A lot has been written about the health benefits of infrared sauna. The question to be asked is of course: is all of this true? Should you really rush out and get yourself one of these miracle-cure wonder devices to avoid missing out on all the age-reversing, pain-reducing and beauty-enhancing benefits that infrared sauna owners are enjoying?
The answer might surprise you. Maybe you should.
You see, my goal with this website is to inform. I’m not here to sell you (on the idea of) an infrared sauna. I happen to love my infrared sauna, I love the relaxation and the feeling of well-being that it brings me and I do believe that it’s good for my health. What I do not know, on the other hand, is whether or not my own infrared sauna is the very best out there, whether or not there are other infrared saunas available that would work even better for me. That I don’t know.
I do know, however, that at the time when I was researching infrared saunas when I was in the market for one, it was hard to find any decent information to back up the health claims. Sure, there was “information” to be found on the different websites of infrared saunas manufacturers about how beneficial they are for glowing, healthy-looking skin, increased circulation, improved immune system and the list goes on and on. In fact they were all telling the same story, over and over again. Except the ones that were selling far infrared saunas vs near infrared saunas. They were of course all trying to convince that one was better vs the other.
But how much can you actually believe about the health benefits of infrared sauna?
A lot has changed in the meanwhile. I did continue to try and find some sort of evidence or backup for the health claims, I did continue to search for more solid information and as a matter of fact, I did manage to collect a number of articles, blog posts and studies that seemed of particular interest. I noticed that, while many of the infrared sauna manufacturers keep rehearsing and recycling each other’s information, some other, independent sources seem to be telling a much more interesting story.
Thus far I had seen many articles that tried to convince me that the infrared heat penetrates inches deep into the bodily tissues where it does all sorts of good for body cells and knocks loose toxins which are expelled through the body’s sweat response etc. This sounds all very well and good and even logical to some extent, but how can we indeed be sure that all this is actually really going on while we are relaxing in our infrared sauna?
I mean, even if I want to believe in the health benefits of infrared sauna, how can I be more or less confirmed in my idea that spending money on an infrared sauna is actually a sane investment in my health? That setting aside the time for my infrared sauna sessions several times a week is not a futile waste of my time?
The answer appeared to be coming from a number of seemingly unrelated pieces of information that I stumbled upon across the web that raised my curiosity. They raised my curiosity because, as opposed to earlier health-touting stories that I read, these stories or reports didn’t seem to be commercially inspired with the purpose to persuade someone into purchasing an infrared sauna. They seemed to originate from actual people who had experienced first hand some kind of particular cure or improvement in a specific condition. And for others, they seemed to be conclusions from tests and studies that had been carried out in a scientific environment.
For instance, there was this story I read about a woman who said that her lifelong “eye floaters” had suddenly disappeared as an unexpected effect of using her near infrared sauna.
While this particular post on her website (thehealthyhomeeconomist.com) does indeed talk about health benefits of infrared sauna, the general purpose of the website seems to be to offer health news in general (not infrared sauna specific), real food recipes, video how-to’s etc. In other words: to me it doesn’t look like she’s plugging infrared saunas.
That, plus the fact that she mentions the somewhat unusual and unexpected benefit of the disappearance of a phenomenon so common as eye floaters, grabbed my attention.
Another reason for that is that just a little while earlier, at the hospital, eye floaters were brought to my attention by the eye surgent who operated on my mother’s cataract and implanted prosthetic lenses into her eyes. During a follow-up appointment where my mother’s eyesight was tested, the surgent mentioned the appearance of eye floaters and how they would eventually would diminish as my mother’s eyes would recover further.
Eye floaters are spots within your vision that move or float when you look around (mostly when you look at bright scenes or at a blue sky on a sunny day).
The post mentioned above, from the lady who wrote that her eye floaters disappeared after using her infrared sauna, struck me as very specific and a-typical. Not your next average health benefits of infrared sauna story, but sounded pretty convincing to me.
I came across another link between eye condition and health benefits of infrared sauna as well. Glassblower’s cataract is an eye condition that is associated with the profession of glassblowers working near melting furnaces during many years. Some say that this exposure to ultra-high levels of infrared energy is responsible for the eye problems that glassblowers.
This has led to the misconception that using an infrared sauna could potentially be harmful for your eyes. Further research showed that the extremely high energy level of the infrared radiation that glassblowers are exposed to have nothing to do with the moderate levels in your average infrared sauna. Saying that using an infrared sauna is dangerous for your eyes because glassblowers can get cataract from the many years of exposure to ultra high levels of infrared in melting furnaces is like saying that you can’t use light at night because looking directly into the sun is bad for your eyes.
What’s more, I even discovered a study where mice that were blinded by chemicals regained their sight after infrared therapy. The study suggests that infrared therapy may represent a therapeutic approach for the treatment of retinal injury and retinal diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy.
In another study, I found that infrared therapy improved symptoms of headache, sleep disturbance, cognition, mood dysregulation, anxiety, and irritability.
Sure I had read before that being able to sleep like a baby at night after an infrared sauna session was also one of the amazing health benefits of infrared sauna, but now this study on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website seemed to confirm in a study what was being claimed on many infrared sauna websites.
But there was more.
Then, there was another study I found in which it was demonstrated that infrared therapy is effective in reducing chronic low back pain without any adverse effects as one of the health benefits of infrared sauna. For this study, 40 patients were recruited from patients attending the Rothbart Pain Management Clinic, North York, Ontario. During the study, pain was assessed in patients and rated on the numerical rating scale (NRS). The mean NRS scores in the treatment group fell from 6.9 of 10 to 3 of 10 at the end of the study. The mean NRS in the placebo group fell from 7.4 of 10 to 6 of 10.
The study talks about improved wound healing, relief of arthritic knee pain and increased endorphin levels as some of the other health benefits of infrared sauna.
Reduction of cellulite is another one of the amazing benefits promoted on various infrared sauna websites. You’ll come across statements about cellulite being melted away by the infrared energy that penetrates deep into the skin after which the liquified cellulite is being expelled through sweat. Sounds crazy? I though so as well, but then I found this study on health benefits of infrared sauna where a combination of infrared therapy, radiofrequency and mechanical tissue manipulation are being used to treat cellulite.
In the study, 20 adult women with moderate bilateral thigh and buttock cellulite were selected and given biweekly treatments to a randomly selected side (the contralateral side serving as a non-treated control). The study concludes that circumferential thigh measurements were reduced by 0.8 cm on the treatment side. Admittedly, this happened with a combination of treatments (not only infrared therapy), but it does seem to support the idea that infrared therapy can have a beneficial effect on cellulite.
In this work supported and managed through the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (download) I found that promising results are mentioned to promote wound healing and human tissue growth with the use of near infrared light. The document talks about how muscle and bone atrophy are well documented in astronauts and how studies on cells exposed to microgravity and hypergravity indicate that human cells need gravity to stimulate growth.
Various minor injuries occurring in space have been reported not to heal until landing on Earth. Near infrared light is used to stimulate the basic energy processed in the mitochondria (energy compartments) of the cells.
According to yet another study there may be a number of particular benefits associated with the use of an infrared sauna. It states that the cardiovascular demand during an infrared sauna session is similar to that achieved by walking at a moderate pace. The infrared sauna can be of particular benefit to those who are sedentary due to various medical conditions, such as osteoarthritis or cardiovascular or respiratory problems.
The study concludes that there is preliminary but high-quality support of infrared sauna therapy for treatment of NYHA class II and III CHF and systolic hypertension, and it states that there is fair preliminary support for its role in reducing chronic pain.
By no means do I claim to have given a complete, nor scientifically proven overview of the health benefits of infrared sauna. What I have tried to achieve here is to go a little beyond the typical bullet lists of health benefits that you can find on your average infrared sauna company with claims of how amazing you will look and feel once you start using an infrared sauna. I’ve tried to dig a little deeper and find at least a hint of evidence that infrared therapy may actually be an avenue worth exploring.
I have simply attempted to offer a slightly different approach in discussing the health benefits of infrared sauna, while reaching out with a number of references that do seem to support the therapeutic use of infrared saunas. For me personally, sessions in my infrared sauna allow me to feel relaxed and rejuvenated, but in addition to that, there do seem to exist a couple of reasons that are in favor of the infrared sauna.
I hope to have contributed a little bit in informing you about infrared saunas. May I ask for a small favor in return? If you do have something to share about your own infrared sauna experience, please comment about it in the section below. For instance, let us know how you use your infrared sauna, how many sessions per week / month, for how long, at what temperature, what brand or type infrared sauna you have, where you purchased it, whether or not you have experienced any health benefits of infrared sauna, basically anything that you would like to share that can help others. Any contribution from your part can help other infrared sauna enthusiasts enjoy their sauna more, thank you!
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