Infrared Sauna Therapy: how injuries and illness are helped by infrared heat
Infrared sauna therapy is about how a sauna can be used as a tool to treat illness and injury. It’s also about how an infrared sauna can be used to keep you healthy and help you keep up with the wear and tear of daily living.
At first I found it hard to understand how simply sitting and sweating in a sauna could possibly provide such a wide range of health benefits. You may have thought the same thing. As I kept studying the topic, though, I finally came to understand why sauna therapy is so powerful. By the end of this page, you’ll understand it too.
The six ways in which infrared sauna therapy can heal injury and ilness
The six main effects of sauna use that promote healing (each one is explained further below):
1) Bringing oxygen & healing factors more quickly and intensively to where they are needed.
This speeds up healing. In the case of some resistant, slow-healing injuries—it makes healing possible.
Increased blood circulation is responsible for this effect. The blood, after all, is responsible for carrying oxygen and countless other healing factors (depending on what’s needed—i.e., white blood cells, vitamins, minerals, prostaglandins, etc.) to every cell in the body.
2) Ridding the body of damaging materials that cause disease
These materials include chemicals, waste products, heavy metals and, under certain circumstances, ionizing radiation.
3) Reducing the body’s activation of the sympathetic nervous system
In other words, infrared sauna therapy can take the body out of the grip of stress chemistry. Stress has an acidifying effect on the body and during times of stress the body focuses on mobilizing the system for survival over healing.
4) Raising the body temperature
A mildly heightened body temperature carries certain benefits (see below). For those with a sub-normal body temperature, this allows many functions to normalize.
5) Taking a load off the organs of elimination (liver, lung, kidneys) while toxins are being eliminated
This happens because sweat provides an alternative channel to the body for toxin elimination—for toxins that would have ultimately have to have been dealt with by another organ. More on
infrared sauna detoxification.
6) Provides social/spiritual space in a hectic, busy world
You can be sure that if you have a condition have that can be helped by infrared sauna therapy, the reason for this lies in one or more of these six effects.
Explanation of how each these infrared sauna therapy factors combat injury and illness
Bringing oxygen and healing substances to the most distant parts of your body
As your body temperature rises in the sauna, your body attempts to cool itself by sending your warm blood to the surface of the skin where it can cool. At the skin’s surface sweat is produced—the sweat’s evaporation on your skin also provides a cooling effect for the body. In order to deliver blood to the surface of the body, the heart increases both the amount of blood it pumps with each contraction (stroke volume) and the speed of the heart rate (measured as your pulse).
The reason your skin becomes pink and flushed during exercise or when you’re hot is because of this increased blood delivery to the surface of the skin. This increased activity of the heart increases circulation to every part of the body.
Now here’s the bonus from the increased circulation produced by infrared sauna therapy: where your blood goes, all the good things it carries are brought along with it. From this you can understand why injuries and certain illness heal more quickly with sauna therapy.
When increased circulation is brought to…
• the tendons and ligaments, this enhances their flexibility. So here you see and example of how increased circulation helps even in places where an injury isn’t present.
• wounds and injuries…it speeds healing
• areas swollen with healing reactions (infiltrates and exudates), it helps to clear them (decrease swelling)
One other thing about improved oxygenation: when anaerobic organisms (organisms that grow only in the absence of oxygen) are involved in infections, better oxygenation of the tissues they are infecting can help defeat them.
In the sweat the body rids itself of damaging materials that cause disease
This feature of what infrared sauna therapy can do for you is one of the main reasons saunas have such broad-ranging benefits.
To understand this effect is’nt complicated. Especially if you just remember that the body is always looking for opportunities to get rid of wastes and toxins that don’t belong inside us. It’s part of the body’s design to rid itself of wastes. When we sweat, the body uses this as a bonus opportunity to throw unwanted wastes in the stream of sweat and thereby discarding them. It’s automatic for the body to use sweat in this way.
In other words, when you sweat the body eliminates whatever toxins it is able to in that moment along with the sweat (ie, dissolved in the sweat). This can include: body wastes, chemical toxins, heavy metals, and even ionizing radiation which has been stored in the body (visit back for more information on how ionizing radition can be eliminating through a sauna detox program on our upcoming sauna studies page).
Note that sweat can also carry minerals out of your body that are useful—this is why minerals need to be replaced in heavy sauna detox programs (programs which use sweating to detoxify the body). Read more here.
Why sweating out toxins is so helpful and important
Any one of the dangerous chemicals we are exposed to daily in the environment or our diets can cause health problems. And any one of the heavy metals—like lead, nickel or mercury—that we are all exposed regularly can also cause a variety of health problems.
Since this is true, then you can understand that getting rid of any of these substances can help you rid yourself of the health problems they cause. This is why sweating in general can have so many potential health benefits.
Further, when you sweat in the sauna, you aren’t ridding yourself of only one of these damaging substances, you are ridding yourself of a multitude of these.
Sauna detoxification programs take advantage of this ability of the body. (Definitely read about sauna detox – you’ll find it amazing).
Reducing your body’s activation of stress chemistry and it effects
Since stress seems constant these days, it is easy for your body to get trapped in a continual stress reaction. Scientists believe that the body’s stress response system was developed to handle acute (episodic) stress, and wasn’t designed to be in high gear throughout the day, day in day out.
It’s a tremendous relief for the body to undergo the calming effect that infrared sauna therapy offers. Think of it as a rest from the terrible grip that stress has on so many of us throughout the day. This “grip”—the result of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (explained next)—does certain things which may be good for surviving a stressful event, but are not so good for your health if they go on and on without relief.
Countering the nervous system and hormonal effects of the stress reaction
The body reacts to stress in automatic ways. In fact, there is a whole automatic (called “autonomic”) nervous system present in our bodies that gears up the body to handle stressful challenges—this is called the sympathetic nervous system. And there’s another part of this same autonomic nervous system that calms the body systems—this one is called the parasympathetic nervous system.
What many people don’t know, however, is that when the sympathetic (exciting) nervous system is activated, one of the messages it sends is to the adrenal glands (which sit on top of the kidneys) to release various stress hormones. Together, the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal hormones help mobilize the muscles and organs for action (confronting a threat). Blood flow is shifted away from the periphery (limbs, skin), and toward the major muscle groups involved in running, and the organs.
These stress hormones, such as cortisol, send messages of their own through the body. Some of the effects adrenal hormone release are for the body to make more blood sugar and free fatty acids available in the bloodstream, and to make platelets “stickier”. The effect is acidifying for the body, requiring the body to use precious minerals to neutralize these effects.
Raising your body temperature mildly through infrared sauna therapy provides direct benefits itself
Raising your body temperature more than a few degrees is dangerous but rare and totally avoidable with careful use of the sauna for far infrared sauna therapy (see dangers of the infrared sauna). How can raising the body temperature a degree or two can benefit you?
1. Promotes wound healing
One thing researchers have noted (see our upcoming sauna studies page) is that skin wounds heal more quickly in warmth. Is this only because more of the oxygen and healing factors that your blood carries are being delivered to the damaged or diseased tissues during sauna use? Maybe. But the positive effects of heat are nonetheless clear - infrared sauna therapy helps heal wounds.
2. Disables certain organisms
For some disease-causing organisms and microorganisms, heat is directly disabling. In other other words, certain organisms can’t survive well in higher tissue temperatures.
3. Helps clear out weakened cells
Weakened cells – cells that are on the way out due to age, damage – don’t withstand heat as well. So, in a heated tissue environment, weakened cells will be the first to go. In fact, scientists on other continents and in other countries (Japan and Europe, for example—see our upcoming sauna studies page) are using this aspect of infrared sauna therapy to attack cancer. Cancer cells, in some cases, appear to be more sensitive to heat than the surrounding healthy tissue.
4. Increases metabolism
When you body is heated, your metabolic rate (the speed at which biochemical reactions take place in your body) increases. If you are someone with a low metabolisms, returning your body temperature to normal will allow important body functions to be normalized.
Move on from understanding far infrared sauna therapy to infrared sauna benefits.