I want to start this post with a little story of the first time that I fell in love with a sauna.
Growing up, my parents had a sauna that my Dad built. It was in a small building alongside our house. We did not use it very often, but us kids liked to play in there. It was like our little fort. I loved the smell of the wood and there were little bottles of essential oils on a shelf in there that we would take turns smelling, like they were magic potions!
When we did use the sauna, we would sit in there until we were really sweaty and then we would run a lap around the house in the freezing snow. It was exhilarating!
Fast forward to the present day and I still think of a sauna as a magical retreat — and I still have my bottles of magic potions (essential oils) in there too. But for now, I have traded in the lap around the house for a cold shower.
Because doing this will close your pores back up, pull the blood back to your core organs, and reinforce your natural defenses. One of the best health benefits of using a sauna is increased blood circulation, and a cold shower will help preserve that effect!
That, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health improvements you can experience from owning your own personal sauna!
Saunas come in many different shapes and sizes, and they are not all created equal! If you want to get the true therapeutic benefits from a sauna, then you will want to opt for infrared saunas!
First, let’s talk about the different types of saunas, just to be clear. The sauna that I use in my home is not the same as the sauna that you will find at your local gym. Here is the difference, and why it’s important.
Traditional Saunas consist of a small room or space that is heated with a heater that sits in one corner. You know, the box with the rocks. The heater is powered by electricity, gas, wood or other fuel. This type of sauna uses a lot of electricity or gas, and must be very hot to work properly. Typically temperatures upwards of 180°F.
Far Infrared Saunas use metallic, ceramic or black carbon elements for heating that mainly emit in the far infrared range. The electric heating elements are spread around the sauna space. It is the infrared waves that give you the health benefits, not just the heating of your body. Note: many people disclaim these saunas, saying they emit huge amounts of EMF’s. This is not true, if you find the right kind. I will go into that in detail below….so stay with me. See graphic below, it’s less EMF than your microwave!
Infrared waves penetrate the skin and go deeper into the tissues of your body than do the traditional saunas that just simply heat you up. The reason why this is beneficial is because it promotes a higher level of blood circulation, especially to vital organs. Why is blood circulation important? It delivers what your body needs to rebuild and repair directly to the site! This means a speedy recovery and enhanced immune function!
Now there also is one more kind of sauna which uses heat lamps that you directly aim at specific regions of your body. These are called “near infrared” saunas. Another great sauna to use for natural healing and prevention! But, today I am only going to be talking about far infrared sauna health benefits because that is what I personally own and use. However, I do plan to eventually “hack” my sauna and add in some near infrared bulbs for even more targeted benefits. I just haven’t gotten around to that yet. I need to do more research.
Infrared Sauna Health Benefits
I want to go into even more detail about the benefits of regular use of an infrared sauna. It goes beyond just improved blood circulation!
- Skin Health: increased stimulation of blood flow improves skin tone and elasticity! Plus, the sweating removes debris and cleans out your pores! Studies have shown that it may even benefit patients with psoriasis. The skin is the largest organ of the body and a major eliminative channel, we need to keep our skin healthy so it can, in turn, do it’s job to keep us healthy!
- Faster Wound Healing (and less scarring): the increased blood flow expedites healing because it helps the body’s immune system deliver the tools it needs to heal, directly to the source and much more efficiently! It also promotes faster cell regeneration and human tissue growth
- Faster Recovery Time: jumping into a sauna after a strenuous workout helps with relaxing tight muscles and easing minor aches and pains. The increased circulation shuttles blood to the muscles to help in repair and recovery
- Improves Circulation and Cellular Health: sauna use acts like a passive cardiovascular workout. Regular infrared sauna use has been shown to significantly stimulate blood flow, even after your sauna session is completed. For those who cannot exercise, saunas might be a great way to experience cardiovascular benefits. Increased circulation also helps to fully oxygenate the body’s cells. Better blood circulation means more toxins flow from the cellular level to the skin’s surface to be excreted via sweating
- Improved Cardiovascular Health: outside of the above mentioned circulatory benefits, studies suggest that saunas also lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension and improve the left ventricular ejection fraction in patients with chronic congestive heart failure. One study found that sauna therapy improved the cardiac index, mean pulmonary wedge pressure, systemic and pulmonary vascular resistance, and cardiac function. Wish I could install one on the cardiac floors that I circulate at the hospital!
- Improved Respiratory Function: the transient improvements in pulmonary function that occur in the sauna may provide some relief to patients with asthma and chronic bronchitis
- Pain Relief: Infrared heat penetrates tissue, joints, and muscles to relieve anything from minor aches and pains to chronic pain. Pain management professionals incorporate infrared heat therapy into treatment plans to decrease pain and muscle spasms and to speed up recovery time
- Relaxation: aside from the sheer bliss of sitting alone in a warm, quiet room (I have small children!), saunas quiet your sympathetic immune system, aka “fight or flight”. It enables the body to relax, heal and regenerate itself much faster, causing recovery from many types of ailments
- Immune Support: one study concluded that regular sauna use probably reduces the incidence of common colds. You can call this: fever therapy (hyperthermia). Raising body temperature assists the body to kill bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. Many people have a low body temperature and, for this reason, cannot get rid of chronic infections. Common sites of infections are the sinuses, ears, eyes, bladder, throat, and intestines. Our body produces a fever for a reason, so a sauna is just like mimicking that intrinsic defense mechanism
- Cancer: hyperthermia also helps kill off abnormal cells. Tumors, for example, tolerate heat poorly. Raising body temperature hastens their death. Though not a conventional method, hyperthermia is a well-researched therapy for cancer. Heat also disables or kills cells mutated by radiation or damaged by other toxins. This is not to be taken as a “cure” for cancer, but definitely something worth looking into with the assistance of your primary medical practitioner!
- Breastfeeding: (one fun bonus effect) increased breastmilk production. I personally experienced this when I use my sauna, so I looked it up and sure enough, saunas increase prolactin production
- Last but definitely not least: DETOXIFICATION: many people tend to think of detoxifying as something to do once a year, yet our cells constantly detoxify. We need to help our body detoxify on a daily basis, not just seasonally! Medical studies demonstrate that most toxins can be eliminated through the skin, relieving the burden on the kidneys and liver. Researchers have long told us how the body sweats out toxic substances, including heavy metals — in the sauna, your body recognizes a chance to dump toxins straight out of your body through the skin, and it does so. By raising the body’s core temperature, infrared saunas can produce a sweat composed of 20% toxins versus only 3% toxins with a traditional sauna. You get a deep, detoxifying sweat that penetrates and releases toxins at the cellular level. Just make sure you stay properly hydrated!
Why do we need to detox? Here are some stats:
- Over four million man-made chemical compounds have been identified since 1965
- More than 70,000 compounds are in current production, with 6,000 new compounds identified each week
- In addition, at least 3,000 man-made chemicals are added to food
- The average American woman uses 12 health and beauty products every morning before leaving the house. Each of those 12 products contains numerous ingredients! Plus, the brands women rely on to look their best may be hiding harsh chemicals that have been linked to cancer, organ failure, and birth defects.
- Added to this are illicit drugs, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and prescription medicine
- The moral of the story: we live in a majorly toxic world, and unless you live in the middle of a rainforest, never use personal care products, have zero stress and drink from a mountain spring, you can benefit from regular, gentle detoxification!
Now let’s go over the quality of sauna that you need. There is more than meets the eye, and you can go seriously wrong with your sauna purchase if you are not careful!
Sourcing the Right Sauna
You want to make sure that the wood used is not off-gassing any toxic chemicals (like from cheaper saunas that you might find on Amazon!). You also want to keep in mind when constructing a sauna, non-toxic glues and varnishes, stains, preserves, or sealers should not be used. Again, these can off-gas toxic chemicals.
Never consider a far infrared sauna that uses synthetics in its construction: so called non-toxic glues, fiberglass, plexiglass, plastics, plywood, putty, stains, coated nails or staples, or other potentially harmful products. All infrared saunas use wood glues. The sauna we chose to purchase uses an expensive glue named “Titebond” which in some industries is considered a pastry chef glue.
Make sure oils, stains, or laminates were not used to finish the sauna wood either. Some modular sauna manufactures laminate tongue and groove boards to backer boards or to inner support wood using “non-toxic” adhesives.
Why sit in a sauna to detox when you will just be absorbing toxic chemicals from your sauna? Do your homework, I did!
Never consider a far infrared sauna that uses synthetics in its construction: so-called non-toxic glues, fiberglass, plexiglass, plastics, plywood, putty, stains, coated nails or staples, or other potentially harmful products. The sauna company we purchased from has multiple third-party safety agencies that conduct meticulously testing to certify that all the materials used are safe and non-toxic and that no toxic gases are released during heating.
We decided to purchase our sauna from Sunlighten for a number of reasons:
- Their patented magnetic locking system, called Magne-Seal, eliminates ugly clips, buckles, and screws so their saunas are gorgeous inside and out. Even more important, this magnet system protects us because no potentially toxin-producing hardware is needed. We can rest easy knowing we truly are detoxing, not poisoning ourselves when using our sauna.
- Sunlighten heaters have the highest standard of emissivity power available. A high emissivity level is absolutely vital to make sure you get the complete benefits from a sauna. The heater must have a high emissivity level to produce the required amount of high concentration infrared waves, so the higher the better. Their patented Solocarbon FIR heaters are proven to be 95% emissive! Plus, the heaters are strategically placed all around the sauna. No worries about receiving the amount of infrared needed to heal at a cellular level with one of these puppies!
- Their sauna heaters have met the strictest safety standards for over a decade. They are the most effective and safest heaters on the market. The high emissivity rating means it cancels out any electric and magnetic fields (EMF) to levels that are practically undetectable!
- The Sunlighten company is totally transparent! I may have mentioned their comprehensive third-party testing 😉. But anyone can SAY that, right? Well, this company includes links to those documents on their website so we could SEE the proof of their claims for ourselves! How’s that for truth in advertising?
- They use eco-friendly wood that is hand-selected and kiln-dried. This process takes several weeks and adds heat and moisture to keep the wood from cracking! Wow! When you are investing this type of money, you need to know the product will stand up to daily use! Rest assured—you’ll find no hidden plywood in these saunas like you will with others!
- The Magne-Seal magnetic locking system ensures a much stronger seal between the walls than traditional hardware, so heat stays in and cold air stays out. Plus, Magne-Seal prevents cracking and warping as the wood can actually expand and contract as the sauna heats up and cools down. Not only does it save you money by keeping cool air in, but the construction of the sauna also guarantees it will stand up to rigorous use for years!
- These saunas are made to last! In fact, their saunas are twice the weight of other brands. This is down to their framework constructed with 100% solid, non-toxic wood that is cut into thicker panels than the industry standard. Even though they are studier, don’t think that will make assembly a pain!
- The sauna was so easy to set up! It literally snaps together with their tongue-and-groove and Magne-Seal™ technology. The hidden magnets allow you to snap the panels in place, making set up easy and fast! Don’t let the ease of assembly make you nervous, it is a solid structure. I have kids who thought it was a new fort. It’s reassuring that it can hold up to a veritable child-tsunami!
- Energy Efficient: it only costs $1.50 per month for regular use! Yes, you read that right!
- The sauna was so easy to set up! It literally snaps together. My husband and I were able to unbox, setup, and be sitting in our fancy new sauna within 20 minutes of its delivery!!! Don’t let the ease of assembly make you nervous, it is a solid structure. I have three kids who thought it was a new fort. Don’t worry, they can’t reach the controls and now know that it is off limits. But, it’s reassuring that it can hold up to a veritable child-tsunami! Check out how easy it is…
Sauna arrives all wrapped up
Opened the box, very excited!!!
Carrying up the stairs
Watch out for the random highchair!
Always follow instructions!
Trapped into taking a photo. I could not let go!
All set up and ready to use. Outside light works great too!
Health changes we have personally noticed:
- Better skin, fewer blemishes
- Better and deeper sleep
- Increased relaxation (again, we have MANY KIDS!)
- Forced reading time. This means that because I cannot carry my devices into a heated box, I have to sit quietly and read (twist my arm!). Check out my Instagram post below, sheer bliss! Oh, and you simply HAVE to read this book!
- Total sensory experience: music/meditation/chromotherapy/essential oils. Yes, there is a radio/CD player inside our sauna. I have relaxation CD’s in there on repeat. I also use my essential oils in my sauna to enhance the experience!
- Detoxification: we do regular detoxification with our naturopath, and sauna therapy is a cornerstone therapy in the efficacy of her protocols!
- Increased sweating: the more you use the sauna, the more effectively you sweat. When I first started using it I would not break a sweat for 20 minutes, now I am already sweating 5 minutes into my session! If you decide to purchase the Solo Sauna (my personal favorite) from Sunlighten you will get THE BEST sweat session that a sauna has to offer, and at the lowest price point too!
- ALWAYS consult with your primary care provider before embarking on any sort of healing or detoxifying journey! This post is meant to be informational in nature only, not to be taken as direct medical advice.
- No one should undertake lengthy sweating sessions for intensive traditional sauna detoxification or infrared sauna detoxification without following a tested protocol. Contraindications to sauna bathing include unstable angina pectoris, recent myocardial infarction, and severe aortic stenosis. Alcohol consumption during sauna bathing increases the risk of hypotension, arrhythmia, and sudden death, and should be avoided.
- Caution with pregnancy: One potential area of concern is sauna use in early pregnancy because of evidence suggesting that hyperthermia might be teratogenic. Sauna bathing does not influence fertility and is safe during the uncomplicated pregnancies of healthy women. (see references below)
So head on over to the Sunlighten website and pick out the sauna that would best fit your needs right now! We personally have two of the saunas: the Solo Sauna and a larger wooden one that fits two people. The Solo is the best portable infrared sauna on the market! We can easily move it to various rooms in our house so we can bask in it no matter what craziness is going on in the house. Here’s some pictures of the Solo sauna, so you have an idea of what it is exactly…
Update from Sunlighten: Knowing that EMFs continue to be a concern for health-conscious consumers, we recently hired the best independent testing agency to re-test the EMF levels in our saunas so that we can show our customers and partners the most current data. And, we want you to continue to feel confident about using and recommending Sunlighten saunas. Vitatech Electromagnetics are internationally regarded as experts in EMF mitigation and testing. Their engineers have vast experience, and they use the highest tech, best level commercial technology to do the testing so that the results are precise and trustworthy. Their testing affirmed that our saunas have ultra low EMF levels, lower than most common household items we use daily. You can find all this most recent information as well as a new video and the actual report on our website here.