The Infrared Sauna: An Acupuncturists' Perspective
As any well-versed healthcare professional will tell you... our bodies are all different, and therefore, our health and wellness practices should never follow a cookie-cutter approach. This holds true for best infrared sauna practices, as well.
Infrared saunas are quickly becoming a wellness staple these days, with many in the health and wellness community touting the myriad benefits of infrared sauna use. But despite its modern-day popularity, saunas - like acupuncture and herbal medicine - are ancient. It's believed that they originated in Finland as far back as 7000 B.C., and have continued to be utilized for their healing properties ever since.
Many enjoy saunas for the vigorous sweating and increased heart rate that occurs - much like the effects of moderate exercise. The main benefit of infrared saunas are that, unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas use infrared lamps to warm your body directly, and operate at lower temperatures - usually between 110˚F and 140˚F. This makes the sauna experience much more comfortable, while being just as effective.
Numerous studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of long-lasting health issues, and have found proof that saunas may benefit chronic issues, such as:
high blood pressure
dementia and Alzheimer's disease
type 2 diabetes
What the Heck is Dampness? Can Saunas Help? (Yes)
From an Eastern, traditional Chinese medicine standpoint, saunas are very useful for helping to clear imbalances of "dampness," a word you've likely heard us mention from time to time, if you are a patient of ours. Our bodies all contain varying "patterns" of imbalance, which are influenced by our lifestyles, the foods we eat, climate, our emotions, etc. These patterns are the root cause of the symptoms that ultimately manifest in our bodies and minds, as a result. The basis of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine is to help correct those patterns by bringing the body back into balance, or homeostasis.
Here in Houston, where we are plentiful in both humidity and delicious, queso-rich Tex-Mex, dampness is a common imbalance we see. Both diet and climate play a huge part in our patients' levels of dampness, which can manifest as symptoms like fluid retention, weight gain, skin rashes, joint pain, feeling heavy & sluggish, brain fog, headaches and more.
We often recommend herbal medicine, diet modifications, and a series of acupuncture treatments, to help give your body the boost it needs to correct the issues. However, with the addition of our infrared sauna, we're excited to be able to offer you another tool for healing!
The Thing that Most Spas & Clinics Don't Tell You
It's concerning to us that many spas and clinics offering infrared saunas will tell you that it's safe for everyone to use a sauna. Some even say daily use is safe. This is just not true, and not everyone should use a sauna. Also, how you replenish your body post-sauna is an imperative step that is often overlooked.
It all comes back to the wisdom of East Asian medicine, and knowing where our patterns of imbalance lie (click to learn more about the imbalance highlighted):
For people with dampness/phlegm conditions, it is typically safe to use a sauna 2-4 times per week, wiping off sweat regularly during your session, and possibly even incorporating dry brushing during the session to increase lymphatic and blood flow.
For people with kidney yin deficiency, it is best to avoid the sauna altogether, or simply stick to one short session per week, ensuring sufficient replenishment of minerals, as detailed below.
For people with blood deficiency, it depends. For certain symptoms arising from a blood deficiency, the increased circulation from sauna use can be helpful. However, other sets of symptoms - like dryness - can be exacerbated by heating the body. If you're unsure where you fall, we can give you a quick, free consult prior to your infrared sauna session.
Up the Healing Power of Your Sauna Experience
Besides ensuring you are adequately hydrated before stepping into an infrared sauna, there are a couple other things you can and/or should be doing during and after your sauna session.
1. Dry brushing can be a helpful tool for increasing the flow of your lymphatic and circulatory systems, which play a huge part in helping your body to both eliminate wastes and bring fresh, oxygen-rich blood to your tissues during an infrared sauna session. We like this vegan dry brush set. One helpful tip to keep in mind: If you find that there are certain areas where you aren't sweating as much - perhaps your legs or stomach - these are the spots where dry brushing can be especially beneficial. Click here to learn how to do dry brushing.
2. Replenishing minerals & electrolytes is a must after a sweat session. Whether it's spending time in a sauna, sunbathing, or running marathons for fun, the people who sweat regularly, but fail to replenish these important nutrients end up with many dry symptoms and underlying dehydration due to these deficiencies. Electrolytes, like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are essential for helping our bodies to stay hydrated by assisting our kidneys in maintaining proper fluid balance. But skip the sports drinks, because they contain way too much sugar (which only adds to the dampness). Instead, opt for coconut water, which is high in potassium (our favorite brand, with the highest levels of potassium, is Harmless Harvest), and consider taking Trace Minerals. There are drops which you can add to your water or coconut water to up your minerals while sweating in the sauna.
3. Avoid showering until your are fully cooled down. Many people are quick to jump in the shower or sit in front of an A/C just after using the sauna, but it's important to let your body temperature cool down sufficiently before doing either of these things. Eastern wisdom states that when your pores are still very open (like just after a sweat session), your body is more vulnerable, and if you expose yourself to an extreme element (like the "dampness" of a shower, or the "cold" of a blast of the A/C), it is more likely to make it's way inside, creating a new imbalance, or exacerbating a current imbalance. (This explains the whole idea of 'catching a cold.')
If you are ready to experience an infrared sauna session, Nguyen Wellness + Recovery is now offering this tool, in addition to acupuncture, cupping, herbal medicine, and LED light therapy. Sessions are just $40, or you can add a sauna session to your acupuncture treatment for just $30! Book here.
If you are unsure if an infrared sauna treatment is right for you, please contact us for a quick consultation.