Sunday, January 25, 2015

What is far infrared-sauna therapy?

#3: Is sauna a miracle treatment? 
Among the surprises in my reading was learning that teams of Japanese doctors are spearheading research in the use of sauna to treat cardiovascular problems. In Japan, short treatments (about 15 minutes) with a dry sauna at 60°C (140°F) are called “Waon” therapy. Waon is Japanese for “soothing warmth.”

Another surprise is that they and other researchers are using far-infrared saunas, sometimes called FIRS. Why?

In response to someone elses question “What is a far infrared sauna? Does it have health benefits?” Brent A. Bauer, M.D, wrote this:
 A far-infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses light to create heat. 'Far' describes where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum. A traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air, which in turn warms your body. An infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air around you.
The appeal of saunas in general is that they cause reactions such as vigorous sweating and increased heart rate, similar to those elicited by moderate exercise. An infrared sauna produces those results at lower temperatures than does a regular sauna, which makes it accessible to people who cant tolerate the heat of a conventional sauna. But does that translate into tangible health benefits? Perhaps.
Several studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and rheumatoid arthritis, and found evidence of benefit. However, larger and more rigorous studies are needed to confirm these results.
On the other hand, no adverse effects have been reported with infrared saunas.”

In digging deeper, I learned that the air in far-infrared saunas is heated to 60°C (140°F) while in traditional saunas its about 85°C (185°F). With far-infrared saunas, the wave apparently heats more deeply than warmed air so FIRS users develop a vigorous sweat and an increased heart rate at lower temps. So that might make it more accessible for those with osteoarthritis or cardiovascular or respiratory problems.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

More noteworthy studies on sauna

#2: Is sauna a miracle treatment?

Because some of those studies I mentioned in the previous post dated back 20 years, I was interested in what research is being done currently. I used site for my research, from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. My medical vocabulary is admittedly not up to this task.

The Japanese Heart Journal reported in January 2004 that far-infrared sauna usage (15 minutes per day) with 28 subjects over a two-week period significantly reduced their systolic blood pressure and increased urinary 8-epi-PGF(2alpha) levels. The results suggest that repeated FIRS sauna therapy may protect against oxidative stress, which leads to the prevention of atherosclerosis. A 5-year study in Japan using far-infrared saunas showed a decrease in cardiac death and rehospitalization, as reported in a 2009 Journal of Cardiology.

A study reported in August 2011 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice: Sauna therapy was used with underwater exercise to assist patients suffering from fibromyalgia. For 12 weeks, 44 female patients were treated with sauna 3 days a week and underwater exercise for 2 days a week. All patients reported significant reductions in pain and symptoms as well as quality of life.

In August 2012, the Journal of Clinical Hypertension reported on tests of sauna and postexercise sauna baths on blood pressure and hemodynamic variables in 16 patients with untreated hypertension. They found that both exercise and sauna as well as sauna alone reduce the total vascular resistance with positive effects lasting up to 120 minutes after heat exposure.

In September 2012, The Toxicology and Industrial Health reported that sauna therapy brought significant improvement to 69 police officers in Utah repeatedly exposed to methamphetamine and similar compounds. While an uncontrolled study, it suggests that sauna combined with nutrition therapy may alleviate some of their symptoms.

In June 2103 the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology reported that 26 Thai patients with allergic rhinitis significantly increased their peak nasal inspiratory flow and lunch functions with 6 weeks of repeated sauna treatment — 6 sets of 5-minute treatments, followed by rests.

In July 2013 the International Journal of Cardiology reported that repeated daily Waon (the Japanese term for soothing warm sauna) therapy for 3 weeks improved myocardial perfusion in 16 patients with chronically occluded coronary artery-related ischemia. (More on waon therapy, which uses far-infrared saunas, in the next post.

In December 2013, the Journal of Human Kinetics reported the effects of a single sauna on white blood profile and cortisol levels for 9 athletes and 9 non-athletes — increased white blood cells, lymphocyte, neurtrophil and basophil counts. Which indicates that sauna stimulated the immune system of athletes to a higher degree than the untrained control group.

And to summarize it all, from the Alternative Medicine Review of September 2011:
In Scandinavia, sauna therapy has been used for hundreds of years for people with hypertension, congestive heart failure, and those needing myocardial infarction care. There is benefit to some with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic fatigue, chronic pain or addictions, and sauna's ability to purify or cleanse in environmentally-induced illnesses. Both radiant heat and far infrared-saunas were deemed safe.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Proven evidence for the benefits of sauna

#1: Is sauna a miracle treatment?

While researching, I found Ken Swearengen had worked on the same topic — reported Jan 20, 2014, at

He said: “Turns out there is a good amount of evidence to support the positive benefits of sauna use. Now, I won't delve into 'sweating out toxins' or other holistic mumbo-jumbo here, which is hard to scientifically measure and for which no studies are available. No, Im talking about evidenced benefits like:
Swearengen footnoted the studies; I included the references on the same line, with the journal name and date. (I tried to link them but they don't look the usual way. Then I ran out of time.) He located impressive evidence of the health aspects of sauna. 

After reading each of those studies, I then looked for more. There were so many I need to make it a separate post. Coming next...


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Coming next: a series on sauna and health claims

For the last several months Ive been reading about the sauna and its relationship to our health — does sauna make a difference? What health claims have people (including me, in “Some Like it Hot”) made about sauna? Which ones can be verified by medical studies?

The research, of course, is never done — studies are regularly being reported.

To start the year, Ill be posting what I've learned from sites which summarize articles in medical journals. The series is titled: Is sauna a miracle treatment?