is infallible.
MTHFR genetic mutation is so common in the North American region that almost 50% of the people in America have it, and this takes a direct toll on the functioning of the detoxification system in the human body.
There is no doubt that our detoxification system is a gift of nature and that it works wonderfully, but even this system needs support.
When all you have to do is just take an infrared sauna bath for a little over 15 minutes to support it, why not?
A Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, says that the main components of a person’s sweat are lipophilic and hydrophilic in nature, i.e. they are fat-soluble and water-soluble, respectively.
This tells you that sweat can rid your body of heavy toxins such as xenobiotics, mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic.
Therefore, when you use the sauna for detoxification, you are not announcing that your detoxification system has failed but only giving support to it for faster and better functioning (6).
You might not have expected this, but you will be glad that regular infrared sauna baths can greatly help you with your skin health.
People who take infrared sauna baths daily often feel that their skin looks more glowing and refreshed after the session.
The secret behind this skin rejuvenation is the production of collagen; far infrared rays give a boost to collagen production in your body.
Now, if you understand the benefits of collagen, you will automatically know how good infrared sauna baths can be for your skin.
As a long-chain amino acid, collagen is present in your body in large quantities.
Your skin elasticity is the result of ample production of collagen in your body.
Collagen also takes care of your hair health.
How important collagen is for the health of your skin can be understood by looking at the percentage of this protein in your skin.
Collagen makes up to 70% of all the protein that gives strength to your skin (7).
Improved Blood Circulation
You could safely say that the health of every organ in your body depends heavily on how much blood it receives.
There is no well-established scientific proof that tells you that blood circulation is perfected with far infrared sessions, but some research on this has been completed, and some are still in progress.
One important study was done in Germany where the blood circulation benefits of infrared saunas were associated with undergoing one-hour sessions.
In this research, it was stated that blood circulation gets better with infrared sauna use because the warmth received from the rays causes the vessels to dilate.
Dilation of vessels helps blood flow freely, and blood pressure is reduced.
According to this research, you also lower blood viscosity through infrared sauna sessions.
More research is in progress to further back up these claims.
Decreased blood pressure as a result of sauna sessions has been proven over and over (8).
Back Pain Relief
Back pain can be incredibly painful.
The worst thing about it is that it may not ever go away, and may even worsen with time.
A study on the benefits of infrared sauna sessions for back pain relief was conducted by Dr. Gaze in 2015.
In this study, 50 individuals participated, using a far infrared mat as part of the study.
After the study was completed, these patients stated that they had experienced relief from their back pain.
In addition, they also found that their mental health was improved.
The best result of the study was that no adverse effects of far infrared sauna were reported (9).
Motor Function Improvement
This study was conducted in Taiwan by a department of radiology in 2015; the results showed that nerve regeneration took place due to far infrared sauna sessions.
Motor function improvement was also observed, but the best part of the study was that far infrared rays were completely non-invasive in nature.
Patients with peripheral nerve diseases could seek help in far infrared sauna baths as a treatment, the study concluded (10).
Precautions and Instructions
There are certain conditions when you should either consult with your doctor before going for a sauna session or simply avoid the sauna altogether.
If you are sensitive to heat, go to professional saunas and ask them to keep the heat levels low; or, with an infrared sauna, stay in the sauna only for a few minutes and then come out.
Furthermore, if you have recently been injured, it is best to stay out of the sauna until your injuries heal.
If you can’t wait that long, you should keep out of the sauna for at least 48 hours after the injury.
Women who are pregnant should not expose themselves to high temperatures for long.
If you are pregnant and are exposed to high temperatures for a significant period of time, it could result in birth defects, especially if you are in the first trimester of your pregnancy.
If you have any artificial implants in your body or pacemakers, it would be best to talk to your doctor about your visit to the sauna.
Women who are prone to excessive menstrual flow should also avoid sauna during their period.
Hemophiliacs should also keep away from the sauna.
Children who are very young, i.e. younger than 6 years, should completely avoid saunas.
Children above the age of 6 should not spend more than 20 minutes at a time in the sauna.
Far infrared saunas are somewhat common these days, and almost everyone has a good experience.
The studies mentioned above prove that most of the benefits associated with infrared saunas are real.
Rather than going to spas and private saunas, people have started buying their own saunas, and they are usually happy with their purchases.
If you maintain moderation and realistic expectations with this treatment, you should definitely try the far infrared sauna.
If nothing else, it will definitely refresh your senses and relieve your body of fatigue.