Top 10 Benefits of Infrared Saunas
Brief History of the Sauna
The story of human perspiration and using contained heat for healing, relaxation, and detoxification is nothing new. Our ancestors used fire not only to cook their food, but also to heat the body and rid it of infectious disease. The first heat therapy was developed in East Africa with the intention of inducing profuse sweating, curing disease, and optimizing health. The great Finnish tradition of sauna use is thought to date back as far as 7000 BC. “Sauna” means “bathhouse” in Finnish, and the Finns are credited with being the worldwide connoisseurs of heat therapy. Roman and Greek bathhouses paved the way for modern spas. During the Ottoman Empire, Turkish Hammam grew in popularity, and people used to initiate deep states of relaxation by using hot air rooms followed by cool water. Sweat lodge ceremonies, which are associated with Native American cultures, are practiced today to heal and to purify the mind, body, and soul. In the late nineteenth century with the advent of electricity, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg created the first “Incandescent Light Baths,” where his patients entered a cabinet-like structure heated with exposed light bulbs that generated profuse sweating. In 1969, NASA took an interest in the variety of infrared wavelengths (near-, mid-, and far-infrared). In 1965, a Japanese doctor received the first patent to create a ceramic infrared sauna using far-infrared wavelengths. In 1979, the first full-spectrum infrared saunas were introduced into the US market and today. Infrared sauna use is one of the most effective holistic health modalities with many health benefits.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas
There are different types of infrared saunas, including far-, mid-, and near-infrared. Clinical research shows that various parts of the infrared spectrum are more effective than others at providing different health benefits. However, near-infrared therapy (NIR) offers the most health benefits due to the combination of incandescent infrared lamps and the healing power of sauna heat. They penetrate deeper than far-infrared rays and use a range of light energy with profound healing and regenerative effects at a cellular level.
The following are my top 10 compelling reasons to indulge in an infrared sauna, which is one of the safest and most powerful ways to increase your overall health and well-being.
The main reason I personally use an infrared sauna is to detox heavy metals and industrial chemicals. There are more than 80,000 registered chemicals in the world. Heavy metals and chemicals accumulate in our bodies causing disease and different health conditions. The skin is our major detox organ, and through sweating, you will release deeply held fat-soluble toxins and heavy metals. Sauna use also improves lymph circulation, which aids in removing accumulated toxins. When detoxification, heat, and infrared light are combined, a synergistic and powerful therapy is created that leads to amazing health benefits.
2. Enhanced immunity:
After an infrared sauna session, the number of white blood cells is increased, showing that sauna use enhances the immune system and eliminates foreign pathogens and cellular waste products. Heating the body through sauna therapy is the body’s natural mechanism to fight infections. Raising body temperature by about 2 degrees and inducing a “fake fever” (hyperthermia) in a sauna assists the body to kill bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. Therefore, regular sauna use significantly reduces the incidences of colds, flu, upper respiratory infections, and other infections.
3. Sleep improvement:
One of the amazing infrared sauna health benefits is feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and renewed—leading to a deeper, more restful sleep. The rise of body temperature promotes muscle relaxation and a sleep-inducing response. The lowering of cortisol levels helps the body to de-stress and relax. Furthermore, infrared heat causes endorphins to be released, which in turn induces calmness by relaxing the body. Using an infrared sauna in the evening, prior to bedtime, helps to lull your body into some of the best sleep. Take a lukewarm or cool shower after the sauna to bring your body temperature down. The combination of heat exposure with cold thermogenesis in the evening works like a dream and helps you to sleep like a baby.
4. Enhanced energy:
Near-infrared rays activate the mitochondria (the power plants of the cells that produce our energy), which in turn help to produce more ATP (the energy currency of the cells). The heat from infrared lamps stimulates the body to make bigger and stronger mitochondria, which results in a greater capacity to produce energy. Moreover, sauna therapy assists in recycling and repairing damaged mitochondria (a process called autophagy and mitophagy), which is like housekeeping and taking the garbage out. This is key to thriving and having more steady energy throughout the day.
5. Increased weight loss:
Infrared saunas aid in weight loss by heating the body’s core temperature to induce sweating. The result is increased blood flow, oxygen consumption, and heart rate, which much like moderate exercise, has shown to help with burning fat and body shaping. Near-infrared rays also help to rebuild connective tissue, and in turn, reduce the appearance of cellulite. In addition, sauna use can modulate appetite and increase metabolic rate, which may help with weight maintenance or fat loss.
6. Skin rejuvenation:
Regular sauna use has a beneficial effect on skin health and rejuvenation. Infrared rays shuttle blood to the skin’s surface and help with collagen production and cellulite reduction. Sweating aids in removing bacteria out of the epidermal layer of the skin and the sweat ducts, resulting in clearer, softer-looking, and younger skin. Sauna use may benefit people with psoriasis, eczema, acne, and other skin conditions. In short, infrared saunas help restore skin to a youthful appearance and improve overall skin tone, including elasticity, clarity, and firmness.
7. Pain relief:
Sauna use has proven to be exceptionally beneficial to reduce pain in joints and muscles and increase mobility and flexibility. The pain relief induced by a sauna is attributed to an increase in circulation and oxygen flow to areas of discomfort and the release of anti-inflammatory compounds. Infrared sauna heat penetrates joints, muscles, and tissues and reduces soreness on nerve endings and muscle spasms. Many athletes use infrared therapy for faster post-workout recovery, getting relief from sport injuries and improving their performance. Regular sauna use has also been found to reduce pain in those suffering from fibromyalgia, arthritis, and other painful conditions.
8. Stress reduction:
Infrared sauna therapy promotes relaxation and reduces stress by balancing your body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol. The heat generated by the sauna will also help to relieve tension and aid in mental and emotional clarity. Sauna use has been shown to cause a massive release of endorphins (happy hormones), leading to a better mood and less stress and anxiety. Exposure to sauna heat can also induce a hormetic response (a protective stress response), which is crucial to stress resiliency. An infrared sauna assists the body into a parasympathetic state (the restorative and digestive systems), allowing the body to detox, heal, and rejuvenate optimally.
9. Cardiovascular health:
Infrared saunas have been scientifically proven to reduce the symptoms that are linked to heart disease. Regular infrared sauna therapy helps prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation and blood vessel diameter, reducing inflammation, and reducing belly fat. In addition, near-infrared light promotes nitric oxide production in our cells, thus improving heart health.
10: Increased longevity:
Regularly spending time in a sauna may extend your life and reduce death from all causes. One of the multiple mechanisms for enabling longevity is the activation of heat shock proteins (HSPs). HSPs can repair and recycle damaged cells and also prevent future damage by scavenging free radicals and increasing antioxidants capacity. Higher levels of HSPs have been linked to longevity. In sum, frequent infrared sauna use, a healthy diet, and other lifestyle factors are key factors that play a role in an increased lifespan.
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