The Benefits of Full-spectrum InfraRed Sauna Therapy (FIRST)
Both the healing and damaging power of the sun’s rays have been widely recognized for thousands of years. Sunlight is categorized by its three primary frequency ranges: 1) UV (ultraviolet); 2) Visible Light, and 3) IR (InfraRed). Each frequency range has different impacts on the human body and our health.
UV light is typically damaging and can cause freckles, wrinkles, cellular injury, and even certain forms of cancer with prolonged exposure.
The visible light spectrum has many effects on our moods and is how we see the physical world around us – in all of its colors.
InfraRed light has healing and warming properties that have only just begun to be fully appreciated in the last 100 years.
IR light is also classified in three frequency ranges: 1) Near IR; 2) Midrange IR, and 3) Far IR. Many modern technologies and devices have been developed to exploit the remarkable capabilities of these frequencies. Due to cost constraints, most devices provide only local therapies and use laser light, LED arrays or other hand-held emission sources. Whole body systems (described below) have also been developed. Most use sauna designs that are either moist heat or dry heat (Swedish) types that emit light in the Far IR range; and provide their therapeutic effects by heat generation only.
However, practitioners who want to provide the very best results for their clients prefer the premier device available on the market today – the Full-spectrum InfraRed Sauna. The benefits of these saunas have been validated in thousands of clinical studies that have scientifically proven their value beyond dispute.
Full-spectrum InfraRed Sauna Therapy (“FIRST”) designs use electronically controlled algorithms that provide treatments that deliver modulated light energy over the broad range of IR frequencies. Treatment settings are typically pre-programmed; but can be customized to specifically target a wide variety of different diseases and health conditions. The chart to the right outlines some of the proven clinical benefits of FIRST treatments:
Far IR Frequencies
Far IR Saunas are an excellent means of effectively raising the body’s core temperature quickly and safely. Everyone knows how good a steam bath, hot tub or heating pad feels on sore and aching muscles. What most people do not realize is that our body’s metabolic and immune processes are directly enhanced with the application of moderate heat. Viruses, tumors and toxin-laden cells are weaker than normal cells, and tolerate heat poorly. Our bodies use heat to detoxify cells and will naturally increase core temperature (develop a fever) to help kill germs. Raising the body’s temperature also causes infections to heal more quickly. In addition, hyperthermia can also be used to effectively treat autoimmune diseases, and even many forms of cancer.
Far IR saunas enhance blood circulation, increase lymphatic drainage, and promote tissue detoxification and oxygenation. Most importantly, Far IR frequencies activate our body’s major detox organ – the skin. Our modern lifestyles are not very active, and most of us do not get enough sunlight or exercise that cause us to sweat the way our forefathers did. Many of us wear tight synthetic clothing which do not allow our skin to breathe properly. Our sedentary lifestyles, combined with hundreds of toxic chemicals in our environment, promote very damaging effects on our skin as well as our health. Furthermore, most commercial lotions, soaps, shampoos, detergents, creams, and deodorants, inactivate our skin’s detox system.
Repeated use of Far IR saunas can help to restore the skin’s ability to eliminate toxic chemicals and metals faster than with any other method. Steam baths, sweat lodges, vigorous exercise, and hot tubs, are more extreme and less effective.
Types of Far IR Saunas
The traditional hot sauna is electric, wood or gas fired. Preheating to 150-200 degrees Fahrenheit is required for copious sweating. This intense level of heat is difficult for many to tolerate, especially if they are elderly or ill. Alternatively, far-infrared (FIR) saunas selectively heat the body, but leave the surrounding air cool, so breathing is easy. With a FIR sauna, sweating begins quickly and the experience is refreshing, pleasant, and rejuvenating.
Far Infrared saunas penetrate up to 1-1/2 inches below the skin to detoxify and revitalize our cells. This produces a deep, detoxifying sweat that eliminates toxins at the cellular level. Far Infrared energy is powerful, yet it’s so safe it’s used in hospitals to warm newborn infants.
Using IR Saunas to Fight Cancer
Over 2,000 years ago, the famous Greek physician Parmenides said, “Give me the power to create fever, and I will cure any disease.” Cancer clinics in Germany and Mexico are putting this principle to use. They routinely treat patients with hyperthermia, where the body is exposed to high temperatures. High temperatures can kill cancer cells, usually without damage to normal tissue.
Most of the German cancer clinics use both infrared hyperthermia and infrared saunas for their patients, and so do many of the Mexican clinics. Infrared saunas provide a form of whole-body hyperthermia that boosts your health in many ways.
In an article in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Lawrence Wilson, MD writes, “If I were to single out one method to combat cancer, it is the IR sauna. It assists removal of chemical toxins and heavy metals, increases oxygenation, enhances the immune system, and reduces the radiation burden in the body”. Dr. Wilson notes that infrared sauna therapy for cancer offers a combination of healing mechanisms that act simultaneously to support the fight against cancer. These include:
- Hyperthermia: Infrared saunas are the best means of safely and effectively heating the body.
- Eliminate Toxins: IR Saunas also help purge the body of toxins, such as heavy metals and chemicals.
- Improving Circulation. Cancer grows in tissues with poor circulation and thus poor nutrition and oxygenation. Infrared saunas boost overall circulation; bringing nutrients, hormones, oxygen and other healing substances to all body tissues.
- Decongesting the internal organs. The liver, kidneys and other internal organs can become burdened with estrogen, chemicals, and toxic metals. Infrared saunas cause blood to move toward the body surface; helping to cleanse the internal organs.
- Care for your body’s largest organ: Your skin is one of the primary organs for eliminating body wastes. However, in most people, it’s inactive because they don’t sweat enough. Infrared saunas help cleanse you from the inside out. They encourage sweating and free up toxins stored beneath the skin.
Infrared Treatment Shrinks Tumors in 30 Days
In a clinical study published in the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy, scientists studied far infrared’s effects on human cancer cells in vitro and on cancer cells in mice. Far infrared therapy reduced tumor volumes 86% in 30 days. The tumor-suppressing effects were even seen without high temperatures, even as low as 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
In another study, researchers in Japan discovered that whole-body hyperthermia with far infrared strongly inhibited the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice without deleterious side effects. Researchers believe this therapy is promising for long-term studies of a noninvasive treatment of breast cancer.
The Secret to Effortless Detox
Our bodies are designed to sweat. It is a key method used to cleanse our bodies but most of us don’t exercise regularly or sweat nearly enough. We use commercial antiperspirants containing aluminum, eat chemical and antibiotic-laden foods, and live in air conditioned homes, cars, and offices, which continuously contaminate our bodies with dangerous toxins. The infrared sauna is a powerful means of cellular cleansing (sweating), which increases our metabolism, boosts the immune system, as well as the blood circulation. In addition, it relaxes the muscles, soothes the spirit and rejuvenates the entire body. The deep penetration of infrared heat releases toxins from the fat layers just beneath the skin, and helps the body to eliminate toxins from the internal organs. These toxins pass from the organs to the fat tissue under the skin. Then they are eliminated in perspiration.
To see how this works, researchers analyzed the sweat from both traditional and infrared saunas. Sweat from traditional saunas was about 97% water and 3% toxins. Infrared saunas produced a sweat that was only 80 — 85% water. The remaining 15-20% was made up of heavy metals, sulfuric acid, sodium, ammonia, uric acid and fat-soluble toxins.
Natural Weight Loss
It is no secret that maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall quality of life. In fact, a 10-year study published by The New England Journal of Medicine found that waist circumference, by itself, is a critical factor in assessing the risk of premature death. In other words, if you can maintain a healthy weight, you increase your likelihood of a longer, healthier life.
However, did you know that you have basically the same number of fat cells now as you did when you were born? Yes, it’s true. Fat cells develop during the third trimester of pregnancy and you keep the same number your whole life. So how do we gain weight? Our fat cells store fat like a sponge that soaks up water. Infrared saunas help release fat (and the toxins stored in the fat) like squeezing water out of a sponge. Infrared saunas have been clinically shown to dramatically aid in weight loss. A 2009 study showed that infrared saunas provide significant results in lowering weight and waist circumference in just 3 months. And for those who are sedentary due to medical conditions such as osteoarthritis, cardiovascular or respiratory problems, results were even more profound.
Burn up to 600 calories per hour while sitting still!
According to information published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, infrared sauna sessions were shown to burn upwards of 600 calories per hour. During a sauna weight loss session, your core temperature increases and the body works hard to cool itself. While using an infrared sauna, there is a substantial increase in blood flow, heart rate, cardiac output, and metabolic rate, causing the body to burn more calories. Regular use of an infrared sauna may be an effective means of cardiovascular conditioning and burning of calories, akin to regular exercise. Using an infrared sauna is like giving yourself a passive cardio workout — whenever you need it!
Drug-Free Pain Relief
Infrared rays also help you naturally reduce pain and inflammation. Infrared sauna heat works by penetrating joints, muscles and tissues. It increases circulation, and boosts oxygen flow to the tissues. By reducing soreness on nerve endings, infrared heat reduces muscle spasms and helps the body heal itself naturally. Infrared saunas have been proven to relieve the symptoms associated with sports injuries, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, joint pain/stiffness and other chronic pain conditions. According to Dr. Jeffrey Spencer, a sports medicine expert from the University of Southern California, “infrared wavelengths penetrate the body to create heat, which creates profound therapeutic benefits. They increase blood flow to the muscles, delivering more concentrated oxygen, which creates more energy to heal.”
- Significant Reduction in Chronic Pain: A study reported in Clinical Rheumatology showed that infrared saunas provided significant relief for patients with chronic pain (such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis). Four weeks of 30-minute, twice-weekly sessions in an infrared sauna resulted in a 40 percent improvement in pain and stiffness (for rheumatoid arthritis) and 60 percent (for ankylosing spondylitis).
- 70% Less Pain AFTER JUST ONE SESSION! A recent study published in Internal Medicine, showed that patients with chronic pain saw their pain levels drop by nearly 70% after their first session of infrared sauna therapy. Pain scores remained low throughout the observation period.
Reduce Blood Pressure WITHOUT Drugs
Infrared saunas have been clinically shown to provide one of the best, natural ways to lower blood pressure. In a 2005 clinical study by the University of Missouri Kansas City, infrared saunas were shown to lower blood pressure through a program of 30-minute infrared sauna sessions just three times per week. The study concluded that infrared sauna therapy dilated blood vessels and reduced the thickness of their inner lining. This increased circulation, and oxygenation, and promoted healthy blood pressure. What’s more, a Japanese study published in the October 2008 issue of The Journal of Cardiology examined the clinical effectiveness and safety of infrared blood pressure therapy, as compared to standard therapies for patients with chronic heart failure. The report concluded that Far-IR sauna therapy is both safe and effective at improving clinical symptoms and cardiac function in chronic heart failure patients. Repeated Far infrared sauna treatments improved impaired blood vessel functions in patients with high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol as well. This suggests a preventive role for infrared sauna use for arteriosclerosis.
Reverse Heart Disease
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that Far infrared saunas help improve the function of impaired vascular endothelial cells in patients who are at risk for coronary artery disease. The infrared heat of the sauna opens capillaries to improve blood flow. 15 minutes in an infrared sauna each day for 14 days improved the function of the endothelial cells lining the arteries by 40%.
Research also shows that infrared saunas help:
- Relieve arrhythmias: A clinical study explored the therapeutic use of infrared saunas for patients in the end-stage of congestive heart failure. It showed that saunas helped relieve arrhythmias (an irregularity in the force or rhythm of the heartbeat).
- Improve congestive heart failure: In the Journal of Cardiac Failure, researchers reported statistical improvements in blood pressure, strength of heart (ejection fraction on echocardiogram), and exercise tolerance in patients treated with saunas. Saunas also helped reduce the number of hospital admissions for patients with this condition.
It’s hard to think of an aspect of health and wellness that infrared saunas don’t benefit. Numerous clinical studies have shown that infrared saunas can help:
- Relieve Depression: A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine looked at a group of 28 mildly depressed patients. Half of the patients utilized an infrared sauna once a day for 4 weeks and the other half had just bed rest for 4 weeks. The sauna group showed a significant improvement compared to the control group.
- Boost Immunity: Infrared saunas have been clinically shown to help patients with weak immune systems, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. MRSA is a potentially deadly bacterial infection that is resistant to most antibiotics. Infrared therapy knocked out the MRSA pathogens without causing increased inflammation. Another study from NASA showed that near infrared therapy, delivered by LEDs deep into body tissue, can quadruple cell health and tissue growth.
Near IR (NIR) Therapies
Skin Rejuvenation: Caring for your body’s largest organ!
Gives You Healthier, Younger-Looking Skin: A study published in The Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy showed significant improvements in skin appearance after just 12 weeks of sauna skin therapy using NIR technology. Participants saw a reduction in wrinkles and crow’s feet, as well as improved overall skin tone, including softness, smoothness, elasticity, clarity and firmness.
NIR saunas encourage sweating and unlock toxins stored beneath the skin bringing deeper toxins to the skin for elimination. NIR light easily penetrates the skin, boosts circulation and brings more blood and nutrients not only to the skin itself, but to deeper tissues as well.
NIR light therapy also stimulates vital collagen and elastin production. Collagen helps plump the skin, while elastin firms the skin. The visible red and NIR light energize and repair damaged cells, stimulating collagen and elastin and returning the skin to a more youthful look.
Reduce Body Fat & Cellulite
Regular sauna use can reduce overall body fat and decrease cellulite. NIR heat lamp saunas allow specific problem areas to be targeted as needed (e.g.; cellulite in thigh skin). A study involving a group of women riding stationary bicycles demonstrated a 444% increase in weight loss for the group exposed to NIR light when compared to the exercise only group. Infrared light combined with other therapies has been shown to be effective in controlling cellulite.
Psoriasis Relief: With Near Infrared Sauna Therapy
NIR light is currently being used to treat specific skin problems such as acne scars, eczema, rosacea and more. Treating psoriasis with light therapy is probably the oldest known therapy for this skin disease. Bathing in sunlight to relieve symptom of psoriasis is an age old remedy.
The Health-boosting Power of Light
Most infrared saunas on the market produce only far infrared. However, a new development in the field is full-spectrum infrared. These are saunas that provide all of the benefits associated with far-, mid- and near-infrared rays. For instance, near-infrared energy stimulates the body’s natural healing powers. Scientists call this photobiomodulation. In cancer patients, near-infrared is used for healing chemotherapy-induced ulcers and wound healing.
Boost Your Cellular Energy: For Supercharged Healing
NIR energy boosts your cells’ ability to create energy. This can help stimulate your immune system and improve your overall healing. It helps your liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, skin, and other detox organs to neutralize toxins and work at peak efficiency. To create energy, the mitochondria (the power-generating centers inside every cell) depend on an enzyme called Cytochrome C Oxidase. Studies show that infrared therapy recharges mitochondria. It boosts their levels of oxygen and Cytochrome C Oxidase. This can help you maintain a cellular energy level that’s usually only seen in young people.
Wound & Tissue Healing
Multiple studies show accelerated healing of wounds and other types of tissue injury. A great example is the use of NIR light therapy to treat disorders and injury to the eyes. Rather than causing injury to the eye, NIR light helps the eyes heal. In a scientific study, mice were blinded by chemical injury (methanol) and the blindness was reversed with the application of NIR light therapy. There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the powerful healing effects of NIR light. NIR light promotes faster cell regeneration and human tissue growth.
Improved Athletic & Physical Performance
NIR saunas increase athletic performance, reduce fatigue and improve muscle recovery by increasing Myofascial blood circulation. Innovative gyms are actually installing infrared lamp systems integrated with exercise equipment for an enhanced experience. Growth Hormone is released with NIR sauna use and can increase muscle strength. Saunas also provide many of the same benefits as aerobic exercise. Both result in sweating which provides detoxification, but of course the NIR sauna detoxification is much more extensive and powerful. IR Sauna use also increases metabolism, heart rate, and improves circulation like exercise but does so in a stress free, relaxing environment.
Decreased Inflammation: Relief from Arthritis, Joint & Muscle Pain
Studies show that NIR sauna use reduces muscle, joint and vascular inflammation. Inflammation particularly in older individuals is associated with increased mortality. Inflammation of our bodies resulting from our unhealthy diets and toxic exposures is all too common. Chronic inflammation is linked to many autoimmune disease, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme Disease, and many forms of cancer. NIR light decreases chronic inflammation. People experience less joint and muscle pain after sitting in a NIR sauna. Those suffering from arthritis and other joint & muscle disorders often see significant relief. Penetrating NIR light attacks joint and muscle problems from multiple angles.
When combined with the hyperthermic Far InfraRed sauna environment, the true value of FIRST therapy is revealed. All of the benefits of a traditional sauna combined with the amazing healing power of NIR and FIR frequencies is an unbeatable combination.
How to Use IR Saunas
If you’re already in good health, a 30-40 minute sauna session three times a week will do. However, if you’re trying to heal a specific health condition, some doctors prescribe daily or even multiple sessions each day. You can try an infrared sauna at a local health club, spa, or massage therapist. A typical fee is $35- $45 per 30-minute session. When looking up a facility which offers an infrared sauna, make sure you find one which has a sauna that delivers Full Spectrum frequencies, rather than a single one, like FIR alone. Although the FIR is more cleansing than traditional saunas, since the deep penetration of the infrared energy allows the cells to eliminate better, it is the NIR frequencies which promote the cellular regeneration. The phototherapy (“light therapy”) effects of NIR saunas cannot be overstated. The interaction of chromophores within our bodies with NIR light is the key to understanding the power of NIR saunas. Chromophores are cell receptors that are activated upon light absorption. Evidence of NIR health benefits appear constantly in scientific literature and in the news.
Authors: Dr. Richard Davis, MD – Medical Director of Wellosophy360 – a Functional Movement Studio
Lior Sher, JD, CPT – Founder and CEO – Wellosophy360 – a Functional Movement Studio
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