I have many patients that use far infra-red sauna for detoxification, and in my view it’s a really good tool. It is a way to promote sweating, which raises the core body temperature, and allows for detox through the lungs and through the skin. I have patients who feel significantly better after far-infra red (FIR) sauna, although it’s advisable to go slowly at the beginning!
Infra-red saunas are not the same as the regular saunas that you’d find at the gym, for example. Infra-red waves are a different type of heat wave. The temperatures used in infra-red saunas are typically lower than in regular saunas, but the heat waves penetrate the tissues of the body more deeply, which allows for a greater detoxification effect. It’s also not as overwhelming to the body to have the lower temperatures, and many people tolerate it better, even though it’s actually working better.
I liken it to a bar-be-que. If you put a steak on a really hot grill, the outside will get seared, but the inside won’t cook as well. If you put it on a lower temperature, it will actually cook better throughout, and the inside will get better heat penetration. It might be a crude analogy but it makes sense to people when I put it that way! That’s how it is with infra-red heat too – lower temperatures, better heat penetration => better result!
What is FIR sauna used for?
FIR sauna is used for anything where detoxification is important. Thus, even people undertaking a “spring clean” type detoxification, where they are quite well already but want to detox just to give them an energy boost and support their health maintenance, could benefit. In my practice, I see a range of people doing sauna therapy. In Lyme disease, supporting detoxification is always one of the key factors, as Lyme tends to create a lot of toxins. I’m not sure it’s my absolute favorite in this capacity, but I have many people who find it helpful. I find things like Epsom salts baths and coffee enemas seem to help Lyme patients more, to be honest. Where I think saunas are amazing is in detoxing mold toxicity and also heavy metal toxicity. These kinds of toxins are often stored in adipose cells (our fat cells), and so FIR sauna is excellent for opening those pathways up and getting those toxins out. I have used FIR sauna myself to detox heavy metals – I went off chicken one year and was eating fish almost every day, then found I had sky-high mercury levels – so I did chelation therapy combined with FIR sauna to bring those levels down, and it worked great. I have patients with serious mold toxicity who claim that FIR sauna saved their life, and helped them profoundly in their recovery. I also think sauna is good for people with hormone imbalances since many hormones are stored in adipose tissue, and FIR can help to clear them if their levels have built up too high.
What to look for in a FIR sauna?
There are many companies that sell FIR saunas. I have even seen them at Costco and Home Depot! I always recommend getting a medical grade sauna, rather than a more commercially-developed one, for a few reasons. The primary one is that if you are toxic already, you want to be mindful of glues and resins that cheaper saunas will contain – you don’t want to be in an environment that could give off any toxic fumes, especially when the pores of your skin are open such as in the heat of the sauna.
Highly-sensitive individuals will also want to be mindful of the type of wood used. Woods like basswood are hypoallergenic. They may cost a bit more, but again, for those with chronic illness, these are important considerations.
I have had a couple of different saunas over the years, but I’ve always found Heavenly Heat to be high quality and reasonably priced. They’re made in the United States and are constructed without any adhesives. They can also add near infra-red elements to their far infra-red saunas (see below!).
What About Near Infra-Red Sauna?
Near infra-red sauna is a slightly different type of heat wave again. Proponents of near infra-red would say that it is superior – that the heat penetration is even greater, than it is lower in EMF’s than the far infra-red (mostly because they often use lamps instead of an entire sauna structure being wired for far I nfra-red), and that it’s overall superior. My thought is that for most people, FIR is going to give really good benefit without a lot of risk, and that the additional cost and difficulty accessing near infra-red may well not be justified. There are plenty of good FIR saunas on the market that I have seen work so well for helping people optimize their health. Plus, you can always add NIR lamps to a FIR sauna – perhaps that’s the best of both worlds!
I love far infra-red saunas as a health-enhancing tool. Some people will need to start slowly – those with chronic illness should go for lower temperatures and just a couple of minutes the first time, working up from there depending on how they feel. While detox is almost always a good thing, it doesn’t always feel like a good thing! And certainly too much too quickly can be stressful for the body. I advise people to take some electrolytes afterwards too, to replace some of the trace minerals that are lost through sweating, and to limit saunas to 3-4 times a week instead of every day. Even once a week as an ongoing health habit can be beneficial!