Dear Mark: Infrared Sauna Roundup

inline_dear_mark_infrared_follow_upAfter last week’s post on infrared saunas, people asked some good questions. For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a few of them. First up, can infrared saunas harm male fertility? After all, they do penetrate the skin and raise body temperature, which is a no-no for sperm. Next, infrared saunas induce lots of sweating, and sweat contains bioaccumulated toxins like BPA and heavy metals. Can infrared saunas help us shed these toxins? Finally, are infrared-emitting blankets and other “topical” infrared products effective alternatives to infrared saunas?

Let’s go:

I have access to an infrared sauna but am planning to avoid it in the next 6 months before my wife and I try to conceive.

I like the ‘benefits’ but I am uncertain if the heat would be harmful for reproduction; I know the sauna has different temperature settings, but normally it’s around 145 degrees. Any way to get the benefits without the harmful side?

Good call. While I don’t know that you have to avoid it for the next 6 months—a week or so before conception should suffice—penetrating heat will negatively impact the health and viability of your sperm. If it’s anything like other heat sources, including hot tubs, hot laptops, and hot underwear.

Red LED lights may offer some cool benefits, particularly for pain and tissue healing, without heating your tissues.

In patients with knee osteoarthritis, red light therapy reduced pain scores and increased microcirculation in the knee. Increased microcirculation might even mean the knee was beginning to heal.

A 2012 review concluded that red light therapy does reduce joint pain. An earlier review found that it reduces pain specifically in chronic joint disorders, which is awesome. Chronic joint disorders are often the most intractable and hardest to treat.

It’s even been shown to improve neuropathic pain.

Maybe best of all for your specific context? Exposing the testicles directly to red light. Well, rat testicles, be exact. Rats who shined 670 nM red light on their tiny (but incredibly large and impressive for the body size) testicles enjoyed increased testosterone. A similar group of rats who shined 808 nM red light did not see increased testosterone. Since these were mammalian testicles, I think the results may hold up. And since the red light at that level doesn’t heat the tissue, it’s probably safe for you to try.

Keep things on the lower end, though. A recent study exposing ram testicles to low level laser therapy at a wavelength of 808 nM and a power output of 30 mW reduced testosterone, hampered sperm production, and lowered sperm motility. These are all bad.

I’ve been intrigued by these for awhile now. I tried one at a massage studio and liked it. Have also heard it does wonders for your skin. I remember hearing years ago on a podcast (don’t remember which one) that someone actually analyzed sweat and found people were releasing way more toxins in the infrared sauna than in a traditional one. I know someone who says it was very beneficial in dealing with the toxic levels of mercury she had built up.

Yep. Even though hyper-skeptics scoff at the idea of “sweating out toxins,” it’s simple fact that sweat contains bioaccumulated toxinsBPA shows up in sweat, for example, even when it doesn’t show up in the blood or urine. Same goes for certain phthalate compounds and their metabolites, none of which we want. Sweat also contains arsenic and lead in people exposed to high levels of the metals

Anecdotally, infrared saunas trigger more sweating than other types of saunas. That’s what I’ve experienced, and it seems to be the consensus opinion around the industry. If so, infrared saunas should help people—like your friend with the mercury—deal with unwanted body loads of various bioaccumulated compounds like metals, BPA, and phthalates.

We know that in kidney disease patients, infrared sauna use normalized BUN levels (that’s blood nitrogen, elevated levels of which indicate poor kidney function).

Can anyone comment on the quality/effectiveness/safety of infrared blankets? I don’t have space for a sauna.

Infrared light exposure is infrared light exposure. Sitting under a blanket isn’t as glamorous or all-encompassing as sitting in a cedar-paneled infrared sauna, but it appears to be quite effective.

This study used an infrared blanket to heat skin, finding that it increased lymph node drainage and activated Langerhans cells in the skin.

This study used an infrared blanket to increase vasodilation in heart failure patients, which improved vascular resistance and cardiac index (two big markers for recovery from and resistance to heart failure).

This study reported that infrared blankets improved human sleep.

This study (which I reported on in the last post) found that placing infrared discs on the breasts of lactating women improved nursing performance and outcomes. Blankets often use the same infrared discs.

This study used infrared-emitting gloves to improve symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome.

That’s it for today, everyone. Thanks for your questions, and thanks for reading. If anyone else has input on today’s questions, leave it down below in the comment section.


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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22 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Infrared Sauna Roundup”

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  1. Has anyone found and good research regarding infrared saunas and their effects on tattoos? I’m worried that by penetrating deeper into the skin they could increase the speed at which tattoos fade out over time (which is known to happen with sun exposure).

    1. Hey Steve, I was thinking about the same thing right now. DId you happen to find any study like that? Thanks!

    2. Hey Steve, did you happen to find any study or information about tattoos and infrared saunas? I was just wondering the same thing actually. Thanks!

  2. I cannot wait to try out an infrared sauna. I have Raynaud’s and Knee issues and it sounds like this is exactly what I need to help with both conditions. Bring on the Red Lights.

  3. This seems to be a hot topic lately … har har har …

    Mark’s articles have inspired me to renew my goal to hit the sauna three times a week … old school Finnish sauna, maybe not as beneficial as an infrared but should still be good for my old aching body. I do a cold shower before and after. Just packed my workout bag and some extra towels so I made that commitment LOL. I sit in the sauna with a bottle of cold water to stay hydrated and I also bring a small container of water with a few drops of a sinus blend essential oil (eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary I think) and splash that into the heater a few times … feels good, no TV, computer or iPhone, just me and the cedar planks and that distinctive eucalyptus odor. 🙂

    1. I think this part was missing from your post:
      ” I also bring a small container of water with a few shots of vodka (*) laced with some drops of honey and lemon and take sips ”
      (continue here with the sinus blend)

      (*) whiskey or gin will work, rum and tequila not

        1. Sorry I need to edit my contribution: I was under the effects of kalsarikannit spirit.
          The corrected version calls for a keg of ipa beer, very cold with a set of frozen mugs

  4. The infrared sauna piece got me all charged up to research products online, and it turns out there are two types, near infrared and far infrared, both with proponents. Any thoughts as to which is preferable?

  5. I am concerned about Electro-magnetic radiation from both infrared and electric saunas. Anyone have any info on this?
    Otherwise I would prefer the old fashioned Finnish variety…wood heat and wet rocks.

    1. I wonder how much research has been done on either one. Once upon a time people thought ingesting small amounts of arsenic was good for the skin and that sitting in caves that emitted natural radiation was healthful. I think I will also stick with the old-fashioned kind of sauna.

    2. The UN has done extensive research over a couple of decades on EMF and found no ill effects. If you’re still concerned there are plenty of low-EMF infrared saunas on the market. I love mine. They’re easy to install and low maintenance. I’m from Russia where, as in Finland, saunas are a big part of the culture. I love them all (dry, steam, infrared), but the infrared is the most versatile.

  6. Ok now I’m really thinking about the infrared blanket, since that sounds a little more manageable than installing a sauna!

    1. Hi same here, I live in an apartment, cannot install a full honest sauna.
      I have been checking the portable ones in the big internet store that use water an a personal tent, this thread has reminded me of them
      And the other option is to convert a closet (more doable, for a dry sauna)

      1. No need to complicate yourself. An infrared lamp hanging over your bed is all you need. You can buy one for $7.

        1. Yesss 🙂 , thanks, very good tip, looking for my lamp this weekend

    2. For the near infrared, you only need an infrared lamp, same one used to hatch chicken eggs. You can get one for about $7. I use one hanging over my bed and use it for 15-20 minutes before going to sleep.

  7. Really interested in the relation between infrared sauna’s and fertility. Do you have any links with research? I am using infrared sauna’s on a regular basis

  8. My father has had issues with his knee for over 10 years and red light seem to have eased his pain but unfortunately his knee is beyond recovery.