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Environmental Toxins, Sauna Therapy, and Thyroid Health

Many people underestimate the impact of environmental toxins on their health. But there is no question that many chemicals can have damaging effects. While you can’t completely eliminate your exposure to toxins, you can do things to minimize your exposure to them, and you can also do things to help eliminate toxins from your body. There are many different things you can do to eliminate toxins, and infrared sauna therapy is one of the best methods of accomplishing this. While many people will spend thousands of dollars on infrared sauna units, you can get the benefits of an infrared sauna at a reasonable cost, which I’ll discuss later in this article.

But why is infrared sauna therapy so effective when it comes to eliminating toxins? While obtaining my masters of science degree in nutrition I took a course on biotransformation and detoxification taught by Dr. Walter Crinnion. Dr. Crinnion is a naturopath who has been in practice for over 30 years, and he focuses on treating chronic diseases caused by environmental toxic burden. He is the author of the excellent book “Clean, Green, and Lean”, and he has written an excellent article on the benefits of saunas which is entitled “Sauna as a Valuable Clinical Tool For Cardiovascular, Autoimmune, Toxicant-Induced and other Chronic Health Problems [1].”

In this article he talks about the differences between steam saunas, dry-heat saunas, and infrared saunas. Dr. Crinnion discusses how infrared saunas utilize a different heating element, and he also explains the physiological response to sauna therapy. I’ll get into a little more detail about this below when I briefly discuss the biological effects of far infrared saunas. But essentially saunas produce thermal stress, and there is an acute increase in metabolic rate and oxygen consumption, with the overall effect being similar to moderate exercise. And perhaps this is the reason why the research shows that sauna therapy can help with different cardiovascular conditions (1) [2]. Based on this you might wonder if you can’t simply engage in aerobic exercise to eliminate toxins? Without question it is a good idea to exercise regularly, but combining regular exercise with sauna therapy can lead to an even greater elimination of toxins from the body.

Biological Effects of Far Infrared (FIR) Sauna:

Infrared (also known as thermal radiation) is a band of energy in the complete electromagnetic spectrum and it has been used effectively for millennia to treat certain maladies (2) [3]. At the cellular level, electromagnetic radiation alters cell membrane potentials and also affects mitochondrial metabolism (2) [3] (3) [4]. FIR wavelength is too long to be perceived by the eyes, although the body experiences its energy as a gentle radiant heat which can penetrate up to 1.5 inches (almost 4 cm) beneath the skin (2) [3]. Unfortunately the exact mechanisms of the hyperthermic effects and biological activities of FIR irradiation are still poorly understood.

Which Toxins Are Eliminated Through Sweating?

Research shows that numerous toxins are eliminated through sweat. This includes heavy metals (4) [5] (5) [6], bisphenol A, which is also known as BPA (6) [7], and pthalates (7) [8].

Far vs. Near Infrared Sauna Therapy

There seems to be a debate among certain healthcare professionals as to whether far or near infrared sauna therapy is more effective. In Dr. Walter Crinnion’s article that I mentioned earlier he discusses how research published in the 1930s showed that near-infrared has the greatest tissue penetration, while far-infrared has practically no penetration. Another prominent healthcare professional, this one a medical doctor named Dr. Larry Wilson, also is a big proponent of near infrared sauna therapy. However, most of the research available is on the benefits of far infrared therapy, and this is even true of most of the research cited in Dr. Crinnion’s article. Plus, many well-known and respected healthcare professionals such as Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Joseph Mercola are advocates of far infrared sauna therapy. I’m not suggesting that one is better than the other, as the truth is I don’t know, but it does seem that there is a lot more research on the health benefits of far infrared sauna therapy.

What You Need To Know Before Utilizing Sauna Therapy

Some saunas produce high amounts of electromagnetic fields (EMFs), and so you need to be aware of this if you purchase your own sauna, or if you use a public FIR sauna. In addition, if you are in a sauna for a prolonged period of time you will lose electrolytes, and so you want to make sure to replenish these lost electrolytes. While some people will consume an electrolyte formula such as Gatorade, a healthier alternative to this would be coconut water, which is rich in electrolytes (8) [9] (9) [10].

Contraindications To Sauna Therapy

According to Dr. Crinnion’s article, sauna therapy is contraindicated in people with “aortic stenosis, unstable angina, severe orthostatic hypotension, or any history of recent myocardial infarction. It is also recommended that persons with fevers and certain skin conditions (cholinergic urticaria, abrasions, and oozing rashes) avoid saunas.” He also talks about the safety of saunas during pregnancy as being an area of uncertainty.

How Can You Experience Sauna Therapy At An Affordable Price?

If you are interested in experiencing the benefits of sauna therapy but would prefer not to spend three or four thousand dollars (or more) on an expensive infrared sauna therapy unit, then you might want to consider one of the following three options:

  1. Find a local spa that offers infrared sauna therapy sessions. If you contact some of the local spas you might find one that offers infrared sauna therapy sessions to the public. For example, when doing a Google Search I found a few locations in the city I live in (Charlotte NC) that offer this. The fees will vary depending on the spa. One of the locations near me offers individual sessions for $25 each, but you can purchase a package of twelve sessions for $210, which is still a lot less expensive than purchasing an infrared sauna unit. Of course if you plan on going through multiple sessions weekly for a few months then this can add up, and you might want to consider one of the other two options below.
  1. Build your own infrared sauna. I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to building saunas. But if you or someone you know is handy then this is an option to consider. Dr. Larry Wilson has an article [11] that discusses this.
  1. Purchase a Relax FIR Portable Sauna. Not too long ago I was attending a nutritional conference, and one of the vendors was selling far infrared saunas. The saunas they were selling were unlike any other sauna I had seen, and quite frankly, I wasn’t very impressed by the appearance of the sauna, as it definitely didn’t look as nice as one of those expensive wooden saunas. But I tried to keep an open mind, and what ultimately convinced me to get one of these was the positive reviews from a few of the other attendees who had purchased one of these saunas a year earlier at the previous conference. The price and portability were also very attractive, and so I decided to bite the bullet and get one of these.

To make a long story short, I feel like I made a very wise investment, as I get a great sweat out of it, and I have used my Cornet EMF meter and my findings show that the Relax FIR Portable Sauna doesn’t emit high EMFs. I realize it’s not the nicest looking infrared sauna available, but I’m more interested in its effectiveness, and the price is definitely right. Besides it not looking as nice as a wooden sauna, another downside of the Relax FIR Portable Sauna is that it only fits one person, and so if you are looking for a sauna that both you and your significant other can enjoy at the same time then a wooden sauna might be a better option. For more information on the Relax FIR Portable Sauna you can visit www.momentum98.com [12], or you can watch this video [13].

In summary, we’re exposed to many different toxins, and while we need to try to minimize our exposure to these, it is impossible to eliminate our exposure to all of these toxins. As a result, you should do things to eliminate toxins from your body. While I commonly recommend a 21-day liver detoxification to my patients, infrared sauna therapy is also something to consider. Research shows that numerous toxins are eliminated through the sweat, including heavy metals, BPA, and pthalates. There seems to be a lot more research on the benefits of far infrared sauna therapy, and if you purchase your own infrared sauna, make sure it doesn’t produce a high amount of EMFs.