Information About Far-Infrared Sauna Therapy
Far-Infrared (FIR) Sauna
We live in a world where we are overpowered by toxins and pollutants. Almost everything we eat, drink, or breathe has toxins and pollutants in it. As a result our bodies are constantly trying to detoxify us but because the input is so great, we simply cannot keep up. Therefore, we store a lot of toxins until we can dispose of them. Our bodies eventually get overpowered, shut down, and we get sick. Therefore, to stay healthy, we need to decrease our intake of toxins and eliminate the toxins we do take in better. If we help our body get rid of toxins, then our liver, kidneys, and other organs have more time to dispose of the daily intake and we store less and less.
Skin is our largest organ, eliminating waste via perspiration. Heat causes toxins to be released from your cells into the lymphatic fluid. Since sweat is manufactured from lymphatic fluid, the toxins from the lymph are released when your body perspires. In an infrared sauna, the infrared rays penetrate at least 3" into our bodies, increasing blood circulation and cellular activity. FIR simulates a fever, hence, the immune system springs into action. Our heart rate increases and as we start to sweat, toxins are released from our cells and carried out of our body through the skin. This gives the heart and circulatory system an aerobic exercise as well. As muscles and joints are loosened up, we absorb more oxygen. This makes us feel refreshed and energized as aches and pains disappear.
Far-Infrared saunas are low heat saunas that have been widely used for their therapeutic effect. They increase sweat volume and accelerate the removal of toxic metals as well as organic toxins like PCB's and pesticide residues - chemicals that are stored in the fatty tissues of the body and are not easily dislodged.
Far infrared is an old technique in energy medicine but a new technology. After all, the body's use of infrared rays is literally as old as our species. Traditionally, we've gotten our daily dose of infrared from sunlight, which is composed of all the energy wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. Today we're seeing new technologies employing far-infrared energy in healthcare products and in clinical protocols such as hyperthermic therapies for detoxification and cancer treatment. We can help our body detoxify so we can be healthier, live longer, and most importantly, enjoy a good quality of life.
Benefits of Far-Infrared Sauna
Some supporters of sauna therapy state that "hyperthermia is a well-researched therapy for cancer." It has been stated that the high temperatures can "select" for abnormal cells and that tumors are unable to handle the high heat. Some studies have found that FIR trigger the production of white blood cells by the bone marrow and killer T cells by the thymus. The overall result is immune system enhancement as well as the killing of some cancer cells.
Cardiovascular Conditioning (Passive)
The body responds to the FIR deep heating effect via a hypothalamic-induced increase in both heart volume and rate. This beneficial heart stress leads to a sought after cardiovascular training and conditioning effect, including lowering blood pressure. The human body will naturally try and cool itself as temperature increases. It does this by diverting blood from internal organs to the extremities and skin by vasodilatation. This increases heart rate, cardiac output and metabolic rate.
Cellulite is a gel-like substance made up of fat, water and wastes, which are trapped in pockets below the skin. Profuse sweating is purported to clear this form of unwanted debris. It has been shown to be effective in cellulite removal when used in conjunction with a program that includes diet and massage.
For the chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia patients, FIR therapy helps to restore normal autonomic nervous system functioning. This is the part of the nervous system, which governs unconscious functions such as muscle tension, sweating, blood pressure, digestion and balance. Autonomic dysregulation is the term used to describe changes in the nervous system, which result in many of the symptoms of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Muscle pain, excessive body odor, digestive complaints, visual disturbances and dizziness are some of the many manifestations of autonomic dysregulation. Repeated sessions of FIR therapy can greatly assist in the restoration of normal autonomic nervous system functioning.
FIR stimulates the body to release fat-soluble toxins, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals in sweat via pores more effectively than any other form of heat therapy or exercise. Exercise-induced sweating is said not to be as effective because it works via the sympathetic nervous system which is said to inhibit toxin elimination.
Chemicals removed from the body includes: Mercury, lead, copper, cadmium, manganese, sodium, chloride, arsenic, nickel, benzenes, street drugs, prescription drugs, anesthetics, cholesterol, urea, nicotine, sulfuric acid.
Japanese researchers have reported that infrared radiant heat serves as an antidote to the negative effects of such toxic electromagnetic sources – such as encountered under high tension power lines or while working at computer display terminals.
The endocrine system does respond to thermal changes, mainly through activation of the sympathetic nervous system and activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. There has been increased secretions of ACTH , GH, Endorphins, LH/FSH, Prolactin, Renin-Angiotensin and Aldosterone.
Immune System Enhancement
A typical sauna session will cause a brief 1 to 3 degree F increase in body temperature. Fever is the body's defense against bacteria, microbes and consequent infection. This side effect is said to trigger the production of white blood cells by the bone marrow and killer T cells by the thymus. The overall result is immune system enhancement as well as the killing of microorganisms.
Musculoskeletal - Pain Relief and Control
FIR has been able to eliminate or reduce the pain of arthritis, muscle spasms, shoulder pain, neck and back pain, sprains of any area, and reduce scar tissue and adhesions. In addition, it has been shown to rapidly increase the healing process in any non-acute injury. FIR stimulates the dilation of peripheral blood vessels thus, relieving pain (including muscle pain) and speeding the healing of sprain, strain, bursitis, arthritis, and peripheral vascular disease symptoms. With FIR, joints are more supple and movement improves.
Studies show that heat does alter the behavior of collagen and therefore may be used prior to applying passive stretch or active exercise in order to facilitate the lengthening of scars or contractures. In addition, heat increases the elasticity and decreases the viscosity of connective tissue.
Neurological relief is based on vasodilatation that brings cells and chemicals to the area to assist healing and remove breakdown products of injury. Likewise, the pain gate control theory might indicate that the transmission of thermal sensations may take precedence over nocieceptive impulses (pain) and an increase in endorphins.
In sports medicine, it is recognized as being beneficial in the healing of muscle related injuries more so than the use of warm compresses. For rigorous physical workouts, it has been shown that sessions in an infrared sauna before each workout reduces the cases of muscle injury because the deep penetrating heat allows the muscle tissue to stretch better and resist injury.
Skin Cleansing and Rejuvenation
Since FIR opens clogged pores it allows for removal of dirt, oil, and makeup. This helps beautify skin, release toxins and removes roughness. In addition, it firms and improves skin tone and elasticity.
There are improvements in skin problems such as acne, rashes, burns, eczema and psoriasis. Scars, even keloids, may be gradually softened. Some open wounds heal quicker with reduced scarring.
FIR promotes relaxation thereby creating a sense of well-being. In stressful situations, there is a continuous strain on the autonomic nervous system that can lead to chronic diseases. FIR allows the capillaries to dilate which may improve circulation, thus stress levels are reduced.
Although weight loss from perspiration is quickly regained, FIR sends more blood to the capillaries and for some burns fat resulting in as much as 600 calories during one session. If heavy metals are reduced, this will correct metabolic imbalances that were causing poor digestion and weight gain. Also, toxins stored in fat are decreased making it easier for weight loss. Some studies claim that a 15 minute sauna session is as effective for weight loss as rowing or jogging for 30 minutes.
There is also improved blood flow to organs and endocrine glands which speeds up metabolic process, increasing caloric burn. Because fat becomes water soluble at 110 degrees F, subcutaneous fat can be released along with the sweat and toxins. An increase in temperature will result in an increase in the metabolic activities in the superficial tissues only due to the direct effect of heat on chemical processes. Metabolic rate increases approximately 13% for each 1° C increase in temperature.
The electromagnetic spectrum is divided into three segments by wavelength, which is measured in microns (1/1,000,000 of a meter).
- 0.76 to 1.5 microns = near infrared
- 1.5 to 5.6 microns = middle infrared
- 5.6 to 1000 microns = far infrared
This wavelength of light warms objects without warming the air between the source and the object (known as conversion). Radiant heat can also be called Infrared Energy (IR). The best example is the sun (80% of the sun's rays are infrared). Our atmosphere allows infrared rays in the 7 to 14 micron range to safely reach the earth's surface. Do not confuse this with UV radiation (sunburn) or atomic radiation (nuclear) - see the diagram above for where these types of light fall on the spectrum.
Infrared waves are not visible to human eyes but can be seen by special instruments that translate infrared into colors that are visible to our eyes. We can, however, feel this type of light which we perceive as heat. Radiant heat is a form of energy that heats objects directly without heating the air in between. This is also called infrared heat. Infrared panels are used by hospitals to warm premature infants.
When warmed, the earth radiates infrared rays with its peak output at 10 microns. An everyday example of infrared technology used in these saunas is the warmth we experience from the sun but without the harmful rays. Picture yourself enjoying a warm sunny day and a cloud passes over, obscuring the sun from reaching you, yet the temperature has not dropped – thus the principle that radiant heat heats objects, not air. The sun heats the earth and the earth reflects the heat which heats the air. Our own body radiates infrared energy out through our skin. The human body radiates infrared energy out through the skin at 3 to50 microns, with most around 9.4 microns. This is easily demonstrated by holding your palms together, without touching. The almost instant heat that is generated is infrared. Palm healing, a 3000 year old Chinese tradition, is based on the properties of this natural infrared energy.
Far-infrared light penetrates beyond the skin level and is absorbed efficiently by cells below, whereas visible light is mostly bounced off the skin's surface. Far infrared can penetrate the body tissues to a depth of approximately 3 inches, exciting the vibrational energy of molecules and resonating with cellular frequencies. We can't exactly perceive the deep heating effects of FIR though, because our body's ability to sense heat is mainly at the skin level. Nonetheless, the effects of FIR rays promote bioprocesses such as increased metabolism and blood circulation and can raise core body temperature.
The FIR heaters are engineered to produce radiant heat that is within the frequency levels as our own body heat and thus is in tune with our own energy system. It is therefore safe and compatible for us to use far-infrared saunas, allowing deep heat penetration that is not possible with other methods of heating.
The internal production of infrared energy that normally occurs within our tissues is associated with a variety of healing responses and may require a boost to a maximum level to insure the fullest healing response possible in a tissue under repair, harmlessly. In other words it duplicates the healthy frequencies of our own cells. The tissues are purported to selectively absorb these rays as the water in the cell reacts in a process called "resonant absorption". This resonant absorption is said to occur when the frequency of the far infrared matches the frequency of the water in the cell. This causes toxins from the cells to be put out into the blood stream and excreted in sweat, feces, and urine. Proponents of this therapy state that our tissues which are undergoing the healing process may need a boost of infrared to ensure the fullest healing response.
For thousands of years, cultures around the world have recognized the therapeutic value of heating the body for better health, healing, and greater vitality. The Mayans, Native Americans, the Inuit, and Europeans all developed their own versions of saunas and sweat lodges. Two thousand years ago the ancient Greek physician Paemendides said, "Give me a change to create fever and I will cure any disease." Far infrared saunas are especially designed to create a deep, penetrating hear, thereby causing an increase in metabolism which produces profuse sweating. Stress, toxic chemicals, airborne pollutants, poor dietary and exercise habits all effect our health. With the trend toward more holistic approaches to health and wellness, the sauna is experiencing a resurgence in popularity.
Infrared saunas bring you the same infrared rays experienced in the traditional American Indian sweat lodge. The cleansing and purifying benefits attributed to the traditional sweat lodges are now available for daily purification without the time consuming and extremely labour-intensive set-up process that a sweat lodge requires.
The list of infrared sauna contraindications includes, but not limited to:
- Adrenal suppression (body does not respond to heat)
- Cardiovascular conditions or problems (hypertension/hypotension), congestive heart failure, impaired coronary circulation and others
- Conditions associated with impaired sweating, like multiple sclerosis, systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE), central nervous system tumors, Parkinson's, and diabetes with neuropathy
- Enclosed infections (dental, joints, tissue)
- Hemophilia, prone to bleeding
- Insensitivity to heat
- Menstruation: it may increase menstrual flow
- Prescribed drug it can impair the body's natural heat loss mechanisms or its effect can be changed when your body is exposed to far infrared radiation
- Recent (acute) joint injury: it should not be heated for the first 48 hours after an injury or until the hot and swollen symptoms subside
- Silicone and other implants: may melt at higher temperatures
- If your skin becomes clammy, you feel weak, tired, or nauseous, STOP USE immediately! These could be signs of heat exhaustion.
- If you stop sweating, GET OUT immediately! This may be the initial stage of heat stroke.
- Always consult with your Naturopathic Doctor before using any sauna.
- Drink around 12 ounces of water for every 15 minutes you are in the sauna (drink lots of fluid!).
- Start with 20 minutes per day and gradually increase. After a few weeks, may increase to 30-40 minutes up to twice per day. If you suffer from serious medical problems, start with 15 minutes.
- The number of sessions and amount of time spent in the sauna should be discussed with your Naturopathic Doctor. This is usually individualized.
- Use twice per week up to twice per day.
- The best time for sauna is first thing in the morning or last thing before bed.
- Showering prior to using the sauna can increase the amount you sweat.
- Bathing attire is suggested but shorts and a t-shirt are fine.
- Relax! Time spent in a sauna should be enjoyable - forget all your worries.
- You can sit, lay, stand or meditate, whatever is comfortable for you.
- Rest for at least 15 minutes after the sauna session with a shower or relaxation techniques.
- At any point during your sauna if you do not feel well, leave immediately, especially if you feel weak, lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous. If symptoms do not resolve, seek naturopathic/medical attention!
- You may experience "healing reactions," which are temporary symptoms that occur as toxic substances leave the body – these may be odors, rashes, tastes, fatigue, headaches, or gastrointestinal changes. This may be normal, but if symptoms are severe, naturopathic/medical attention should be sought.
- These infrared sauna systems can even be used with the door fully open if the only effect desired is infrared penetration, or if a very cool, minimal-sweating experience is desired as a pre-activity warm-up while fully clothed. This approach might be used in warming up prior to stretching, working out, running, or exposure to cold weather.
Most commonly, there is a distinctive feeling of well-being. Unlike traditional saunas or steam baths, which can often leave a person feeling exhausted, the FIR sauna is usually quite energizing. Many people actually use these before going to work in the morning, something that one would never do with a traditional sauna. A typical sauna session will cause a brief 1° to 3° F increase in body temperature.
Far-Infrared Sauna vs the Conventional Sauna
- Far infrared saunas operate at temperatures of 100° F to 130° F. Conventional saunas operate at temperatures of 180° F to 220° F, temperatures are not as well tolerated. A conventional sauna must rely on indirect means of heat. First on convection (air currents) and then conduction (contact of the hot air on the skin) to produce its heating effects on us. This excessive hot-air then only heats the skin superficially.
- Far infrared is heats tissue three times as much as conventional saunas.
- Far infrared's resonant absorption causes more toxins expelled through the kidney, liver, and hair.
- Far infrared saunas are safer as there are no hot surfaces or high temperatures.
- Far infrared saunas' lower temperatures do not dry out the mucous membranes like conventional saunas.
- Less than 20% of the infrared energy heats the air, leaving 80% available to be directly converted to heat within the body.
- Warms the user to a much greater depth (up to three inches) and more efficiently than the conventional sauna.
- Induces 2-3 times the sweat volume as conventional saunas, increasing many of the health benefits, including detoxification, cardiovascular conditioning and increased metabolism.
- The lower heat ranges may be safer for those with cardiovascular risks.
- The air is more pleasant and easier to breathe, making the sauna more comfortable to use.
- Warm up only takes 5-10 minutes compared to 30-90 minutes for conventional saunas.
- Uses no water, thus no plumbing costs, bacterial growth, or cleanup.
Dr. Persaud's FIR Sauna vs Other FIR Saunas
Some woods are known to cause irritation to sensitive people. Cedar, hemlock, fir, and spruce are softwoods, which contain resins known to cause adverse reactions to people who are sensitive to the irritants in these resins. Basswood is a hardwood and contains no resins that cause irritation to sensitive people.
Environmental health specialist recommend the use of poplar or basswood to prevent those types of allergies. Dr. Persaud, ND chose basswood over poplar because basswood is more resistant to ambiant humidity, more solid and age better than poplar. There is no plywood, no glue, no paint nor lacquers in the fabrication of this sauna. A water base sealer is applied on the exterior walls to protect it. This means that the fabrication process and material used translate in the fact that the most hypersensitive people can safely use this sauna. These components are NOT found in foreign/poorer quality FIR.
The quality of materials and fabrication process are a primary concerns in order to obtain maximum health benefits of the infrared sauna. Fir, pine, spruce, hemlock and cedar are resinous woods that emit irritant gases when heated because of the terpens they contain. The use of plywood panels is strongly not recommended because they are made with toxic adhesives. Glue, varnish, lacquer are products are often used in cabins offered on the market but they can produce allergic reactions to the skin and in lungs.
Basswood is the only wood that is accepted as safe for use as cooking utensils. It is the only known wood, which does not produce gases, which are known irritants. The fact that the majority of traditional saunas use cedar does not mean that they are better or safer than other woods. Cedar was used to construct traditional saunas in Finland, Norway and Sweden because it was a commonly available wood, and it resisted the elements extremely well. Cedar finds itself well suited to line closets to protect ones clothing from insects, which feast on valuable fabrics. Cedar repels and kills insects. It does this because it produces a toxin called Cedrene that is deadly to those creatures. Cedrene is a known irritant for humans.
Our sauna is shielded against Electromagnetic Field (EMF). The controller and heaters emit less than 4 milligauss at their surface, dropping to virtually zero four inches away. A typical human heart emits 4 milligauss of EMF.
Various heaters are offered on the market. After research, this sauna has a combination of German heaters with a diversity of infrared wavelength (near, middle and far) can contribute to an optimal session of sweating. The FIR in our clinic offers different types of heating elements. In addition, luminotherapy and chromatherapy to assist in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Mild Depression.
1 hour: $20.00
Package (Twelve one-hour sessions): $200.00
- Two bath sized towels (one to dry, one for the sauna)
- Face cloth to wipe with a damp cloth after the sauna
- One litre (1L) of water
- Favorite reading material
- Bathing suit/shorts & T-shirt
- Change of clothes if desired (preferably comfortable)
Disclaimer: The goal of this website is to inform patients and potential patients on the benefits of Naturopathic Medicine. It is not to be considered as medical advice without a physical exam, medical history and appropriate laboratory work up. Dr. Reina Persaud, BSc, ND does not assume any responsibility of how the information on this site is used.