Please see my most recent discussion on infrared sauna therapy here. A year after writing this post (and a year of saving the money), I upgraded to a walk-in sauna and I shared my experience with it.
My discovery of near infrared saunas
Recently, numerous serendipities led me to discover a healing protocol called Nutritional Balancing. Nutritional Balancing is a unique dietary and lifestyle protocol that balances the body’s mineral profile with foods and supplements. It emphasizes the balance of yin and yang within the person – a foundation of Chinese Medicine. Various detox tools are used to help rid the body of environmental toxins and heavy metal imbalances, and near infrared sauna therapy is one of these detox tools.
I will discuss the concept of Nutritional Balancing in-depth soon, since I’m incorporating it into my lifestyle with hopes that it will address my health symptoms that are so far unresponsive to other measures. There are some controversial aspects of the protocol which I will talk about, including hair mineral analysis (hint: only certain hair analysis tests are accurate!).
Today, I’m excited to introduce you to the benefits of near infrared sauna therapy, which can be used by anyone, anywhere. No matter what diet you follow or what health concerns you have, a near infrared sauna offers a wide range of benefits.
What is a near infrared sauna?
Near infrared saunas use heat lamps that generate near infrared light. The unique lightwaves have been shown to stimulate healing and rejuvenating responses in body tissues. The lamps generate heat, and when the sauna is used in an enclosed environment, it will induce sweating to eliminate toxins.
Near infrared sauna vs. far infrared sauna
Near infrared saunas are not as popular or widely accessible as far infrared saunas. However, there is one big difference between the two types of saunas: EMF levels.
As I’ve discussed here, EMFs are electrical frequencies that surround us from things like electricity, appliances, WiFi and cellphones. EMFs cloud up the electrical communication between cells in the human body. Humans are resilient and EMFs aren’t going to kill us. However, frequent exposure to intense EMFs – especially for sensitive individuals, can cause a host of health problems.
Far infrared saunas boast the benefits of the infrared light and induce sweating, but they also expose you to a high level of EMF. This is particularly problematic because you are in parasympathetic mode in the sauna (the “rest and digest” nervous system mode), and your internal defenses are down. Near infrared saunas have extremely low levels of EMFs and are therefore much safer.
Near infrared sauna benefits
A near infrared sauna offers three distinct types of benefits:
- The near infrared light
- The heat and increased body temperature in the sauna
- Elimination of toxins while sweating in the sauna
Although the distinct benefits are much more numerous, here are 8 ways near infrared sauna therapy can improve your wellness:
1. Improves circulation and repair processes
According to Dr. Wilson’s research here, near infrared energy (“NIR”) has the following effects upon circulation and the body’s repair mechanisms:
The mitochondria (power plants of the cells) produce more ATP (energy currency of the cells) when NIR (near infrared rays) is introduced. (1,2)
Certain tissue regenerating genes including integrins, laminin, gap junction proteins and kinesin proteins have shown a two- to five-fold increase upon exposure to NIR. (7,8)
NIR causes the release of nitric oxide. This stimulates vasodilatation of the microcirculatory system, bringing more blood to the muscles. (4) (source and read more)
2. Detoxes heavy metals and other toxins
Many holistic practitioners consider sweat therapy to be the safest and most effective way to detox stubborn toxins from the body. The practice of using sweat therapy for physical wellness dates over 4,000 years ago when American Indians began using sweat lodges.
Heavy metals that often accumulate in toxic levels such as lead, cadmium, copper, manganese and nickel have been shown to detox with sweat (source). Toxic chemicals from our environment, such as pesticides and phthalates, can also be excreted through the body via sweat. An important factor, however, is how you are sweating. According to Nutritional Balancing Practitioner Wendy Myers in her post about near infrared saunas:
Sweating during exercise is not effective for detoxification because exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic nervous system (stress, fight or flight) activity inhibits toxin elimination. You must be in a parasympathetic state (calm, rest or sleep) to detox. You can either workout OR detox, not usually both at the same time. (Source)
A near infrared sauna can be used with or without sweat therapy. If used in an open area, the air will remain cooler but the near infrared rays will improve cellular health. This makes near infrared saunas an excellent option for those who cannot tolerate the heat or sweating from a regular sauna. However, if you want to reap the benefits of sweat therapy, you can use your near-infrared sauna in an enclosed area. Below, I share how I use my near infrared SaunaFix in my shower stall to get the benefits of both sweat therapy and the near-infrared light.
3. Engages the parasympathetic nervous system
Dr. Wilson, a holistic doctor ad Nutritional Balancing pioneer, believes that the near infrared rays and sweating inhibit the sympathetic nervous system and engages the parasympathetic nervous system (source). Due to high levels of stress, we are often “stuck” in sympathetic mode, which reduces our immune system and prevents healing. Using therapies that engage the parasympathetic nervous system allows the body to switch into the “rest and digest” state so it can repair and rejuvenate.
4. Raises body temperature
Using a near infrared sauna in an enclosed space will raise body temperature 2-3 degrees. Many people experience chronically low body temperature due to slow thyroid function. Lowered body temperature can, in turn, worsen many health issues such as tumor growth and candida (points #5 and #6 below).
If you have low body temperature (to determine that, all you need is a thermometer and these instructions), near infrared sauna therapy in an enclosed environment will help boost your temperature and jump-start many healing processes in the body. The increased body temperature is temporary while you are in the sauna, but the detox and reparative effects are accumulative.
5. May kill cancer cells
Another benefit of increased body temperature from a near infrared sauna is potentially diminished tumor growth. Tumors and cancer cells tolerate heat very poorly, and hyperthermia is an effective but non-conventional method to treat cancer. The National Cancer Institute says,
Hyperthermia (also called thermal therapy or thermotherapy) is a type of cancer treatment in which body tissue is exposed to high temperatures. Research has shown that high temperatures can damage and kill cancer cells, usually with minimal injury to normal tissues. Many studies have shown a significant reduction in tumor size when hyperthermia is combined with other treatments.
6. Controls parasites, Candida and pathogens
Did you know that hypothyroidism and candida overgrowth go hand-in-hand? That’s because hypothyroidism reduces energy, which slows metabolism, which lowers body temperature. Candida and other pathogens abhor heat, so they are likely to overgrow in a person with low body temperature. Daily sauna therapy increases body temperature during the sauna session and overtime supports a balanced, healthy thyroid. This will help reduce a chronic candida situation. Additionally, the near infrared light may be effective in directly killing candida and parasites according to Wendy Meyer. This is a reasonable conclusion, although I haven’t seen any studies done on near infrared light and parasites.
7. Reduces cellulite
Reduced cellulite is of comparably little importance when it comes to the benefits of near infrared sauna therapy. However, many women (myself included) experience a drastic increase in cellulite after a period of chronic illness or stress and we would gladly see it diminished. Cellulite is actually stored toxins that accumulate due to a variety of factors including poor digestion and poor lymphatic flow. Near infrared exposure has been shown to repair connective tissue and reduce cellulite (source).
8. Improves the immune system
The following effects of near infrared saunas all work together to improve immune system function:
- Improved circulation
- Improved lymphatic flow
- Improved mitochondrial function
- Increase in body temperature, which stimulates white blood cells
Where to get a near infrared sauna
I looked at various options for near infrared saunas before deciding on the SaunaFix. First, there are numerous options for walk-in saunas that use near infrared bulbs. These were out of my budget, plus I lack the space for a big sauna. I looked at various tutorials to make your own near infrared sauna, but I did not have the time, energy or expertise to make my own – plus, these all looked very “homemade.” I also found some portable near infrared saunas that were mounted on tall, narrow wooden stands. However, these were pricier and more unwieldy.
Below is my SaunaFix hanging in my shower. I have a sturdy towel rack on the wall from which it hangs. My shower turned out to be the ideal place, because I can shut the glass doors and it will trap the heat enough to induce sweating. Then, I place a sheet over the top of my shower (I hook it to the far wall then let it drape over the glass shower doors) to further trap the heat from above. It takes only about 3 minutes to set up each time.
Walk-In Near Infrared Sauna
Update: the maker of my far infrared sauna now offers a walk-in near infrared sauna. It is the only sauna on the market which offers maximum therapeutic benefits with all three infrared wavelengths: far, mid and near infrared.
For more information, please see my most recent post on infrared sauna therapy here.
How to use a near infrared saunas
- You don’t need to preheat your sauna. Near infrared saunas work at a lower temperature than traditional saunas.
- Gradually increase your time in the sauna, with increments of 5 minutes per day.
- Unless you are under the guidance of a health practitioner, it is not advised to spend more than 20-30 minutes per day in the sauna. A health practitioner will help you maintain mineral and electrolyte balance and can determine if your body is ready for more intense sauna therapy, which may mean 1 or even 2 hours per day in the sauna. Currently, I use my sauna for only 30 minutes a day under the guidance of Eileen, who designed SaunaFix. Eileen is currently accepting clients if you wish to consult with her – contact her here.
- Remove all clothing before using the sauna. While in the sauna, use a towel to wipe off sweat.
- Do not apply oils to your skin before the sauna, as the oils can heat and burn the skin.
- Rotate 90 degrees every two to three minutes while in the sauna. This keeps blood circulating and allows the infrared light to reach all areas of the body. You can stand or sit while in your sauna.
- Use the sauna as a time for relaxation and deep breathing. I play relaxing music and quiet my mind.
- After the sauna, shower with warm water to rinse off the toxins. If you are unable to shower immediately, use a warm, wet towel to wipe the skin clean.
Safety precautions for near infrared saunas
- Use green-tinted safety glasses (I use this one from Amazon) to protect your eyes. It’s not a good idea to stare at the near-infrared lights without the safety glasses
- Stand at least 2 feet away from the near infrared light bulbs.
- Immediately leave the sauna if you feel dizzy or faint.
- Never touch the infrared lightbulbs, as they will burn you.