For centuries, European countries like Sweden, Finland, and Norway, have believed in the healing and detoxifying benefits of saunas. Because the benefits are well known, you can find a sauna in almost every home in some of these countries. More recently, infrared saunas have furthered the benefits of traditional saunas. The healing infrared wavelength boosts your metabolism, supports a healthy immune system, relieves joint and muscle pain, and detoxifies the body.
Infrared saunas increase your heart rate similarly to getting a moderate cardio workout. As your body heats up, your blood circulates through your body at a faster rate, sweat production is increased, and your body begins to burn calories. The increased blood circulation rate allows oxygen-rich blood to flow to oxygen-depleted muscles, thereby relieving muscle tension and soreness. By raising your body’s core temperature, you are also inducing a fever-like state which catalyzes the body’s immune response. With the increased core temperature, increased circulation, and sweat production, your body eliminates waste through the sweat glands. As discussed in my article, Sweat Your Way to Better Health, our bodies can become so overwhelmed with toxins that our liver and kidneys, the primary waste eliminators, can become overburdened. For this reason, our skin’s elimination system becomes the next best way to rid our bodies of built-up toxic substances. I’ve also written about my personal experience going through a high-dosage niacin and traditional sauna detoxification protocol in another article, Want to Lose Weight and Feel Happier? Try Niacin Detoxification, which you may find helpful.
Although traditional saunas can increase the body’s core temperature, infrared saunas are different in that they utilize the healing light benefits that are found in the sun. The full light spectrum produced by the sun includes visible light, which is depicted in the colors of the rainbow, and invisible light, which includes infrared and ultraviolet rays. It’s the far infrared rays from the sun that are beneficial to the body in that they penetrate the skin, allowing the body to heat itself from the inside out to produce toxin eliminating sweat.
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Even though the sun is the primary source of this healing radiant energy, too much direct sun exposure can be damaging to the skin. However, the sun is still an important source for your body’s Vitamin D; serotonin, which impacts your mood; alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone, which is important in alleviating allergies; and regulates melatonin production, which you know is key to getting a good night’s sleep. These benefits cannot be duplicated in an infrared sauna. Therefore, it’s important to spend time outside in the sun whenever possible for your body to make these vital hormones.
There are three types of infrared light: far, mid and near. Far infrared light is the longest wavelength which allows it to penetrate your fat cells, where toxins are mostly stored within the body. When far infrared light is introduced into the fat cells, it causes the cells to vibrate leading to the expulsion of toxic material. Mid-infrared is a shorter wavelength that can penetrate soft tissue, increase circulation, and provide more oxygen to oxygen-depleted muscles. Near-infrared is the shortest wavelength that is absorbed just below the skin’s surface which encourages sweat production. The longer wavelengths of the far and mid-infrared light produce thermal energy, while the shorter wavelength of the near infrared does not.
One important feature to consider for when investigating infrared saunas for use or purchase is minimizing unnecessary EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure. Because our body’s cells use electric currents to communicate with each other to function, this cellular communication can be interrupted and altered by EMF (electromagnetic field) radiation because it also generates electric currents in the body which may cause cellular confusion, which can lead to altered, or even broken DNA, gene mutations, inflammation, and cancer. For many far infrared saunas, electromagnetic radiation is a significant drawback. For this reason, people tend to opt for near infrared saunas. However, there are far infrared options available on the market that offer low electromagnetic fields, making them a much safer, healthier choice.
Another important feature to consider is the quality of the wood that is used. One of the main purposes of using an infrared sauna is to detox your body. For this reason, you want to ensure that the infrared sauna is constructed with toxin-free wood. With open pores, your body is susceptible to absorb pesticides and other gaseous toxins that can be trapped in the wood used for the sauna’s construction. According to the Infrared Sauna Foundation, which has no affiliation with any sauna manufacturer, red cedar is the most desirable wood for an infrared sauna in that it is naturally non-toxic, repels fungi and bacteria, and has a low risk of shrinkage and warpage. Although this wood comes highly recommended, it can cause some concern for those who are very sensitive to scents. To alleviate this issue, some manufacturers that have been successful in minimizing the strong cedar odor.
When it comes to choosing a sauna for personal use, I have found that Clearlight® offers the best options for an in-home sauna. Clearlight® saunas use Western Red Canadian Cedar which is naturally non-toxic and resists cracking and splitting with the changing temperatures. Due to the properties of the oils found in cedar, the wood is antibacterial and antifungal. This helps to prevent mold and bacteria from growing inside your unit. For those who are sensitive to scents, Clearlight® offers units constructed with basswood. [I wonder why the above image from Infrared Sauna Foundations doesn’t include basswood? It seems to be a bit disconnected to have that image and then mention how the Clearlight has this basswood type sauna.] This wood offers similar properties as using cedar in that it is resistant to bacterial and fungal growth and is protected from splitting, warping, rotting and decay.
Clearlight® offers both far infrared and full spectrum heaters in their saunas. Full spectrum heaters use the full infrared spectrum – near, mid, and far infrared energy. By using the full range of infrared energy, your cells are releasing toxins through the far-infrared, areas of inflammation are being reduced through the mid-infrared, and wounds are being healed through the near-infrared.
Because many far infrared saunas have been known to produce high levels of electromagnetic fields, Clearlight® has designed heaters that have very little. When their heaters were tested, the EMF measured at less than 1 milligauss (mg), which is below the CDC’s maximum recommendation of 3mg.
To get the maximum healing benefits of infrared saunas, I recommend using them daily, sitting in them for at least 20 – 30 minutes per session. When I had ovarian cancer, I would sit or lay down in the infrared sauna for up to 60 minutes daily. Nowadays, I use the sauna after my daily workouts.
If you don’t have daily access to an infrared sauna, consider finding a facility that uses one, like a gym or spa. If you are dealing with respiratory issues, cardiovascular limitations, or chronic conditions that can impair sweating, be sure to consult a health professional before incorporating sauna use in your health care regimen.
With an infrared sauna, you can get some of the healthy benefits of the sun without damaging your skin. However, be sure not to neglect the real thing. Only sunlight will give your body the energy it needs to produce vital nutrients and hormones for your body. By incorporating infrared sauna use in your health care regimen, you’ll be powerfully equipping your body to become more resistant to chronic illnesses and diseases.
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