Whether lounging with your besties during a glorious detox spa day or heading to that heated haven après workout, traditional saunas are nothing new in the wellness world.
But what if the high temps are a little too much for you? Now there’s an alternative. Meet the latest health hype endorsed by celeb influencers: the infrared sauna.
In comparison, a regular sauna uses heat to warm the air, which in turn warms your body. Conversely, the infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air around you.
Curious why these new-fangled saunas are having a moment now? We were, too. So we decided to dig into the research and determine if they were worth the hype, especially regarding gut health.
First, let’s find out ...
What is an Infrared Sauna?
Unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas use infrared lamps to warm your body directly.
According to Healthline.com, these saunas use infrared panels instead of conventional heat to easily penetrate human tissue, heating your body before heating up the air.
Infrared sauna manufacturers say that only 20 percent of the heat goes to heat the air, while the other 80 percent directly heats the body.
What’s more, an infrared sauna can operate at a lower temperature ((usually between 120 ̊F and 140 ̊F) than a traditional sauna, which heats up to between 150 ̊ and 180 ̊.
Physical therapist, Vivian Eisenstadt, notes in a Healthline interview that “this environment is more tolerable, which allows you to stay in the sauna longer while increasing your core body temperature by two to three degrees.”
What are the Supposed Benefits of an Infrared Sauna?
Hype aside, there are some proven benefits of infrared saunas, which are similar to those experienced with a traditional sauna. We took a hard look at credible sources, and this is what we found out.
We took a deep dive here, and honestly, the only ‘experts’ who claimed infrared saunas helped gut health were the manufacturers of infrared saunas. (A little suspect, in our opinion!) However, one could posit that the relaxation aspects of an infrared sauna sesh can benefit digestion.
Sauna aficionados speak highly of the circulation benefits, and there may be something to that. One study suggests that a single 30-minute dry-heat sauna session decreased artery stiffness and improved blood pressure.
This benefit is probably no surprise, as many of us are accustomed to vegging out in a sauna after a brutal workout or a day crushing it on the slopes.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, researchers have found that infrared sauna therapy “may be a promising method for treatment of chronic pain.” This statement followed a two-year studyiii where people showed improved outcomes with the treatment. And, I’m sure plenty of people can attest to how a sauna sweat session can loosen up stiff or tight muscles and reduce joint pain.
The Bottom Line
Should you purchase a spendy infrared sauna unit or schedule weekly sessions at a trendy studio? We’re on the fence.
Limited research suggests that there may be a wide variety of benefits. Plus, there’s little evidence of negative effects.
And, if you’re someone who yearns for the sauna perks without super long hot sessions, infrared may be for you.
However, if you have easy access to a traditional gym or spa sauna, you may want to save your pennies and get similar health benefits.
If you’re determined to try it out, Cleveland Clinic experts offer some tips. Start low and slow, see how you feel, and build from there. Stay hydrated and avoid mixing alcohol with sauna use. Rinse off afterward to rid yourself of all those toxins that you sweated out.