Infared Saunas

Arthritis

A study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis showed a reduction in pain, stiffness and fatigue during infrared sauna therapy, but since results from the study “did not reach statistical significance” a causal relationship between infrared sauna therapy and positive health benefits does not exist with certainty.

Toxins

Another benefit claim is that since saunas increase perspiration, they purportedly liberate undisclosed “toxins.” Saunas have been recommended for this ostensible reason to people who are told they have high levels of “toxicity” in their body, although the supposed, offending toxins are rarely identified. Saunas may be useful to those who cannot sweat from exercise due to their health problems, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Heat tolerance

Only if the sauna uses far-infrared technology, the sauna might be more tolerated by patients who don’t tolerate the high temperatures of the standard humid hot air saunas. This is because far-infrared rays do not heat the air inside the sauna, but they still heat the body. However, most infrared saunas in the market do not use the expensive far-infrared panels, which can be touched because they remain always cold, but much cheaper low and medium-infrared heaters, which remain very hot when used and also heat the air of the sauna.

Cancer

On the other hand, hyperthermia generated by infrared saunas or other heat sources (like traditional saunas) may kill or weaken tumor cells. Tumor cells, with a disorganized and compact vascular structure, have difficulty dissipating heat. Hyperthermia may therefore cause cancerous cells to undergo apoptosis in direct response to applied heat, while healthy tissues can more easily maintain a normal temperature. Even if the cancerous cells do not die outright, they may become more susceptible to ionizing radiation therapy or to certain chemotherapy drugs, which may allow such therapy to be given in smaller doses.

Energy expenditure and weight loss

Some infrared sauna proponents claim that the sauna is an effective method for considerably raising the rate of energy expenditure in the body. Proponents typically quote the Journal of the American Medical Association stating: “A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna, consuming nearly 300 kcal, which is equivalent to running 2–3 miles. A heat-conditioned person can easily sweat off 600–800 kcal with no adverse effects. While the weight of the water loss can be regained by drinking water, the calories consumed will not be.” This statement is based on the amount of energy absorbed by sweat evaporating from the skin. It is equivalent to the latent heat of vaporization of water, which is 539 kcal/kg (2260 kJ/kg). The source of this energy is then confused to be body energy stores, while the source is in fact the excessive heat absorbed from the sauna. The body reacts to the excess heat flux by increasing perspiration. This does not increase body heat generation and calorie burn.

 

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