advertisement

Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
A Better Way to Sweat?
I am thinking of buying a sauna and have been looking at far-infrared saunas.  Are they as effective as they claim, and most importantly are they safe?
A
Answer (Published 8/24/2006)

Traditional Finnish saunas provide dry and wet heat - first dry, usually from a wood stove that heats the air temperature to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and then wet when water is splashed on the stove to create steam. Many electric saunas in our part of the world fail to provide a steam option, giving you only dry heat. Whatever the type of heat, saunas promote sweating. The Finns say a proper sauna draws about a liter of water from the body per hour. Sweating helps the body rid itself of excess sodium, drugs, and some toxins, thereby reducing the workload of the liver. It also improves general circulation.

Related Weil Products
The Weil Vitamin Advisor for Your Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. The Weil Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Get your free, personalized Weil Vitamin Advisor recommendation today. Start now!

The heat of a sauna (or steam bath) boosts the temperature of the surface of your body, causing blood vessels to dilate and circulation in the skin to increase. As resistance to blood flow through the veins and capillaries drops, blood pressure goes down. In response, heartbeat increases to keep blood pressure normal. The heat can also ease muscle stiffness, and you may notice an increase in energy, a decrease in stress, and improved sleep.

Far-infrared saunas are a variation on the theme. Instead of a stove, a special heater generates infrared radiation, said to warm the body in the same way as sunlight. In fact, I understand that the infrared radiation warms the body rather than the surrounding air. I haven't tried a far-infrared sauna so I can't say whether the experience is any better than a traditional one. (Sauna purists say that infrared is not as invigorating or relaxing.) Some proponents say you can sweat three times more than in a traditional sauna or steam room and claim that the "deep penetration" of the infrared heat stimulates greater release of "stored fats and toxins." I've also seen claims that a session in a far-infrared sauna is the equivalent of the cardiovascular workout you would get from running 10 to 15 kilometers. I'm skeptical of that. (Remember that any weight you lose in a sauna will come right back once you replace the fluids that you've sweated out.)

I prefer a sauna in which heat comes from heated rocks, allowing you to put water on the rocks to create steam, because I find that the dry air of electric saunas irritates my upper respiratory tract. I'm unaware of any specific dangers of far-infrared saunas, but I would caution you to go easy on any type of sweat-inducing heat (sauna or steam bath) if you have high blood pressure or heart problems. The main risk of either a sauna or steam bath is overdoing it - you can faint from overheating. Be sure to drink plenty of water, before, during and after your sauna (or steam bath). And be sure to limit the time you spend in the heat - 10 to 20 minutes is usually enough.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Follow Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet and save 30%. Start your 14-day free trial now!

Stay Connected with Dr. Weil
Promote the health of your body, mind and spirit - sign up for Dr. Weil's FREE newsletters today!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

 
Copyright © 2016 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here

  

Q & A Library



Q
A Better Way to Sweat?
I am thinking of buying a sauna and have been looking at far-infrared saunas.  Are they as effective as they claim, and most importantly are they safe?
A
Answer (Published 8/24/2006)

Traditional Finnish saunas provide dry and wet heat - first dry, usually from a wood stove that heats the air temperature to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and then wet when water is splashed on the stove to create steam. Many electric saunas in our part of the world fail to provide a steam option, giving you only dry heat. Whatever the type of heat, saunas promote sweating. The Finns say a proper sauna draws about a liter of water from the body per hour. Sweating helps the body rid itself of excess sodium, drugs, and some toxins, thereby reducing the workload of the liver. It also improves general circulation.

Related Weil Products
The Weil Vitamin Advisor for Your Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. The Weil Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Get your free, personalized Weil Vitamin Advisor recommendation today. Start now!

The heat of a sauna (or steam bath) boosts the temperature of the surface of your body, causing blood vessels to dilate and circulation in the skin to increase. As resistance to blood flow through the veins and capillaries drops, blood pressure goes down. In response, heartbeat increases to keep blood pressure normal. The heat can also ease muscle stiffness, and you may notice an increase in energy, a decrease in stress, and improved sleep.

Far-infrared saunas are a variation on the theme. Instead of a stove, a special heater generates infrared radiation, said to warm the body in the same way as sunlight. In fact, I understand that the infrared radiation warms the body rather than the surrounding air. I haven't tried a far-infrared sauna so I can't say whether the experience is any better than a traditional one. (Sauna purists say that infrared is not as invigorating or relaxing.) Some proponents say you can sweat three times more than in a traditional sauna or steam room and claim that the "deep penetration" of the infrared heat stimulates greater release of "stored fats and toxins." I've also seen claims that a session in a far-infrared sauna is the equivalent of the cardiovascular workout you would get from running 10 to 15 kilometers. I'm skeptical of that. (Remember that any weight you lose in a sauna will come right back once you replace the fluids that you've sweated out.)

I prefer a sauna in which heat comes from heated rocks, allowing you to put water on the rocks to create steam, because I find that the dry air of electric saunas irritates my upper respiratory tract. I'm unaware of any specific dangers of far-infrared saunas, but I would caution you to go easy on any type of sweat-inducing heat (sauna or steam bath) if you have high blood pressure or heart problems. The main risk of either a sauna or steam bath is overdoing it - you can faint from overheating. Be sure to drink plenty of water, before, during and after your sauna (or steam bath). And be sure to limit the time you spend in the heat - 10 to 20 minutes is usually enough.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.