Are Infrared Saunas a Scam?
In the world of alternative health, there are a ton of shady hucksters who are willing to readily deceive people about how they can achieve their health goals.
That’s why the word “quack” is so freely thrown around the Internet.
Too many times a person, or an organization, have propped up an unproven and potentially harmful treatment in the name of profit, not health.
The phrase “snake oil salesman” was created by people to describe something similar.
At times, people like to label integrative health as “quackery” because we’re willing to try out new things to see if they provide relief for our patients.
I should mention that we never advocate or try new treatments without doing our research and validating that there’s clinical evidence…and significant amounts of it… before moving forward with a new and innovative treatment.
And that’s why I want to talk about saunas; in particular infrared saunas.
Saunas are not novel.
People have been using heat therapy like saunas for thousands of years.
But, infrared saunas are new. And they are exciting for a number of reasons.
Today I’m going to show you why infrared saunas are definitely not a scam… while also showing you that they, like everything else, are merely another tool you can use to help establish a baseline for good health.
What Is An Infrared Sauna?
An infrared sauna is an enclosed room that relies on electronic heaters that emit invisible infrared rays to mimic the results of intense exercise to exert changes within your body.
You’ve probably been in a regular sauna before and those things get HOT. A traditional sauna uses some type of heating element, whether super-heated stones, or electronic radiators to raise the temperature inside the sauna to as high as 200 degrees.
Saunas like this are quite nice, but you really have to be a glutton for suffering to endure a 20-30 minute session inside.
An infrared sauna helps you to get the same benefits as you’d get in a normal sauna, but it does this without superheating the air. Instead the sauna’s heating elements use near, far, or mid infrared rays to heat the air to around 130 degrees…
And more importantly, they use the rays to penetrate your skin to increase your internal body temperature.
Infrared saunas basically give you a “fever,” which exposes your body to environmental stress which promotes genetic expressions that can lead to health improvements.
They are not a scam.
There’s plenty of evidence that shows they are especially helpful at doing the following.
- Help you lose weight
- Improve pain management
- Anti-aging effects
- Better sleep
- Detoxification (yes, really)
- Enhanced immune function
I’ll cite a few of the 40+ studies conducted on infrared saunas to show you just how great infrared exposure can be for you.
Research Shows Infrared Saunas Really Work!
Like I mentioned before, it’s easy to make wild claims about something like an infrared sauna and how it can help you live to 150, or give you a 6-pack in 5 weeks…
And plenty of people make crazy health claims about various products all the time.
The good news is infrared saunas have been shown to be helpful for keeping you healthy for more than 20 years.
When it comes to immune health, the role of superheating the body (known as hyperthermia) and how it modifies gene expression for immune function is pretty remarkable.
In a study published back in 2003 in the journal Critical Care, researchers noticed that the development of a fever (which is described by an increase in body temperature of 3 degrees or more) created something known as heat shock proteins (HSPs).
HSPs are a kind of protein your body uses to survive stressful situations and are shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Another study from the Journal of Interferon Research indicated that hyperthermia has the ability to enhance interferon-γ synthesis and alter the peripheral lymphocyte population.
In simple terms that means an infrared sauna can cause your body to change the number of helpful immune cells circulating in the blood to help fight possible infections and pathogenic activity of bacteria, viruses and more.
And what about protecting one of your most important body parts, your heart?
The Canadian Journal of Diabetes published a study showing that an infrared sauna can help protect your heart and help you lose weight too.
“Our results suggest that infrared sauna use may be beneficial for lowering blood pressure and waist circumference. Subject adherence to infrared sauna use is greater than adherence to other lifestyle interventions. The combination of favourable compliance/adherence, as well as effectiveness in improving blood pressure and possibly waist circumference, makes infrared sauna therapy an attractive lifestyle option.”
I do want to point out that they implicated normal use of an infrared sauna for these health benefits to take effect.
So they didn’t say it’s “one and done.”
However, Finnish researchers noted that it didn’t take frequent use to promote better health.
Dave Asprey wrote in his blog infrared saunas can help improve cardiovascular health in just 1 session.
Finnish researchers recruited 102 people, whom they observed before and after a 30-minute sauna session. The results revealed people’s systolic blood pressure dropped from 137 to 130 mmHg, while their diastolic pressure dropped from 82 to 75 mmHg. The systolic pressure drop was temporary, however the diastolic pressure remained lower 30 minutes post-sauna bath.
So, there’s reason for single use, or prolonged use, regardless.
Different Types of Saunas?
1 more thing to know, there are different kinds of saunas.
Most saunas only emit far infrared light (which again, is invisible). These kinds of saunas are really good for raising your body temperature.
However, there are full-spectrum saunas, too. And these provide near and mid infrared rays.
The benefits that these saunas offer have less to do with hyperthermia, and more to do with how the wavelengths penetrate the first few layers of body tissue and improve skin tone, collagen production, wound healing and more.
Here’s a link to some studies on these benefits.(1) (2) (3).
If you have the ability, choosing a full-spectrum sauna is clearly the way to go.
However, you won’t be disappointed using one, that’s for sure. The evidence shows you’re going to benefit from a single use, or multiple uses, so there’s not much to lose when enjoying your session.