Rates of depression and anxiety have tripled since the start of the lockdown, skyrocketing from 11% to 36% in six months.1
Big Pharma’s answer is a medication like Prozac or Xanax. But these drugs have serious side effects. What’s worse is that up to 40% of people taking antidepressants still suffer from symptoms…
Exciting research has found that heat can improve mental health, relieve depression and exert an anti-anxiety effect. Heat therapy — or infrared sauna therapy — works in two different but equally important ways…
First, sauna bathing causes the release of a pleasure hormone in the brain called beta-endorphin.2 Endorphins produce feelings of calm, happiness and well-being — while eliminating symptoms of depression and anxiety.3
Secondly, researchers found that stimulating the skin and underlying tissue with heat from an infrared sauna activates serotonin-releasing cells in in the brain.4
People with depression and anxiety have lower-than-normal levels of serotonin. This neurotransmitter enhances feelings of well-being and happiness.
But here’s where this therapy really heats up…
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted two studies5 on the antidepressant effects of infrared sauna use. In the first study of 16 people with major depression, a single hyperthermia sauna treatment reduced their depression scores by almost 50%.
In a follow-up study, researchers determined the anti-depression effects from one session lasted six weeks.
I have an infrared sauna at my house. I don’t suffer from depression but I use it regularly because the benefits go far beyond mental health. Let me tell you the other therapeutic benefits of infrared heat:
- Lowers risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. A 20-year study of 2,315 healthy men found those who used a sauna four to seven times a week had a 65.5% lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.6
- Reduces risk of heart attack and stroke. Regular sauna sessions can lower heart attack risk by lowering blood pressure as much as 20 points.7 Another study found it can lower your risk of stroke by 62%.8
- Improves your lungs. COPD patients who did four weeks of sauna therapy showed significant improvement in the speed of air coming out of their lungs, compared to the control group.9
- Stimulates the immune system. During a sauna session, white blood cells increase in the bloodstream, suggesting an elevation of the body’s natural defense against illness. With routine sauna practice, at least one study has shown a decrease in the incidence of the cold and flu virus.10
- Helps you detox. Infrared light penetrates into your tissue to release debris from fat. It allows your body to free toxins like arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury stored in other organs and tissues.11
What to Look for in Your At-Home Infrared Sauna
In-home infrared saunas fall into two general categories: standalone structures and portable devices. If cost isn’t a factor, I suggest you get a stand-alone unit for two.
- Choose a far infrared sauna. Its heat penetrates deep down into your tissue.
- Look for the maximum number of heat panels in the size you’re considering. Too few panels means your sauna will take a lot longer to heat up — which is more expensive and inconvenient.
- Choose hemlock or cedar construction.
- Choose carbon heat panels over ceramic. They heat up faster and distribute heat more evenly.
- Make sure the unit comes with a delivery, installation and warranty.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
2. Vescovi P. “Hyperthermia and endorphins.” Biomed Pharmacother. 1993;47(8):301-304.
3. Wagner A, et al. “The beta-endorphin role in stress-related psychiatric disorders.” Curr Drug Targets. 2009;10(11):1096-1098.
4. Janssen C, et al. “Whole-body hyperthermia for the treatment of major depressive disorder. A randomized clinical trial.” JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(8):789-795.
5. Janssen C. “Whole-body hyperthermia for the treatment of major depressive disorder: a randomized clinical trial.” JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(8):789-795.
6. Laukkanen T, et al. “Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men.” Age Ageing. 2017;(46)2:245-249.
7. Edwards B, et al. “A study of the health benefits of far infrared sauna therapy.” UMKC Sauna Study.
8. Kunutsor S, et al. “Sauna bathing reduces the risk of stroke in Finnish men and women: A prospective cohort study.” Neurology. 2018;90.
9. Hussain J and Cohen M. “Clinical effects of regular dry sauna bathing: a systematic review.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1857413.
10. Pilch W, et al. “Effect of a single Finnish sauna session on white blood cell profile and cortisol levels in athletes and non-athletes .” J Hum Kinet. 2013;39:127-135.
11. Sears M. “Arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in sweat: a systematic review.” J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:184745.