Guest Blog post by Paloma Health
In this article:
- Infrared versus traditional saunas
- Benefits of infrared sauna for hypothyroidism
- How to use an infrared sauna
- Where to find an infrared sauna
Most people with hypothyroidism require thyroid replacement medication to keep their thyroid hormones at optimal levels. Still, beyond optimizing thyroid hormone levels, people with hypothyroidism may also benefit from tapping into alternative remedies to help keep their thyroid symptoms under control. This need for alternative approaches is especially true for people with Hashimoto’s disease, the autoimmune disease that is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. Ahead, we look at how infrared sauna therapy may help people with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s.
Infrared versus traditional saunas
You likely have run across a sauna at some point in your life. Commonly, they are at gyms, health centers, and some hotels. But, more and more, people have them in their homes because there are numerous benefits to entering a sauna a few times a week. Traditional saunas are likely those that you have experienced in the past. Also called Finnish saunas, these saunas were commonplace in the Ancient Roman Empire. The Romans used them as a social opportunity and for health benefits. And, since the Roman Empire, the traditional sauna hasn’t changed that much.
Wood or an electric stove heats a traditional sauna. Because of this heating method, traditional saunas can get very hot, with temperatures ranging from 160-210 degrees Fahrenheit. These saunas also have some humidity, which can be great for opening up pores and lungs but can also make it harder to stay in for too long. Most people only last between 5-20 minutes.
Alternatively, an infrared sauna uses infrared light to heat the body with electromagnetic energy. Unlike traditional saunas, which heat the air, infrared light creates warmth right on the body. The direct warmth from the light causes heat to penetrate deeper into the skin, and even subcutaneous fatty tissue and muscle, compared to traditional saunas. And, unlike conventional saunas, temperatures for infrared saunas usually do not exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that it causes less strain on your cardiovascular system.
Benefits of infrared sauna therapy for hypothyroidism
Most people enter a sauna for a relaxing dose of TLC. Some people will use it after a long day at work, whereas others may use an infrared sauna as their way of winding down from a workout. Like many chronic illnesses, stress and inflammation are the cornerstones of hypothyroidism. Thus, stress relief is perhaps one of the biggest reasons people with hypothyroidism benefit from infrared sauna sessions. It is an opportunity to relax, unwind, and do something nice for your body. When we mitigate stress, we decrease the amount of stress hormones released by our adrenal glands, which lowers the stress response in our body and boosts our mood. Indeed, studies show that infrared saunas increase norepinephrine in our bodies. Norepinephrine is critical for improving energy levels and even balancing mood.
People with hypothyroidism struggle with cold intolerance, partly due to low circulation to the periphery, such as your hands and feet. Not only does infrared light help warm your internal body temperature, but it also improves blood flow to those areas that are furthest from the heart.
One of the ways the human body detoxifies itself is through sweat. When we sweat, we are not only cooling our bodies down, but we are also releasing toxins that accumulate in our bodies. By increasing your internal temperature with heat from infrared light, your body can sweat out unnecessary toxins that can aggravate chronic diseases like hypothyroidism.
Stiff muscles and joint pain are common symptoms of hypothyroidism. One of the ways people with hypothyroidism manage these pains is by applying heat. However, unlike heat delivered from a hot pack, infrared heat penetrates deep enough into the body to reach the muscular system. One study found that pain reduced significantly in people with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis after one session of infrared sauna therapy. Additionally, participants also reported less fatigue, which is a massive benefit for hypothyroidism.
While research is somewhat scant on the subject, some studies suggest that regular sauna use can reduce waist circumference and support weight loss. One reason infrared light may help facilitate weight loss is that you release toxins when you increase your internal temperature, allowing you to burn calories. With that said, people using saunas must drink plenty of water to rehydrate.
How to use an infrared sauna
Using an infrared sauna should be easy and enjoyable. If you are new to heat therapy, it is best to start the sauna at a lower temperature and increase over time. Starting too hot can make you feel lightheaded and faint. And, if you have health conditions like heart problems, it is best to start at the lowest temperature. Most infrared saunas should be set somewhere between 100-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are a few essential steps to include once you get in the sauna:
- Bring water with you so you can hydrate throughout your time there.
- Don’t forget a towel to sit on and one smaller one to dab your head.
- Wear minimal clothing or none if that is an option. Clothing can cause you to overheat, as you don’t get the cooling effects of sweat evaporating off your skin.
- Relax your mind by meditating, listening to calming music, or just sitting in peace.
- Don’t stay in too long initially, as it can make you feel worse if you overstay your welcome. If you are new to this therapy, you may only tolerate 5 minutes in the beginning.
Remember, it is crucial that you feel good after infrared therapy, so stay only as long as it feels good and make sure to rehydrate with lots of water following a sauna session.
Where to find an infrared sauna
Many gyms, fitness centers, rehabilitation centers, and some clubs and spas will have infrared saunas. The best place to look for an infrared sauna is your local gym or recreation center. Sometimes, you have to pay extra to use this service, but often it is included in memberships. Some people also have infrared saunas installed in their homes. While this is a significant upfront cost, it can be an excellent addition to your home if this is a therapy you enjoy using and will continue to use regularly.
Need help managing your hypothyroidism?
Paloma Health specializes in testing and treating people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s. Paloma Health brings excellent thyroid care to your home with virtual doctor visits and at-home thyroid test kits. Our team of thyroid doctors and thyroid nutritionists is open to exploring all options to help you optimize your thyroid health.
About Paloma Health
Paloma Health is the first online medical practice focused exclusively on testing and treating hypothyroidism The company offers access to at-home thyroid tests, virtual consultations with thyroid doctors and nutritionists, and prescription and supplement management for an integrated health experience.