The regular use of a sauna has been shown over the past 100 years to have some significant advantages for your health.
Infrared saunas are the newest innovation in sauna technology and use a different type of heat source to raise your body temperature and promote the many benefits of sweat bathing.
As infrared saunas are becoming more popular and readily available, though, it is crucial to understand both the advantages and potential drawbacks of this type of activity.
Below we explore the many health benefits of using an infrared sauna regularly.
We also share the most significant risks and disadvantages to this practice as well as ways you can mitigate these possible adverse outcomes.
What are the Benefits of Using an Infrared Sauna?
One of the most significant advantages of using any type of sauna is the detoxification that occurs because of sweating.
Sitting in an infrared sauna causes your body temperature to rise, which induces sweating.
Sweating is one way your body releases toxins, wastes, heavy metals, and other pollutants that find their way into our cells.
In fact, sweating is more effective for releasing heavy metals like mercury and lead than other forms of excretion (1).
Infrared saunas are particularly useful for promoting detoxification through the skin because the amplitude of the wavelengths resonate with your body’s cells and promotes more water passage into and out of cells.
This natural process means that more wastes are flushed from your cells and removed through sweating.
The warmth of infrared radiation induces a relaxing effect in your muscles and lowers your levels of stress hormones in the body.
This reduction in stress helps to promote a more positive mindset and reduce tension, all of which have positive effects on the body.
Sauna bathing is also a time to unplug and unwind, to meditate, and to remove yourself from the stresses of your day.
Sauna use is connected to enhanced circulation and improved blood flow.
The more blood moves through your body, the more cells are getting vital oxygen and nutrients to perform their necessary functions.
Improved blood flow helps cells and tissues to heal faster and to repair themselves more quickly, which leads to better overall health.
Your skin is a vital contributor to your overall immune system health.
Because your skin blocks microbes from entering and protects you from environmental pollutants, it is crucial to keep it healthy.
Sweating helps not only remove pathogens on the skin’s surface but when you sweat, you also produce proteins that are known to kill germs like MRSA and TB (2).
Those who use a sauna regularly are more likely to remain healthy during cold and flu season.
And sauna bathing helps to kill germs living on your skin, which can enable faster healing of wounds and other injuries.
There is a vast body of research on the benefits of sauna use and regular exposure to heat.
Among these include improved cardiovascular health, lowered inflammation, improved healing, less pain, faster recovery from exercise, living longer, lower blood pressure, and improved cognitive function.
Each of these benefits is true for traditional as well as infrared sauna usage.
What are the Disadvantages of Using an Infrared Sauna?
Regardless of your current level of health or medical conditions, sauna use is likely very safe for you.
In general, most people can use an infrared sauna without much concern or with only minor precautions.
There are a few potential risks as well as adverse reactions to watch for, though, and using common sense while following safety guidelines will always be necessary.
Because infrared saunas raise your body temperature and promote sweating, there is always a risk that you can suffer from overheating, heat exhaustion, or dehydration.
Those who are overheated may feel dizzy, lightheaded, or confused.
Extreme dehydration can have serious effects, including fatigue and confusion.
Anyone new to infrared sauna use or who is sensitive to heat should monitor their symptoms, limit their time inside the sauna, and drink plenty of water before and after their sauna session.
Certain people may be more prone to heat exhaustion or overheating than others.
For example, women who are pregnant and small children are more susceptible to elevated temperatures.
For this reason, those in these groups should limit their time inside an infrared sauna and should be closely monitored during any sauna usage.
Improving circulation and releasing toxins and other materials stored in the cells can sometimes increase the effectiveness of certain medications or change their potency.
If you take medication for any condition, especially those that are chronic, talk with your doctor about how using an infrared sauna may affect you.
Those who take medicine to treat hypertension may also use caution because saunas are known to decrease blood pressure.
If you stay in too long, you could experience a significant drop in your pressure that can lead to dizziness and other symptoms.
Because of the risk of dehydration, you should drink plenty of fluids that contain electrolytes after you sit in an infrared sauna.
You will lose water as well as vital nutrients, so be sure to replenish these after your sauna session.
Anyone with a heart problem or other chronic illness should talk with their doctor before using an infrared sauna, as you may be at risk for adverse reactions.
Those more vulnerable include anyone with arrhythmia, angina, heart disease, or those with skin problems or multiple sclerosis.
You should never use an infrared sauna when you are under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs.
You are more likely to become dehydrated or suffer from heat exhaustion when you are impaired.
The benefits of using an infrared sauna are many, and the disadvantages are very few.
Those potential risks that are most common are easily mitigated through attention, planning, and moderation in use.
If you are unsure about whether using an infrared sauna is right for you, talk with your doctor.
This practice has been around for hundreds of years and modern technology makes it safer and more readily available than ever before.