For Christmas I got an Infrared Sauna from CostCo. Costco had a special with a price less than $1000.00 and was effectively my entire Christmas present (and several other occasions). I don’t know if I may be able to write it off as a medical expense, but it is good to review the reported medical benefits on PubMed.
- FIR means Far Infra Red saunas.
- Waon theraphy uses infrared saunas and according to Wikipedia:
” increases blood flow by stimulating endothelial nitric oxide synthase protein production (eNOS). eNOS makesnitric oxide, which is a vasodilator and increases blood flow. Waon therapy also increases blood flow by stimulating the mobilization endothelial progenitor cells marked with CD34 molecules. CD34 positive cells promote angiogenesis to increase blood flow, improving cardiac perfusion and decreasing vascular resistance. Nitric oxide is also a regulator of the sympathetic nervous system, and an increase of nitric oxide via endothelial nitric oxide synthase may help to controlautonomic nervous system.“
Some PubMed articles:
- Efficacy of Waon therapy for fibromyalgia. 2008,
“All patients experienced a significant reduction in pain by about half after the first session of Waon therapy (11-70%), and the effect of Waon therapy became stable (20-78%) after 10 treatments. Pain VAS and FIQ symptom scores were significantly (p<0.01) decreased after Waon therapy and remained low throughout the observation period.”
- Remarkable efficacy of thermal therapy for Sjögren syndrome.(2007)
- [A new treatment: thermal therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome]. (2007)
“11 patients with CFS, physical symptoms such as fatigue and pain improved”
- The effects of repeated thermal therapy for two patients with chronic fatigue syndrome(2005)
“Symptoms such as fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, and low-grade fever were dramatically improved after 15 to 25 sessions of thermal therapy.”
- Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant- induced and other chronic health problems. 2011
A single case report describes the response to FIR saunas of two women with severe chronic fatigue. Both had been treated with prednisolone, which only seemed to maintain the status quo. Both participated in 30 FIR sauna sessions lasting for 15
minutes at 60°C followed by 30-minute sessions of resting under a blanket. “is protocol was followed !ve days per week for the !rst six weeks; subsequent once or twice weekly sessions continued over the next 11 months. Both women reported
“dramatic improvements” in fatigue, pain
- 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. (2009)
“In the RA and AS patients, pain, stiffness, and fatigue also showed clinical improvements during the 4-week treatment period, but these did not reach statistical significance. No relevant changes in disease activity scores were found, indicating no exacerbation of disease activity. In conclusion, infrared treatment has statistically significant short-term beneficial effects and clinically relevant period effects during treatment in RA and AS patients without enhancing disease activity. IR has good tolerability and no adverse effects.“
- Far-infrared saunas for treatment of cardiovascular risk factors: summary of published evidence. 2009
“there is limited moderate evidence supporting FIRS efficacy in normalizing blood pressure and treating congestive heart failure; fair evidence, from a single study, supporting FIRS therapy in chronic pain; weak evidence, from a single study, supporting FIRS therapy in chronic fatigue syndrome; weak evidence, from a single study, supporting FIRS therapy for obesity;”
My Own Experience
The first day of trying it, was uneventful, in fact, I stayed in much longer than specified in the Waon protocol. The next morning, I found that there were digestive issues – upset, increased cough, etc of mysterious origin until the wife pointed out that I had tried the sauna on the previous day. My interpretation was that some gut bacteria was not happy with the sauna and that there was some die-off/herx.
The next day using the FIR, was similar to the first — no issues on the day of use, but gut went off about the same time the following day. Taking L. Reuteri, Mutaflor eliminated this quickly. The severity was less. I did notice two changes according to my Saturated O2 meter: My heart rate was lower over the following day (I have the high pulse rate induced by CFS), and the O2 level dropped for a few hours.
Digging into possible Whys..
I found several studies where gut-bacteria was impacted by heat, but nothing that was directly applicable. The best article is found here, with an interesting quote “compounds inducing heat shock response may be important for the development of new therapeutic strategies for colonic inflamatory disease” which references Role of heat shock proteins (molecular chaperones) in intestinal mucosal protection. Otaka M, Odashima M, Watanabe S. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2006 Sep 15;348(1):1-5. summarized as:
Most studies into the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) have primarily focused on the cytotoxic agents and processes involved in producing mucosal injury, including the immune system. However, less consideration has been given to the inherent mechanisms of cytoprotection and cellular repair in the intestinal mucosa. This review will focus on intestinal mucosal protection against cytotoxic agents and cellular stress mainly from the viewpoint of expression and function of heat shock proteins, in their role of “molecular chaperones,” as internal cytoprotectants. Elucidation of such stress-responses in the intestinal mucosa may provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of cytoprotection and cellular repair, and present new strategies for IBD therapy.
The bottom line appears to be with the appropriate temperature, the chemicals that the body uses to respond to the heat can impact the intestinal system positively.