Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 2/10/21
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You might think that your path to feeling better not older would be completely comfortable, but the benefits of sweating are so numerous that you will want to grab a towel and get started!
Southern Maryland Area Residents
Benefits of Sweating
Sweating is important. People sweat in 2 ways. The underarm sweat related to the presence of hair follicles occurs when we are fearful, anxious, nervous, or otherwise emotionally stressed. When the sweat glands present in the skin all over our bodies are active, good things begin to happen health-wise!
Excess sodium or salt in the body comes out via your sweat thereby reducing the chance of kidney stones. Sweat unclogs your pores and makes it easier for you to have good looking skin that can more effectively make vitamin D when exposed to direct sunshine. Sweating is a major way for your body to get rid of chemicals and other toxins that should not be there to begin with.
If you dislike sweating, consider why you feel that way. If you dislike the way your sweat smells, then remember that your sweat is removing things that should not be inside you! Wipe, or better yet, shower your sweat off! Your scent may be from sweat combining with bacteria present on your skin in which case – work to improve your skin bacterial colonization (and consider red/infrared light therapy). An Infrared Sauna shines at generating this whole body sweat which is critical to creating and maintaining a healthy body and mind.
What is an Infrared Sauna?
A sauna is a device that provides an immersive heat experience for your entire body independent of the weather outside or the temperature inside. An Infrared Sauna uses specialized carbon heaters to produce infrared light (called radiation) which penetrates your body and is absorbed by your tissues. Some Infrared Saunas resemble tiny rooms or the phone booths you might have grown up with. You can sit, possibly stand, maybe have a friend join you, and there might even be space to do yoga inside! Other styles, like the one at Zen and Vitality, encourage a private, restful experience. These Infrared Saunas are sturdy structures that rest above and beside you while you lie on a massage table. If you crave warmth in the winter, or really anytime, a sauna session might be perfect for you. There is a multitude of benefits to getting warm or hot in a sauna, and even more for an Infrared Sauna.
Far Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna
Traditional steam saunas provide moist heat that heats your skin so you sweat profusely to cool off. The body heating is primarily at the skin level. The steam rich air entering your lungs during a session eases breathing for some people but aggravates breathing for many others. A session in a traditional steam sauna typically lasts from 5-20 minutes. A far infrared sauna provides heat that penetrates into the depths of the body where it reaches even the most remote muscle, connective tissue, and joint. A typical infrared sauna session lasts 15-30 minutes. During a session in a far infrared sauna at Zen and Vitality, your head is out of the sauna heat completely (unless you choose to slide fully inside the sauna dome!) and you are breathing in normal room temperature air. Far infrared saunas excel at stimulating healing and providing a relaxing experience.
Infrared Sauna Benefits
An infrared sauna session creates gentle stress for the heart and stimulation for your circulatory system but through a relaxation inducing experience. As your body slowly warms in the infrared sauna, your heart works to cool you back down. Your pulse rate will rise. Your blood will move from the internal body out towards the skin. Because of the relaxing nature of the gentle heat, your blood vessels will dilate and your blood pressure falls. If you only find the sauna heat stimulating, your blood pressure may rise accordingly. If you have heart or circulation issues, you will want to begin your sauna sessions cooler and shorter and progress up to a full 30 minutes at warmer temperatures.
Detoxify the Body and Brain
The human body has many ways to remove things that may cause harm to the body (called toxins). When toxins hang around in the body, they create all sorts of trouble: chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog, and Alzheimers to name a few. These toxins are moved through the body by blood and lymph fluid so they can be excreted via sweat, urine, feces, or your exhale. Each of these methods specializes in the type of toxins removed.
When you get hot in the infrared sauna, your circulation improves and your lymph system works harder keep fluid from pooling in your tissues. The fluids are guided towards your kidneys, liver, and lymph glands for processing. Your brain cools you back off by telling the sweat glands all over your body to activate.
Sweat excels at removing heavy metals helping out the liver and kidneys. Heavy metals like aluminum, mercury and lead burden the body and can settle in the brain resulting in both physical and mental disease. They are not useful to the body and are removed effectively by sweating.
Plastics can contain phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) which is harmful to the body. Many cosmetics, household products, plastic food and beverage containers contain BPA and phthalates so you have been exposed over the course of your lifetime.
Even our food contains toxins if we are not very careful about our food choices! People with diseases and conditions created by bacteria, mold, viruses often include regular infrared sauna sessions as an important part of their recovery process and maintaining remission; this includes Hashimoto’s disease, lyme disease, and mold biotoxin illness.
Infrared sauna induced sweat is an excellent way to eliminate heavy metal, mycotoxins, and plastic-based toxins from your body.
Increase Immune Function
Running a fever is one of your body’s best methods of killing off invading germs. It is a crucial tool of your immune system to maintain your health. When you get hot in an infrared sauna, you experience an artificially generated fever. The higher core body temperature makes it easier for your immune system to do its job and uses less energy in the process. Your immune system can then focus on activating white blood cells to kill off the invaders. The sauna heat stimulates your circulation so the white blood cells can travel around the body to wage war on invaders with less effort or travel delays. Your lymph flow is also increased by the sauna heat which helps your body purge itself of anything it thinks does not belong (like invaders). If you are starting to feel symptoms of an illness, getting in the sauna is a great wellness choice (but beware sharing your invaders with the kind humans nearby!).
Chronic inflammation is tied to almost every disease and health condition we know. Inflammation is your body’s way of fighting stress and injustice in the body; it just goes a little overboard when there is always something to fight!
Inflammation leads to pain which is to be avoided. Inflammation occurs in muscles, joints, your digestive system, the brain – everywhere in the body. There are many ways to address your chronic inflammation levels, but the infrared sauna should play a starring role in your wellness plan.
When inside the infrared sauna, your core temperature rises to stimulate your immune and circulatory systems. Blood carries white blood cells everywhere in the body to fight inflammation. Your activated lymph system performs the necessary housekeeping on a cellular level to get the body healthy again. Your overall mental, emotional, and physical stress levels shrink further reducing inflammation. In the brain, lower inflammation brings balance to your hormones, mood, ability to think, and so much more. In the gut. reduced inflammation increased the effectiveness of your digestion and takes away some of the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, chronic heartburn, and inflammatory bowel disease. The Infrared Sauna takes away inflammation. Your homework is to keep inflammation from rising again!
Mental Focus and Neuroplasticity
The heat from an infrared sauna session stimulates the creation of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF facilitates neuroplasticity which is the term for the brain changing and reshaping itself. BDNF controls the growth of new neurons, the survival of existing neurons, and the ability to have both neurons and synapses in the memory, learning, and higher thinking parts of the brain. Heat also creates enough physical stress to feel a rise in the hormone norepinephrine which encourages the storage of strong memories and clear focussed thinking. Sauna heat increases the levels of dynorphins which are the opposite of endorphins. Dynorphins temporarily make you feel bad but they also stimulate an increase in the receptors for endorphins. Endorphins, created through exercise and heat, provide self created pain relief. The increase of endorphin receptors outweighs the temporary uncomfortable feelings from the dynorphins for most people; they leave the sauna feeling terrific and the day just keeps getting better afterwards!
Reduce Stress and Heal Adrenal Fatigue
Your adrenal glands regulate and create cortisol – your stress hormone. When your body and mind are in a higher state of stress for an extended time, your adrenal glands lose effectiveness and you can start to experience adrenal fatigue. To restore proper adrenal function and to prevent adrenal fatigue in the first place, stress reduction is crucial! Infrared sauna sessions offer a fabulous stress relief experience. With pleasantly dim lighting, you lay on a massage table, bask in warmth, listen to white noise or music of your choice, ignore your phone, and possibly even doze off! What could be better? Your hormone production changes while in the sauna; more prolactin is released. Prolactin, known as the mothering hormone, generates a relaxation response and is important in reducing stress for both men and women. Your parasympathetic nervous system gets a chance to activate bringing calm to both your body and mind. The infrared sauna provides an opportunity for you to focus on the rest, digestion, healing and de-stressing needed to reset you to “optimal operating mode”.
Pain is a sign that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, we don’t always know what is wrong or how to fix it. When we experience pain, parts of our brain are less able to function because so much of our mental energy is being spent trying to stop the pain. Chronic pain makes us cranky, low on energy, depressed, and generally living a suboptimal life. Whether you are dealing with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, pain in just one joint, rheumatoid arthritis, a different autoimmune disease, a physical injury, or emotional pain, infrared sauna sessions are a great therapeutic tool for your pain relief.
What makes the infrared sauna so great is the minimal side effects and maximal healing! The warmth penetrates deep into your body getting to all your muscles, fascia, joints, and nerve endings. Warm blood brings increased oxygen to your tissues stimulating healing. Warmth and fluids flow through your facia system to help unravel knots and smooth away tension in your entire body. Nerve endings are softened and quieted calming your nervous system and sending less signals to your brain; reduction of your overall stimulation level results in your brain deciding you are no longer in pain. Your brain will also begin to release endorphins, like it does after vigorous exercise, which are your natural pain killers. Yay! Mission accomplished! Thank you Infrared Sauna!
Many people begin using an infrared sauna to support their effort to lose weight. Shedding those unwanted pounds is tricky business! The heat from the infrared sauna challenges your heart, increases your blood flow, and stimulates your metabolism just like vigorous exercise – but all you have to do it lie back and relax! The relaxation component is huge; stress is known to encourage your body to hold on to its fat, particularly in your midsection. The great thing about an infrared sauna is that your weight loss comes from the metabolic boost and stress reduction rather than from only water loss.
How to Avoid Feeling Worse After an Infrared Sauna Session
There are two main reasons that some people feel worse after a session in an infrared sauna. The first one is a simply matter of hydration or food intake. Heat dehydrates you which can lead to feeling light headed, dizzy, nauseous, and more. Too much or inadequate food prior to your sauna session can create similar feelings as dehydration. Drinking fluids with electrolytes before and after your session can help you feel terrific during and after your sauna session.
The second reason people might feel poorly after a session relates to how their body handles the stress heat creates. A sauna session with mild heat is more relaxing than stressful. The warmer you get, the more stressful the experience is to your body. For some, the physical stress is exactly why they are choosing the infrared sauna (cardio stimulation, detoxification, etc.).
For others dealing with high stress or adrenal fatigue, the heat of a sauna session might be too taxing. These individuals are better served by sauna sessions designed for relaxation rather than stress. It is for this reason that I advocate for new sauna clients to start with lower temperature settings and shorter sessions, working up to the hotter and longer sessions.
Healing Abilities of Near and Far Infrared Radiation
The terms near and far infrared refer to the wavelength of the infrared light generate by the sauna, sun, or other device. Near IR is closer to red light with a shorter wavelength and is absorbed by the outer inch or so of our bodies. Near IR is best for skin renewal, wound healing, and -via the eyes – hormone regulation; red/infrared light therapy is a fabulous way to get near IR light. Far IR light is even farther away from visible light with a longer wavelength (than near IR) and penetrates deeper into our bodies. A far Infrared Sauna is best for pain relief, detoxification, and other whole body internal issues.
Sessions for La Plata, Maryland Area Residents
Infrared Sauna sessions can be great year round, but are most popular when the weather is cold. A morning sauna session helps you start your day with warmth and energy. A sauna session mid-day prepares you mentally for the afternoon and offsets the sitting that your morning might have required. An evening sauna session removes the stress from the day and prepares you for a restful night of sleep. Come to Zen and Vitality for regular sessions or, if you think daily is best for your lifestyle and needs, use my affiliate link below to get your own Clearlight Infrared Sauna!