The Wall Street Journal is usually credible but this article by Tania Dempsey, MD does make one wonder about neutrality. Though an expert herself, Dr. Dempsey does a magnificent job going to published studies to support her experience that saunas help patients detoxify.
An internal medicine specialist, Dr. Dempsey refutes a Wall Street Journal article that claims there’s little proof infrared saunas help the body detox.
I was extremely surprised after reading the recent Wall Street Journal article on infrared saunas. Did I detect some bias from the author as well as the doctors quoted in the article, who assert with complete conviction that there is little basis for the sauna’s ability to detoxify? They couldn’t be farther from the truth; I guess no one bothered to check the National Library of Medicine’s Pubmed.gov website, comprised of over 27 million citations for biomedical literature from a variety of sources held in high regard by the scientific community. I decided to take this opportunity to do my own research—especially since I often recommend the use of infrared saunas to my patients.
Infrared light is also known as radiant energy; the same energy that comes from the sun, and the same energy that creates heat in our bodies. In the sauna, the radiant energy of the infrared light penetrates the body’s tissues to a depth of 1.5 inches and is converted to heat within. As opposed to traditional saunas that have to heat the air up to 180-200 degrees to eventually heat the skin superficially, infrared saunas might only heat up to 120-140 degrees. This allows for a deeper penetration of energy and heat, which can have more far-reaching effects.
Saunas, regardless of the type, produce thermal stress, activating the sympathetic nervous system, the hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary-hypothalamic axis and the immune system. Studies document the effectiveness of sauna therapy for hypertension, joint and musculoskeletal pain, cardiovascular conditioning, detoxification after environmental exposure and skin conditions. Due to the deep penetration into the skin, the infrared rays cause heating deep in the muscles and internal organs. The body responds with a hypothalamic-induced increase in heart volume and rate. This leads to vasodilation, which increases circulation and blood flow to muscles, joints and connective tissues, which can help with healing and reduce pain in injuries, arthritis, muscle spasms, and much more.
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