Saunas benefit our health in so many ways, but did you know that your thyroid health may also improve when using one? If you are new to sauna use, it may seem daunting to know where to start. We are here to help. This post will talk about the health benefits of saunas for thyroid and the whole body, the best types of saunas, and what to consider before buying a portable sauna.
Why Use An Infrared Sauna
Have you ever been to the sauna and just can’t take the heat? This can be a problem for many people. You want the benefits of a sauna but don’t want all high temperatures. One solution is trying an infrared sauna.
What Is An Infrared Sauna?
Traditional saunas heat the air around you while infrared saunas use infrared lamps to warm you up. The infrared heat lamps emit heat in the form of electromagnetic radiation. This infrared light is invisible energy with a wavelength that is longer than visible light.
Infrared heat is transferred by conduction and convection from the heated air and by radiation of the heated surfaces in the sauna room.
This heat is absorbed by the skin’s surface which allows the heat to penetrate body tissue and heats your body before the air. Infrared sauans also allow effectiveness at lower temperatures in comparison with a regular sauna [R, R].
Regular saunas also operate at temperatures between 150 and 180˚F. This is much higher than the 120˚F and 140˚F which an infrared sauna runs [R].
According to Finnish standards, infrared saunas are technically not really saunas since they do not produce wet or dry heat.
Personal Steam Sauna vs. Portable Infrared Sauna
A personal steam sauna differs from a portable infrared sauna in the method of heat used. Steam saunas use boiled water to generate heat and humidity. These can be portable but often you need a steam generator to create the steam.
Having to purchase a generator could require a timely set up when compared to setting up a portable infrared sauna. It can also be a hazard for possible burns of too high steam.
Humidity levels in steam saunas can reach 100 percent even when the temperature runs around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Personal steam saunas could be troubling for those who cannot tolerate high humidity.
Steam rooms are also at risk for bacterial overgrowth so they must be cleaned very well.
Dry Sauna vs. Portable Infrared Sauna
A dry sauna is a traditional sauna where the air around you is heated. The heat comes from a stove. It will either be an electric or a wood-burning stove. On top there will be rocks that will be heated. There is usually a bucket of water that is ladled onto the rocks on the stove. This will create some moisture. Nowhere as much in a steam room. The electric stove will create an even dryer heat than the wood-burning stove. The humidity levels are usually limited due to a vent that brings in the fresh air.
A dry sauna is set to a much higher temperature than an infrared sauna. It runs between 160 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be too much for some people to bear.
Why Infrared Instead of Traditional Heat Sauna?
Infrared saunas can be a lot more beneficial at lower temperatures than a traditional heat sauna is at higher temperatures. Infrared can be as low as 120-150 degrees Fahrenheit to gain health benefits. In contrast, traditional saunas get up to 185-195 degrees before giving the same benefits.
Lower temps are possible because the heat penetrates more deeply with infrared saunas. These types of saunas also require much less energy, so it saves you in terms of cost and electromagnetic fields (EMF). They only require 1.6 kilowatts of energy or so. Infrared saunas also heat up faster so you reap the benefits in a more efficient way.
Types of Infrared Sauna
When doing your research, you will come across terms such as far, middle, and near-infrared rays. These are the types of infrared saunas come in. Each type of ray has different benefits.
Near-Infrared, Far-Infrared Sauna, & Middle Infrared
Far infrared saunas (FIR) are the most common models on the market, but several manufacturers are also releasing the middle- and near-infrared sauna (NIR).
The main difference between these types of saunas is in the wavelength of the radiation.
Please note that the terms “far-infrared,” “middle-infrared,” and “near-infrared” have nothing to do with how far your body is from the heater. They simply represent a different type of heat.
Far-infrared helps with detoxification and weight loss. Middles responsible for the deep detoxification and weight loss benefits of the infrared sauna. Middle-infrared is what lowers pain and inflammation. Near-infrared is known for improving skin and healing wounds.
Personal saunas are saunas made for your personal use at home. These can be full-scale construction projects within or outside your home. If you do not have space or the time to build this in your home you have the ability to get the sauna experience at home. This can be done by creating your own portable home spa.
Health Benefits of Saunas
Research shows that using a sauna helps with almost every aspect of health. We know that saunas can increase healthspan, but who stands to benefit? According to research, almost everyone does.
The health benefits of infrared sauna include skin health, reducing inflammation, hormone balance, pain relief, detoxification, and immunity benefits.
Heart Health and Thyroid Health
Sauna use 4-7 times per week reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death by 60% and a 50% reduction in all-cause cardiac death [R]. Sessions of sauna use greater than 19 minutes in the sauna had the most cardiac benefits.
While using a sauna 4 to 7 times a week may seem like a lot, benefits may even occur after the single sauna use. These include reduced blood pressure, improved heart rate, and better arterial function. Sauna use also may improve cholesterol ratios too [R].
By improving cardiovascular tone and circulation, sauna use may benefit the thyroid by improving blood supply and the heart rate.
Calories Burned In An Infrared Sauna Reduces Weight
Saunas have been promoted for their weight loss capabilities. When you sit in a sauna your heart rate, circulation will increase causing you to sweat. These metabolic changes are similar to what takes place when you exercise and will result in calories being burned.
There is some controversy over how many calories are actually burned and if it is promising for weight loss. Some research shows a 30-minute infrared sauna session could burn calories equivalent to running 2 to 3 miles. Someone who is moderately conditioned was able to sweat off 300 calories in a sauna. A heat-conditioned person was able to sweat off 600 to 800 calories with no adverse effects [R].
Saunas have been shown to result in losses of body mass overall in sedentary individuals. These losses consist of water but can also contain energy stores such as glycogen and triglycerides. This means that water loss can be put back during rehydration but the calories consumed will not [R, R].
The sauna may lead to weight loss but it will not lead to large weight losses and should not be used as a stand-alone weight loss plan.
Sauna and Inflammation
People who use saunas also may enjoy less inflammation and this is good for thyroid [R]. A study of over 2000 men found that frequent sauna use is related to less fibrinogen and less C-reactive protein with sauna use 4-7 times per week.
Sauna triggers heat shock proteins in the body. These proteins reduce inflammatory compounds in the body known as cytokines, such as IL-10 [R]. Heat shock proteins also help the body adapt to stress and are related to increased lifespan.
Antibodies to heat shock proteins can be present in thyroid disorders like Graves disease [R].
Saunas Reduce Pain
Thyroid diseases often are accompanied by pain including fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Using a sauna is a simple and safe tool for people to reduce pain symptoms. A small study even found that rheumatoid arthritis pain and ankylosing spondylosis pain were reduced with the use of infrared sauna short term [R].
Other benefits to the body include improved quality of life, fewer neurotoxicity symptoms, fewer sick days, and better sleep [R].
Saunas Reduce Toxins
Using a sauna can help the body clear toxins because of increased sweating. When we sweat, we help detoxify the body of heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury [R]. These heavy metals are toxic to the thyroid and the whole body.
Saunas Help Improve Immunity
People who use saunas also enjoy an improved immune function. The sauna experience may lead to fewer colds and cold symptoms [R]. By improving vascular tone, your heat tolerance will also improve.
Saunas Help Improve Stress Relief
Relaxing in a sauna can be good for stress relief.
Normally when your temperature rises your sympathetic nervous system and the body’s stress response system the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) will kick in telling your body to respond to the stressful situation.
Instead, when a person is in an infrared sauna they will have an increase in norepinephrine but stress horns epinephrine and cortisol remain unchanged.
Growth hormone, beta-endorphins, and prolactin will also increase. Beta-endorphins are also produced and account for why you feel relaxed in a sauna. Muscles will also relax and tension will be released to free you of stress. When the body is in this state the parasympathetic nervous system will kick in and put the body in a state of complete relaxation. When the body is relaxed your body has the ability to heal itself better.
Dangers of Infrared Sauna Use
Is infrared sauna safe to use? The short answer is yes. There are some mild side effects and caution should be used in people who have orthostatic hypotension.
Studies have demonstrated the safety of sauna use even in very sick populations, such as those with congestive heart failure.
Side Effects of Infrared Saunas
According to research some side effects with the use of saunas include the following [R]:
- Mild to moderate heat discomfort
- Low blood pressure
- Leg pain
- Irritated breathing
Dehydration Can Occur If Not Careful
Dehydration and heat stroke are possible, so make sure to hydrate with filtered water before and after sauna use.
Those with low blood pressure, kidney disease, taking diuretics, and other blood pressure-lowering drugs or medications that may cause dizziness should be cautious about infrared saunas. It is best to talk to a healthcare provider prior to going into a sauna.
Individuals with a high BMI are at greater risk for dehydration and should be sure to hydrate before and after using a sauna [R].
One small study reported a decrease in sperm count and motility when using a sauna for 15 minutes twice a week over a three-month period [R].
Saunas Pros and Cons
The pros of saunas definitely outweigh the cons as shown in long term sauna users and heart benefits. Some people don’t like to feel hot, but the good news is most people can adapt to heat, develop heat tolerance, and learn to enjoy it even if at first it seems uncomfortable.
Saunas Should Not Be Used In The Following Cases:
- On medications that may impact your heart, your ability to sweat, or your levels of alertness – such as diuretics, some heart medications, opiates, or sedatives (check with your doctor or pharmacist)
- Have a heart condition (unstable angina pectoris, recent myocardial infarction, or severe aortic stenosis
- Someone prone to bleeding
- Have a fever
- Have a heart condition
- Are menstruating
- Have breast implants
- Are pregnant
Similar benefits of sauna use may be obtained from cardiovascular and weight training exercises as well.
What Type of Sauna is Best?
Full size portable infrared saunas and full-size stationary full spectrum infrared saunas are best for health because they incorporate your whole body into the heat, which allows the core temperature of your body to rise more effectively. For the purposes of thyroid health, the thyroid also is within the sauna, unlike some portable saunas where hands and head stick out.
Full-spectrum infrared saunas are also better than dry saunas because they are healthier for the body and have less EMF than dry saunas.
Uses safe and non-toxic materials.
Get a sauna made without toxic ingredients. Some saunas have types of glue and materials that are not healthy for your environment or your thyroid. Sunlighten saunas are made with all non-toxic materials and have no unhealthy gases released during the heating process. They also have rigorous third-party testing, have patented technology for quality so they are 95-99% efficient too.
Where To Buy Infrared Portable Sauna
There are specific retailers who specialize in selling portable infrared home saunas. Over the past few years, they have become popular enough to be found at many commercial retailers both online and instore. Amazon and Costco infrared saunas are alternative options.
The Best Infrared Sauna
Infrared saunas should have some important features. The most important features are that they contain quality infrared heat, are low electromagnetic field (EMF), are high quality, get good reviews, and are easy to use. Eco-friendly saunas are important to us too, which are those that don’t use up a lot of energy.
Portable saunas features are an added bonus! Portable sauna use is best for people who have limited space in their home or for people who travel a lot who want to take the benefits of sauna with them.
The most important feature, according to experts, is that the sauna has low EMF.
Electromagnetic fields are restricted by federal guidelines due to the potential health risks of tissue damage to our bodies.
With the known facts of electromagnetic fields being enough to restrict high levels in fear of the long term effects, this is enough information for us to believe that all levels should be restricted as much as possible.
Best Home Sauna
Below is a round-up of the best home saunas. These portable indoor saunas will bring that relaxation right to your home. Some of these links are affiliate links which means that we will earn a percentage of any sales, at no extra cost to you.
Full-size Portable Infrared Sauna
These saunas are big enough for you to sit or stand inside with the capability of being a portable sauna. Some are collapsable for those with limited space.
This portable sauna offers a 3-in-1 infrared treatment. This means it offers near, mid, and far-infrared energy. This will give benefits of detoxification, relaxation, and reduce inflammation and pain. This brand is also recommended by thyroid experts Amy Myers and Isabella Wentz.
Sunlighten’s Signature I home sauna
Sunlighten’s Signature I home sauna is the best quality solo sauna on the market today.
- Its Solocarbon® heaters are the best far infrared and most efficient.
- Contains a 36-hour programmable time so that it is ready when you are.
- Also contains a premium Blaupunkt sound system offers AM/FM, CD and MP3 playback for your own music relaxation.
- 100% quality-controlled manufacturing
- Its Solocarbon® heaters deliver the highest concentration of far-infrared heat available.
- Ultra-low EMF technology makes it the safest and cost-effective heat.
- Very easy setup
- Available in basswood, cedar
- Each Sunlighten sauna is made to order and the wood is sourced from Vietnam to get the best quality.
- It is also made of all non-toxic FDA approved materials, unlike most competitors on the market today.
The Solo Sauna by Sunlighten
The Solo Sauna by Sunlighten is clinical results showing the possibility of lower blood pressure, increase core temperature, and aid in weight loss.
- Ultra Low EMF Technology-produces no EMF, no electromagnetic fields
- Solocarbon heaters with Sunlighten are safest out there.
- Solocarbon® panels are 100% quality controlled by Sunlighten™, which is an assurance of the safety and effectiveness of each individual heater.
- EMF testing data is available to the public
- Heat-sealed so wires or glues are used, so no unhealthy off-gases during heating.
- Clinically tested for safety with 3rd party testing.
The Serenelife Portable Full Size Infrared Home Spa is a highly rated sauna that can be placed in small spaces.
Measuring 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide it is great for small spaces. It comes with a foldable chair.
While not as high quality as the Sunlighten, this is a nice option for those on a very limited budget.
Half Size Portable Sauna
These portable saunas are mean to be seated in. They have a hole for your head and arms to have access to stick outside of the sauna.
Far Infrared Relax Sauna
Far Infrared Relax Sauna. This portable sauna has a high-quality infrared sauna experience utilizing patented far infrared technology.
A reasonable price, but hands and feet aren’t in the unit.
Still, for the price, it’s hard to beat this sauna experience as it is highly-rated.
Fits in a small bag, so it is truly portable for wherever you want to bring it.
Durasage Infrared IR Far Ion Portable Indoor Personal Spa Sauna
- Sauna with air ionizer
- Negative ion generator
- Contains a heating footpad and chair
- Warms up in 5 minutes- safety timer shuts off at 30 minutes
Didn’t make the cut
The Saunas BSA6310 Rejuvenator portable sauna gets fairly good reviews but some people say that they don’t get warm enough to sweat.
Currently unavailable right now as well are the radiant saunas bsa6310 models.
We couldn’t find a portable steam sauna that met quality specifications either.
Portable Sauna Blankets
These items give you the ability to sauna while relaxing under a blanket. Those with limited space and budget can try sauna blankets as an alternative to getting a sauna.
Far Infrared Sauna Blanket
SKYTOU Sauna Blanket is a 2 Zone Digital Far-Infrared (FIR) Oxford Heat Therapy Blanket.
Like most infrared sauna heat, this blanket works at lower temperatures and gets good ratings for weight loss and body shaping. It is 110 volts in silver color.
Gizmo Supply 3 Zone Infrared FIR Sauna Blanket v3
The Gizmo Supply 3 Zone Infrared FIR Sauna Blanket v3 is the number one sauna blanket by GEOEMF. The temperature ranges from 77℉ to 185℉ so it can accommodate those who are looking for different levels of heat. It is also sweatproof so you won’t feel gross after being inside. See more of its features here.
Precautions and Considerations Before Using Sauna
Take a quick shower to rinse off your skin before entering your sauna.
Check with your doctor before sauna use, especially if you have a history of hypotension, heart conditions, or certain medications.
Like other detoxification processes, you want to ease into your sauna use. This means starting out slow and seeing what your body can handle. Then gradually increase your sauna time to acclimate your body to it. A general rule of thumb is to start with 5-minute sessions and work your way up to 10-15 minute sessions.
Avoid alcohol before, during, or after sauna use.
How To Use A Sauna
Hydrate A Few Hours Before and After Using Sauna
Make sure to hydrate a couple of hours before sauna use and after sauna use. That said, hydrating during sauna use can cool down the body temperature, making the sauna session less effective.
Eat A Few Hours But Not Directly Before Using the Sauna
Try to eat a couple of hours before and not directly before using the sauna. A light snack before is fine if you need it.
Shower Prior Using the Sauna
Shower right before getting into the sauna.
Avoid Alcohol with Sauna Use
Avoid alcohol before, during, and after sauna use.
Start with Short Periods of Time and Gradually Increase Your Sauna Time
Start with around 5 minutes of sauna time and gradually increase to 10 to 15 minutes [R]. People can gradually increase session times or alternate with cold plunges, but this should only be under the supervision of your healthcare provider.
Check With Your Healthcare Professional Before Using a Sauna If You Have Medical Conditions
Seek the advice of your healthcare provider before using a sauna.
For maximum benefit, use your sauna at least 3-4 times per week.
Always follow a sauna session with hydration and electrolyte-rich foods like bananas, coconut water, bone broth, healthy salads, and autoimmune protocol (AIP) recipes.
What to Consider Before Buying A Home Sauna
Choosing a home sauna may involve many smaller decisions. Here are some of the things you should think about before investing in one:
Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMF) Levels
When considering a portable sauna you want to make sure you are not consuming too high of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs). Too high EMFs can be toxic to cells. It is known as “dirty electricity” and they consist of magnetic and electric fields, radio frequencies (RF).
Magnetic and Electric Fields In A Portable Sauna
Typically magnetic fields are low in saunas. Electromagnetically hypersensitive (EHS) people are affected by high electric fields in saunas. These are the E in the EMFs.
Magnetic fields should be lower than 2 mG. Electric fields should be below 300 V/m. Look for a sauna with patented EMF mitigation to reduce exposure to high EMF levels. If you are concerned about your EMF levels you can measure the EMF with an Electric Field Meter, TriMeters, Magnetic Fields Meters, and RF Meters.
Checking body voltage is also important to know how the sauna may be effecting your EMF levels. This is especially important for EHS individuals. A good level is less than 100 millivolts but should also be as low as possible according to Building Biology guidelines. A voltmeter can measure body voltage.
Dirty Electricity In A Portable Sauna
Dirty Electricity (DE) are magnetic and electric fields at harmonic frequencies above 60 Hz. Houses in North America contain these 60 Hz frequencies in the electrical wiring. That is why it is the standard frequency of DE. Frequencies from other electrical sources can be higher such as solar panel inverters at 20,000 Hz (20 kHz). Sources of DE come from dimmer switches, compact fluorescent lamps, motors in energy-efficient furnaces, solar panel inverters, power tools along with other sources [R].
In saunas, dirty electricity is usually in the lighting and dimmer features of a model. If you have an older model that does not have an LED bulb that could also be a source of DE. The easiest solution is to shut the lights off if the lighting or bulbs is the problem. Just sit in the dark when using the sauna [R].
How to Test for Dirty Electricity In A Sauna
You can test for DE by plugging an Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) Microsurge Meter into the outlet where you plug in the sauna. First measure the baseline DE. Then plug the sauna in without turning it on and see if the level goes up. If there is no change then turn on the sauna without turning on the heating element. If there is still no change then turn on the sauna lights and measure the DE level. Then turn them off and measure to see if there is any change in the levels. Lastly, turn on the heating element and measure any changes. If the DE level does not increase after putting on the heat in the sauna there are no parts that create any dirty electricity.
Any remaining elevated DE could come from from the room’s electrical lighting system. You can measure the DE from various wall sockets to see if that is the case and use the DE filters mentioned above [R].
Radio Frequency (RF) Fields In A Portable Sauna
Radio frequency (RF) EMFs are also something to consider in saunas. These will only be present in sauna’s that have WiFi or Bluetooth systems. If your sauna has this technology you can disable it if you are electrically sensitive. You can check with the manufacturer to find if this is an option. Radio frequencies can be measured with a radio frequency (RF) meter or get a device that measures all types of EMFs like this one.
Avoid Carbon Based-Heaters
Carbon-based heaters are inefficient and use more power than needed. The need for higher power can also result in higher EMF exposure.
Indoor or outdoor sauna
An indoor and outdoor infrared sauna will have the same benefits. For the purposes of this review, we are only looking at indoor saunas in this guide.
The biggest advantage is that the indoor models are usually quicker and easier to install. Additionally, your house can keep the sauna safe from harsh weather conditions that can potentially damage it when it is placed in the garden.
One of the first things to consider is where to place your sauna unit. Indoor installation of a sauna requires some space and this is why many people put it in the garage or basement.
Of course, most home saunas have a very nice wooden design, so if your bathroom or even the living room has enough space, the sauna may be a beautiful addition that will make the place cozy.
The main difference between a conventional steam sauna and its infrared counterpart is in the distribution.
A traditional sauna uses a heater to warm up stones placed on top of a wooden or electric stove. Water poured on top of the stones will create steam that will distribute the heat within the sauna.
Home IR saunas use evenly distributed panels that allow the heat to penetrate the body deeply.
Check with an Electrician Before Installing or Buying
Some resellers on the internet will recommend adding extension cords and adapters for the sauna. This could be a potential fire hazard. Even with the regular pop up saunas, you may want to consult with an electrician about the requirements for your portable sauna installations.
Prior to buying any personal sauna, it is very important to make sure that your choice is backed up with an excellent warranty policy. In a way, a warranty reflects the confidence of the manufacturer in the product. On the other hand, even the top-notch quality sauna can break down.
Most saunas feature a 5-year warranty while other products offer longer warranties of even up to 7 years, or limited lifetime warranties. It is also wise to consider the reliability of the manufacturer’s support team.
As a result, you will be sure that all your concerns and issues will be taken care of promptly.
Buying A Used Portable Sauna
Is buying a used portable sauna something to consider? It depends. The cost can be a factor when purchasing a used sauna. Will you be saving that much? Could there be something wrong with it? The age of the sauna is an important factor. If you purchase it and then it stops working that could be a big problem. You should have an electrician check out the sauna before you purchase to make sure it is in good condition.
Don’t Have Space or Funds for a Portable Sauna?
If getting your own portable sauna seems like a daunting or too expensive task no worries. You also look for local spas that offer infrared treatments. Be sure they have the same qualities that you would look for when buying your own spa.
To Sum It All Up
Infrared saunas are a good alternative to the heat and humidity of traditional steam and dry saunas. Health clubs and gyms house saunas. However, these facilities may have limitations on when the spa is available or it there could be a conflict in your schedule. If you want more access you can bring the spa home. There are many portable sauna options. They offer the ability to stand, sit, or even lay in. Infrared saunas have promising health benefits that may possibly improve thyroid function and the symptoms that come with these conditions.
Using a portable sauna can be a great complimentary practice you can incorporate with your thyroid clients or as a consumer yourself. Please note there are pros and cons to using an infrared sauna.
You want to be sure you are getting the best quality product out there free of toxins and chemicals. Infrared saunas can cause side effects in some people. These are sometimes mild but if you have never used an infrared sauna be sure to check with a healthcare provider prior to starting any sauna regimens.
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This article was co-written by Heidi & Jeanette. The two met online in a dietitian Facebook group. Their love for researching nutrition and writing articles brought them together. Their past experiences with thyroid issues are what prompted them to start this website. You can learn more about Jeanette at her site https://jeanettekimszal.com/ and Heidi at her website https://www.thehealthyrd.com/