As the old saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child,” the same can be applied to healing autoimmunity; it takes a team of health professionals or a collection of tools to attempt to heal an autoimmune condition.
Whether you suspect you have an autoimmune condition, or you’ve been living with one for a while, you’ve likely tried a variety of tools and therapies to improve your health, but have you ever tried healing with heat?
Infrared saunas have been used for hundreds of years in the Scandinavian region as a standard health activity and have been gaining popularity as one of the best health-boosting tools on the market. Some of their positive impacts include: detoxification, circulation, and pain relief amongst other things – almost all of which can improve the state of most autoimmune conditions.
Heat intolerance might be an issue in some autoimmune cases, but based on each person’s individual autoimmune picture, a gentle and progressive introduction of infrared sauna therapy could be very beneficial.
Infrared saunas are different than the typical sauna you might find at a spa or health club. They generally have a dry environment unlike a steam-based sauna and different types of infrared lights are used to produce the heat you feel. In fact, infrared lights mimic the healthy aspects of the sun’s rays that our ancestors always took advantage of before the concerns of skin cancer.
There are 3 different levels of infrared rays, each with its own health-boosting benefits:
- Near-infrared aids in wound healing and immune function
- Middle-infrared supports circulation and muscle relaxation
- Far-infrared primarily boosts detoxification
On an autoimmune level, one can really benefit from all 3 types of infrared to heal tissues damaged as a part of the autoimmune process. It also could improve immune function and the circulation of nutrients needed for all bodily functions, promote muscle relaxation and reduce stress, and support detoxification so toxins that trigger autoimmune flares can be eliminated.
The process by which infrared saunas induce heat is possibly the biggest and most unique benefit they have. They heat the body from the inside out, raising core body temperature by at least 3 degrees allowing it to penetrate deeper into the body to calm nerves, relieve pain, increase circulation and enhance detoxification. Within a few minutes of sitting in an infrared sauna you’ll find yourself sweating from the core, and sweating is one of the ways toxins are eliminated from the body! For those who can’t endure exercise as result of chronic fatigue, muscle or joint pain, in order to get their sweat on, an infrared sauna could be just what you need to aid in the process of toxin elimination.
This deeper detoxification factor can really speed up one’s healing journey since toxins, such as mercury or mold, are such common autoimmune triggers. Additionally, because of the negative impact toxins have on hormones, liver and gut function which directly impact one’s overall health status and ability to heal, the heat can aid in treating these symptoms and side effects.
An inflamed and leaky gut simply adds fuel to the autoimmune fire and lowers the absorption of nutrients needed to treat autoimmune diseases. Liver function is especially critical for those dealing with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis since a large portion of thyroid hormone is converted in liver tissue. And hormone imbalances can lead to a more pro-inflammatory state, the essence of an autoimmune environment, or estrogen dominance which can trigger Hashimoto’s.
In the midst of healing my Hashimotos and mold illness, I personally found infrared sauna therapy to be a valuable tool for reaching remission. My tolerance for heat was low at first, but over time I slowly was able to increase the sauna temperature and time I spent in it. Even now I make those choices based on what my body can tolerate on any given day and based on the overall burden of stress it might be experiencing.
If you’re ready to try an infrared sauna here are some things you should consider…
Not all infrared saunas are the same. Some are built with toxic materials and can emit high levels of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) which can aggravate an autoimmune situation and stress the body more. This is why I recommend SaunaSpace® brand, for their EMF and toxin-free sauna options. And if a full sauna isn’t in your budget, check out their photon light for targeted local symptom relief and environmental light therapy which helps to mitigate blue light from screens and balance hormones.
Once you’ve picked your sauna source, you’ll want to ease into it. Hotter and longer is not necessarily better.
Remember, infrared saunas have a lot of health benefits and they also boost detoxification. To avoid overloading your body with heat or the elimination of toxins, it’s best to slowly progress with temperature and time in a sauna and to evaluate your overall stress burden before jumping into one.
Also, make sure to stay hydrated. This is important not only because of the heat exposure but also because water molecules are used to move toxins out of the body. At a minimum you should be drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water (100 lbs = 50 oz minimum), and for every 30 minutes of exercise, cup of caffeine or sauna session you should add an extra 8 ounces of water to that amount.
I started at 100 degrees for 10 minutes when I started using my sauna and slowly increased the temperature and duration over time. Now I’m able to sit in it at 140 degrees for 30 minutes. However, I can’t do that every day. If my body feels less than 100% from a long workday or week, getting poor sleep, traveling or eating some not-so-great foods then I either skip the sauna or turn down the intensity.
Now if you’re anything like me, sitting still in a sauna might be challenging. I’m the queen of routine and multi-tasking so I like to make the most of my sauna time. Here are some ways you can enhance your sauna experience:
- Use the time to meditate or journal
- Wear a Queen of the Thrones Castor Oil Pack to boost detoxification and health even more
- Lay down with your feet up to lower stress and cortisol levels
Healing with heat may be exactly what you need this winter. Not only does it have all of the health benefits previously discussed but using an infrared sauna in the morning can also be a form of light therapy to help balance your circadian rhythm, cortisol levels, and other hormones for more energy and even more autoimmune support.