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by Peter Owens BA hons copyright 2013
Vascular health
The far infrared therapy was pioneered by NASA and deployed in space shuttles in the 1980’s to maintain the cardiovascular fitness of astronauts on space journeys.  When exposed to zero gravity for long periods, the body and muscles particularly the heart muscle quickly become deconditioned.  The far infrared heat was deployed in space to counteract this. 

A 20 year study from Scandinavia involving over 2000 men was recently published in the Journal JAMA internal medicine.  The study reported men who take a sauna between 4 to 7 times a week may be 63% less likely to experience a sudden cardiac death compared to those who have just one sauna per week.  The study also reported those who stayed in the sauna for 19 minutes or more were less likely to die than those who stayed in it for just 11 minutes. (1)

In a study from Japan, questionnaires were sent to 542 users of self-heating FIR radiant bed linin containing bio ceramic materials. The majority of users reported improvements in health. Previous studies of FIR had detected a growth promoting effect in rats, a blood circulatory effect in humans and sleep modulatory effects in both rats and humans. Taking into account the information, the authors concluded that FIR can have a significant positive biological impact on living organisms. They reported that this was triggered by increases in the temperature of body tissues and ‘greater motility of body fluids’ caused by decreases in the size of water molecules or clusters of water molecules (2)

The vaso-dilating and warming effects of FIR radiant ceramic discs were highlighted in a study at Osaka City Perinatal Centre, Japan. The authors demonstrated that ceramic disc attached to the breast skin had the capacity to increase blood flow and enhance lactation in a large proportion of puerperal women with lactation problems (3)      
Pain relief    
A study in the USA involving 371 patients over a 6 month period reported low level heat therapy more effective than over the counter analgesics in the treatment of lower back pain. The study reported that heat therapy brought more pain relief on the first day of treatment and effects lasted more than 48 hrs after treatment (4)
A number of websites comment on the words of the late Peter Vincente PHD, a pain expert from America. ‘Through new clinical research we have found that heat activates complex neurological vascular and metabolic mechanisms to mediate the transmission of pain signals and effectively provide relief for a variety of pain conditions’.
A 2012 study from Taiwan highlighted the analgesic effects of far-infrared heat pads on pain induced by knee surgery. During the post-operative period, FIR heat pads were applied to accupoints on the body for 5 consecutive days. The analgesic effect was measured by serum concentration levels of interlukin-6(IL-6) and endothelin (ET-1) both markers of pain. The study consisted of 41 participants who were divided into a control group and an intervention group. The authors reported that the FIR pads significantly lowered serum levels of IL-6 and ET-1, the indicators of pain on the intervention group(5)
A small study from Kagoshima Hospital Japan concluded that far infrared sauna therapy is effective for the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome. Within the study 13 patients had frequent FIR sauna therapy for 10 weeks. All patients reported significant reduction in pain. Pain reduction was experienced after the 1st session and continued throughout the observation period (6)
A 2005 study published in psychotherapy and psychosomatics indicated far infrared sauna therapy brought significant pain reduction in patients with chronic pain.  A follow up study 2 years later also reported the group which had fir sauna therapy were healthier and more active in their jobs. (7)
A recent 2009 study in clinical rheumatology reported infrared sauna therapy to be beneficial to rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.  The four week study showed reductions in stiffness and fatigue with no adverse effects. (8) 


In a recent study (2012) published in Scientific World Journal, Canadian researchers evaluated the presence and elimination of phthalate compounds from the body. Phthalate compounds are chemicals found in everyday consumer packaging and have been linked to a number of health issues. The study analysed sweat, blood and urine of 20 individuals (10 healthy and 10 with health issues) for phthalate compounds and metabolites.  The chemical was found in all of the participants sweat but not always in the blood and urine.  The authors concluded that inducing perspiration would be a useful method for eliminating potentially toxic phthalate compounds.  And that sweat analysis may be helpful in establishing the existence of accrued phthalates toxins in the body (9) In a similar study involving 120 various compounds including toxic elements, the same authors reported that many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat.  The authors presumed the toxins were stored in tissues (10)

BPA is a toxin associated with various households products.  It came under the spotlight in the 90’s for its possible seepage from plastic water bottles and food containers and having an adverse effect on human health and cells (11) In a recent study by Canadian researchers, the toxin showed up in the sweat of 16 out of 20 participants.  The toxin, however, didn’t show up in the blood and urine of all of these 16 positive participants.  Again the authors highlighted the potential of sweat analysis and induced perspiration for the testing and elimination of this toxic compound (12)

Slimming / Weight loss
A recent study from South America demonstrated that the application of far infrared heat to the body has the propensity to bring about longer term slimming results and weight-loss, not only the temporary results often associated with sweating or ‘fluid reduction’. In this particular study, clothing containing bio-ceramic particles was worn daily by an intervention group to emit far-infrared rays.  The study showed a reduction in body measurement in the intervention group compared to the placebo group over a 30 day period. The authors postulated that the far infrared heat reduced body measurements by increasing microcirculation, peripheral blood flow and improving general health.(13)
Earlier studies by Insoue et al have cited that FIR brings a greater motility of fluids within the body and that this is caused by reductions in the sizes of water molecule.(14) A number of FIR advocates and websites relate this process to FIR having a propensity to ‘break up fat clusters’ or even emulsify fats.
Yinka Thomas an expert who has been researching cellulite for over 10 years claims cellulites' dimpling of skin is caused by fatty tissue being invaded by toxins (15).  If the far infrared ray has the capacity to decouple toxins from water molecules as is often claimed, this would be highly beneficial in the fight against cellulite.  A number of medical sources report an American study found significantly higher levels of toxins in sweat derived from a fir sauna as opposed to that from a conventional sauna (16).   Medical doctors (MD’s) that practice environmental medicine often prescribe far infrared sauna therapy to patients that have a toxic overload, notably those with impaired sweating capabilities. Tests have demonstrated the efficacity of this (17)
A 2003 Japanese study noted that in obese patients the body weight and body fat significantly decreased after 2 weeks of sauna therapy (18)
An Australian study demonstrated benefits of sauna therapy to the immune system.  Of a study group of 50 participants, 25 had regular sauna therapy, 25 didn’t.  Over a 6 month period, the sauna group had significantly less colds than the non-sauna group.  The incidence of colds was 50% less during the last 3 months of the study in the sauna group (19) 
Chronic fatigue
Experts have reported elevated levels of oxidative stress and free radicals in CFS/ME (this subsequently impairs cellular energy production (ATP) and mitochondrial function) (20).   Studies have demonstrated that regular fir sauna therapy can reduce oxidative stress.  Fir saunas have been shown to lower levels of urinary prostaglandin, a marker of oxidative stress (21) 
In a lab experiment cancer cells began to produce immune building T cells when exposed to temperatures of plus 41C over a 6 hour period. (22) A study from Newcastle demonstrated tumour cells are more vulnerable to heat than healthy cells and could even be killed by high temperatures of 42-43C (23)  

(1) JAMA Internal Medicine 2015 April.  Laukkanen T,  Khan H,  Zaccardi F,  Laukkanen   

(2)Int J Biometeorol 1989 Oct 33(3) 145 – 50  Inoue S, Kabaya M

(3)Ann Physiol Anthropol 1990 Apr;9(2):83-91 Ogita S and associates

(4)Journal ‘Spine’ Newark NJ May 2002

(5)J Altern Complement Med 2012 Feb Wong CH, Lin LC, Lee HH, Liu CF

(6)Matsushita K, Masuda A Tei C, Intern Med 2008 47 (16) 1473-6 Epub2008 Aug 15

(7) Masuda, A, et al. The effects of repeated thermal therapy for patients with chronic pain. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. 2005; 74 (5): 288-94

(8) Clin Rheumatol 2009 Jan;28(1):29-34. doi: 10.1007/s10067-008-0977-y. Epub 2008 Aug 7. Oosterveld et al

(9) Scientific World Journal 2012 ;2012:615068. doi: 10.1100/2012/615068. Epub 2012 Oct 31.

(10) Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 2011 Aug 6  344-57

(11) Top Sante Aug 2015 p.39

(12) Journal of Environmental and Public Health Vol 2012 Article ID 185731

(13) J Cosmet Dermatol 2011 Mar; 10 (1) :30-5  Conrado LA, Munin E.

(14)Int J Biometeorol 1989 Oct 33(3) 145 – 50  Inoue S, Kabaya M

(15)Mail Online Jane Danby  Aug 20 2013 Daily Mail

(16) far infrared therapy

(17)Dr detoxing far infrared saunas (FIRS)

(18) Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2003 Nov;228(10):1245-9. Biro S, Masuda A, Kihara T, Tei C

(19)Cochcrane Database Syst Rev, 2010; 7:CD001269 

(20)Metabolic brain disease, September 2013. G. Morris/M. Maes 

(21)Jpn Heart J, 2004; 45:297-303 

(22)Int Immunol, 2003;15:1053-61

(23) Lancet, 1979, 1;202-5