In this blog post, I describe the infrared sauna benefits for Lupus. You might not know what kind of condition "Lupus" is though, so therefore I've included a short introduction of the pathology:
What Is Lupus? Lupus 101
"Lupus", or "systemic lupus erythematosus", is an autoimmune disease (1; 2; 3). With "autoimmune" I denote a health condition in which your body's immune system attacks your own cells.
Different types of Lupus exist, although I won't break those types down in order not to overcomplicate my argument. To keep it simple: if you've got Lupus, you're probably experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:
- joint issues, especially on the chest
- (chronic) inflammation, which is frequently visible on the face
- low energy
- ulcers, especially in the mouth
- abnormal body temperature regulation
- higher risk for infections
- poorer circulation
- cognitive and brain issues
Lupus can give you heavier or less heavy symptoms over time, depending on how much the condition affects you. Females and people with darker skin are more at risk for getting Lupus.
It's currently not exactly known what causes Lupus, although several factors play a role. Nevertheless, both genetic factors, as well as environmental ones, play a role. Hormones affect the trajectory of the disease as well, although you can argue that these are reducible to environmental factors.
The risk factors for getting Lupus, among others, are autoimmune issues in the family, a history of viral and bacterial infections, hormonal imbalances, reactivity to the sun, smoking, and low vitamin D levels. (4; 5; 6). Avoiding toxin exposure and preventing yourself from overexposing yourself are two main strategies to manage Lupus symptoms.
The bottom line?
In Lupus, your body's immune system attacks your own cells - the result is a decline in overall health. Your daily health choices affect whether you get the pathology and also how your symptoms are managed. Let's, therefore, look at how infrared saunas can help you:
Lupus And Infrared Sauna Benefits
While no direct research on infrared saunas and Lupus symptoms exist, tons of circumstantial evidence suggests infrared saunas can help for the health condition. Let's consider explore the science of the infrared sauna benefits for Lupus:
Benefit 1: A Method For Safely Exposing Yourself To Infrared Light
If you've got Lupus, your skin response to sunlight can be dramatically changed (7; 8). In fact, up to 70% of people with Lupus have problems with their skin. Examples are chronically inflamed skin with red patches, rashes, or having very scaly skin.
Exposure to "ultraviolet light" (UV) - the part of sunlight that can give you sunburns - is a frequent trigger for many people with Lupus. UV light is the part of sunlight that can give you a sunburn. UV light only reaches the earth's surface once the sun is higher up in the sky.
The problem with getting triggered by UV light is that it reduces your ability to benefit from the other parts of the light spectrum that are emitted by the sun. The sun also emits all the colours of the rainbow - violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red - plus "infrared light". That infrared light is experienced as heat and is the part of the sun's emissions that makes your skin feel warm.
An infrared sauna helps you get the benefits of infrared light in a very controlled method. An infrared sauna allows you to add as little or as much infrared exposure to your body as you need.
(The same is true for red light therapy if you've got Lupus!)
The infrared light emitted by infrared saunas has huge benefits for overall skin health. Roughness, texture, and the colour of the skin all improve with infrared light exposure, for instance (9).
Animal studies also indicate that inflammation is lowered in the skin through infrared light exposure and that wound healing accelerates (10). All of these benefits are perfect if you've got Lupus, of course!
And there's more:
Benefit 2: Enhancing Energy And Circulation
Having an autoimmune disease is analogous to driving a car and putting your foot on the brake and gas at the same time. Why? Even though the analogy doesn't sound so nice, people with autoimmune issues are continually slowed down because not only is their immune system attacking their own cells, they also have an increased need to repair that damage. As a result, less energy is available for everyday activities.
So far the gloom and doom...
Here's the positive part of my message:
Infrared light, specifically the "near-infrared" part of the light spectrum that is very close to the red, can directly increase the energy levels that your cells produce (11; 12; 13). Different explanations for that effect exist - one explanation holds that your "mitochondria", the energy-producing factories of your cells, work more efficiently with infrared light exposure.
Of course, increases in energy production are a very welcome benefit - especially if you've got Lupus!
Also, infrared light exposure boosts your blood circulation (14; 15; 16).
How? Blood flow to your organs temporarily decreases while blood pressure drops off as well. Your heart beats faster to compensate for the drop in blood pressure. Peripherally, such as in your arms, hands, legs, and feet, blood vessels will open up.
Many people with Lupus precisely have problems with peripheral blood flow. For instance, loss of blood flow in the hands - called "Raynaud's syndrome" - is closely related to some types of Lupus (17; 18; 19). These blood circulation benefits can therefore both reduce Lupus symptoms as well as help reverse the condition insofar the Raynaud's Syndrome is no longer present.
Lastly, there's one additional benefit from infrared saunas if you've got Lupus:
Benefit 3: Reductions In (Chronic) Pain
Infrared light exposure has a tremendously good track record for inhibiting chronic pain, whether that's from fibromyalgia, tension headaches, or musculoskeletal pain (20; 21; 22). Recent research suggests that "fibromyalgia", which is characterised by chronic pain, also has an autoimmune component (23).
No studies currently exist researching the link between Lupus, infrared sauna use, and chronic pain. However, anecdotal evidence very strongly suggests that reductions in pain and the need for pain-related medication occur swiftly. Even though many people with Lupus have a harder time tolerating sunlight, infrared saunas frequently work perfectly for pain reduction.
And, naturally, it's the chronic pain that can make your existence a living hell - which is why the effect infrared saunas plausibly have for people with Lupus is so important.
Other Benefits: Stress Reduction, Better Sleep, Detoxification
You might be interested in reading more about the benefits of infrared saunas for health - in that case, read the very extensive blog I wrote on infrared sauna benefits and disadvantages.
Let's zoom in on some of these additional infrared sauna benefits for Lupus:
- Infrared saunas, especially full-spectrum infrared saunas, make you feel really relaxed. One of the most frequent feedback I get from our customers is how relaxed our premium Clearlight International Saunas® make them feel. One huge benefit of infrared saunas is that you get the relaxation effect without adding stress to your body. Traditional saunas, such as the Finnish sauna, heat your body up by increasing the temperature of the air. An infrared sauna works through heating up your body from the inside out, and, is much more comfortable because air temperatures never go up as high. I.e., you'll sweat a lot but won't stress out.
- Sleep quality also goes up with regular sauna use. Better sleep, in turn, will improve your mood during the day and decrease your perceptions of pain if they're present. Overall recovery and daytime energy also go up once your sleep quality improves.
- I've extensively written about the link between sauna use, healing, and detoxification. All evidence currently points to the fact that infrared light exposure specifically, and sweating in general, increases your body's ability to detoxify. Most mainstream news sources deny that connection but I've laid out my argument against them in some detail in a previous blog post. Heavy metals and other toxins are released through sweat, and knowing that Lupus is also linked to toxin exposure in the environment, that detoxification benefit is quite welcome. Please make sure that I'm not claiming that sauna use will heal your Lupus - I'm merely claiming that you may be able to better manage your symptoms with regular sauna sessions.
I hope you've learned a lot about the link between infrared sauna use and Lupus.
Let's now conclude:
Conclusion: Does Infrared Sauna Help Lupus Become Less Problematic?
Is there any hard science linking Lupus outcomes with infrared sauna use? No.
But, large quantities of circumstantial evidence exists - which you can read in my references above - that infrared saunas help lupus big time, through many different mechanisms:
- a safe means to expose your body to different types of infrared light
- enhanced circulation and energy production at the cellular level
- reductions in pain, including chronic pain
- enhanced sleep quality
- stress goes down, which positively affects many areas of your health
- detoxification improves - toxins are a probable risk factor in Lupus in the first place
Anecdotal evidence also very strongly supports a role for infrared saunas and dealing with the symptoms of Lupus.
So, even though it might take science years if not decades to catch up, you can reasonably expect infrared saunas to have a beneficial effect on Lupus.