Choosing Traditional, Near Infrared (NIR), or Far Infrared (FIR) Saunas To Detox Heavy Metals

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How Saunas Maybe Improved My Health

There are many benefits reported from taking a sauna. For example:

  • Relaxation and the release of feel good endorphins
  • Increased blood flow which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the cells
  • “Hyperthermic effect” — meaning a rise in body temperature that can activate detoxification and even kill some viruses and bacteria

However, choosing the type of sauna to use can be complicated!

Before I explain how I chose my sauna, here are a few of the reasons why I believe(d) sauna detoxing was the right choice for me in recovering from mercury toxicity:

1. From testing, I have seen mercury levels in my body decrease significantly after using the sauna post holistic amalgam removal..

2. For as long as I can remember, my average body temperature was around 97.4°F and my hands, feet & butt always felt cold. My body hardly ever broke a sweat even when exercising. Now, my body temperature averages around 98 to 98.6°F and is not usually cold to the touch. Truth be told, I cannot sleep with socks on anymore!

3. My body sweats on its own now when I am outside of the sauna, like while sleeping, on brisk walks, cleaning my apartment, and when exercising.

Note: Contraindications, e.g. MTHFR polymorphisms, histamine issues, M.S. etc, should be considered when using any sauna along with the advice of a knowledgable physician.

Traditional, Near Infrared, or Far Infrared Sauna?

I looked into three different types of saunas before settling on a Far Infrared sauna for my home. Here are some of the factors I took into consideration for each type of sauna:

Option 1. Traditional Steam Or Dry Saunas

I was most familiar with traditional dry (and wet) heat saunas from using them at gyms and spas. Home versions are available, however, I thought the easiest option for me to sauna was to join a local gym. Although traditional saunas seem like the most natural, I chose not to go this route for several reasons:

  • I read that traditional saunas can increase circulation to the surface of the skin and cause one to sweat — similar to exercise sweat — but not as much deep toxin release from organs and tissues. (½ inch does not reach the majority of muscles and connective tissues or organs).
  • Traditional saunas operate at a high heat level so I could only stay in for a short amount of time (i.e. 10 to 15 minutes) before overheating. (And the air in a wet sauna is saturated with moisture so the body cannot cool itself by the evaporation of sweat on skin.)
  • The possible exposure to other people’s heavy metals and germs (as well as potential mold & bacteria from the moisture in a wet sauna.)
  • The cost of joining a nice gym, parking, travel time, communal showers, and gym hour restrictions.

Option 2. Near Infrared Saunas (NIR)

Dr. Wilson, who advocates NIR saunas over FIR saunas, is frequently referenced. He made NIR saunas sound both appealing and affordable:

“While traditional saunas require high temperatures for copious sweating, infrared penetrates the skin and heats from the inside as well as on the skin.”

“The infrared lamp sauna penetrates deepest due to the fact that the heat source is all concentrated in a small area, and not due to the frequencies of the energy used.”

“Near infrared is an antioxidant nutrient, activates the cells, supports metabolic processes and decouples toxins from water molecules. Near infrared is helpful for wound healing and cellular regeneration as well.”

“The bulbs emit mainly near infrared energy, with a bit of middle infrared as well. This type of sauna also provides warming and stimulating color therapy. The lights emit a small amount of red, orange and yellow visible light. These particular frequencies draw energy downward in the body and can assist the digestive and eliminative organs to some degree.”

“Far infrared saunas use metallic, ceramic or black carbon elements for heating that mainly emit in the far infrared range. The electric heating elements are spread around the sauna space. Unfortunately, all of these far infrared saunas give off stray electromagnetic fields that may be extremely harmful.”

I considered making my own NIR sauna panel with a few bulbs and clamp lamps and also looked at Dr. Wilson’s NIR sauna purchasing recommendations, however:

  • At the time, I could not find much specific NIR research, studies, or other advocates who did not refer to Dr. Wilson.
  • There were no chemically safe NIR options available for sale.
  • And I was concerned about using the NIR sauna in a closet or bathroom as chemicals from wall paint and other toxins might be absorbed more easily into a heated body.
  • I experienced a single NIR lamp at acupuncture and while I enjoyed incubating under the warmth, it did not make me sweat.
  • I read that looking at the red bulbs was not good for the eyes, etc.
  • Update: Concerned about man-made EMF exposure from electric fields and magnetic fields even with distance

Option 3. Far Infrared Saunas (FIR)

I continued researching saunas and found quite a lot of information (maybe too much?!) on FIR saunas that made them seem like the best choice for detoxing heavy metals. There were many FIR sauna companies claiming that FIR was better than NIR, but truth be told, I still do not know if the infrared info for FIR saunas applies to NIR as well:

FIR initiates a stronger and sooner detox sweat than near-infrared does…Near-infrared must be positioned properly for optical safety and it should not be positioned directly in front of the upper body as is often found. (1)

Infrared heaters send out a wave of light in the infrared range known to penetrate 1 ½ or so into the body. And the rays do not carry the dangers associated with ultraviolet rays or x-rays.

Because the heat penetrates deeper, directly heating the body, organs, and cells (vs. heating the air and room), the composition of sweat is different from that produced in a traditional sauna. Therefore, the body releases more harmful metabolites, solvents, chemicals, heavy metals, and toxins.

Because the largest organ, the skin is used to excrete toxins, liver burden is decreased. (Toxins are released via the skin with sweat and later through urine, feces, and hair.)

Infrared heat is more effective at delivering the blood supply to fat. This liberates dangerous lipid-trapped toxins and creates a mode for excreting them out of the body instead of re-circulating them.

The heaters run at a lower temperature range of 90°F – 130°F, so one can stay in longer, breathe easier, and sweat more heavily.

Based on all of the info I read, and several health advocates strongly promoting FIR saunas, I decided on a medical-grade FIR sauna for chemically sensitive detoxing:

  • Made with non-off-gassing wood or glue
  • Low-EMF
  • Made in the USA

I share my quest for the ideal FIR sauna in the next post:

Part 2: Purchasing The Best FIR Sauna Brand

Be Gutsy!

Purchasing The Best Far Infrared Sauna (FIR) For Heavy Metal Detoxing

Previous Part 1: Choosing Traditional, NIR, or FIR Saunas

Do not reproduce without written permissionPart 2: Buying A FIR Sauna

After weighing the pros & cons of what type of sauna would be best for detoxing heavy metals, I researched, purchased, and built the best medical-grade, chemically sensitive FIR sauna I could find.

Unfortunately, the majority of home saunas sold in the USA are either made or assembled in China with toxic glue (some claim to use a non-toxic “water based” glue), and have wood that off-gases. So even if detoxing in a sauna via sweat, one may actually be re-toxifying by breathing in and absorbing different chemicals and toxins.

That is especially important to understand in a healing crisis. In my case, heavy metal poisoning disrupted my immune and nervous system. This made it even more difficult for my body to detoxify any additional toxins like chemicals, fumes, and fragrances. A fitting analogy is comparing the body to an overflowing bathtub. Toxins are flowing in at a rapid rate, however, the drain is either clogged or unable to work fast enough to properly eliminate the toxic assault, so the water overflows. Shutting off the flow of toxins is most important. And then finding ways to detox the existing toxins in the body.

FIR Sauna Options

Option 1: Two well-known health advocates I previously followed online recommended a sauna company that happened to be headquartered in my city. I spoke with a sales rep over the phone who offered to deliver and set up their hypoallergenic cedar wood sauna for no charge. But I wanted to test the sauna in person. At the showroom, my head started to bother me when I sat inside the sauna for just a few minutes. At that time, I did not know to ask about VOC’s, formaldehyde and toxic glues that off-gas.

The owner of the company followed up with a call to explain that one sensitive client needed a different wood they offered. He proceeded to share his business expansion into wellness products like juicers made in China. I read about a similar customer experience on Yelp except the person had an EMF meter that went off the charts when measuring the sauna. So I continued searching.

Option 2: Another company marketed their sauna as the only one for chemically sensitive people. The sales rep shared that Dr. Sherry Rogers only uses and endorses their sauna and that I should read her book “Detoxify or Die”. When I asked if Dr. Rogers had tested and compared other saunas, the sales rep said no. After reading numerous online reviews, I decided to continue looking.

Option 3: While researching, I read a review about another chemically sensitive sauna company called Heavenly Heat. And in the Onibasu posts Andrew Cutler is quoted to only recommend this brand for detoxing IF using a FIR sauna. (Aside: Jenny McCarthy used this sauna to help her son detox from autism. And Jeremy Davies reportedly lost 33 pounds to play the Laos prisoner of war role in Rescue Dawn with the help of this sauna.)

I called the owner who patiently answered all of my questions about his “medical-grade” made in the USA sauna (excluding the Korean made ceramic heaters.) From the companies’ brochure:

Each sauna is built without wood glue, varnish, plywood, or any similar materials.

Only untreated white poplar wood is used for all wooden parts of each sauna.

The frames are built with steel screws rather than pin-nails and glue.

Window gaskets are custom-milled poplar rather than synthetic materials.

Lights are made of metal and glass.

“Gadgets” like CD players and ionizers are excluded. Metal-grilled speakers are optional.

Wall heaters are ventilated to provide an automatic, constant air-change.

Heaters are tested to assure low electro-magnetic fields (EMF). [*See UPDATE below].

A carbon filter purifies the stale air leaving the sauna before it enters your living space.

The only thing I did not fully understand were the heaters. Some companies used ceramic heaters, others carbon heaters, and others both ceramic and carbon heaters. I went with the assumption that the company made the best choice claiming ceramics are greatly superior to carbon at delivering more IR energy to the body.

Building The FIR Sauna

Do not reproduce without written permissionI purchased the standard FIR1 sauna that is 3’4” deep x 4’5 wide and 6′ tall. It plugs into a standard, grounded, 15-amp, 110V outlet and comes with the following:

  • Six FIR heaters
  • A glass door and two windows, one at the left side and another in the facing wall.
  • Installed incandescent light.
  • Free-standing back rest.
  • Two footrests.

Customization Options:

1. Size – Personal: FIR1-Eco or FIR-1, 2 person: FIR-2 or FIR2-DX; 3 & 4 person FIR-3

~Initially I considered the 2 person sauna. Since mercury vapors may off-gas from “silver” amalgams fillings while taking a sauna I ruled it out. I chose the FIR-1 because it had more heaters than the FIR1-Eco. In hindsight, the FIR1-Eco, with a near infrared upgrade, might have been better for my situation because it is smaller and easier to assemble. However, I haven’t seen it in person to know if the two heaters on the corners would be as effective (close) as the two heaters on the sides of the FIR1.

2. Recessed red near infrared (NIR) heat lamp in the ceiling.

~No, but I wish I had paid for the upgrade. My front does not get heated in the current set up. The owner said I could purchase an after market NIR lamp like the IncubatorWarehouse bulb. I did not because of the extra wiring and metal.

3. Locking caster wheels to reposition the sauna, or to keep it above a potentially damp surface, or for cleaning underneath. Raises the sauna by 4″.

~YES! Castor wheels made it possible to put the sauna together in an open space, plug it into the outlet, and then push it against the wall where it resides (see photos below). However, the wheels have ridges that will scratch hardwood floors if placed directly on the floors. (I used a padded drawer liner under the wheels).

4. Windows removed at no charge.Do not reproduce without written permission

~No. I prefer the ability to look out the window and natural light. Also heard it is not good for the parasympathetic nervous system to sauna in the dark.

5. Pre-wired, metal-grilled stereo speakers to hookup to a sound system.

~No. I prefer less metal and wiring.

6. Metal switches instead of plastic dials.

~Not a standard option so ask when placing an order.

7. Combo sauna with FIR and steam rocks.

~No. This was not a possible option because the electrical plugs are not set up to accommodate it. If I had the option, I would have researched more about mold possibilities.

8. Apply a safe, water-based sealant to the exterior for very damp locations.


Set-Up & Lessons Learned

Do not reproduce without written permission1. Because there is no adhesive glue, this FIR sauna was fairly difficult to set up and took two of us at least five hours to receive, un-crate, and put together. There are a lot of high quality metal screws that had to be drilled in to different sections in a specific order.

Before drilling, we had to unscrew each section from the shipping crate and carry them inside using a dolly and elevator. The high quality wood was heavy and bulky and requires strength and patience. Breaking down the shipping crate was laborious as well. Tip: Consider hiring two handy-persons to build it!

FYI: The first sauna I saw at the showroom was like link-n-logs — connect the four walls together on a base and plop the roof on. This is because they use nails and glue, which can be toxic.

Do not reproduce without written permission2. There was a medium-to-low wood aroma after curing and using the sauna for up to six months. I did not experience headaches or apparent side-effects, but was glad I had a lot of ventilation around the sauna.

3. If I could change one thing about the sauna layout, I would prefer two or three heaters on the back side to cover the whole back and arms instead of the two heaters in front that are too far away to heat my legs or chest. This might not be an issue for taller or long-legged people. The heater at the back of the legs and the ones for each side of the upper body are great.

4. It took a few months after placing the order to receive the “artisan” sauna because there was a waiting list.

5. I wanted to make sure the company would let me return the sauna for a 100% refund, minus shipping both ways, if it made me feel worse using it. It gave me peace of mind when I made the purchase and the owner was kind enough to agree.

To date, it cost less than $4 each for hour-long sauna session . There has been no noticeable increase on the electric bill from using the FIR sauna almost daily. In fact, the electricity bill has gone down since I hardly turn on the heater in my apartment anymore.

I share how I used the FIR sauna, including setting up an efficient towel system, how long & often, plus most important, how to replace lost nutrients with the right micronutrient support in my upcoming book.

*UPDATE: FIR saunas use far infrared light (above 3000 nanometers) to produce heat that warms up body molecules. The is also called heat therapy which helps the body by increasing blood flow, tissue oxygenation, sweating, detoxing, etc.

However, while FIR saunas companies claim to be low-EMF, all but maybe one brand emit at least two types of EMF (three types of EMF if a wireless tablet or media sound system are installed or you use Wi-Fi in your home, and four types of EMF if an LED lightbulb is installed). This means there is a trade-off in heat therapy or detoxing and radiating the body and damaging cells.

The one person sauna I ordered measured Electric Fields at 100 vm and Magnetic Fields at 5-6 mg. The company has since made changes to their saunas with the help of an EMF specialist in CA. However I now have EMF concerns and can no longer use a FIR sauna. At this point, I also have no interest in going through the trouble of ordering, building, and testing another as using any device in close range that is plugged in to electricity because I no longer can be exposed without symptoms.

I did purchase and try a NIR sauna that claimed to be chemical free and low-EMF. It was easier to set up the NIR sauna, however, the panel with the red light bulbs and electrical cord emitted electric fields and magnetic fields. I worked with the manufacturer to get the electric cord replaced with a shielded one and tighten the wiring in the panel but in the end, I did not find the healing benefits from the NIR sauna that I experienced in the FIR sauna.

What I try to do instead is spend time out in the sun when possible. There is no substitute man can build that replaces the healing power of the sun.  I also rebound,  take epsom salt baths a few times a month and am working towards cardio exercise that makes me sweat and oxygenates my body. What about you?

♥ Be Gutsy!