Let me give you three choices:
First, spending a 10-day summer holiday to the beach in your home country.
Option two: an amazing holiday in Africa: 5,000 bucks.
And thirdly, having a holiday every night for the rest of your life? You'd think you'd pay millions for that deal, but you'll only spend $1,000 - $5,000.
For $1,000 bucks, you'll thus return to that holiday feeling whenever you want.
And don't get me wrong...
Infrared sauna benefits extend much further than just feeling good:
You'll upgrade your brainpower, slow down the aging clock, have a natural means to deal with pain, get smooth(er) skin, remove decades of toxins from your body (over time), improve energy levels, boost heart health, and much more...
How young and energetic you'll look after JUST ONE sauna session. Really!
So you're not just feeling good, you're doing good. My full blog post explains 17 additional benefits in more detail.
Sign you up?
Not so fast...
Let me first explain what infrared saunas actually do. These saunas use one part of the light frequencies that are emitted by the sun. That light spectrum part is called infrared (IR) light.
In addition to IR light, the sunlight reaching the earth's atmosphere also contains ultraviolet and visible light. Ultraviolet light is what can give you sunburns. Visible light can be seen by your eyes and consists of all the colors of the rainbow.
Physiologically, infrared light has many effects on your body, such as heating your skin, affecting the water in your body, and even directly reaches your cells. Through that mechanism, IR light improves energy creation in what are called "mitochondria".
Mitochondria are the energy producing factories of your cells.
Let's explore infrared light a bit further:
NIR penetrates up to several inches, while MIR and FIR enter less deep.
All three types of infrared light also have their own unique benefits. The illustration below showcases these different types of light:
Just as traditional saunas, infrared light also heat your body--albeit in a different way. Traditional saunas heat the air, and therefore warm your body from the outside in. Infrared light penetrates into your body, and therefore heats you from the inside out.
Both types of saunas create a mild heat stress, which makes you feel amazing after a session. Using an infrared sauna is thus a bit like exercise: your heart rate increases, you'll sweat like crazy, and afterwards you'll feel the bliss.
Not sure whether to get an IR sauna?
A trip to the spa costs you 50 bucks. Test an IR sauna, and oberve whether you like the experience.
And you know what?
The price of visiting the spa twice a month for a single year equals that of buying a home sauna - that's how inexpensive a sauna can be.
Let's see what surprises I came up with after extensive reviewing:
That sauna is priced just over $1,000 as I'm typing this. Is the sauna perfect? No. The sauna emits somewhat higher levels of non-native electromagnetic frequencies (nnEMF), but they're emitted as the far less dangerous DC current instead of AC current.
On a net basis, this sauna is low in nnEMF.
(DC current is used by your own body, while AC current has used in the electric grid since the late 19th century.)
Nevertheless, for 97% of people out there, who are not hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields, the benefits of sauna sessions far outweigh the harm done by the electromagnetic frequencies.
There's thus no need to spend thousands of dollars to enjoy the benefits of FIR.
If you'd want to avoid all DC currents, you could not enter a car or a bus anymore either, as these are filled with nnEMF.
The JHN sauna also uses non-toxic cedar wood - a big plus. That FIR in that sauna will heat you up and make you sweat like crazy, helping you detox in turn.
Again: no need to bankrupt yourself...
Buy four heat bulbs and four lamp holders. I recommend Philips incandescent heat light bulb:
These bulbs use 250 Watts of power. Because of the heat they emit, you'll need a specific lamp holder to use these 250W heat lamps:
For just $80, you can enjoy a basic infrared light setup in your home.
These bulbs mainly emit NIR, but also some MIR and FIR. One small downside of using these bulbs is that you're less likely to start sweating heavily compared to when using an enclosed sauna.
You can even integrate such NIR bulbs into the previously displayed JNH sauna to add NIR to your FIR (but you'd need another type of lamp holder). Of course, the construction of the sauna needs to be altered to get these effects.
Expect to pay at least $5,000 for a Clearlight sauna (including shipping). Clearlight saunas nevertheless have many different benefits, such as a:
While the Clearlight is great quality, I recommend the JNH sauna for 90% of people out there.
If you're interested in a Clearlight sauna, follow this link.
Heck, even I cannot afford such a sauna right now, but a man can dream right?
One disclaimer though: a sauna will never replace your need for sunlight exposure.
Before buying a sauna, I'd recommend you take care of several other health domains by which you can influence your health first, such as getting enough sunlight exposure, blocking blue light at night, and making sure you're sleeping well.
A sauna is rarely going to fix your health issues (if you have any), but may take your health to the next level.
The eternal recurrence of the sunlight theme
on this blog.
Examples of included topics are my valuation of different detox protocols, such as the Niacin protocol, clay, or activated charcoal to get rid of toxins.
The criteria upon which my sauna review were based are also granted their own section. I'll also consider all possible infrared sauna side effects, review many different infrared products (including mats), and tell you about the difference between red light therapy and sauna benefits.
This quick summary does no justice to the information contained in this full blog post.
Save to Pinterest:
(Infrared) Sauna Basics:
Why Use A Sauna:
Choosing A High-Quality Sauna:
5. Infrared Saunas Versus Traditional Saunas Such As Steam Rooms Or Dry Saunas
6. Home Sauna Review Criteria: Heater Types, EMFs, ELFs, Wood Quality, Toxins, Warranty
7. The Ultimate Home Infrared Review Outcome + Infrared Mats
8. Do It Yourself $80 Inexpensive IR Sauna
9. Possible Infrared Sauna Side-Effects + Safe Dosing Guide.
The 30,000-yard overview:
Why get a sauna?
Remember the last time you visited a spa: you'd feel amazing.
So how about getting a sauna for inside your home - a home sauna. In that case you'd feel amazing every single night. You'd also sleep better, feel better, and simply do better.
But isn't that a bit far fetched?
Not at all.
Let me give you a simple analogy: you may own a pair of kettlebells at home to get some quick daily exercise in. A few rounds of exercise and you're wiped out - without having to travel to the gym.
Quick home workouts exemplify the 80-20 principle perfectly: 20% of your actions are responsible for 80% of the results.
Workout out for 2 or 3 hours won't double or triple your results compared to that quick 15-minute kettlebell session.
Home saunas accord to same principle, allowing you to get a great sweat on almost a daily basis. You won't even have to leave the house. Spend 30 minutes in an infrared sauna, and you're reborn.
And you know what?
The complete list of benefits of both traditional and infrared saunas is hard to fathom.
Whether you're a gulf war veteran exposed to many toxins, a soccer mom who is fond of cosmetics, a 19 year old teenager, or a grandfather who wants to stay healthy, an (infrared) sauna will benefit everyone.
Let me explain.
I'll go through all the previous examples:
As you can see, literally everyone benefits from sauna use.
And you know what?
You can buy 5-person infrared saunas that made out of Canadian cedar wood, hundreds of different portable saunas (that frequently emit lots of toxins into the air), $5,000 wooden panels that use four $10 infrared light bulbs (yes, really), saunas made in China or the US, far infrared heat pads, etcetera.
Some options are great, some terrible - and the options are endless.
You may think: "what should I buy then?" Stay tuned to find the answer.
A Hansel and Gretel Fairy tale sauna?
Haven't seen that one yet!
Literally thousands of infrared products are offered on the market today, and millions of people buying infrared light products to use at home. I've therefore decided to review the highest quality products sold, and look at the science behind all of infrared sauna benefits.
Native Americans and Australian aboriginals used sweat lodges to increase their toughness to build mental strength.
The East also has a tradition of heating the body, ranging from Turkey all the way to Japan and Korea.
Of course, it's hard to forget the leader in modern sauna use: Finland.
Finland contains more saunas than any other location on this planet, and many Fins have a habit of daily sauna use. For that reason many of the highest quality studies on saunas that i'm using in this blog post are sourced there.
In the next section I'll first explore how infrared light is actually affecting your body.
As often is the case, I'll first explore the light spectrum with you.
View an illustration of the light spectrum below:
Observe that the light spectrum is made up of 1) ultraviolet light (UV); 2) visible light; 3) infrared light (IR).
Let's consider the difference between these different forms of light: UV light can give you a sunburn, and visible light consists of all the colors of the rainbow. infrared light is what makes sunlight feel hot if you're standing outside.
Both UV and IR light are invisible to the human eye.
This blog post exclusively concerns itself with infrared light. I've treated the topic of ultraviolet and visible light in many previous blog posts, such as:
All three parts of that light spectrum are important to the topic of infrared saunas.
Observe that the infrared part of the light spectrum is by far the biggest in size, when measured by wavelength range.
Wavelengths are measured in nanometers, which denotes a billionth of a meter.
NIR is located between 780 and 5,000 nanometers, while MIR is found between the 5,000 and circa ~25,000-40,000 nanometer wavelengths. FIR, lastly, is located from ~25,000 - 40,000 to 1,000,000 wavelengths.
So overall, infrared light takes up a huge part of the light spectrum, ranging from 780 all the way up to 1,000,000 nanometer wavelengths.
(Different classification systems for infrared wavelengths exist.[1-3] One example is categorizing infrared into "IRA", "IRB", and "IRC", while allocating wavelengths differently to all three categories as well.)
Smart cat getting infrared light at sunset...
As infrared light has very long wavelengths compared to visible and ultraviolet light, it's energy yield is thus dramatically lower.
For that reason ultraviolet light can give you a sunburn, while visible and infrared light cannot.
You may not know that infrared light exists everywhere in nature. In fact, even your human body emits infrared light (radiation), which can be partially understood as heat. Being hotter thus simply means emitting greater quantities of infrared light.
The energy producing factories of your cells - called mitochondria - generate that heat as a byproduct of energy production. Exposing yourself to frequently to cold can increase your body's capacity to emit infrared heat (and thus your capacity to heat yourself).
And yet, the science regarding infrared light is far more interesting:
Many additional NIR effects exist. Near infrared is actually really well researched because of the thousands of studies that currently exist on LLLT and red light therapy.
Interesting fact: FIR clothing with ceramic nano particles also exist, that "redirects" the heat emitted by your body as FIR, and can be used as a FIR treatment.[121; 122]
Due to their location in the light spectrum, NIR - even wavelengths slightly over 1,000 nanometers - thus have similarities to red light therapy, while MIR and FIR have more likeness to a traditional saunas in that they directly heat up your skin.
The above list on IR light types is in no way exhaustive. I've just included this list to demonstrate that all parts of the infrared spectrum have unique benefits.
So let's move on, and consider how infrared light achieves these effects:
Let me explore that statement in more detail:
Once infrared light enters the cells, the electric charge in them is altered.
Your cells thus not only function on the basis of chemical processes, but also on electricity. Chemistry and electricity interact in your body, and infrared light from outside the body alters that dynamic.
Because of IR exposure, charge is builds up inside a cell, due to the transition of a liquid form of water to an "exclusion zone" (EZ) or "plasma' type of water.[28-30] EZ water is actually a fourth state of water, besides vapor, liquid, and ice.
Water: still not understood after hundreds of years of science
When infrared light builds an exclusion zone in your cells, the body may also gain a higher potential to store ultraviolet light. That structured water also allows your body to better create energy.
Well, it's been long hypothesized that ATP, or "Adenosine Tri-Phosphate" is not the main source of energy of a cell, but that it carries electric charge instead. Under that later interpretation, infrared light can be hypothesized to have a far greater impact on the energy creation dynamics of a cell than previously thought.
Lastly, red and infrared light also directly affect the mitochondria in your cells. Recall that mitochondria are the energy producing factories of these cells. Both red and infrared light up-regulate one specific step of that process of mitochondrial energy production (for nerds: that step takes place in cytochrome C oxidase).[17-19]
Moreover, even the usage of oxygen by your cells and mitochondria may also be affected by infrared light. There's thus credence to the feeling of many people that IR saunas increase their energy levels.
Many additional processes in your cells are influenced by IR, such as free radical levels (which play a role in aging), inflammation (which is tied to many modern diseases), the creation new mitochondria, and their fusion into bigger ones.[20-23]
That principle of light affecting your health is called "photobiomodulation". Contrary to what many people assume, the light in your environment is thus not a neural means for vision, but a biologically active agent.
So how does evolution tie into this picture I've sketched?
Let's find out:
The discovery of the intentional control of fire 800,000 years ago added to that exposure.[24; 25]
Yes, 800,000 years is a long time ago.
Going even further back, before your human ancestors roamed the earth, other organisms were either exposed to or indirectly relied on infrared light for billions of years. The planet's entire food web is tied to photosynthesis and light.
Today that exposure to infrared light is gone because most people live an indoor existence.
Sunlight: your human ancestors' original infrared sauna.
Keep in mind I'm saying "less important", not "unimportant".
When given the choice, it's almost always wise to opt for sunlight exposure instead of using an infrared sauna.
Infrared saunas do have some advantages over sunlight though, in some very specific instances. One benefit of infrared saunas is that they can make you sweat really hard, which is more difficult to accomplish by using sunlight if you're not living in or near the tropics.
Using the NIR and MIR through infrared saunas, moreover, may also be superior for charging water in your cells than red light therapy. Red light therapy uses the nanometer wavelengths of ~600 and ~900 nanometers, while infrared saunas specialize on the 1,000 - 1,000,000 range.
Water absorption peaks around 1,400 and 2,000 nanometers, which falls squarely within the higher NIR range.
Infrared saunas and red light therapy thus both have their unique benefits.
It's no coincidence that infrared saunas have so many health benefits: IR light supplies up to 50% of the sun's energy that reaches the earth's surface.
The more ultraviolet light is present, the less the relative contribution of infrared light, and vice versa. On a hot summer day in Mexico, proportionally less infrared and more ultraviolet light thus reaches the earth's surface.
Remember the water I've talked about before?
Even though the scale of NIR, MIR, and FIR is different than the one I use, notice that the water absorption spectrum is found between around 700 nanometer to 15,000 nanometer wavelengths.
The last water absorption peak can be found around 14,000 nanometers.
That water emission spectrum demonstrates one reason why a full-spectrum infrared sauna yields the most benefits.
Sunlight that reaches the earth's surface also contains all three types of infrared light.
In fact, the water absorption peaks displayed above match the peaks at which sunlight emits most NIR, MIR, and FIR. In other words, the sunlight reaching the earth's atmosphere peaks around 1,400 and 2,000 nanometers - the same is true for water absorption spectra in your cells.
The way IR light affects your body is thus not a coincidence, nature has programmed you for that effect.
IR light's capacity to affect your body's water also one mechanism through which bodily heat is generated in the first place.
You may recognize that brain area because I've discussed it many times before, for example, in relation the 24-hour day and night cycle in your body (circadian rhythm).
The hypothalamus - located in your forebrain - also regulates resting metabolic rate, which consists of the calories you're burning 24-7 for generating heat, even if you're sitting on the couch.
Many of the same hormones that become active during exercise do so during sauna sessions as well.
Your heart starts pumping heavier and faster, blood flow to the skin increases, and you'll sweat (if it's hot enough).
Stress hormone levels such as adrenaline increase, as well as "painkilling" hormones such as "beta-endorphins". These beta-endorphins are responsible for making you feel amazing after a sauna session.
You thus now understand where that blissful feeling comes from.
And because you understand how IR light affects your body, it's finally time to consider the health benefits of saunas in the next section.
Infrared sauna benefits: that's why you're reading this blog post in the first place right?
At last it's time to enter heaven. The benefits you've been waiting for...
But I'll start with a disclaimer though: supplying your body with more infrared light is not always better. Just like five hours of exercise does not create superior results compared with one hour, spending hours a day in an infrared sauna will not yield more health benefits either.
Aim for the golden mean...
Another disclaimer: the scientific research I'm citing below contain both studies on infrared and traditional steam or dry saunas. That methodology can be justified because the heating effect of traditional saunas also occurs in infrared saunas. All infrared saunas contain FIR, and thus heating effects can logically be expected.
Because infrared light penetrate into your body, moreover, additional benefits may be conferred upon your health by an using an infrared sauna over and above a traditional sauna.
A case can thus be made that benefits of traditional saunas thus extend to IR saunas, but not the other way around.
Last disclaimer: not that many studies exist on full spectrum infrared saunas,. Most studies actually either use FIR or traditional heat. I do think that including full spectrum saunas in future studies will demonstrate that saunas have even more benefits than the ones displayed below.
And the benefits list already is impressive...
So let's get started.
20 different benefits, beginning with:
Recall that (infrared) saunas train your heart just like exercise does.
If you're sitting in a hot sauna, your heart rate increases up to 70%. 70% is located at the upper limit of steady-state cardio state, so your heart gets quite a workout.
After 30 or 60 minutes you'll get a great cardio session.
Mortality associated with heart and blood vessel problems in general goes down - many different heart and blood vessel diseases are thus prevented.
The best effects are reached when sauna sessions last at least 20 minutes long. With poor heat tolerance, you'll thus have to build intensity up.
The upside is that the effect of (infrared) saunas upon heart health is really strong.
Let me tell you:
The risk of sudden cardiac death can more than half if you're using a sauna regularly. Overall risk of dying of heart disease is also cut by 50% according to some studies, which is insane.
Keep in mind that heart and blood vessel problems are one of the leading causes of death in the modern world.
Saunas are thus a revolutionary therapy for such problems.
Interesting fact: using a sauna immediately lowers your blood pressure by several points.
Both your systolic blood pressure, measured when your heart is beating, and your diastolic blood pressure, measured during heart muscle relaxation, are lowered by 7 points.
That decrease in blood pressure may be one of the main mechanisms by which sauna use dramatically lowers the risk of heart and blood vessel disease. Cholesterol levels are also optimized after taking multiple sauna sessions.
That blood pressure lowering effect is interesting, because modern human beings are almost never exposed to sunlight anymore. Your ancestors would have gotten lots of IR light exposure, and therefore had lower blood pressure readings.
And surprise, surprise: many people in traditional hunter-gatherer societies do have lower blood pressure readings.
IR saunas can thus a major way by which you can "supplement" sunlight and enjoy the blood pressure lowering effect.
What's also interesting is that, even though sauna use puts stress at your body, you can still enjoy saunas if you're elderly or currently have heart and blood vessel diseases. You should nonetheless be more careful in such instances.
(Nonetheless, most actual deaths due to sauna use actually occur in combination with drinking alcohol.)
And not only will you prevent heart and blood vessel disease, your heart also gets stronger if you're using sauna sessions regularly.
Heat stress thus builds heart health...
Saunas can help increase the number of the smallest blood vessels in your body, called "capillaries". That effect even occurs if you've got blood flow problems in your hands and feet - many people do so nowadays.
And if you've got existing heart problems, such as lasting damage from a previous heart attack, saunas can improve heart functioning and help you recover. Heart rhythms problems may also be reduced with (infrared) saunas.
Infrared sauna usage even translates into better better endurance when walking, if you've got heart and blood vessel disease. Quality of life is improved in that instance, probably because you've become more resilient.
The circulation benefits even take place when you're younger. So 20-year olds: it's never too early to develop a sauna habit.
Using saunas alone, or exercise alone, in other words, does not have the same effects as combining the two in your week.
Saunas are a great way, however, to train your heart when regular exercise is impossible. With a broken leg, for example, you can still take a sauna session. Elderly people will also do great with some heat stress once in a while, as long as tolerance is built up slowly.
Bottom line: all those heart health benefits seem too good to be true, but they're not.
Let's move on:
Remember that feeling when you've just run a long distance, or when you engaged in physical labor all day?
In that case your body created endorphins.
Endorphins are a natural pain killer that make you feel great. Sauna helps these endorphins release by your body.[68; 69; 73]
Regular sauna use can also lower your overall cortisol levels - a stress hormone.[70; 71] Sure, stress hormone levels are initially increased dramatically during a session, but long-term a stress hormone lowering effects exist as well.
Sauna use can also increase the activity of what is called the "parasympathetic nervous system". That parasymphatetic nervous system is associated with relaxation and digestion, at the cost of the "sympathetic nervous system", which is more active in stress and associated with the fight and flight response.
Frequently using a sauna thus makes you calmer and happier...
That outcome is great, because so many people have mood and anxiety problems nowadays.
Infrared saunas can even act as an antidote against depression, because it acts quickly while having an absence of any real side effects (with proper use).
Even appetite levels, bodily health issues, and relaxation levels all normalize with frequent sessions.
Quality of life may even be enhanced with sauna use - also if you're diseased. Unfortunately, more research is needed to definitively back that claim up.
Who wouldn't become happy at this place?
Overall, infrared saunas are a big winner for mental health.
Lots of circumstantial evidence exists that heat increases the levels of "BDNF" or "Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor".[84-87]
BNDF stimulates the creation and regeneration of nerve cells. Nerve cells lie at the basis of a proper functioning of your nervous system, which includes the brain. BDNF can build new "synapses", for example, which are connections between existing nervous system cells.
Lower levels of BDNF are also associated with nervous system diseases, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Huntington's disease.[88-94; 97] BDNF additionally plays a role in (preventing) aging of the brain.[95; 96]
Both aging and brain disease are thus averted through sauna use. NIR light can also directly increase BDNF in the brain if it penetrates the skull.
Combining infrared saunas and exercise makes the effects of BDNF more pronounced.
Becoming the thinker after using a few infrared saunas?
Overall, saunas are a winner for brain health. Let's move on to another sauna benefit that many people worship - skin health:
Infrared light is perfect for improving skin condition.[111-114] You can get firmer skin with infrared light through an increase in collagen production.
The presence of wrinkles is also reduced, as well as roughness and overall signs of aging.
A compound called "elastin", which is located below the upper layers of the skin, is produced in increased quantities after infrared light exposure. Less and less elastin is present in your skin with aging, but saunas can slow down and (partially) reverse that process.
For the best effects on skin health and beauty, I highly recommend using infrared light for longer periods of time, such as a couple of months.
Specific substances called "fibroblasts" are also activated by NIR, which help build collagen.
For optimal skin improvement, the correct IR dose should be used. Both very low and very high doses are dangerous. Example: if you're working by the fire all day--fires emits lots of infrared light--then your skin probably ages prematurely.[116; 117]
Very high amounts of IR light may also increase skin wrinkling, which is another reason to conclude that more is not necessarily better.[114; 118]
Being in the sun from dusk till dawn or using too much red light therapy are other examples of how you can get overexposed to infrared light. It's safe to assume that infrared sauna can have the same side effects.
The dose thus makes the poison.
With normal IR doses, on the contrary, skin rejuvenation increases. Cellulite prevalence and intensity is also reduced with sauna use. Fat layers directly under the skin are the main reason for the existence of cellulite, in combination with connective tissues that are inactive.
Cellulite may actually be a first sign of health deterioration or problems.
Wound healing, moreover, additionally improves with the right IR light dose. Both NIR and FIR seem to benefit wound healing, which is another argument to opt for a full-spectrum infrared sauna if possible.
Another skin problem, a diabetic foot ulcer, for example, is speeds up in healing with IR light. Lots of evidence thus exist that IR light improves skin condition(s).
The lower ranges of NIR, under 1,000 nanometers in wavelength, also protect against sunburn.[127; 128]
Hot stones, emitting heat (IR light) into your skin
I prefer IR light over cosmetics any day (but I'm a man)...
Now a more serious topic:
Even though it sounds crazy, infrared light may combat cancer through several mechanisms.
Hyperthermia - or "overheating of the body" - is commonly used in combination with traditional cancer treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy to reduce the size of tumors.[129; 130; 133]
Your body becomes more sensitive to such traditional cancer treatments with hyperthermia. Many different cancers can be treated that way, such as skin cancer, breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, and others.
Hyperthermia also directly kills cancer cells.[131; 132] FIR, for example, has been proven to inhibit tumor growth in mice.[134; 135] Even more remarkable is that your healthy cells are spared from dying.
Moreover, a cleanup process in your body called "apoptosis" - a programmed cell death - is enhanced when you're experiencing temporary heat stress.[136; 137] Cancerous tissue is less resistant against higher temperatures because blood flow to such areas is lower. Through that mechanism, heat stress selectively kills cancer cells while sparing healthy ones.
Other mechanisms of IR light affecting cancer may exist as well.
Overall, the effects of IR light on cancer are very promising, although more research is needed.
Let's move on to another dangerous killer:
You may know that inflammation is tied to many modern diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
If you frequent saunas 4-7 times a week also have 30% overall lower inflammation levels than with a single weekly session. Through lowering inflammation IR saunas decrease the incidence of modern diseases.
High temperatures created through IR saunas affect your body's so called "heat shock proteins". Cells create heat shock proteins are created with hyperthermia, among others.
Overall, IR saunas can thus be a major contributor to preventing modern disease. Unfortunately, many of the effects of MIR and FIR have not yet been researched in relation to such diseases. NIR has been researched more thoroughly due to its overlap with red light therapy.
The inflammation-lowering effects can nonetheless be expected for all types of saunas. The reason is that traditional saunas are best studies in this regard.
Let's continue: you'll now learn about perhaps the biggest infrared sauna benefit of all:
Toxins are absolutely everywhere in modern society, and getting some infrared light exposure is the perfect way to remove toxins from your body.
Before intentionally removing toxins, however, I recommend giving your body proper nutrition and sleep. Detoxification should be the last step in the process of improving your health, not the first.
The reason for that hierarchy is that detoxification can be very hard on the body--without proper nutrition and sleep, detoxification will do more harm than good...
A couple of years ago you would have been accused of pseudoscience if you thought infrared saunas aid bodily detox. Nothing could be further from the truth though: today, fortunately, direct evidence exist that toxins are eliminated by sauna usage.[202-204; 217; 218]
Many toxins you may or may not know of are eliminated, such as PFCs, PCDFs, PCDDs, and PCBs, but also simple pesticides.[281-283] Methamphetamine from drug use, heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and cadmium, and prescription medicine may be removed as well.
Sebum, an oily compound that is excreted through the pores of your skin, can also contain leftovers from drugs and alcohol use.[277-279] Sauna sessions increase the production of sebum, and using a towel to remove sweat can thus remove these toxins.
Other toxins are expelled through your stool.
Most of these toxins are stored in fat, although many other areas of the body can also store them, such as hair, bones, and toenails. Heat thus helps dislodge these toxins, especially from fat.
Some indications exist that infrared saunas remove more toxins than traditional dry saunas, because a smaller proportion of sweat consists of water after IR sauna use.
That's a big plus.
Some studies have investigated the effects of saunas on detoxification in extreme circumstances: even if you were exposed to toxins after the cleanup at the WTC after September 11, or Chernobyl, improvements in both symptoms and quality of life are made.[293; 294]
Firefighters exposed to toxins improve their brain's memory and working capacity in a study, even though short-term side-effects were experienced including fatigue and anger.
Hopefully not your living environment...
The toxin problem is tragic.
As a result, many people are gaining chemical sensitivities to products such as air refreshers and fragrance.[207; 208]
Toxin intolerance is becoming like a new "allergy" pandemic. The topic of toxins is so central to my health approach that it's covered in a full weekly lecture in my Health Foundations Program.
I've also written several blog posts on toxins before, such as particulate matter (small particles floating in the air due to traffic, industry, and natural causes), and air pollution in general (ranging from toxic mold to ozone and carbon monoxide).
Toxins are even transferred from pregnant mothers to their fetus. Newly born children thereby end up with hundreds of toxins on the first day of their lives.
But the news gets even worse:
Both mitochondria and the health of your nervous system are affected by these toxins.
Let's zoom in on just one pathology: diabetes. While there's no need to remember the names of the following toxins, POPs. PCBs. DDE, DDT, HCB, beta-HCB, and heavy metals such as arsenic are all associated with diabetes in a dose-dependent manner.[300-302]
A "dose-dependent manner" means that the greater amounts of toxins you're exposed to, the higher your risk for getting diabetes becomes.
The fact that many people are not getting any sunlight exposure and thus not sweating therefore contributes to toxins remaining in their bodies for basically permanently. Modern toxin exposure is higher than that of your ancestors, while many people avoid sunlight which can precisely remove these toxins again...
Bottom line: one of the most important benefits of infrared saunas is their ability to help you detox, and detox is more important today than ever before.
Finally moving on to a more lighthearted topic:
The desert with light-reflecting sand: nature's own infrared sauna.
Saunas are extremely productive to improve performance: if you take saunas after every endurance session for three weeks, your "time until exhaustion" in running is increased by a whopping 30%.
Red blood cells numbers are also raised through sauna use. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body, and enhance oxygen uptake. More red blood cells leads to higher performance and quicker recovery.
Olympics 2020 anyone?
Your recovery can additionally quicken if you're exposing yourself to heat. Performance is more quickly restored, for example, after taking a post-exercise sauna.[151; 152] Recovery hormones are likewise boosted after a sauna session.
Heat stress may even help you maintain muscle mass if you're currently not exercising.[138; 139]
As always, combining saunas with exercise leads to better overall health results than using either of these options.
Saunas can also upgrade your capacity to withstand heat. Your human body is thus able to adapt to heat over time.
That principle also holds true for frequently training in the heat: you'll become more energy efficient in such an environment.[147-149]
Overall, the science currently indicates that infrared saunas are best used after workouts, or on days you're not exercising. Pre-workout sauna usage has not been researched in detail, but I'm expecting that strategy to be sub-optimal.
Spending time in a sauna specifically lowers what is called "all cause mortality". All cause mortality signifies your overall risk of dying, independent of cause.[48; 160]
All causes being included means that your risk for dying of a heart attack, a car accident, or in your sleep at old age are all taken into account. The fact that saunas lower your all cause mortality risk thus entails you're having a higher survival rate.
One possible explanation is that activation of the aforementioned creation of "heat shock proteins", after you body gets to a state of hyperthermia, are also associated with longevity.[150; 155; 156] Heat shock proteins additionally aid in protecting cells from bacteria and viruses, which may also extend lifespan.
Cell components may also be recycled better with more heat exposure. That recycling process of damaged cell components - mainly during sleep - lies at the basis of human nighttime regeneration.
It's highly likely that your mitochondria - the energy producing "factories" of your cells, increase in both number and quality after exposure to heat stress.[161-163] Having more mitochondria helps you survive better at older age.
Most people get smaller and fewer mitochondria as they age, contributing to frailty.
Additionally, what is called "oxidative stress" in cells is reduced by heat. Oxidative stress entails that "free radicals" - understood as unpaired electrons - are created as a byproduct of energy production. Free radicals can damage tissues, and lowering the numbers of free radical levels may thus slow down aging.
For the best results - once again - sauna use and exercise need to be combined.
You need deep sleep at night for recovery. As stated before, during deep sleep your cells regenerate and damaged cell components are repaired or cleared, while toxins are being removed.
Great sleep quality directly helps you live longer.[81; 82]
Using a sauna too close to bedtime may actually decrease sleep quality, due to an excessively high body temperature. It's thus best to use a sauna up until early in the evening--never late at night.
As stated before, using an IR sauna right before bedtime also inhibits melatonin production.
Increasing longevity through hot sunlight exposure on a beach day.
Sunlight: the original source of infrared (and weirdly behaving dogs)...
Remember these red blood cells which are integral to oxygen uptake? Taking a sauna after every workout for three weeks increases their volume in your blood by 7%.
7% may not seem that much, but longer-term sauna usage probably increases the effect even more.
More red blood cells means that you can easily transfer more oxygen from the blood into the mitochondria - where your body's oxygen is finally used. Remember that the main task of mitochondria is to produce energy - oxygen transfer is integral to that energy creation.
Also remember that energy efficiency is increased if you intermittently expose yourself to heat.[147-149] Higher energy efficiency means that you'll last longer in the heat during a competition or workout.
Just as lifting weights makes you stronger and improves your endurance, the same is true for taking a sauna and heat tolerance. Training in the heat is thus beneficial if you need to compete in the heat.
Exercising in cold weather will thus not help you adapt to competing in the desert.
Combining cold baths and infrared sauna sessions? In that case you've become a real temperature king - giving you excess energy at normal temperatures.
Infrared from sunlight: check.
High energy levels: check.
Now a benefit literally everyone will benefit from:
Nootropics are substances that improve your cognitive performance, such as your memory, ability to focus, your level of relaxation, and resilience against setbacks.
After a sauna session, your brain becomes more economical, for example. Your brain performs better while using the same amount of energy, due to a more efficient use of neural connections.
The coordination between the brain and gut may also improve. A compound called "VIP", or "Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide", which is present in both the brain and gut, helps your blood vessels dilate properly.
That dilation of blood vessels explains why sauna usage may increase your brain's performance.
Higher brain regions, additionally, become more excitable after hyperthermia, so that learning ability improves. The prefrontal cortex is the paradigmatic example of a higher brain region, which grounds many uniquely human abilities such as abstract thought and impulse control.
Let me give you two reasons, although additional ones exist:
Firstly, BDNF improves neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity signifies the brain's potential to update it's structure over time. Contrary to the scientific consensus prior to the year ~2000, your brain's health and cognitive abilities are not set in stone once you reach adulthood.
Your brain performance today does not predict its performance in a decade - you can grow or lose your cognitive ability.
Poor BDNF levels are associated with cognitive impairments. Higher levels are associated with better memory and learning.[170-172]
The way your brain thus determines your future...
Also remember that BDNF levels are also related to diseases such as Alzheimer's, depression, and Huntington's. Brain health (or disease) and brain performance are thus somewhat related.
Overall, BDNF thus makes your brain more flexible to learn new things, while staving off brain disease.
And there's more:
In a study with an intense detoxification program, IQ also increased with 6.7 points on average. That 6.7 increase is incredible. Putting that gain into context: roughly 10 IQ points make the difference between being able to complete an applied sciences degree and a university degree.
Saunas can thus get you 2/3rd of the way there. In conclusion, saunas are great for brain health.
"C'est le BDNF, humain. Oui, je parle sept langues"
Let's now move on to a domain which many people are struggling with today:
Saunas are a stressor to the body. If you're spending a long time in either a traditional steam room or an IR one, you're going to expend more energy. in a sauna your heart rate increases and fat is being burned, just as you would when you're exercising.
You can burn up to 600 calories (kcal) in a long sauna session. And while sauna sessions can lead to rapid losses of body mass, only part of that loss is fat - most is water.
Through the earlier "upgrading" of certain cell components such as mitochondria, moreover, fat loss is also predicted to increase over time. Hormones associated with fat loss such as growth hormone are also stimulated by hyperthermia.
Insulin sensitivity signifies your cell's ability to take up carbohydrates and burn them as energy. If cells cannot take up carbohydrates, they'll stay in your bloodstream, which then leads to elevated blood glucose levels.
Exposing rats to high temperatures so that their body's heat up (hyperthermia) leads to an increase in insulin sensitivity, despite these rats presently being obese.
Overall, heat therapy decreases fasting blood glucose levels, also on a long-term basis (measured by Hb1Ac). In humans, fortunately, the same effect is observed.[105; 106; 108] The effects of saunas are similar to those of exercise, in that nutrient uptake simultaneously improves.
Even more fascinating is that glucose transporters that work independently of insulin may also increase in functioning. Many mechanisms by which your body's ability to handle carbohydrates improves thus exist.
Overall, heat is a wildly underappreciated means to lose fat and counter type II diabetes.[109; 110]
One caveat? Saunas can increase appetite, especially for sweeter substances.[145; 165] Of course, if you satisfy your appetite with healthy sweets there's less of a problem.
Too much infrared light human. Now we're really slim...
Chronic pain will change your life, and fortunately, infrared saunas will change your chronic pain. In fact, IR light is one of nature's antidotes against excess pain.
Don't believe me?
The pain itself, the behavior associated with that pain, and the depression that's often interrelated with (chronic) pain, are all inhibited through IR light exposure. Unfortunately, the study that demonstrated that effect combined sauna usage with psychotherapy, so it's hard to allocate the benefit purely to IR light.
On the bright side, other studies do demonstrate that FIR treats conditions associated with pain, such as fibromyalgia. Chronic back pain shows the same result. It can thus reasonably be expected that chronic pain is affected by IR light as well.
As often is the case, more research is needed in these areas to explore the full benefits of saunas.
Nonetheless, the initial results look very promising...
Every inch counts if you have chronic pain, so use all your options.
White blood cells only make up a small component of your blood, but have a huge effect on health, specifically by being the basis of your immune system.
The numbers of white blood cells in your blood increases after a sauna sessions. Several types of white blood cells increase in quantity.
One example are "lymphocytes" of your lymphatic system. Your lymph system helps fight infections, and filters your blood. "Neutrophils" are another instance which also fight infections. "Basophils", functioning in blood clotting and in possible allergic responses, is one last example.
You'll become less susceptible to a common cold. The effect of saunas is so strong that cold incidence literally halves. After you've already gotten a cold, sauna therapy does not quicken your recovery.
The heat shock proteins I've mentioned before also play a role in your immune system.[181; 183] Both your permanent immune defense, also called the "innate immune response", and your reactive defenses against invaders, named "adaptive immune response", are upregulated with hyperthermia.
(Infrared) saunas main mechanism on the immune system is that seem to stimulate a mild fever. In a fever, the activity of your immune system increases. The effect of that heightened activation of the immune system makes you more able to fight invaders.
Beware: very high levels of hyperthermia can suppress rather than activate your immune system. That danger is especially important if you've currently got a compromised immune system due to having a disease, for instance.
Don't overdo the heat if you're using it to boost your immune system.
Joint health can also be improved with sauna usage. Joint problems, such as "osteoarthritis", which consists of joint degradation, are positively affected.
In an inflammatory joint condition called "rheumatoid arthritis", joint stiffness and pain are reduced.[177; 178] Nerve pain exemplifies a similar pattern.
This benefit is short but simple. No research currently exist whether IR light can prevent joint problems, although such an effect may be possible given the current curative effects.
Osteoarthritis, where bone meets bone - resulting in pain.
The fact that morning sunlight contains lots of infrared is very beneficial: IR exposure preconditions the skin to be more resistant to sunburns later in the day.[45; 46]
The NIR part of the light spectrum that has best been tested for that effect. Most modern people don't get any infrared exposure at all anymore, because indoor artificial light only emits visible light.
Your ancestors got their infrared from the morning sun. Hunter gatherer societies are actually most active during the morning hours. Guess what? In the early morning, only infrared and visible light reach the earth's surface.
That infrared thus protects your body against the stronger sun with ultraviolet light later in the day.
Now you know why you're getting sunburned so quickly if you're moving directly into the noon sun during the summertime.
Remember that amazing feeling when you just finished a sauna session?
Before getting into the sauna, breathing may have been more difficult, but afterwards? All problems solved...
Your nose was cleared, and breathing was the easiest it has been in years.
Saunas clean your sinuses, for example. In case you've got a condition called "allergic rhinitis" - in which your sinuses are chronically congested and inflamed infrared saunas help you clear your nose.[102-103]
Sneezing, itching, and a leaky nose are also reduced.
Even with lung conditions, sauna sessions can improve your breathing capacity. In "COPD", for example, a lung condition in which breathing can be obstructed at several places, maximal breathing capacity increases through sauna sessions.[186; 190]
Sauna bathing also reduces the chances of getting respiratory disease. A couple of sauna sessions per week reduce your risk of getting airway or lung diseases with 27%, and more than four sessions reduces risk with an insane 41%.
Pneumonia risk - another name for infected airways - also goes down with more sauna sessions by up to almost 50%.[188; 189]
NIR may also has specific benefits for lung health, such as helping prevent lung cancer.[191-193]
Saunas thus have a big potential to prevent and reverse respiratory problems .
Unfortunately, the scientific evidence on the relationship between infrared saunas and chronic fatigue syndrome is spread thin and of low-quality.
Let's nonetheless make sense of the research that is available. I'll go over some benefits point by point:
Fatigue, pain, sleep quality, and immune functioning all improve with infrared saunas. The intensity of the chronic fatigue condition itself may also be reduced, allowing for a re-integration into life's activities.
Blood flow to the brain may also be enhanced with IR light saunas. While you may assume that brain blood flow has nothing to do with chronic fatigue syndrome, the two concepts are nevertheless related. People with chronic fatigue syndrome generally have reduced blood flow.[325; 326]
Current studies don't do justice to the amazing benefits infrared saunas which many people with chronic fatigue actually experience.
If you've got chronic fatigue, I strongly recommend spending a day at the spa and trying IR therapy there - you'll feel the effects for fifty bucks. And soon afterwards you'll, probably order your own sauna to take your health to the next level...
Chronic fatigue? Nah...
Alzheimer and Parkinson are one of the most common nervous system diseases.
Let's first get a basic understanding of these conditions:
Alzheimer's is characterized by a buildup of "plague" in the brain that prevents it from functioning optimally. In Alzheimer's, your brain loses nerve cells and connections between these cells quicker than other people of your age.
Alzheimer's mostly affects older people.
Parkinson's, secondly, consists of a dysfunction of the "dopamine" brain signaling substance. Dopamine is necessary for proper movement, and motivated action. In Parkinson's nerve cells also eventually die.
The more sauna sessions you get, the associated risk for Alzheimer's disease (and dementia) goes down up to a whopping 66%.
(Infrared) saunas affect the progression of both these diseases, especially NIR. For maintaining specifically brain function with NIR, I highly recommend the Vielight Neuro Alpha. You can get a 10% discount on that product with code NBH1.
NIR light is also proven to work in Parkinson's disease.[200; 201] Nerve cells are protected from slowly dying off, for example. Mitochondrial dysfunction, secondly, is also prevented and reversed through IR light.
Infrared saunas are most probably also great for reducing symptom intensity of both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Near infrared light improves brain health at several levels, such as oxygen flow and consumption, the removal of toxins from the brain, and improving the functioning of mitochondria (the energy producing factories in your cells).
Your brain is actually - together with your heart - a body part richest in mitochondria. Both are protected through infrared light...
Lastly you'll learn about some "bonus" benefits:
I do expect hundreds if not thousands of studies to more definitively prove the effects of infrared saunas in the coming decade(s). A downside is that there's less of an incentive to fund studies into natural solutions, as no money can be made of them.
Until more evidence emerges, the current circumstantial evidence is almost overwhelming in proving that saunas are completely amazing to your health.
Some additional examples:
Many more exist.
That's it, 20 infrared sauna benefits. And remember, remember:
Nothing is so relaxing as a late-afternoon (infrared) sauna after work.
Alternatively, do you meditate in the morning? Don't waste time and do so in the sauna - you'll hit two birds with one stone. A combined 20 or 30 meditation session in an infrared sauna is heaven.
Let's now consider a topic that many people have in the back of their minds: using infrared for detoxification, and specific protocols for doing so:
I'll start again with a disclaimer: as of now, I do not recommend using any specialized method to detox toxins from the body, except dietary fiber or activated charcoal.
Many different compounds exist to help toxins be removed from the body, such as the niacin detox protocol that uses high doses of vitamin B3 (niacin), and Andy Cutler's chelation protocol, which uses ALA, DMPS and DMSA (no need to remember these abbreviations), and protocols that only use DMSA.
Cilantro and chlorella (an algae) are also used, as is clay, as well as many other substances.
But let's first divide the effects of such compounds in two broad categories: most detox compounds either 1) increase the release of certain toxins (such as from fat cells), or 2) improve the body's ability to remove these toxins.
Through such mechanisms you can remove a wide array of toxins, including heavy metals, PFCs (Perfluorinated Chemical) which is found on furniture and household objects, and pesticides.
Many of these toxins are stored for years if not decades in the human body. Toxins accumulate over time, leading to higher and higher disease risks.
So let's go through some of these detox protocols and scrutinize them:
If you do have good results with the niacin protocol, however, that's great.
The niacin protocol does exhibit a few problems that are indefensible from the standpoint of the modern scientific literature.
I'm basing my criticism on Ron L. Hubbard's book that describes the Niacin protocol called "Clear Body, Clear Mind" - which often recommended on Facebook. Any dosage listed below directly taken from Hubbard's book.
So how does that protocol work? The niacin detox protocol depends on... well: niacin (and many other strategies and substances).
At first, lower and safer niacin dosages are prescribed. That niacin is eventually taken at dosages of several grams (in some instances).
Taking higher niacin dosages may be dangerous in the long-run, potentially leading to fatigue and energy issues, brain fog, and depression.
Other issues exist with advice within the niacin protocol such as:
Other problems exist as well, that I won't go into now.
The fact that this protocol is working so perfectly is a testament to the power of saunas, not the niacin protocol.
I recommend people be wary of using that protocol for detox, as it may have unintended consequences.
Niacin liberates fats from your stores into the bloodstream.[268; 269] Fat stores many toxins. Animal studies also demonstrate that liberating fat into the blood stream allows for the removal of such toxins.[270; 271]
Of course, different toxins are stored and leave the body in different ways.
And although no direct scientific studies on this subject exists, research indicates that niacin may help release toxins through the skin as well.[272-274]
Niacin has additional benefits though: the compound directly increase NAD, an important compound that's part of mitochondrial functioning. Recall that mitochondria are the energy producing factories in your cells. What many people don't know is that mitochondria play a role in cell defense, and can "shut down" part of their energy production when under threat.
Due to niacin's effect on mitochondrial function - especially in high dosages - it affects energy production at a very basal level, but also immunology. Excess niacin may thus paradoxically interfere with energy function.
Age, sex, water intake prior to a sauna, can all affect sweating patterns. And yes, different people literally have different sweating patterns.[284-286] Some people lose more salt when sweating, for example.
Some people lose lots of water during a sauna session--others do not.
It's thus impossible to prescribe a one size fits all supplementation scheme for replacing lost minerals after a session. A one size fits all approach may thus even actively harm you - intense sauna sessions require an individualized approach.
One last criticism is that the niacin protocol prescribes supplementation with what are called "polyunsaturated fatty acids", through walnut, soy, safflower, or peanut oils. These oils contain high amounts of "omega 6" fats, which most people already take in excessively.
Whether you need to take in such oils also depends on your personal circumstances...
I highly recommend not taking these omega 6 oils as your dietary balance can get even more skewed towards these fats. Without knowing your dietary lifestyle, these fats cannot be prescribed universally.
And even then, excessive polyunsaturated fat consumption is associated with many modern diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more...
Aluminum, mercury, and arsenic are examples of heavy metals found in clay.[286-288]
Heavy metals can have horrendous health effects, and exposure should be avoided as much as possible.[289; 290]
Only by exactly knowing how many parts per billion of each toxins metal can be found in a clay, would I ever dare to supplement with them. Natural products are not always safe.
The biggest downside of activated charcoal is that it may interfere with vitamin and mineral absorption.
If you're thus using activated charcoal close to a meal, many of the vitamins and minerals may not be absorbed properly.
The best way to use activated charcoal for detox then, is if you're using an infrared sauna between meals.
I recommend taking granulated activated charcoal, which are made up of bigger pieces instead of a powder. I do not recommend taking the powder at this point, as some sources state the powdered activated charcoal may end up in the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
(The lymphatic system is a detoxification system in your body.)
Fortunately, activated charcoal is also great in removes toxins from the body. Even if you do use activated charcoal, use caution.
If you consistently have an intake of fiber through plant foods, such as vegetables, then you should have a better means to remove toxins from your body.
Keep in mind that with conventional (non-organic) plant food sources, you'll be adding to your toxic load, as many pesticides are found inside these plants. Washing will thus not fully remove pesticides.
Whether you tolerate plant foods properly depends on your individual context - some people do better on plants than others.
Some plants that do not aggravate the gut of many people, such as raw carrots, may be perfect for functioning as fiber during infrared sauna sessions.
Bottom online: stay away from extreme detox protocols.
And one more time: always make sure to re-hydrate and eat plenty of vitamin and mineral-rich foods afterwards. Organ meats and shellfish can be placed on top of the list in vitamin and mineral density. Vegetables and fruits are also great for supplementing vitamins and minerals.
Let's now look at the criteria which the highest-quality saunas currently available should have:
Let's now move to another question you may have: the difference between infrared and traditional saunas, such as the dry sauna or a steam sauna.
In this section I'll describe the differences between diverging styles of saunas.
As you now know, traditional dry saunas have been used for thousands of years. Infrared saunas are relatively new, however, having been mass marketed since the 1970s.
These different types of saunas also use different mechanisms to heat the body:
Traditional dry saunas use heated air at 80-85 degrees Celsius (175-185F) to warm your body, with a humidity level of 10-20%. Infrared saunas, on the contrary, often achieve maximum temperatures of mere 60 degrees Celsius (140F) combined with lower humidity levels.
Remember I wrote about the effects of infrared on the water in your body? Infrared light heats that water, because NIR, MIR, and FIR are all absorbed at different frequencies.
Infrared saunas thus heat your body from within, as well as from outside because of heating the air. Traditional saunas need to get really hot to be effective, but that's not so much the case for their infrared counterparts.
IR light has the additional benefit of releasing more toxins from fat stores. Body fat is one of the main places human beings store toxins.
Dry and steam saunas may also have a different effect on sweating patterns. Infrared saunas lead to less water weight being emitted, and thus more toxins by implication.
The end result is the well-known sweating.
Sweating lets you lose both water and toxins. Of course, make sure to always drink enough high quality water when using a sauna.
Many people underestimate how much water they're losing during a sauna visit. One hour of sauna use can make you lose up to 2 liters of water.
As a result of sweating, you'll start to lose electrolytes. Electrolytes are substances that hold an electric charge. Sodium is a main example of an electrolyte - you therefore need to recharge sodium (through salt) after sauna use.
Water and mineral losses are issues with both traditional and infrared saunas. The more you're sweating, the greater the need to restore such losses.
And because infrared saunas make you sweat intensely at much lower temperatures, you may require putting some thought into how you're going to replete them.
The reason is that some people cannot properly tolerate the high heats of traditional saunas.
As the IR counterpart performs on lower temperatures, breathing hot air is never an issue. As always, IR is the more gentle method.
Traditional steam saunas build up extreme amounts of heat, and therefore need proper ventilation.
The need for ventilation entails that you can only use the sauna in your bathroom in most instances. The reason is that bathrooms commonly have ventilation in place to remove excess hot air.
One way in which traditional saunas are more favorable, however, is because they are more easily custom made for fitting a specific location. Phrased differently, if you want a 12 by 15 foot traditional sauna for your (overly large) bathroom, that's possible.
The size of carbon or ceramic panels hinder such an approach of infrared saunas, because the dimension heaters lead to a preference for building saunas with discrete measurements.
A steam room: how are you going to remove the hot air if you're
opting for a traditional sauna in your home?
60 Minutes is the longest recommended time to spend in an IR sauna.
Traditional saunas can be used for hours, however, if you keep alternating between cold water and the heat.
And because many people are already too busy by far, I highly recommend getting an home sauna to cut down on treatment time even further.
Additionally, infrared saunas are frequently described as being more relaxing and less hard on the body than their traditional counterparts.
A sweat lodge - constructions used to be far more primitive centuries ago
Traditional saunas can use hot rocks, for example, to heat up a room. These hot rocks may need to be replaced every decade. Carbon or ceramic heaters in IR saunas, on the contrary, can last for decades with proper use.
As traditional saunas are also more expensive in their initial purchasing price, the calculation is easy: IR is simply less expensive. Energy costs operating an infrared sauna only amount to $0.20 per hour.
IR saunas thus have several benefits which make them much more favorable for home usage.
In most instances, infrared saunas are the clear winner. In the subsequent section, I'll consider the criteria for selecting the best model out there.
in this section I'll consider ten different criteria for choosing the best infrared sauna. My goal of this sections is to systematically consider all of these compounds that saunas are built up with, and make sure you're getting a safe and inexpensive deal.
Before digging into topics such several toxins and EMFs, let's first discuss a ruling principle regarding toxins and heat.
That principle can also be applied to saunas:
The same principle holds true for saunas. If you buy a low-quality sauna, you're going to pay the price for inhaling toxins.
Let me give you another analogy:
What causes the best uptake of cannabis, 1) eating it; 2) rubbing it on your skin; 3) smoking it?
The correct answer is option 3 of course...
Many compounds can be taken up directly into the bloodstream after entering your lungs. Buying the cheapest infrared sauna out there can thus expose you to an exponential amount of toxins, because you're breathing them in.
Toxins do thus not belong in a sauna, because you're using a sauna to detoxify.
Formaldehyde is a "VOC", or "Volatile Organic Compound" - an airborne toxin.
Some sauna companies use particle board as opposed to plywood to construct their saunas. Neither are great options, because the former option also contains formaldehyde.
You'll want high-quality wood integrated into your sauna. Cedar or bass wood are examples of solid woods not made up of recycled sources such as plywood.
Hemlock is amazing as a sauna building material too - and is the hardest material of the three, and thus most resistant to damage. Many sauna manufacturers are slowly transitioning to using hemlock.
Cedar often wins out in the aesthetics department though. The bottom line is this: always opt for solid wood. That wood should have additional criteria though:
Many saunas also contain resins which can off gas during use. Woods should be dried to remove resins and oils before they can be properly used.
Sauna manufacturers should thus go through a process to remove oils so that they don't off gas during sauna usage. In a high-quality sauna you shouldn't find a very strong wood smell...
Proceeding to the next criterion:
And yet, many people make the wrong size choice when purchasing a sauna
Beware of buying a sauna that's a "perfect fit" in any room, as you'll always require some spare space to assemble the sauna in the first place.
The topic of size also plays a role in whether you can lay down in the sauna, or need to sit up straight. If you buy a larger model, it generaly becomes possible to lie down once in a while.
Lying down is often impossible in 1 and 2-person models. The size of a sauna is thus calculated on the basis of sitting upright. A 4-person sauna thus entails that 4 people can sit upright in such a sauna.
Choosing the correct sauna from the outset, moreover, is extremely important: it's very hard to reverse a purchase.
By the time you find out the sauna's size doesn't accord to your needs, the product has shipped to your home, you've spent thousands of dollars, and may have used the sauna for a month or two.
Naturally, you can be disappointed in any quality of a sauna, such as its heat output, wood quality, or size as discussed previously.
Bigger is always better? Be careful what you wish for...
I don't think you necessarily need them. So let's consider a few accessories...
A backrest is nice if you're older, so that you can sit more relaxed in a sauna.
I don't recommend ever buying a "light therapy", "chromotherapy", or "color therapy" upgrades. If you want to have light therapy, buy some red light therapy panels. Light therapy in saunas is often overpriced, and located too far away from the body to be truly effective.
Don't buy an ionizer either...
Seat cushions that pick up sweat are also highly recommended. Such cushions keep your sauna looking "as new", which means that you can expect a $5,000 to even $10,000 increase in home value with a properly maintained $5,000 sauna.
Big towels are a less expensive way to achieve the same job though...
Keep in mind that the ten criteria displayed above are not exhaustive. Many other possible criteria exist, of course, such as the construction type (whether it's constructed with bolts or self-locking, for example), or possible hidden costs (shipping or sales taxes) when buying one.
Nevertheless, the ten criteria are most important and sufficient to make 99% of purchases a happy one
So now that you understand all criteria of a high-quality infrared sauna, let's first consider what sauna is most perfect for home use.
Perfection, although unaffordable to many...
Many different infrared saunas are on the market today, ranging from Sunlighten saunas to Clearlight.
Then there's Heavenly Heat, Sun Stream, Therasauna, and Physiotherm, and hundred other brands.
There's even a difference between "Radiant Health Sauna" and "Radiant Sauna" - yes, one of these is a knockoff brand.
The upside for you is that I've been looking at different models and possibilities during the last few weeks. I've even spoken with some experts about the difference in models, and how to test for them.
The first category pertains to saunas that still have medium (DC) non-native EMF levels, but of which the health benefits far outweigh possible downsides.
To re-emphasize my point: if you're afraid of getting any non-native EMF exposure through using a sauna, you should also not use a car, bus, or airplane anymore.
An airplane? Don't get me started...
Note that this sauna emits FIR, not NIR and MIR. Nevertheless, the FIR is sufficient to make you break a great sweat.
And while this sauna only has a 2-year warranty, lifelong tech support is included.
The sauna pictured above has many other benefits other than its low price: it's made out of double-layer cedar wood, and is free of toxins such as formaldehyde, and has a solid construction. And even though the sauna is inexpensive, no cheap plywood is used.
Note: the model above is not recommended if you've got (extreme) electromagnetic hypersensitivity. If you're hypersensitive to EMF and you're low on money, just consider the premium model below or the very inexpensive $80 DIY setup of the next section.
And just to preempt the argument: you can see higher EMF measurements for the JHN in this, and this video, but they don't measure the EMFs correctly (as there's no distinction between the DC and AC current).
Some people have also "hacked" this JNH sauna by drilling some openings into the roof, and using the NIR + MIR heat bulbs displayed in the next section to add oomph to this model. By adding heat bulbs, you've created a full spectrum model with NIR + MIR + FIR.
Clearlight has many benefits as a premium option.
First of all, ELFs and EMFs are almost non-existent - making the sauna an amazing choice if you've got electrical hypersensitivity. Make sure to disconnect the Bluetooth on top of the sauna - the Clearlight website contains instructions on achieving this.
Secondly, the Clearlight Jacuzzi saunas combine NIR, MIR, and FIR, for maximum therapeutic potential. Clearlight achieves that feat through combining carbon and ceramic heaters.
Thirdly, the sauna is impeccably constructed, with high-quality woods and no toxins that can off gas (such as glues).
Fourthly, Clearlight Jacuzzi offers a lifetime guarantee on all sauna components for residential use (as opposed to commercial), which is not offered by any other company I've researched. Yes, you'll pay just once and enjoy that sauna for your full lifetime, with guarantee...
Fifty, the wood quality of these Clearlight saunas is impeccable. I could go on and on about the benefits of this sauna.
The only downside of Clearlight saunas is their price, but they're not that much more expensive than many of their competitor's models. If you've got $6,000 to spend - and if I had $6,000 to spend - Clearlight is an amazing option.
The amount of care that is taken to optimize the quality of Clearlight saunas is incredible. You'll literally increase your home value with such a sauna...
If you're interested in a Clearlight sauna, follow this link.
Both the JNH lifestyles and Clearlight saunas described above have a timer that automatically shuts the infrared heaters down after a period of time - which is great for your safety.
Disclaimer: 95%+ of people don't need a Clearlight sauna, and will do well with the previously described JNH model.
Next to Jacuzzi Clearlight, Radiant Health, and Heavenly Heat also have good, but offer a slightly lower quality overall package and bang for your buck. Celebration saunas are amazing if you want a high-end FIR sauna (without NIR and MIR).
I would not recommend Sauna Core, Sunstream, Relax Sauna, Therasauna, and Sunlighten if you're seeking out a high quality full spectrum IR heating. While these saunas are great, they're not the best in terms of price and quality ratio.
Overall, my premium pick is thus Clearlight, even though I cannot afford one myself (just yet).
If you've got less cash, go for the JNH sauna listed above. And if you've got even less cash (like me), then take a peek at the next section.
Many modern portable sauna models emit lots of nn-EMF while also containing toxins. Remember that toxic materials inside a sauna are a no-go.
Such portable saunas can often sell for upward of $1,000. For that price, I highly recommend either the JNH sauna if you're not sensitive to EMFs, or the even cheaper DIY sauna I'm laying out in the next section.
Other problems with portable saunas is that you often cannot replace their parts, even for a financial compensation, and that warranties are generally bad.
The upside of far infrared heating pads is that they can be used during other activities, such as while watching Netflix, or while working on your computer.
I'd recommend the following far infrared heating mat, which needs to be low in EMFs because it's placed directly against the body (contrary to carbon heaters in infrared saunas):
The costs of such a mat range from a couple of hundred bucks to over $1,000. For most people that mat may not be the perfect choice, but for some it's perfect. The product I've listed above has an amazing quality, and is the best FIR heating mat currently in existence.
So let's now consider an even more affordable option:
An inexpensive option.
There's no need to pay $6,000 to enjoy the benefits of IR light. In fact, for under hundred dollars, you can get many of the earlier described benefits.
So let's consider the infrared light setup. If you're living in the US, you can order the following Philips incandescent heat light bulb:
These bulbs use 250 Watts of power. Most lamp holders are not tested for 250W light bulbs - in part because the bulbs get shocking hot - and you thus need a specific lamp holder to use these 250W heat lamps:
Make sure to add a power strip if you don't have sufficient different power outlets at your home.
You 'll need 3-5 of these clamp lamp holder and bulbs to build a setup for your home. Always atttach these lamp holders to a sturdy material. Watch the video below to give you a good impression of this setup:
Yes, I know, the video states a higher price, but that's because a stool, an object for clamping, towels, and other objects are included into the financial equation.
An incandescent heat bulb. Cheap but highly effective
Warning: never touch these heat lamps while they're being used, as their temperature can rise to several hundred degrees Celsius.
15-20% of the IR light emitted by incandescent heat bulbs is emitted in the NIR area. The rest of the light is located in the MIR and FIR areas. Even though these bulbs are advertised as NIR bulbs, they emit other frequencies as well.
If you're not directly looking into these lights, and your eyes are not getting extremely hot, these bulbs are completely safe for your eyes.
The setup also takes virtually no space in your home, as you can clamp the lamps on an object (you need to be somewhat creative here), and then remove the clamp lamps after their use.
So for many people (including my broke self), I actually recommend this heat lamp setup. With that heat lamp setup, you can start saving for a more expensive infrared sauna model, such as the ones I've recommended in the previous section.
Sure, although SaunaSpace supplies a beautiful canvas construction that keeps the infrared light in an enclosure, together with a wooden chair and a floor. A wooden panel that holds 4 heat bulbs is also included.
A big upside of the SaunaSpace product is that it doesn't emit any EMF or ELF, just like the <$100 setup I've posted above - great if you're hypersensitive to EMF.
The quality of the SaunaSpace product is good, but I just do not think the investment is worth it for 99%+ of people. If you've got lots of cash, sure, buy a SaunaSpace, but remember that if you can buy a SaunaSpace, you can probably also afford a Clearlight sauna as well.
For about $4,500 you can buy a Clearlight Sanctuary sauna (excluding shipping). The most expensive SaunaSpace setup now costs $7,500, which is so expensive due to EMF minimization.
In that $3,000+ price range I would love to have a beautiful wooden sauna, not a canvas tent with heat bulbs.
So in almost all instances, I don't recommend the SaunaSpace heat bulb setup - unless you've got cash to throw away.
If you buy SaunaSpace, you're paying $3,000+ for the tent, ground floor, wooden panel for the heat bulbs, and chair. Another shocker? The goal of the tent is not to trap the heat, obviously, as Saunaspace themselves state that:
"SaunaSpace incandescent heat lamps don’t produce as much ambient heat as a far-infrared emitter. The Pocket Sauna (inside air temperature ~110-125°F) doesn’t get as hot as a far-infrared (inside air temperature ~150°F) or traditional steam sauna (inside air temperature ~110-125°F). This is because it doesn’t have to. The benefits of sauna therapy don’t come from raising the temperature of the air.
They come from raising the core temperature of the body."
So in other words, the canvas enclosure is not strictly necessary to get health benefits of heat bulbs. I fully agree with that assessment, so don't buy Sauna Space, read my previous section and buy some heat bulbs for $80.
Let's now consider (possible) side effects:
With normal sauna usage and gradual buildup, side-effects should be almost non-existent. The most essential way to avoid side-effects is to use common sense, and gradually building up the intensity and duration of your sessions.
Gradual buildup becomes more important the sicker and older you are. Young guys and gals can enter a sauna, and sit in there for 30 or 45 minutes, note that '"it's hot in here", and recover within a minute afterward.
If you're older or sick, you've got to observe how you respond to a sauna session. With fibromyalgia, for example - a condition characterized by chronic pain symptoms - I highly recommend using a 10-15 session the first time, and then track how you react.
The same is true for chronic fatigue, or another condition. Always consult your physician before using a sauna if you've got a disease.
The reason for my very conservative approach to using saunas is the detox reaction: IR light mobilizes toxins from your fat stores, which then enter your blood stream. If many toxins have been stored in your body, through decades of (over-)exposure, you can experience an initial adverse reaction.
Over time, you can work your way up to an hour.
If you've got trashed mitochondria, on the other hand, or a chronic disease, sitting in a sauna for a longer period of time can be overkill. Becoming too hot or staying in a state of hyperthermia for too long can have you take an extended time to recover.
The worse your overall health, the greater the risk for side-effects becomes.
What happens if you don't use common sense...
I've said this before but it bears repeating: if you've got chronic fatigue syndrome, or heart problems, or an open wound, you need to be extra careful with saunas and consult your physician.
Conditions in which your immune system has gone haywire are also expected to be more problematic. Rheumatoid arthritis is an example. The reason is that such conditions often affect inflammation, which is also regulated by infrared light exposure.
Another less well known "side-effect" also exists:
Hormesis - which pertains to some types of stress - entails that your body adapts and grows stronger to resist stress the next time you're exposed to it.
If the intensity of the stressor is too low, your body will not get a stimulus to adapt--if the intensity is too high, your body will be overburdened and you'll get weaker.
The right kind of heat stress is thus necessary for your body to adapt and become stronger. Over time you'll thus build up a type of "sauna strength" or "sauna endurance", which helps you last longer in the heat compared to if you were never exposed in the first place.
That concept is sometimes also called "sauna fitness". So maybe you'll become as fit as a teenager again after all...
Cold showers and baths work on the same principle - you'll get more tolerant to cold after you've regularly exposed yourself.
Now that you've become an infrared sauna expert yourself, let's take one quick peek at the difference between saunas and red light therapy:
So let's consider the differences between infrared saunas and red light therapy.
The former uses the full infrared light spectrum to heat up your body, while the latter uses red and NIR light to provide heat-free light exposure to your cells and mitochondria.
I've already said a few things regarding their relationship, but I'll explore the dynamic in full detail here.
Let me explain...
Recall the picture of light I've given before:
Full spectrum infrared saunas often emit all the wavelenghts between ~700 and tens of thousands of nanometers, all the way into the FIR part of the spectrum.
Red light therapy, on the contrary, often exclusivity uses very specific wavelengths around 660 nanometers and 880 nanometers. If a red light therapy device emits light at peaks around 660 nanometers, then some light may be emitted around 650 and 670 namometers, but not at 640 and 680, and so forth.
IR saunas thus emit light from 700 to 710, from 710 to 720, from 720 to 730, etcetera, all the way until the tens of thousands of nanometers.
There's thus a big overlap in benefits, although differences do exist.
Whether you should prioritize red light therapy or an infrared sauna thus depends on your circumstances and goals.
If detoxification or feeling great is your goal, opt for an infrared sauna. If improving post-workout recovery or energy levels is your goal, buy a red light therapy device.
Let's conclude at last:
The research into infrared saunas is still in its early stages, and yet, the developments are extremely impressive.
Examples of benefits include anti-aging, removing the tens of thousands different toxins toxins from your body, reducing pain, improving joint health, and many more.
Infrared saunas can be used for almost any cause imaginable: maybe you just want to de-stress at night, or perhaps you're unfortunate enough to have Fibromyalgia and want to cope with that disease.
Young and old, healthy and sick can all benefit from infrared saunas.
And you know what?
Skip that night out in town and you can already afford that $80 for a couple of lamp holders and heat lamps. Almost everyone can afford these bulbs - just ask your boss whether you may work late sometime and you'll have the cash.
Skip the holiday, and a budget 2-person infrared sauna is yours for just over $1,000. That budget option is a great buy for many people.
Doesn't cost the world...
And if you're really a sauna lover, and spend every night in there, then buy a Jacuzzi Clearlight. Your health will thank you, your spouse will thanks you, and heck, even your kids will thank you - the sauna is build to last 125 years when used 5 times a week.
And remember: the infrared sauna benefits are hard to overstate - and you deserve the very best...
Stars that are billions year old emit infrared light.
You've now grasp that power of nature, a true wonder.
 Astronomy Division Scheme
 International Commission on Illumination scheme
 International Organization for Standardization. Scheme 20473.
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