Sweating as a way of detoxing is nothing new for us. People used sweat lodges for years before they evolved into today’s spa–like saunas, both wet and dry. But now there’s another type of sauna, one that offers even more health benefits: the infrared (or IR) sauna.
The IR sauna uses heat and light to penetrate deep into our body tissue. It requires a lower temperature to take our core temperature to a higher degree, meaning that the surrounding air doesn’t have to be as hot for us to get the most out of it. This lower temperature makes for a much more tolerable experience for those who don’t handle heat well. But don’t get me wrong: they’re still hot and you still sweat profusely. You’ll likely come out looking like a drowned rat (and you’ll probably stink) but you’ll feel great.
You feel the IR waves as heat on the skin, but it’s actually targeting the body on a cellular level
Infrared saunas are small huts or houses that use infrared light–wave radiation to elicit a body response to heat (no, you’re not microwaving yourself) You feel the IR waves as heat on the skin, but it’s actually targeting the body on a cellular level. As your core temperature rises, your body naturally responds (this gives a whole new meaning to the term “hotboxing”). Here’s a list of possible responses:
- Weight loss (over time): As our core temperature increases our body has to work harder to bring it back down. This burns energy, which burns calories and fat.
- Detoxification: The rise in temperature causes us to sweat and as we sweat, we mobilize and excrete toxins. Activity in our lymphatic system also increases—the lymphatic system is our powerhouse area for detoxification.
- Relaxation: The heat causes a parasympathetic reaction in the body, which naturally causes us to feel more relaxed.
- Pain relief: Our muscles relax as the heat rises, resulting in a decrease in inflammation.
- Increased circulation: The heat causes vasodilation (an opening of the blood vessels), which helps improve blood flow. This is great for those with cardiovascular or circulatory disorders.
Spend 15 to 30 minutes in an infrared sauna and you’ll start to see results. You can go as often (within reason) or as little as you like. Different IR levels target different health issues, but across the board, stay hydrated with lots of water (lemon water is even better—added detox!).
There are three different types of IR saunas:
Near: best for wound–healing and boosting your immune system
Middle: best for our circulatory system and muscle relaxation
Far: best for full–body detoxification