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1) Infrared Radiation Reduces Inflammation
In a study (DB-RCT) of 37 arthritis patients, infrared pulsed laser devices reduced inflammatory cytokines (TNF, IL-1, and IL-2). The patients had clear improvement in function and pain after only a few months [R].
Vessel permeability is another important factor in inflammation. A high permeability will allow fluid to flow out of the blood vessel and get deposited in tissue, increasing inflammation [R].
2) Infrared Radiation May Speed Up Wound Healing
Far-infrared rays increased the levels of key factors in the healing process (such as TGF-β1) as well as the activity of fibroblasts (connective tissues) and other reparative cell types [R].
Increasing TGF-β1 reduces the production of key inflammatory factors. Reducing the duration and intensity of the secretion of these factors shortens the inflammatory response period, allowing wound healing to move into the proliferative period quicker [R].
In addition to increasing TGF-β1, infrared light therapy increased connective tissue formation and collagen production in both human cells. One study showed epithelial cell growth increasing by up to 171% when exposed to near-infrared light therapy [R].
3) Infrared Radiation May Help Treat Cancer
Photodynamic therapy could create a viable cancer treatment which kills 90% of the cells. Nanoparticles that are exposed to near-infrared radiation can become highly toxic to nearby cancer cells [R]
One treatment called photoimmunotherapy binds the materials that manipulate light and heat (photothermal) to an antibody targeted specifically to the cancer cells. Upon binding to receptors on the surface of the cancer cells, infrared light is again used to cause the particles to heat up, which causes almost immediate cancer cell death [R].
4) Infrared Radiation Helps Improve Exercise and Recovery
Infrared radiation can help reduce the inflammation and soreness associated with post-exercise recovery and shorten recovery periods. This allows for more intense and frequent training and improved results [R, R].
In one study, 904 nm laser irradiation stimulated rat muscle tissue. It significantly reduced production of two inflammatory enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. This also allowed the muscle tissue to perform a total work in subsequent testing [R].
In a separate study, infrared emitting fabrics improved the performance of soccer players during normal training. The players wore the fabrics for 10h at night and saw a moderate decrease in muscle soreness 24 and 72 hours after exercise [R].
5) Infrared Radiation Improves Circulation
Infrared radiation is able to increase circulation, even for extended periods after infrared therapy, and improve blood vessel function [R].
Through both thermal and nonthermal mechanisms, infrared radiation improved circulation in rats. Far infrared therapy was effective in increasing blood flow for up to 60 minutes, while skin temperature was held constant [R].
The results were not simply due to an increase in temperature, but rather the interaction of infrared light with the L-arginine/Nitric oxide pathway [R].
In a study (RCT) of 61 kidney dialysis patients, far infrared radiation also increased blood flow and oxygen levels in the body. This helped reduce fatigue [R].
In another study on blood vessels (endothelial cells), infrared radiation treatment reduced flow obstruction in arteriovenous fistulas. These fistulas are regions of abnormally connected blood vessels which divert the normal flow of blood and can cause swollen or painful veins [R].
The increase in temperature increased HO-1 gene production, which reduced abnormal blood flow. HO-1 can prevent thickening of blood vessels, platelet aggregation, and vasospasms, all of which can contribute to obstruction of blood flow. Additionally, it stimulates endothelial cell regrowth at injury sites, further aiding in vessel health and contributing to healthy circulation [R].
6) Infrared Radiation Protects the Heart
Repeated infrared sauna therapy helped improve heart cell function in patients with increased heart disease risk. After two weeks of daily sauna therapy, the patients also had improved blood flow and reduced atherosclerosis (plaque or fat buildup in the arteries) risk [R].
Far-infrared radiation increased miRNA-31 and miRNA-720 in various studies. This also helps improve heart cell function in heart disease patients [R].
In a study (RCT), daily far infrared sauna therapy lowered blood pressure in patients with increased risk for heart disease [R].
7) Infrared Radiation Treats Diabetic Complications
In a study of 10 type II diabetic patients, infrared light therapy helped lower blood glucose levels. Although these patients could not control their sugar levels using diabetes medication, infrared radiation did so by reducing insulin resistance and lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels [R].
In another study of 15 middle-aged type II diabetes patients, three months of far-infrared sauna therapy improved the patients’ quality of life. The patients also reported an improvement in fatigue and stress. They also reported increased physical and emotional health [R].
In a study of 50 diabetic patients, one week of infrared therapy healed diabetic foot ulcers. After one month, the patients’ ulcers shrank in size and had fewer secretions. The infrared lamp helped prevent infection [R].
8) Infrared Radiation Improves Mood
In a study (RCT) of 70 participants, far infrared light treatment at acupuncture points increased their serotonin levels. Increasing serotonin levels can help increase mood [R].
In rats, long-term infrared light treatment reduced anxiety and depression-like behaviors. However, short-term infrared radiation had no effect on their behavior [R].
9) Infrared Radiation Treats Hay Fever
In a study of 31 allergic rhinitis (hay fever) patients, far infrared therapy improved their symptoms. The patients had less stuffiness, eye and nose itching, and sneezing [R].
There are not many available human clinical trials that use infrared radiation. Additionally, most of the available human studies are not high quality (not double-blind or have a large sample size).
You should consult a doctor before going to an infrared sauna. Pregnant women, the elderly, and people with a weak immune system might not be able to withstand the heat.