Infrared saunas can provide serious and lasting positive benefits to those who use them. This being said, there are a few precautions you need to keep in mind if you are considering using an infrared sauna.
Because of how the human body handles intense heat, sauna use might not be right for everyone. The following will break down the benefits and drawbacks of using an infrared sauna.
Pro: Reduced Depression
Being exposed to near, mid, and far-infrared light results in several different biochemical changes in the body. The intense heat provided by an infrared sauna puts the body under stress because your body needs to work harder to keep your temperature in an ideal range. Because of this, euphoric hormones are released to offset the stress. These hormones can drastically improve your mood and mindset. As well, the results of this are semi-permanent, meaning that, if you can dedicate yourself to a regular sauna visit, you could end up with a consistently improved mood.
Studies conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Lieb have shown that after a single sauna treatment session, study participants experienced a 50% reduction in their depression. These results lasted for six weeks. As well, some of the symptoms of depression, like decreased appetite and repetitive mental complaints were also lessened.
Con: Saunas Are Not Recommended For Pregnant Women
Because babies in utero are not able to regulate their body temperatures, the extreme heat of a sauna could pose health risks to an unborn child. Some studies have linked babies being exposed to higher temperatures during the first trimester of pregnancy with serious health complications having to do with the spinal cord and brain. Further research is still ongoing, but as a general rule, saunas during pregnancy should be avoided. Please note, the same studies apply to the use of sweat lodges, steam rooms, hot tubs, and extremely hot baths.
Pro: Saunas Improve Your Heart Health
Spending time in a sauna brings your blood pressure down to healthy levels. This change in blood pressure produces a lowered risk of a heart attack. Some infrared saunas increase your body temperature, which in turn, causes your heart rate to rise. Many studies have found that this increase in heart rate has an equivalent effect on your cardiovascular system of moderate exercise. One study even found that men who regularly visited a sauna (between four and seven times each week) were found to be 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Con: Saunas Do Not Mix Well With Alcohol Or Certain Medications
Some things cannot safely be used with a sauna. Alcohol and specific medications that impair your ability to sweat in combination with a sauna can result in your body overheating. Beyond this, mixing alcohol with a sauna visit drastically increases the chances of experiencing dehydration and a terrible hangover.
If you are taking any prescribed medication and are considering visiting a sauna, always speak to your doctor first to be sure that the visit won’t be detrimental to the function of your medication. Never drink alcohol before or during the time spent in a sauna.
Pro: Saunas Boost Your Immune System
People who regularly use saunas catch colds less often. Studies have found that even just fifteen minutes in a sauna can increase the number of white blood cells in your blood. This increase helps your body fight off bacteria and viruses like the common cold or the flu. If you still manage to get sick, an improved immune system will help ensure that your symptoms are reduced and that you recover more quickly.
Con: If You Experience Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure Or Heart Disease, Saunas Might Not Be Right For You
Because of the effect that saunas can have on blood pressure, those with preexisting cardiovascular conditions are encouraged to speak to a doctor before they consider using them. Your doctor may suggest you don’t use one, or that you limit your time inside to a specific number of minutes.
With the above information in mind, you are more equipped to decide whether infrared saunas are right for you. If you have any form of chronic disease or a pre-existing medical condition, it is always advisable to speak to your doctor before using a sauna. Some conditions, like arthritis, can be greatly soothed by a sauna visit as the heat can often reduce inflammation and soften the pain. Other conditions, like heart complications, can be worsened by the extreme heat. No matter what state of health you are in, never exceed 30 minutes in a sauna, and be sure to keep yourself hydrated before, during, and after a sauna treatment session.