While there may not be an actual “cold and flu season”, winter is a time immune systems are weaker because of lack of sun, intake of sugary food, holiday stress, and less sleep. Most of us know the traditional benefits associated with sauna use, including relaxation, stress reduction, sweating and toxin release, but did you know that the patented heating and near-infrared light technology in the Sunlighten 3in1 sauna we use at InstaPhysique can actually strengthen your immune system?
In this blog, we will discuss how infrared saunas can help strengthen your immune system for the cold and flu season.
How a Fever Improves Immune Function
Hippocrates famously said, “Give me a fever and I can cure any disease.” The idea that increased temperatures trigger the body’s immune system response is certainly not new. Fevers help your body to fight off infection by allowing certain immune cells to work more efficiently and effectively. When you have an infection, your immune system induces fever in order to stimulate immune function and make the body less habitable for the pathogens. According to the American College of Critical Care Medicine, fever is defined as a core temperature of 100.9°F (38.3°C) or higher, i.e. just above the upper limit of an average human temperature, irrespective of the cause.3 Sunlighten saunas can penetrate deep into tissues and raise core body temperature to approximately 102°F. Although the sauna heats you up differently than a fever does, the increased body temperature can provide many benefits of fever, such as improving immune functions and preparing your body for the cold and flu season.
Here are five examples explaining how this works.
1. Makes antiviral and antibacterial immune responses more efficient
Many aspects of immune function are heat-sensitive and are designed to be mobilized in response to a fever. Specifically, fever-range body temperature causes the body to favor anti-viral and anti-bacterial immune response (Th1) over the antiparasitic or allergic (Th2) immune response. In addition, fever-range temperature helps the immune system better remember germs that you are exposed to, so that the next time you encounter the pathogens, your body can fight them off better.4
In addition to heating the body, near-infrared light also stimulates white blood cells and increases antibodies against germs by increasing cellular energy production.5 l A number of studies—including those conducted by NASA and the Medical College of Wisconsin—have shown that near-infrared light therapy can increase collagen and white blood cell production, your body’s first line of defense against disease.
The term “hormesis” refers to a small amount of stress that trains the body to get stronger. For example, exercise is a type of hormesis. Many health benefits of saunas are due to hormesis. Using the sauna generates heat stress and oxidative stress at the low levels that help the body better deal with these stressors. The heat exposures trigger the production of heat-shock proteins, which help other protein molecules fold correctly. In addition, heat-shock proteins also help the immune system fight off viruses.6
Too much oxidative stress can damage tissues and immune cells, which reduces your ability to fight infections. The sauna generates small amounts of oxidative stress that increases your cell’s antioxidant capacity, which reduces your risk of getting sick.7
3. Anti-Aging for the Immune System
The immune system, which is continually replenished by immune stem cells in the bone marrow and thymus, is one of the most sensitive systems to aging. This is a reason why people 65 and older are more likely to get sick and develop complications from cold and flu. As people age, their immune stem cells have a declining ability to regenerate more white blood cells. Interestingly, photobiomodulation, especially from the near-infrared spectrum, may stimulate the mitochondria of these stem cells and help mitigate age-related immune decline.8
4. Reducing Stress
Stress significantly increases the incidences of colds by reducing the antiviral immune system, partly because cortisol suppresses the immune responses.9, 10, 11Exposure to far-infrared sauna significantly reduces post-exercise cortisol, which may mitigate the immune-suppression effects of stress.12, 13 In addition, our infrared sauna experience includes Acoustic Resonance Therapy technology to help you get into a relaxed state, which may further help reduce the risk of getting sick from stress.
5. Normalizing the Circadian Rhythm and Improving Sleep
Not all sleep is created equal. Deep sleep helps build your antiviral immune system, so you want to increase deep sleep in the winter.14
During colder months, when the days are shorter and the sunlight is dimmer, your sleep could get thrown off. You may hardly notice it because you are still going to work and sleep on the same schedule, but you may experience changes in mood, fatigue, and more frequent colds partly because you are not sleeping as deeply.
According to board-certified sleep psychologist Dr. Micheal Breus, the steep drop in body temperature in the evening helps cue your body that it is time to sleep. Using the infrared sauna in the afternoon to help you relax before allowing your body temperature to drop naturally will improve your sleep quality.
Using the Sauna to Reduce Incidences of Common Cold
In an Austrian study, 25 healthy subjects who regularly used saunas had significantly fewer episodes of common colds than those who did not.15 This benefit becomes more significant, especially after 14 weeks of consecutive sauna use. Therefore, in order to fully experience the immune-strengthening benefits of sauna use, you want to use it regularly, at least 1-2 times a week throughout the year.
Use InstaPhysique’s mPulse® 3 in 1® Infrared Sauna to Maximize the Immune Boost
To maximize the synergistic immune-boosting benefits of infrared sauna, use full-spectrum infrared therapy. The near-infrared spectrum can stimulate immune cell growth and activity by stimulating your mitochondria. The mid-and far infrared wavelengths are absorbed by your body, ensuring that you benefit from the immune-stimulating effects of heat throughout your body and improving your sleep. Ours is the only infrared sauna on the market that provides true full-spectrum infrared therapy with separate heating elements to deliver each wavelength at their peak. Other sauna companies claim to provide “full spectrum” but only have one or two heating elements. They may produce light throughout the entire visible spectrum, but they can’t reach the peak infrared wavelengths to produce the health benefits. Our private sauna experience is designed to keep you healthy with seven preset programs that allow you to meet your exact wellness goals.
Winter brings with it many things. Illness does not have to be one of them. With proper care and preparation, your immune system can stand up to the cold and flu viruses that seem to be waiting until the cooler months to attack. The use of an infrared sauna strengthens your immune system by increasing white blood cell production, triggering the immune system, releasing impurities, improving blood circulation, regenerating cells, and promoting relaxation. With a strong defense system, you are free to enjoy life in full health.
First-time? Take advantage of our Sauna intro and get two sessions for just $44. Then, stay consistent by attending sessions weekly with our sauna add-on for just $99/month. Book Your Private Sauna Experience Today!
1 A Sahib Mehdi El-Radhi. Fever management: Evidence vs current practice. World Journal of Pediatrics. 2012 Dec 8; 1(4): 29–33.
2 Department of Community Medicine, University of Adelaide, South Australia. Adverse effects of aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen on immune function, viral shedding, and clinical status in rhinovirus-infected volunteers. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 1990 Dec;162(6):1277-82.
3 Edward James Walter. The pathophysiological basis and consequences of fever. Critical Care. 2016; 20: 200
4 Sharon S. Evans, Elizabeth A. Repasky, and Daniel T. Fisher. Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat. Nature Reviews Immunology. Volume15, pages 335–349 (2015)
5 Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine, Keio University. Possible application of the laser in immunobiology. Keio Journal of Medicine. 1993 Dec;42(4):180-2.
6 Gabriele Multhoff. Heat shock proteins in immunity. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology. 2006;(172):279-304.
7 Shabnam Hajian. Positive effect of antioxidants on immune system. Immunopathol Persa. 2015;1(1):e02
8 Denis Odinokov and Michael R Hamblin. Aging of lymphoid organs: Can photobiomodulation reverse age-associated thymic involution via stimulation of extrapineal melatonin synthesis and bone marrow stem cells? J Biophotonics. 2018 Aug; 11(8): e201700282.
9 Stone AA1, Bovbjerg DH, Neale JM, Napoli A, Valdimarsdottir H, Cox D, Hayden FG, Gwaltney JM Jr. Development of common cold symptoms following experimental rhinovirus infection is related to prior stressful life events. Behavioral Medicine. 1992 Fall;18(3):115-20.
10 Cohen S1, Tyrrell DA, Smith AP. Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1991 Aug 29;325(9):606-12.
11 Areej M. Assaf,⁎ Reem Al-Abbassi, and Maysaa Al-Binni. Academic stress-induced changes in Th1- and Th2-cytokine response. Saudi Pharm J. 2017 Dec; 25(8): 1237–1247.
12 Antti Mero, Jaakko Tornberg, Mari Mäntykoski, and Risto Puurtinen. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. Springerplus. 2015; 4: 321.
13 Shanshan Shui, Xia Wang, John Y Chiang, and Lei Zheng. Far-infrared therapy for cardiovascular, autoimmune, and other chronic health problems: A systematic review. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2015 Oct; 240(10): 1257–1265.
14 Dimitrov S1, Lange T, Tieken S, Fehm HL, Born J. Sleep associated regulation of T helper 1/T helper 2 cytokine balance in humans. Brain Behav Immun. 2004 Jul;18(4):341-8.
15 Ernst E, Pecho E, Wirz P, Saradeth T. Regular sauna bathing and the incidence of common colds. Ann Med. 1990;22(4):225-7.