I have a new addiction. This time it’s not chocolate or my favourite unhealthy dish. No, it is the rather sweet torture of holing myself up for about 40 minutes in an infra-red sauna at least thrice weekly. It is a deliciously hot feeling that I simply can’t get enough of since discovering it. I never in the past was one to subject myself to a hot sauna to luxuriate in the feeling of being cooked like a lame chicken, all for the benefit of wanting to attain some health benefit. I always felt too busy to add the leisure of sauna visits to my regular health regime, which I sometimes struggled to keep to from time to time. That was until recently. I recently switched my membership to a new yoga centre that had been right under my nose in my local neighbourhood for all these years but hadn’t realised existed.
Anyway, when I did discover it, its location was so convenient and they offered a much wider range of holistic and complementary therapies and services than my previous centre that for me it was a no brainer. I ended my membership with the previous centre and signed up with Triyoga. The centre happened to have an infra-red sauna facility and I had never understood the difference between a standard sauna and an infra-red one. I had certainly heard about infra-red but not in relation to saunas. To my pleasant surprise, as part of my induction, I was given a crash education on the multi-fold health benefits of using infra-red saunas regularly. As part of my membership, I have unlimited use of their infra-red sauna which I have been using regularly for about three months since signing up.
I certainly can attest to its benefits, particularly its anti-aging effects on the skin! You might ask, well, what’s the difference between a traditional sauna and an infra-red one. I am no expert but as you might have discovered by now, I am passionate about anything that offers holistic health benefits especially when you have anti-aging benefits thrown in! There’s no cure for vanity! So I went to task to do a little bit of research and to read up on the whole science behind it. Traditional and infra-red saunas share many common benefits but there are a few subtle differences. Without getting too much into the detail of it here are some of the main differences and benefits.
Traditional Saunas Vs Infra-red
A traditional sauna operates at a much higher heat range, usually between 80-90°C (185°F -195°F). The heat is more moist and heats the air around you. It also takes longer to reach optimum temperatures with a normal sauna. The heat from a conventional sauna penetrates the body far less deeper than an infra-red sauna so you sweat more water than you do toxins, or certainly a lesser percentage of toxins (about 3 to 4%) than you would do with an infra-red sauna:
Infra-red simply means deep heat and that is the main advantage that it has over the more traditional sauna. Infra-red heat operates at lower temperatures of around 48-85°C (120°F – 150°F), though I still find it punishingly hot. The heat is dry and directed more at heating the object or person in contact with the infra-red rays than the surrounding air. Infra-red heat penetrates the body much deeper than in a traditional sauna, right down to the subcutaneous level where much of the toxins and heavy chemicals and pollutants are stored. So, it is believed that with an infra- red sauna you sweat out about 20% of the chemicals and toxins stored in the body. For this reason the detoxification is experienced at a more cellular and deeper level, which offers superior benefits to that offered by a standard sauna. Besides its definite weight loss advantage, here is a list of other health benefits you can expect from using infra-red saunas on a regular basis. I tend to use it about three times a week but if I could spare more time, I would literally use it every day
Health Benefits of Infra-red Sauna:
A build-up of toxic substances can cause a host of illnesses and even diseases. Getting rid of body toxins through regular use of infra-red sauna may help relieve many types of symptoms and improve overall immunity
It stimulates the circulatory system. This helps to cleanse the circulatory system and better oxygenates the body’s cells.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Regular use of an infra-red sauna may help lower blood pressure. The deep sweat that gets generated in the sauna induces the heart to pump faster. This increases blood flow, lowers blood pressure and helps overall circulation.
When the body’s muscles are heated with infra-red rays, it generates increased blood flow similar to that experienced during exercise. Regular use of an infr-red sauna can significantly stimulate blood flow by up to twice the normal rate.
General Relaxation and Pain Relief
I certainly can attest to the fact that regular use of infra-red sauna has helped a great deal with alleviating my chronic back pain. Using an infra-red sauna is deeply relaxing. Many sufferers of insomnia experience great relief with regular use of an infra-red sauna. It aids the most restful sleep and also helps to alleviate general aches and pains. You won’t regret it.
Expect weight loss and a reduction in waist girth when you begin to regularly use an infra-red sauna. A session will burn you up to about 600 calories without doing vigorous exercise! As the body works to cool itself down, there is a substantial increase in heart rate, cardiac output and metabolic rate which in turn causes the body to burn additional calories.
Anti-aging & Skin purification
Expect younger and clearer looking skin, wrinkles reduced or even eliminated and softer looking complexion. With me, I have noticed that regular use gives my skin a translucent and clear kind of quality. Think of how much is saved when we don’t have to invest loads of money on expensive creams that make spurious claims about eliminating wrinkles when you could get the best treatment for your skin simply by exposing it to infra-red sauna sessions that detox and clear the skin of impurities at the deepest level.
Aids Faster Wound Healing
Use of infra-red sauna enhances the ability of the skin to heal from wounds or injuries by promoting faster cell regeneration and human tissue growth. Expect to experience faster healing of wounds and the prevention of infection.
Improves Overall Immunity
Because the infra-red heat penetrates at a more cellular level to rid the body of poisonous toxins and chemicals, overall immunity is improved as the body is placed in a better position to ward off infections and to maintain a healthy state.
So there, you have it. The many benefits of using an infra-red sauna listed for you. As a precaution, if you already have any health issues or if you wish to ascertain a bit more before embarking on any kind of new health or fitness regime, please seek professional advice from a qualified health practitioner first. One thing to ensure while using any sauna is to make sure you hydrate thoroughly before, during and after each session as you will sweat loads and you might feel a little dizzy if you fail to hydrate properly. If you are not used to the rather suffocating heat of a sauna, I would advise that you start off doing a 15 minutes session and then ramping up to a maximum of about 40 minutes or as your body can accommodate. Again, always make sure to drink plenty fluids (preferably water) before, during and after.
Do feel free to drop me a line to share your thoughts and whether you experience any of the benefits stated. To your health and youthful looks!
From my heart to yours, always,
What Is The Immune System
One of the greatest health benefits we can enjoy is learning to develop and to maintain a strong immune system. The immune system is a collection of special cells, organs, and substances that defend the body against infection and illness. It monitors the body at the cellular level and attempts to rid it of anything unfamiliar and intrusive to the body.
You may already know this but any substance that enters the body which the immune system does not recognize is known as an antigen. When an antigen enters our bodies, the immune response is triggered and the attack to get rid of it begins. Our immune system has the ability to destroy anything containing a particular antigen including, germs, viruses, and cancer cells.
It is safe to say that without our immunity we wouldn’t be around too long because it is a tireless warrior protecting our health. There are bacteria and viruses everywhere and our immune systems continuously fight all types of bacteria, viruses and various parasites in order to protect the body from potential harmful effects that their presence in our bodies can cause.
We also use our immunity to fight and kill cancerous cells that can pop up in our systems and while of course it is not always successful as people still get cancer because there are other factors beyond just immunity that can affect the bodies response to cancer, it is a fact that those with a poor immune system are at greater risk of succumbing to cancer than individuals who take care of their immune system but cancer is not the only health threat we face on a daily basis.
It is therefore of great importance to invest time taking care of our immune system health. Thankfully, some of the ways in which we can do this are also beneficial in other ways to our overall health.
What are some ways we can maximize the effectiveness of our immune system to stay as healthy as possible? Here are just a few tips that I know are certainly helpful in building up the immune system:
- Get immunized. Every year, you are given the opportunity to get an influenza shot. This “shot in the arm” will literally boost your immunity against the likely influenza viruses floating around through the winter months. Older people should get the Pneumovax vaccine, which prevents pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria.
- Eat balanced meals. Now, eating healthy meals as daily habit for me poses a real challenge and I am by no means the role model here so I do eat health consciously even if my meals are not as balanced as I would love them to be on a daily basis. I have discovered ways of making up any shortfalls in diet by adopting a more holistic approach to overall health and reinforcing good health and eating habits over negative ones. More balanced eating simply means getting enough nutrition through the meals, fruits vegetables and nuts and seeds that we consume.
There are nutrients in these foods that act as antioxidants, scavenging your body for oxygen free radicals that can damage cellular systems. The problem though is that much of the fruits and vegetables gracing our grocery shelves are increasingly nutrient-deficient as a result of the commercial farming methods used. The continuous impoverisation of our farming soils through the proliferate use of pesticides and other questionable farming methods that have now become common place and acceptable is a whole new topic for a separate blog which I will address hopefully soon.
Organic produce is best but can be quite expensive and most regular income homes might find it beyond their pockets to stick to organic produce. When I suffered from serious ill health issues many years ago, I engaged the services of a natural herbalist who put me on an uncompromising organic food regime and for four years, I only purchased the highest grade of organic fruits and vegetables delivered weekly to me by a local organic store. As you can imagine it was pretty expensive but my health was seriously at stake then and I was determined to regain full health. Later, I will share some tips on how you can maintain good immunity even if you cannot afford to go organic.
- Stay away from tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker please try and commit to quitting. There is help available I you search for support groups in your area and online forums. I know people who smoke that have lived long and even outlived people with healthier lifestyles but that is not the norm. Documented research shows that smoking is extremely toxic to health and significantly increases the risk of lung and other cancers. Smoking is also extremely aging on the skin.
Tobacco smoke unarguably ruins immunity even if you aren’t the actual smoker. Kids have an increased risk of getting middle ear and lung infections when repeatedly exposed to second-hand smoke. Adults are more prone to getting bronchitis and pneumonia when exposed to tobacco smoke. The toxic ingredients in smoke lessen your ability to fight off all kinds of infections.
- Cut down on alcohol. UK government’s unit guidelines state that there are no safe levels of alcohol consumption. Unit guidelines are the same for men and women and both are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week. I am not a regular drinker and I have no idea what 14 units of alcohol actually looks like. Please feel free to contribute to this article by dropping me a line if you know what constitutes 14 units of alcohol and I’ll provide the update in the subsequent blog.
The risk of developing a variety of serious conditions including cancer, increases with any amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. Excessive alcohol intake also leads to an increased risk of getting infections from a poor immune system. Pulmonary infections are particularly likely to happen in heavy drinkers. Alcohol intake on a regular basis is also aging to the skin and heavy drinkers tend to look older than their age. Because alcohol is dehydrating to the body it is always advisable to consume plenty water throughout the day to rehydrate the body and to detoxify the body from the harsh effects of alcohol.
- Take probiotics. The benefits of taking probiotics on a daily basis cannot be overstated. I came to discover how necessary probiotics are for optimum digestive health and general immunity several years ago and I take these religiously both from food sources and also supplementally. Probiotics are one of the best things to reach mainstream medicine and it’s a topic to devote to a separate article of its own as there is a lot to explain about its immense benefits which many people overlook due to the lack of awareness.
Probiotics consist of living spores of healthy bacteria or living organisms themselves. They colonize the gut and displace the “bad bacteria” that can make you sick. With probiotics, you can have a healthier gut immune system and can avoid gastrointestinal upset from bacteria or fungi in the gut. Probiotics are found in some yogurts as well as in capsule form. I will devote time in a later blog to explain its benefits and the best food sources and supplements for probiotic health.
- Eat garlic. Garlic is one of the oldest and most cultivated culinary spices in the world. It is a perennial plant with numerous health benefits as well as being an antimicrobial and antiviral agent. Garlic belongs in the same food category as onions, spring onions and shallots and has a strong pungent smell when used or ingested. It boosts the immune system in a general way but because it is inactivated by heat it is best taken on its own or by adding to foods just before serving the food. Garlic may also be taken in supplement form. Many will be familiar with the home remedy of garlic, ginger, lemon and honey brewed as a drink and taken warm to relieve, colds and flu. Garlic is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, Manganese, Selenium, Vitamin C and a host of other important minerals.
- Build Up on Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin required by the body for the absorption of calcium. It is widely believed from some research that Vitamin D inhibits or prevents the formation of cancer in the body. The body produces Vitamin D from the absorption of the suns UV rays however many people in sun-challenged climates tend to be deficient in Vitamin D particularly in the winter months and this can negatively impact on immunity. You can get Vitamin D with exposure to the sun or you can take a Vitamin D supplement as it is a bit of a challenge to get sufficient levels of Vitamin D solely from food sources. Some food sources for Vitamin D are: salmon, eggs, fortified milk, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms etc. It is worth having your Vitamin D levels checked periodically until you find a dosage of Vitamin D that brings your level into the normal range. In the summertime, just ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight per day can be a big benefit to your immune system.
- Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C is indispensable in building the body’s immune defense and for ensuring proper functioning of body. The vast benefits offered by Vitamin C are too numerous to mention here and I will devote further articles to explain more about this amazing nutrient. Vitamin C reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also helps in reducing cholesterol, it helps the body fight off infection, improves circulation and is a powerful anti-aging nutrient.
- Eat Shitake and Maitake Mushrooms. Studies have shown that really concentrated extracts of these types of medicinal mushrooms have enhanced the immune system of women who have breast cancer. While eating the mushroom alone hasn’t been studied, it may have a beneficial effect on the immune system of otherwise healthy people.
- Immune Supporting Herbs. There are tons of immune-supportive herbs out there too numerous to mention. Some well-known ones are Echinacea, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero (otherwise known as Siberian Ginseng), Astragalus, Curcumin, Ginger, Ginkgo Giloba, Gotu Kola, Cat’s Claw, Ganoderma (bitter mushrooms) etc. These have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to prevent infection and to maintain a strong immune system. They can be found at most reputable health food stores around you. There is a lot more valuable information to be shared on an even wider range of immune boosting herbs and I intend to do so in later blog articles. I am eager to share my own experience of using many of these herbs on a regular basis.
There are many more factors that determine levels of immunity which are beyond the scope of this article. The ones listed here are just a few tips. I think that it is in all our interests to continue to strive towards improving our immunity levels as it makes such a hugely positive difference to our state of health and well-being. If you have other tips on immunity from your own personal experience and knowledge that you would like to share, please feel free to drop me a line and I would be very happy to share this in further updates to this topic and perhaps you could even send me a full article on this or other relevant health topic and I’ll post it on this forum with your name and details! Wishing you great health and immunity!
From my heart to yours, always