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Infrared Sauna 101 – Health Benefits, Risks, Precautions

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A round for thousands of years, saunas have been used by people as a means of recreation, to relieve pain and tension in the muscles, and for varying other health benefits. With the inclusion of infrared light technology into saunas, a new era began, a lot of people preferring this dry type of sauna to the old-style steam room.

Before you venture to acquire a sauna, though, considering that these products are generally expensive, or before you pre-pay multiple sessions at the local spa, your best course of action is to get informed on the benefits, risks, and precautions that accompany it. Here, we will provide you with all of these details regarding infrared saunas so that you can form a contoured idea on whether or not it is appropriate for you to use.

With any of the best infrared saunas in your home, you can have the luxury of attending a hearty sweat session whenever you have the free time and want to relax a bit.

How Does It Work?

Traditional saunas increase the room temperature and humidity. While the environment does promote sweating quite effectively, it is incompatible with use by people who suffer from an array of illnesses, including cardiovascular issues. There is the issue that some simply feel uncomfortable in the room because of the hot and humid atmosphere.

Infrared saunas provide a much more comfortable environment as the actual temperature in the room won’t be changed, and there is no shift in humidity either. If you install it indoors, this is good news as you won’t have to put in a dehumidifier to elevate moisture levels. Thus, indoor air quality won’t suffer any changes and there won’t be any repercussions to this acquisition.

But let’s turn to the topic at hand – how it works. It is quite simple, with the help of electromagnetic radiation generated by the infrared lamps, it warms your body directly to induce sweating, instead of warming the air to cause perspiration. The heat penetrates further into the body too, affecting deep tissue and aiding you detox as you sweat through your pores.

What Are the Health Benefits that You Reap?

  • Pain relief: It helps hasten recovery from training sessions. This is why many gym-goers use it after intense workout sessions, helping relieve the pain and inflammation from the exercise.
  • Stress relief: Likely the most commonly known benefit is the relaxation that helps relieve stress. It almost acts like meditation as, regardless if you are alone or with others, the heat you feel in your body helps you relax and take your mind off mundane problems, feeling much happier and almost freed at the end of the session.
  • Appearance improvement: The sweating and the heat penetration in the tissues help your skin look better and younger, and feel smoother. If you follow through with sessions routinely, cellulite reduction is on the table as well, helping you reach your summer body goals quicker.
  • To focus the infrared wavelengths on problem areas of cellulitis, we recommend that you wear an infrared sauna slim belt that you can place wherever you need.

  • Heart health: When used properly, saunas can help decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. However, you will witness a decrease in blood pressure, so if you are on medication that already lowers it, avoid the sweat sessions.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome help: If you suffer from this affliction and regularly use the sauna, you will feel less anxious and fatigued rapidly. Thermal therapy is used in the treatment of this condition, so its efficiency is incontestable.
  • Reduced risk of chronic respiratory conditions: Problems like asthma, pneumonia, and COPD can be prevented due to sauna use. Conducted studies show that middle-aged men are the category that benefits the most when it comes to reducing the risk of these conditions.
  • Poor indoor air quality can be a damaging factor in chronic respiratory conditions. This is why your best course of action is to use an air purifier in the rooms you spend most of your time in, making sure that the air you inhale is free of irritating pollutants.

  • Beneficial for diabetes sufferers: As your blood pressure is reduced during use, as well as your waist circumference, the sauna can help with your condition. It won’t solve your problems, but when combined with proper dieting and treatment, it will make you feel better.
  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s: A study that was carried out in Finland and spanned over two decades indicated that there is a connection between lower risk of Alzheimer’s and infrared sauna use. Optimally, you should use it 2-3 times per week to reduce the potential for this condition to develop as much as possible.

Detox and Weight Loss – Between Myth and Fact

While, as you can see, there are more than enough health benefits that have been proven to come with infrared sauna use, two of the claims are generally put under a microscope – promises of detoxification and weight loss. There is truth to both claims, but not as you might think or as claimed by sources that simply promote products without shining light on their actual efficiency.

Does it help you remove toxins?

Yes, you do sweat excessively while inside the sauna, but this does not mean that detoxification occurs as you might think. Toxins like aluminum, mercury, and alcohol are eliminated by the liver, kidneys, and intestines, so you cannot rely on perspiration to help your body get rid of them.

However, as the heat helps you pores open and causes sweating, you do get rid of pollutants like dust and smog particles from your skin. In turn, this will help make your skin look better and feel smoother. Conclusion – it does remove toxins, but not with the highest efficiency rate and not all of them.

Does it help you lose weight?

No, saunas do not directly help you lose weight. What they do is help you sweat more, which aids make your weight loss efforts go quicker. If combined with a proper diet and regular exercise, using the sauna will indeed help you reach goals related to the perfect bikini body faster than you could ever dream. But don’t only rely on the sauna to be a miracle-worker as it won’t make much of a difference on its own.

Health Risks You Are Exposed To

Woefully, there are potential risks to which you are exposed when using the sauna. At least if you either don’t use it properly, overdo it, or simply have incompatible conditions or health problems. If you are a first-time user, there is the risk of overheating. Make sure to limit your first few sessions to 15 minutes tops to avoid this outcome, and set the temperature as low as possible too.

Without proper hydration before, during, and after sauna use, you risk dehydration. Drinking enough water each day is essential for your well-being. If you use the sauna, your water intake must be increased as you sweat more, so you need to replenish the supply you lose.

As it comes in smaller clusters and it is easier to absorb by the cells in your body, alkaline water makes for the optimal hydration means for sauna users.

A surprising risk is that of lightheadedness. This occurs if you move too suddenly during the session and after you finish it. Move cautiously and if you start to feel a bit dizzy, rest for a few minutes to let your body recover from the shock. In case this is a recurring problem, take shorter sessions and turn the temperature lower as you are probably not accustomed to the penetrating heat yet.

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Precautions and Safe Use Suggestions

  • Don’t overdo it: If you are a beginner user, limit your first few sessions to 10-15 minutes tops and program the temperature at a lower threshold as well. Afterward, when you feel comfortable, turn the heat up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (or more, if you can safely take it), and extend the span of the session to 20 minutes. The maximum duration of your sessions should be 30 minutes. Never pass this point as you risk dehydration.
  • Water is your best friend: Drink water before, during, and after the sauna. If you tend to sweat a lot, keep a pitcher in with you or outside and pour a glass whenever you start getting thirsty.
  • Check out the best alkaline pitchers to hydrate with super-hydrating alkaline water during sauna sessions and fend off dehydration more effectively.

  • Don’t go in if your skin is irritated: First recover from the irritation or rash before you start the sweat sessions as your condition might worsen. Sensitive skin and recurring eczema are contraindicated as well. Better safe than sorry, deal with your problem, and only then can you go in safely.
  • Never mix with alcohol: Alcoholic beverages are dehydrating through their nature. Avoid drinking before sauna use as it can easily lead to overheating. In turn, this can provoke dehydration, heat fatigue, or even a heat stroke.
  • Loss of minerals and electrolytes: Extended use can, over time, lead to depletion of mineral and electrolyte reserves in the body.
  • Drink alkaline water to restore some of these healthy minerals and upkeep the proper functioning of your body.

  • Your body has the answers: If you undergo manifestations like dizziness when you use it, this might be an indicator of dehydration or other severe health conditions. When the symptoms are recurring, stop utilizing the sauna until you clear it with your doctor.
  • Limiting cardiovascular conditions: Certain cardio problems, like impaired coronary circulation, hypertension, hypotension, and medications that affect blood pressure are incompatible with exposure to prolonged heat. This is because heat stress raises blood flow and cardiac output.

Who Should Not Use It?

In most cases, infrared saunas are safe. Despite that, if you suffer from acute or chronic health conditions, you should first check with your physician to see if it’s ok for you to use it. The same goes in case medical devices have been implanted on you or if you are taking medications. Diuretics, drugs that can induce dizziness, and drugs that lower blood pressure – these are all contraindicated, as well as hypotension and kidney disease.

Some other conditions and considerations that indicate you should avoid use, at least not without consulting the doctor, include:

  • There are age limitations. Old adults who are prone to dizziness and dehydration, as well as children, should not use it unless a specialist advises otherwise.
  • Without permission from the doctor, avoid use if you are pregnant.
  • It is not recommended to use it if you are rehabilitating from surgery or have open injuries.
  • Unless the sauna is cleaned regularly and properly, don’t use it if your immune system is weak.
  • Several neurological deficits can pose an issue as they might expose you to burn or heat injuries.

Conclusion

Whether you opt for a portable sit down sauna that you pack up after use or an indoor infrared sauna that you install in the bathroom or basement, as long as you limit the sessions to 20-30 minutes tops, take it slow and easy when it comes to the maximum temperature, and listen to your body to see if you are reacting to the sweat sessions right, there should be no issues involved with this practice.

As we already pointed out, some people should avoid using it altogether. However, even if you don’t fall into any of the aforementioned categories, you should still contact a doctor before you start your sauna sessions to avoid complications later down the road.

There is a long list of health perks provided by sauna use, hands down, so if you can do it regularly, you should take it. Combined with healthy dieting and regular sport, sauna use can be a real miracle worker.

Check out the best outdoor saunas if you want to learn what is the best selection of infrared and steam sauna rooms that you can set up outdoors. This way, you save up indoor space and you can admire the beauty of nature during your sweat sessions.

Tobey Hunter
Tobey Hunter
Tobey is the editor-in-chief at Optima Institute, his prior experience as a niche product reviewer in air quality improvement systems helping shape his path to conduct thorough research toward selecting and analyzing products so that customers are satisfied with the provided recommendations. During his carrier, Tobey also gathered technical input that makes him well versed in understanding advancements in modern systems, helping readers in turn to better understand how modern devices help improve life quality.