Infrared saunas are a hot topic in the health and wellness world, and for good reason. That reason is the revived significance of detoxification for the health and well-being of the human body. Infrared saunas are a big help with detox, so it pays to have some infrared sauna savvy.
Studies in recent years have produced scientific evidence proving that saunas have the ability to draw toxins out of your body in a way that uses no additional chemicals, is inexpensive, and can even be accessed from the comfort of your own home. Thanks to modern technology, we no longer need ancient hot springs, boutique salons, or to stay in a classy hotel for access to the benefits of sweat-based detox.
The benefits of sweating toxins from the body have been known since the dawn of civilisation. Ancient Roman caesars used steam baths to rejuvenate and revitalise their bodies, Russian Tsars were known to break a sweat to clear themselves of vodka, and Native Americans have used thermal baths and “sweat therapy” to cure illness for centuries.
Infrared sauna technology has changed the game of detox, and has made it more accessible than ever for the modern-day mortal. Perhaps it’s time to discover more about this powerful means of body purification.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is an infrared sauna?
- 2 History of the infrared sauna
- 3 How do they work?
- 4 Infrared sauna savvy: health benefits
- 5 What are they made from?
- 6 Why use an infrared sauna?
- 7 How does an infrared sauna detox work?
- 8 Before you start
- 9 How to prepare for an infrared sauna session
- 10 What to do during a sauna session
- 11 What to do after a sauna
- 12 The best time for a sauna
- 13 Cautions when using an infrared sauna
- 14 Possible post-sauna reactions
- 15 Sweat all your worries away with infrared sauna
What is an infrared sauna?
An infrared sauna uses a specific wavelength of light to create heat in the body, releasing muscular tension and increasing sweat generation. Sweat carries toxins away from the body, thus the detoxification. These saunas are sometimes called far infrared saunas, where “far” describes where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum (see also near infrared saunas, which use a different level of radiation). These types of sauna differs from the traditional sauna, which uses heat to warm the air and then your body. An infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air around you.
An infrared sauna produces the same results as a traditional sauna but at lower temperatures, which makes it accessible to people who can’t tolerate the heat of a conventional sauna. It also makes them far more efficient, and cheaper to run.
History of the infrared sauna
Infrared technology appeared around the end of the 1800s. First known as a “light bath” and designed by a man called Dr. J. H. Kellogg, the infrared sauna idea progressed quickly when an investor from Germany picked up the idea and promoted it in Europe.
The infrared sauna now finds a place in many hospitals, sanitariums and physician’s offices, as well as in a range of boutique salons and spas. Infrared technology has allowed the benefits of sauna to be obtained at home, and is fast becoming a necessary addition to the modern-day home.
How do they work?
Infrared saunas use infrared heat radiation to warm the body, producing an elevated skin temperature which promotes sweating and the release of toxins from the body. This release of toxins is known as “detox.” and can be summarised in two phases:
The body temperature remains low with minimal sweating. Although tissue heating occurs, the body is able to dissipate the extra heat by increasing circulation and delivering blood to the skin. This process releases heat instead of increasing the core body temperature.
After 10-30 minutes, the body can no longer dissipate the additional heat, which causes the body temperature to rise. Heart rate and sweating increase, and blood is increasingly delivered to the skin surface. It’s best to start slow and build up your tolerance to the heat, as the greatest benefits occur in this phase.
It’s important to remember that Phase 2 can begin at different times depending on your health and acclimatization to the sauna. It’s likely that you’ll take longer the more often you use a sauna.
Infrared sauna savvy: health benefits
As you’re probably already aware, infrared saunas provide many benefits to your health and well-being, primarily through the process of sweat-driven detoxification.
The skin is the human body’s largest organ, and sweat is its primary means of toxin elimination. Heat produced by the infrared sauna acts to heat the skin and subsurface layers of tissue, and relaxes muscles and fat cells to encourage release of harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxic materials. Combined with the generation of sweat which acts as a vehicle to carry extracted toxins, infrared sauna has the ability to provide you with extensive health benefits which may include:
- Release of heavy metals, chemicals, radioactive particles and other toxins
- Improved circulation
- Enhanced immune system
- Relief of internal congestion
- Gives the body the effect of gentle exercise without the exertion
- Relaxing tight muscles
- Cleansing the skin
- Healing infections
- Improved alkalinity of your system
- Decreased swelling
- Normalizes enzymatic function
- Assisting weight loss
- Fighting aging by boosting the metabolism and releasing toxins
- Reduced stress by inhibiting the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight system)
- Balancing the autonomic nervous system to enhance parasympathetic activity (rest and digest), which is essential for healing.
What are they made from?
Almost all infrared saunas are made from cedar timber, a species of tree which has suitable thermal properties and resistance to moisture absorption. Although able to withstand your sweat, it’s advisable to use a towel at all times and to clean the sauna regularly to ensure maximum longevity and hygiene for your sauna.
Why use an infrared sauna?
Traditional saunas are a room heated through burning wood, a gas stove, hot rocks from a fire, an electric coil, or a gas heater. These saunas operate at high temperatures, require the room itself to be heated, and are only able to heat the surface of the human body using convection. Energy-intensive, high-temperature, and thus unattractive to use, the traditional saunas were saved for the elite in society. Until now.
Technology has given birth to the infrared sauna, which uses heat generated by metallic or ceramic elements that emit a narrow spectrum of infrared energy to heat the body from the inside as well as the surface. Research shows that infrared heat energy can penetrate about 3.5 – 4cm beneath the skin and thus achieve great results at much lower temperatures.
Not only is the cooler temperature more comfortable, far infrared is able to cleanse the tissues more effectively. The heat is not just effective for bacteria die-off (by creating an artificial fever), but has a whole host of other detoxification effects, as it allows the skin to detoxify toxins, including heavy metals, more effectively, essentially taking pressure off the internal detoxification organs.
How does an infrared sauna detox work?
Using an infrared sauna is a powerful way to cleanse your body of harmful toxins stored in your body. So what can you expect from your sauna experience? Let’s take some of the guesswork out of it for you.
Before you start
The key for an effective sauna experience is to determine your goal before you start a therapy program. Using a sauna sporadically will help, but you aren’t going to achieve any long-lasting results that way. Anyone who has a chronic illness, lives a stressful lifestyle, or who is undergoing weight loss or prescribed detoxification, will particularly benefit from a regular sauna program. Combining sauna use with other health care modalities such as massage, chiropractic, naturopathy, acupuncture, counseling, herbal medicine, Pilates and Yoga, is an ideal way to maximise the benefits you’ll get from your sauna.
In any case, it’s recommended to start with 20-30 minutes of sauna 3 times a week for 3-12 months, increasing the duration and number of weekly sessions as you become acclimatized. If you’re really sick, start with 5-15 minutes to gradually ease into detoxification. It is not recommended to use sauna for sessions longer than 60 minutes. Any longer than this puts stress on your body that is counter productive. Have a sauna twice daily if you have access and the time.
Remember to schedule a rest period after you’ve had a sauna. Aside from the sauna itself, this is the next most important ingredient in an effective sauna therapy session.
How to prepare for an infrared sauna session
Before getting yourself prepared for your infrared sauna session, you ideally want to wait 1-2 hours after a meal to ensure your body is not busy digesting, and to reduce the likelihood of nausea under the stress of additional heat.
Since saunas involve a significant amount of sweating, and thus fluid loss, you need to drink at least half a litre of water before your sauna. For toxins to be released by the body, you need to allow a healthy flow of seat which can only be generated through adequate fluid intake. It’s recommended you take a water bottle in the sauna with you to replenish your stocks while you bake.
For your hygiene and to protect the timber finishing of your sauna, bring towels with you to sit on and wipe away your sweat. You’ll find the experience far more comfortable if you’re not dealing with a torrent of sweat flowing across your face.
Part of the experience of sauna is to free yourself from your external adornments as much as the toxins that mask your body. Be sure to remove all your jewelry and as much of your clothing as possible to get the maximum effect of the infrared rays, and to experience the liberation from clothing. However, if you’re planning on attending a multi-person sauna, bring your swimmers to avoid an uncomfortable situation for all people.
Most modern saunas have a stereo installed, allowing you to plug your MP3 player in for your “in-sauna entertainment.” If you have some music/meditation/visualizations that you’ve been meaning to listen to but haven’t found time, this is the perfect occasion to catch up on your zen.
What to do during a sauna session
Right, you’ve stripped down, toweled up, and have gotten cozy inside your infrared sauna. Now what?
Ideally, you want to move around every few minutes so different parts of your body are directly exposed to the infrared panels. Try seated, lying (if there is room), and be sure to turn around and expose as much of your body as possible to the heat.
If the heat starts to make you light-headed or dizzy, open the door slightly or sit outside to recover.
Enjoy your sauna experience. If you’re so inclined, the sauna is a great place to meditate and do your visualizations. Relax and focus on your breathing at all times to help you achieve a state of calmness and peace that harbours recovery and rejuvenation of the body.
Remember above all to keep sipping your water throughout the session to remain hydrated, and replenish those now starving muscle tissue cells.
What to do after a sauna
Once your sauna is finished, there’s still some care for your body that needs to happen for the experience to be completed.
The moisture from sweating will loosen dead skin cells, so brush your skin – including the face and scalp – with a body brush or loafer if you have one. Afterwards, shower as soon as you can in order to wash off any lingering toxins. Ideally, the shower should be cool to warm. Avoid using any soap, shampoo or moisturizer as these can block up the open pores of the skin and stop the post-sauna detox effect. If you can’t shower, just wipe yourself down with a wet towel.
Remember to keep up your hydration. Your body will have sweat out a lot of fluid, so you need to keep replenishing even after your sauna is finished. Drink at least 500ml of water over the 10-15 minutes following your shower.
Once you’ve done all that, it’s recommended that you take time to rest for 10-30 minutes. This helps transition the body back to homeostasis (balance) and decreases the chance of light-headedness or fatigue later in the day.
The best time for a sauna
The benefits of infrared sauna can be achieved at anytime of the day. However, research shows that having a sauna first thing in the morning or just before bed tends to be more effective. Since the autonomic nervous system is less stressed in the mornings, the positive effects of sauna are greater at these times.
Cautions when using an infrared sauna
Infrared saunas are inherently an extremely safe method of detox.
As with all good things, there are some instances where sauna may not be suitable for you. Young children, the elderly, and those with the following conditions should consult a medical professional before using a sauna:
- Dental amalgams
- Past use of LSD or other psychotropic drugs
- Multiple sclerosis
- Respiratory conditions
- Acute infections
- Lymph node removal
- Prostheses, silicone implants or metallic pins
- Sensory nerve damage
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Chronically ill
- Anyone taking pharmaceutical medications.
Possible post-sauna reactions
As sauna does not require to ingest anything to achieve a detox, any reactions you may experience are the result of heat and the toxins leaving your body. The good news is, healthy people generally don’t experience any reactions. Anyone that is toxic in any way (surprisingly, most of us are) or sick, can have a “healing reaction.” Symptoms may include:
- Aches and pains
- Bowel symptoms (usually increased)
- Odours – can be from your breath, sweat or vaginal/seminal discharge
- Computer sensitivity
If you do experience any of the above, it’s unlikely you’ll experience them for very long. Should they stay around longer than 1-2 days, seek the guidance of your health care professional.
Sweat all your worries away with infrared sauna
Infrared sauna is transforming the world of detoxification by providing everyday people with the luxury previously reserved for wealthy and upper class citizens. Wellness corner stores, local spa’s and even in your own home are now the places to achieve powerful detox benefits at a price that is a fraction of the price previously charged.
If you’ve ever thought about detoxification through sauna, you’ll now understand just how effective they can be, and what to expect in order to prepare for a session and achieve maximum benefit. Sauna is inherently simple, so you can sweat all your worries away knowing that you’ve come to the right place to get all your infrared sauna questions answered.