Benefits of Infrared Saunas for Cancer
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Benefits of Infrared Saunas for Cancer
The benefits of infrared saunas for cancer has been a hot topic on my Facebook group recently, and I was asked to write an article with more information about this. Hey presto, here it is.
Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna
“Hot air baths” have been utilized for thousands of years to help heal the body by many different ancient cultures. Native American people traditionally used (and still use) sweat lodges for relieving all sorts of problems including stress, illness, mental problems and for detoxification. Finnish, Swedish, eastern Europeans, ancient Chinese and many other cultures understand the benefits of the traditional sauna and utilize them for healing.
The defining characteristic of the traditional sauna is the heating of water to create steam over a pile of hot rocks. Today, traditional saunas can be heated by fire, gas, or electricity. There are a number of reasons for doing this, but detoxification is one of the strongest reasons — and also one of the reasons I promote utilizing saunas – our greatest organ for elimination is our skin. Sweating out toxins can be a very powerful thing, especially for your immune system.
Quite a few studies have been released on the benefits of detoxing using saunas. One 2010 study  in particular found that sweating helps us to eliminate heavy metals including mercury, cadmium, antimony, lead, nickel, and even polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB’s) and pesticide residues.
As mentioned, while traditional steam saunas and sweat rooms use heat and water to warm the body from the outside to promote toxin elimination through sweating, infrared technology uses a non-invasive form of light therapy to penetrate into the body. This promotes sweating much better even than traditional steam saunas do.
Interestingly, infrared saunas do not heat the room. Many people find traditional saunas are too hot and they can’t tolerate sitting in them for longer than just a few minutes. Also, infrared saunas are said to help the body perspire in such a way that it releases significantly more toxins and wastes – up to 7 times more – than in traditional steam saunas.
Inside an infrared sauna, the temperature runs about 110-125° F (43-52° C) while steam saunas operate at around 150-200° F (65-93° C). Despite the lower temperatures, infrared saunas cause the body to sweat much more profusely than it otherwise would with steam saunas because it penetrates into the body farther.
Dr John H Kellogg is credited with inventing infrared technology, around the end of the 19th century. Infrared saunas have come a very long way since then!
A naturopath from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona wrote a paper around 2007  highlighting the benefits of infrared saunas as a way to eliminate toxic chemicals from the body. This paper is worth reading.
Infrared Sauna Benefits
Studies have been conducted that confirm infrared technology has the ability to:
1. Promote perspiration, one of the best ways to eliminate toxins
2. Increase heart rate and circulation (blood flow during a session is reported to rise from a normal 5-7 quarts per minute to as much as 13 quarts/minute)
3. Stimulate liver detoxification pathways
4. Stimulate kidney filtration and elimination
5. Enhance cell membrane tone and function, which helps cells to absorb nutrients and excrete toxins more effectively
6. Kill pathogenic organisms including mold
7. Improve immune response
8. Reduce stress by promoting a relaxation response
9. Stimulate metabolism and mobilize fat cells (which can have the added benefit of promoting weight loss)
10. Reduce chronic pain  
11. Decrease side effects of type 2 diabetes 
12. Improve quality of life and feelings of well-being 
13. Decrease swelling and inflammation
14. Improve blood and lymphatic circulation. One study  found that it helped improve lymphedema in breast cancer survivors
15. Improve microcirculation throughout the body which increases oxygen delivery to the cells and tissues
Using Infrared Saunas for Cancer
Infrared saunas may have some very real benefits for cancer patients, though this has not been proven in clinical trials using real humans. The animal research, however, seems promising. But look at that long list of benefits above – improving blood and lymphatic circulation, promoting liver detox pathways, reducing stress, killing pathogenic organisms, enhancing cell membranes, improving immune response – all of those are beneficial to the health of any cancer patient regardless of the type of cancer.
Dr Irvin Sahni, an Orthopedic Surgeon in Texas, during an interview by Ty Bollinger (creator of The Truth About Cancer website and documentary series), said that normal healthy cells are essentially immune to infrared radiation, while cancer cells are hyperthermically challenged by it. Dr Sahni stated, “…by exposing your body to that heat, you’re selectively killing or eradicating those less viable cells, those cancer cells, without hurting your normal cells. And so a far infrared sauna is useful because it can help you sweat, excrete toxins, and in theory eliminate cancer cells which can’t survive the heat as well as the normal cells.”
A 1999 animal study published in the journal Anticancer Research by Japanese researchers found that far infrared rays and whole body hyperthermia on mice with mammary tumors strongly inhibited the tumor growth. 
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy found that after just 30 days of infrared treatment, mice with tongue cancer tumors had reductions in tumors of up to 86%, even with low-temperature infrared exposure of as little as 77° F (25° C). 
Features to Look For in an Infrared Sauna
If you are going to purchase an infrared sauna, or attend a spa that offers them, there are a few things you want to look for, or ask about.
1. If it’s going to be in your home, look for a spa that has low levels of electromagnetic radiation and chemical off-gassing. Some do, some don’t. If you’re looking to stay well and detoxify your body, this is important. You don’t want to be adding EMFs into your environment when you’re trying to heal.
2. An even heat output, meaning there are no “hot spots” near the heating element. You should also opt for radiant (rather than reflected) heating technology, as radiant heat is more evenly distributed, efficient, and effective. Look for a sauna with a high emissivity rating and large heating panels that stay relatively cool on the surface. These types of heating panels produce the longer infrared waves that will most effectively penetrate the body, and allow the greatest toxin release through sweat.
3. Full spectrum technology – The infrared spectrum consists of near (NIR), mid (MIR), and far (FIR) waves, and each has its own distinct characteristics and frequency ranges. From the research I’ve been reading, it’s nigh onto impossible to deliver all three wavelengths at one time from a single source, so if you can find an infrared spa manufacturer that knows how to deliver all three, so much the better.
I have found a good brand in North America who infrared spa meets all three of the above criteria. They are called Sunlighten, and they are backed by research, offer all three types of infrared wavelengths (near, mid, and far) at the proper amounts to help you achieve your health goals. And with regard to EMFs, they are rated extremely low in EMF emissions. The company says its far infrared spas produce “virtually no EMFs”, and it has third-party test results to back this. After looking through the test results myself, I have to say that I’m quite impressed with this particular infrared sauna. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, by the way.
A Suggestion For Using an Infrared Sauna
This is not the only infrared sauna protocol — it is ONE – a place to start. Once you begin doing infrared saunas you may find another protocol that suits you better.
1. It is important that you not overdo it when starting to use an infrared sauna. Begin gradually. Most experts recommend that the first session be limited to about 5-10 minutes, then add 1 minute per session until you reach between 15-30 minutes.
2. It is essential to ensure that you are well hydrated both before and after infrared sauna use – I cannot stress that enough. Drinking a cup of ginger tea (to one cup of boiling filtered water, add 4-5 slices fresh ginger root) prior to having a session helps to increase the body’s ability to sweat more effectively. Afterward, be sure to drink plenty of filtered water and electrolytes to replace lost fluids and to help flush toxins from your body. Good sources of electrolytes include coconut water, bananas, strawberries, oranges, avocados, watermelon, greens like spinach and kale, and even a handful of organic raisins and almonds will help.
3. For best benefits, follow your infrared sauna session with a shower where you cycle first hot water for 3 minutes, then water as cool as you can stand it for 1 minute, then the hot again – doing this helps to improve the detoxification process, and is quite invigorating.
4. Any time you are detoxifying the body, regardless of which method you use, do eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats to replace minerals and antioxidants lost in the detoxification process. Avoid highly processed foods, foods laden with chemicals, sugar, and non-organic grains.
5. When to Check With Your Doctor – Overall, infrared saunas are very safe, however, talk to your doctor first before embarking on the use of infrared saunas, especially in these particular cases:
(a) If you have suffered from a previous cardiovascular condition
(b) are pregnant
(c) are weak from chemotherapy treatments
(d) those with heart disease, high or low blood pressure, circulatory problems or diabetes
(e) those taking medications which induce drowsiness
(f) those taking drugs that may affect heart rate, blood pressure and circulation
(g) those taking diuretics, barbiturates or beta-blockers (these may impair the body’s natural heat loss mechanisms)
(h) those taking anticholinergic drugs such as amitryptaline (which may inhibit sweating and can predispose individuals to heat rash or, to a lesser extent, heat stroke)
(i) those taking over-the-counter drugs such as antihistamines (may cause you to be more prone to heat stroke)
(j) those who have multiple sclerosis, central nervous system tumors and diabetes with neuropathy (all have impaired sweating issues)
(k) those with hemophilia or prone to having bleeding disorders
(l) those with pacemakers and defibrillators must consult their doctors to see if it’s safe for them to use infrared technology (and be aware, most doctors will say no).
Warnings When Doing Infrared Sauna Sessions
Do something to help you stay awake – you never want to fall asleep inside the sauna while it is on. Most saunas will come with timers, so be sure to set it before getting in.
Do not use an infrared sauna during an electrical storm, as there is a possibility for shock.
Do not use an infrared sauna if you have been drinking alcohol. Period. Your judgment may be impaired, and it’s for certain your heart rate will be increased – it’s just not a good time to get into an infrared sauna because the danger of falling asleep or passing out is just too high.
Elderly people should limit infrared spa usage to no more than 15 minutes and also operate the spa at a lower temperature. The reason being that our ability to maintain a constant core body temperature declines with age (primarily due to circulatory issues and decreased sweat gland function). We need to be able to activate our natural cooling responses in order to maintain core body temperature. So if you’re aged 75 and up, use an infrared spa with great caution. Having said that, a 2020 Japanese study  found that use of an infrared sauna twice per week among elderly individuals (average age 79 yrs), 18 out of 67 people showed improvement of common geriatric symptoms including cold extremities, leg edema, breathlessness, urinary incontinence, chronic headaches, chronic pain, numbness, anorexia, constipation, insomnia and skin trouble.
Children – conversely, because children have a higher metabolic rate, their core body temperature rises much more quickly than for older adults. So the same precautions should be used as for the elderly – lower temperatures and no more than 15 minutes at a time.
If you have a fever, don’t get into the infrared sauna until the fever has been gone for at least 24-48 hours.
Those with recent joint injuries that are hot and swollen should avoid using the infrared sauna until symptoms ease off.
I hope you found this beneficial, and please feel free to leave any comments below.
 Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study: Monitoringand Elimination of Bioaccumulated Toxic Elements – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47701626_Blood_Urine_and_Sweat_BUS_Study_Monitoring_and_Elimination_of_Bioaccumulated_Toxic_Elements
 Components of Practical Clinical Detox Programs — Sauna as a Therapeutic Tool – http://www.alternative-therapies.com/at/web_pdfs/ifm_proceedings_low.pdf#page=76
 Far-infrared saunas for treatment of cardiovascular risk factors – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2718593/
 Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18685882
 The effects of repeated thermal therapy on quality of life in patients with type II diabetes mellitus – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20569036
 The effects of repeated thermal therapy for patients with chronic pain – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16088266
 Far infrared ray (FIR) therapy: An effective and oncological safe treatment modality for breast cancer related lymphedema – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28535427
 Inhibition by whole-body hyperthermia with far-infrared rays of the growth of spontaneous mammary tumours in mice – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10628363
 Non-thermal Effects of Far-Infrared Ray(FIR) on Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells HepG2 and their Tumors – https://www.omicsonline.org/nonthermal-effects-of-farinfrared-rayfir-on-human-hepatocellular-carcinoma-cells-hepg-and-their-tumors-1948-5956.1000012.php?aid=277
 Effectiveness of a far-infrared low-temperature sauna program on geriatric syndrome and frailty in community-dwelling older people – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7590093/
Other research relied upon to write this article:
Far infrared radiation (FIR): its biological effects and medical applications – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3699878/
Research on Far Infrared Rays by Dr. Aaron M. Flickstein – http://saunacore.com/wp-content/uploads/dr_aaron1.pdf
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I’m Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor turned coach. I have 20 years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I’ve been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
So it is my duty to help you unconfuse and untangle all that information, and find what works for YOU.
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Maybe this has come up on the FB group but I’m curious about the risks for those who have had lymph node dissection?
Hi Nicole –
Great question. I suspect that your concern is that the infrared sauna use will be a problem since you’ve lost lymph nodes. According to one 2017 study (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28127644/) there were very real benefits in the use of far infrared therapy, participants in the study had a significant decrease in limb circumference due to the promotion of microcirculation. Hope that helps answer your question.
Does anyone know whether it is ok to use an infrared sauna while undergoing radiotherapy?
I usually go in the sauna almost daily, have used it for a couple of years to help a lung condition & it has been amazing. I really want to continue while undergoing radiotherapy treatment, but wonder about the effect?
I know people who have used an infrared sauna while undergoing radiation treatments but to be completely safe, you should always ask your radiation oncologist. Don’t take my word for it, check with the expert. Let us know how you do!
Great info, thank you Marnie.