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Does an Infrared Sauna Reduce Inflammation?

Hayley Dawes
23 May 2022

There’s nothing quite like a 20-minute sweat session in a sauna. You feel more relaxed and rested afterwards, and the heat helps relieve sore muscles and improves your overall health and well-being.

However, if the high temperatures of a traditional sauna are just too much for you to handle, an infrared sauna may offer the benefits of a sauna without the extreme heat. Infrared saunas are amazing for relaxation, improving sleep and aiding weight loss.

Unlike a traditional sauna, infrared saunas don’t heat the air around you. Instead, they use infrared lamps, that use electromagnetic radiation, to warm your body directly. An infrared sauna can operate at a lower temperature, usually between 120˚F and 140˚F, rather than a traditional sauna, which is typically between 150˚F and 180˚F.

Inflammation is defined as a vital immune response within the body to protect itself from infection and injury. It is the body’s way of signalling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. However, when the inflammation response is constantly triggered without need, it can cause damaging effects. Triggers include germs, stress, chemical irritants, and toxins, as well as poor sleep, poor nutrition, dehydration, and excessive exposure to blue light and radiation.

 

How Infrared Saunas Help with Inflammation & Nerve Pain

Infrared saunas work by heating the body directly with safe wavelengths of light as opposed to traditional steam or hot rock saunas that heat the space in the sauna. This is also why many people find infrared sauna temperatures a lot more comfortable as they don’t need to be as high as traditional saunas. 

The heat infiltrates deep inside the body, pushing heavy metals and toxins out whilst creating the effect of a cardiovascular workout. This is also how infrared sauna helps nerve pain and inflammation as it penetrates deep into your muscles and bones. They enhance and improve circulation which brings oxygen and nutrients to injured tissues, promoting healing.

Infrared saunas switch the body into acting on the parasympathetic nervous system – also known as rest and digest – this eases our nerves and calms us down, helping to relieve nerve pain. Studies have illustrated the benefits for inflammation, resulting in dramatic decreases in the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines – which is a biomarker for inflammation.

 

Health Benefits

In addition to helping with pain and inflammation, there are further benefits from using infrared saunas regularly:

Improved Sleep

Infrared saunas help your body with thermoregulation and facilitate what’s known as a parasympathetic state, where the body can more effectively digest and, more importantly, rest. As your body cools off after a session in an infrared sauna, it sends signals – in the form of more melatonin – to your brain that it is ready to sleep.

Saunas provide one of the best sources of quality relaxation, and how this can help improve both the quality of your sleep and your ability to fall asleep quickly. When you are in a space that is free of distractions like televisions and phone screens, you’re essentially providing your body with an opportunity to heal, and a place for your brain to relax, entering more of a meditative state. Considering that infrared saunas have practically no side effects, especially for relatively healthy individuals, infrared saunas are no-lost potential remedy for sleep issues.

Detoxification

Infrared saunas can help increase blood circulation and stimulate the sweat glands, releasing built-up toxins in the body. Sauna sweating can help detoxify the body as it releases heavy metals (lead, mercury, nickel, and cadmium) as well as alcohol, nicotine, sulphuric acid, and other organic and inorganic compounds. 

Relief From Sore Muscles & Joint Pain

Too much exercise can take its toll. By increasing blood circulation, infrared saunas help to relieve inflammation, stiffness, and soreness, allowing the deep infrared heat to relax muscles and carry off metabolic waste products, while delivering oxygen-rich blood to the muscles for a faster recovery. Infrared helps warm the muscles for greater flexibility and range of motion, while relieving muscle tension and pain.

Clearer Skin

The profuse sweating achieved after just a few minutes in a sauna carries off deeply embedded impurities and dead skin cells, leaving the skin glowing and clean. Increased circulation draws the skin’s own natural nutrients to the surface for a natural flow. Furthermore, this has also been shown to help improve acne, eczema, psoriasis, and aid wound healing with reduced scarring.

Improved Circulation

The heat from an infrared sauna causes your blood vessels to dilate, thus increasing blood flow and improving circulation. As a result, your heart can pump more nutrients and oxygenated blood to the parts of your body where they’re needed. This improved blood flow and nutrient delivery speeds up muscle recovery.

Higher Energy Levels

Just a few minutes in the gentle warmth of an infrared sauna will help one feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and renewed. An infrared sauna sanctuary provides a great time to relax. Infrared saunas have been shown to affect the autonomic nervous system by putting the user in the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state, allowing the body to heal and restore itself.

Weight Loss

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association has stated that regular use of an infrared sauna imparts a similar boost to the cardiovascular system as running. While relaxing in the heat, the benefits of infrared sauna include the body producing sweat, pumping blood, and burning calories. This is called a “passive aerobic workout,” because although the body is receiving all these benefits, it is not being stressed in the same way as a normal workout. The body is more relaxed and is in parasympathetic mode during that time.

As the body increases sweat production to cool itself, the heart works harder to pump blood while boosting circulation. As a result of the increased heart rate, your body also increases its metabolic rate, thus burning more energy in the form of calories. A 30-minute infrared sauna session can burn somewhere between 300-800 calories.

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