A lot is talked about the toxicity of heavy metals and how this compromises the immune system, causing a lot of the symptoms that are synonymous with chronic fatigue syndromes; dizziness, cold hands and feet, brain fog, etc. In recent months we have heard a lot about chelation therapy (pronounced ‘key-lation) which aims to enhance the detoxification of the body by binding to heavy metals and transporting them out through the kidneys in urine. EDTA is one such chelator promoted by Dr Garry Gordon in the US[i] and Dr. Mercola promotes his own range of products as do several UK suppliers[ii]. We know that these work but they are very expensive and they mean you have to take a lot of tablets which may be difficult if you are already taking supplements. So, what are the alternatives?
One that I think is not so commonly known about is the far infra-red (FIR) sauna which is particularly good way of detoxing for slow metabolisers (people whose detox channels may already be compromised or whose enzyme systems are genetically less active). Compared to a traditional sauna which operates at around 80-90 °C, infrared saunas are low heat saunas that operate at 40-50°C. Which, if you’re anything like me and find it difficult to tolerate the heat and steam of a traditional sauna, is a considerable advantage. According to Scientific American the difference is “Instead of heating the air with a powerful heating element, infrared saunas use infrared radiation to heat the body directly, which is more efficient and uses much less energy than a traditional sauna. In an infrared sauna, the IR radiation emitted from ceramic plates penetrates the outer two inches of your body, where it is converted into heat energy and stimulates the sweat glands. Since the air in an IR sauna does not feel hot, like in a traditional sauna, there is no shock to the cardiovascular system; you feel comfortable warmth as opposed to the intense, burning heat of a traditional sauna, and you sweat profusely. You will actually start sweating before you feel warm (I can corroborate this – my experience is that the sweating begins almost immediately – although this ability is variable and depends on how much toxic load you have).
Weight loss and detoxification
For people who tolerate the high heat of a traditional sauna long enough to break into a significant sweat, infrared saunas will be a revelation. They will also help in weight loss. According to Dr Keesha, a US based therapist, “Many people who have unsuccessfully tried many diets often find success with a far infrared sauna because they are able to eliminate chemicals stored in the fat cells. This makes safe weight loss much easier”. Since sweat is a major route of elimination, the IR sauna “detoxifies” the body by enhancing sweating. The IR sauna also stimulates lipolysis (breakdown of fat). Heavy metals are stored in our fat tissue. Gradual fat breakdown releases them to the circulatory system for excretion by the liver, kidneys, or sweat, depending on which metabolic processes each specific toxin requires. Sauna therapy is not just for detoxification however. There are many articles on PubMed of studies on its clinical application in pain management and cardiovascular disease*.
IR sauna is particularly helpful in breaking the cycle of muscles tension, ischaemia (lack of oxygen in the tissues) and pain. When muscles get tense they restrict blood flow which can induce spasm and thus pain. Heating the tissues breaks the cycle by encouraging blood flow due to vasodilation (enlargement of the blood vessels). This works well for both acute and chronic pain. IR saunas are best within 24- 48 hours of an acute injury such as muscle /ligament sprains and strains. But interestingly they are also helpful for more long-term chronic or persistent pain conditions like Fibromyalgia.
Relief from Fibromyalgia
The pain of fibromyalgia is typically felt in the postural muscles of the neck, back, shoulders and sometimes the hands, but can be more widespread. According to the old medical definition, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia requires a patient to have experienced widespread pain for a minimum of three months in 11 of 18 tender muscle sites called ‘tender points’. Among those 18 sites are the hips, knees and rib cage. Most sufferers of fibromyalgia are women of childbearing age, but it has also been known to affect men, children and the elderly. Far Infrared sauna therapy provides relief from all of the following symptoms and complications of fibromyalgia:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Joint Pain
- Carpal Tunnel
- Irritable Bowel
[ii] I use www.revital.com