In this week’s blog and podcast, I share one of my best-kept secrets secrets to keeping my brain and body healthy and toxin-free: infrared saunas! In this blog, I will cover everything from the different types of saunas, how they benefit our mental and physical health, how to best use a sauna and so much more!
I sat down with Alicia Botyrius from Sunlighten Saunas to help answer some questions. Sunlighten has been around for 20 years—they were one of the first companies to make high-quality, research-based infrared saunas. Although other wellness fads have come and gone, their infrared saunas have withstood the test of time, helping thousands of people improve their mental and physical health on a daily basis.
I have always loved saunas, and I am a big fan of Sunlighten—I have had my sauna for 7 years! As I like to joke, this sauna is my “woman cave”: it is where I wind down after a long day, where I have quality mental self-care time, where I rest and rejuvenate after a hectic travel schedule, where I detox after the holidays, where I destress and catch up on all my favorite TV shows, where I meditate and calm my mind, and where I recover after an intense workout. To say I am a fan of my infrared sauna is an understatement; when I am at home, I don’t go a day without using it!
Why am I such a fan of infrared saunas? As Alicia notes, research on infrared saunas has shown that the light can have a long-lasting effect throughout the day, helping you feel more energized, improving your mood, aiding digestion, reducing depression and so much more. Over time, regular use of an infrared sauna can have a compound effect, although just one session now and then can make a big difference (the ideal time to use an infrared sauna is about 30 to 40 minutes around four times a week, although this can change depending on someone’s individual needs).
Why do I recommend using an infrared sauna, as opposed to a conventional sauna? As Alicia points out, infrared saunas have a number of benefits:
1. Mental Health:
Not only do saunas help us relax, which is certainly important for our mental health, but research on infrared saunas have also shown that it can have positive effects on depression, anxiety and other types of mental distress. Just one infrared sauna treatment can potentially reduce depressive symptoms by up to 50%, with the benefits continuing for up to 6 weeks!
I personally love using my Switch app to detox my thoughts while I am detoxing my brain and body in my sauna—this is a perfect mental self-care cleanse, like a spa day for the mind! Switch is based on my 5-step program, which is designed to help you identify and eliminate the root of your toxic mindsets, and help you build a healthy new thinking habits through the mental process of reconceptualization by teaching you how to stand outside of yourself and observe your own thinking, feeling and choosing. It is easy to use, takes just 7 to 15 minutes a day, and can be accessed on the go or in a sauna!
I also love to use my sauna to have “thinker moments”, where I just switch off and let my mind wander and daydream. These moments give the brain a rest and allow it to reboot and heal, which increases clarity of thought and organizes the networks of the brain, rather than just letting toxic mindsets build up in the brain and cause all sorts of mental health issues. For more information on thinker moments and how to make them a part of your daily routine, see my book, Think, Learn, Succeed.
The heat from an infrared sauna only reaches around 130 degrees Fahrenheit (while conventional saunas, where you pour water over the rocks, can reach around 200 degrees Fahrenheit), making it more bearable and relaxing, while the specific wavelength of infrared light is gentler on the skin. This heat is more like wearing your favorite comfortable sweater—it heats your body up from the inside, while helping your mind and body enter into a relaxed, parasympathetic state (that is, it switches on the body’s down regulation system, which is so important for our mental health). This kind of sauna is engineered to be “enjoyed not endured”.
The intense heat in conventional saunas, on the other hand, which really only heats the air around you, may put your body in a toxic stress state. In this kind of sauna, the surface of your skin gets very hot, making you sweat a lot without penetrating the deep layers of fat that hold toxins deep in the body. This kind of heat can actually become unbearable in a short amount of time, and make you feel quite weak and even dizzy when you get out. This of course is not very relaxing!
As mentioned above, in an infrared sauna, your body is sweating in a relaxed state, and is able to excrete more toxins and heal and repair itself. This is because infrared heat can reach the toxins that are surrounded by a protective layer of fat deep in the body, pulling out those substances you don’t normally get rid of with regular sweating, in a conventional sauna or by going to the bathroom.
This detoxification process is incredibly important, because all of us are exposed to toxins as we go about our daily lives, which can affect both our mental and physical wellbeing. For instance, Alicia notes that when several people who quit smoking a decade ago started using an infrared sauna, they noticed that their sweat smelt like cigarette smoke—these toxins were stored deep in the body for years!
In fact, if you use the sauna in the early evening, you will notice that your body temperature will slowly come down during the night, which will put you into a deeper sleep earlier. This, in turn, further detoxes the mind and brain and helps your body recover and heal itself (for more on the mental health benefits of sleep, see my recent blog).
Even if you don’t smoke, eat well, exercise regularly and sleep 8 hours a night, you will be exposed to toxins that your body will store in a protective layer of fat. We all have bad stuff in our bodies, which is why it is essential that we take the time to detox our brains and bodies if we want to live a truly healthy lifestyle, and infrared saunas can help with this!
As the heat in an infrared sauna heats your core up, your body has to work harder to cool you down, which improves your circulation and boosts your heart health. Better circulation, in turn, can clear your mind and help you process information faster, lower blood pressure, give your skin a gorgeous glow, help with pain relief, reduce inflammation, give you more energy, boost your metabolism, aid recovery and so on. Instead of getting out the sauna feeling all worn out, you will feel more energized, healthier and ready to take on any challenge!
5. Immune system:
The energy from infrared saunas can also help boost the immune system, which is really important as we go into cold and flu season! How does this happen? This energy is absorbed on a cellular level, which positively affects the heat-shock proteins, strengthening the immune system. This is almost like putting a shield over your body, which is also why infrared saunas are great when you have been traveling. In fact, by detoxing the brain and body and boosting the immune system, infrared saunas help free the body up to deal with other health issues, such as cancer!
6. Pain Relief and Recovery:
Better blood circulation from infrared light means more toxins flow from the cellular level to the skin’s surface to improve cell health, aiding in muscle recovery and joint pain, which can be a big help after an intense workout, a physical accident or with conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia. Near infrared waves in particular have a shorter frequency range and penetrate the epidermis layer of the skin, impacting the body at the cellular level, encouraging tissue growth and collagen production, and speeding up muscle recovery.
7. Safe for children:
Even children can use infrared saunas! However, they should only be allowed to use the sauna at a lower temperature, for no more than 15 minutes (depending on their age) and accompanied with an adult, as they have a higher metabolic rate per body mass, limited circulatory adaptation to increased cardiac demands and the inability to regulate body temperature by sweating.
After using my infrared sauna regularly for several years, I can truly say I am impressed with the results. I just turned 56, and feel younger, healthier and happier than ever—it really is my “secret” weapon when it comes to my mental and physical health!
For more on the health benefits of infrared saunas, listen to my full interview with Alicia on this week’s podcast. If you have any questions regarding Sunlighten’s products, feel free to email Alicia at email@example.com.
To get $100 off your Sunlighten order, click here and mention Dr. Caroline Leaf.
One other product I love to incorporate into my diet to help detox my body and mind and improve my mental health is bone broth, especially Kettle & Fire’s range of delicious, organic and nutrient-dense broths! Since the gut and brain are intricately connected, the health of our gut and digestive system can have a big impact on the health of our mind, affecting not only our memory but also our moods! Visit Kettleandfire.com/drleaf to get 15% off your entire order!
Superfood mushroom elixirs are also a great way to detox and improve cognitive functioning, which is why I love Four Sigmatic. They sell a variety of high-quality, organic teas and lattes that taste delicious, help boost productivity and focus, detox the brain and body, and can help you relax after a hard day’s work! And you can get a 15% discount off your order at foursigmatic.com/DRLEAF, or use coupon code DRLEAF at checkout.
And we shouldn’t forget about tea! High-quality teas are a great way to detox the mind and brain on a regular basis, and boost the immune system, circulation, increase your energy levels and relax! I highly recommend Pique Tea’s range of organic, sustainable tea crystals, which I drink on a daily basis. For more information on Pique Tea see my recent blog. Pique Tea is also giving my audience 10% off all their Fall Favorites Collection products! Use the code 'DRLEAF' to get 10% off here: https://piquetea.life/drleaf_ff.
It is also important to make sure that you protect and enhance your digestive system if you want to help detox the mind and body, which is why I recommend taking good quality probiotics and digestive supplements. My favorite digestive aids are BiOptimizers’ range of high-quality supplements; see: www.bioptimizers.com/leafbrain for BiOptimizer’s special offer! You can also get an additional 20% off with coupon code DRLEAF20 at checkout.