Early in my illness, I heard from many others with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities that Far Infrared (FIR) Saunas were incredibly helpful healing devices recommended by many doctors. The FIR sauna works differently than a regular steam sauna to release toxins and help the body sweat them out. In addition to helping those with CFS, MCS, Fibromyalgia, and Lyme, FIR saunas are recommended for those suffering from mold toxicity, autism, and many other diseases and conditions as well.
It sounded like a great idea: Getting well by just laying there. The main contra-indication with FIR saunas for many people is that you should not use them if you have amalgam fillings in your teeth as they can create release dangerous chemicals. I was blessed never to end up with amalgam fillings, so that wasn't an issue for me. I went ahead and bought a brand recommended for the chemically sensitive; I had sniff-tested an older model at a friend's house and it seemed ok. Once I got it, we couldn't bring it in the house for an entire year because I was so severely chemically sensitive. My ex-husband put it in the garage, assembled, and periodically would run it to use the heat to help off-gas whatever in it was bothering me. When he wasn't running it, he left the door open. After a year, he and two other friends hauled its very heavy components up to my bathroom and assembled it where it sat mostly unused for another five years. I used it a few times but couldn't break a sweat and felt miserable. I gave up. I was worried that this was yet another multi-thousand dollar waste of money in my quest for health.
Fast-forward another five years, and I was finally at a point where I was ready to try using it again because I was finally strong enough to be able to handle detoxing. First, however, I had to teach my body how to sweat. In the previous times when I got in the sauna for 20-40 minutes at 140F, I would not break a sweat. Since my body was releasing toxic crud but not sweating it out, I became sick because my detox pathways were so screwed up. In order to force my body sweat, I first had to take a VERY hot bath that was one step short of scalding so that I got my body temperature up. Then I could get in the sauna and sweat.
After watching some of the ILADS conference speakers through an internet broadcast one year, I realized that I had the temperature too high, especially for someone who is chemically sensitive. A FIR sauna doesn't need to be as high as a regular sauna. The recommended temperature from an MD who treats mold patients was lower. I now have mine set at 130F which is what is right for my body. This leads to an important component of sauna use: It's really best to be doing it with a health care practitioner who knows what they are doing. None of my health care providers really did, though they all encouraged me to use the sauna because they had heard such great things. You also need to listen to your own body. If your doctor tells you 20 minutes but your body clearly tells you that it is done after 10, then get out after 10 and slowly work your way up to 20 minutes. This isn't a race, and there are no rewards for staying in there at a ridiculously high heat for unbearably long times.
Once I started sweating, I then proceeded to make myself really sick because I threw my minerals out of whack. While you are sweating out the bad stuff, you also sweat out some of the good stuff in the sauna. I had been forewarned by patients of a doctor in Dallas who treats the chemically sensitive that getting one's B vitamins out of whack was a likely result, so I was being careful with those. I didn't, however, expect my magnesium, calcium, and trace minerals to go out of whack. As a result, I had to do some mineral IVs during this initial time in the sauna to get myself stable again. I now have to take daily electrolytes, magnesium, calcium, and trace minerals. I use Trace Minerals brand, available at People's Pharmacy or on Amazon.
When I started my healthier sauna routine last year, I was doing the hot bath plus up to 20 minutes in the sauna at 130F. Then I showered afterward to get off the "dirty" sweat. It was a routine that was taking over an hour a day. On the advice of others who owned saunas, I had bought a three person sauna that allowed me to lay down on the bench because I didn't have the strength to sit up for that long in the heat; because heat rises, it is a bit cooler when laying down. I was using the sauna about 5 times a week. I was also forewarned by sauna groups for the chemically sensitive that you have to find the best time of day for your body. My best time is in the late evening before bed. It has helped improve my sleep so much. For others, the sauna invigorates them, so they do it in the morning.
Now that I am doing much better, I am in the sauna daily to detox. It is a huge part of what is helping me function again. On the days when I am more toxic, I start sweating much sooner. On days when I'm not as toxic, I don't sweat as quickly. I no longer have to bathe first. I am in there for about 25 minutes at 130F. It's important that I listen to my body tell me "I'm done." I know the feeling when I'm done, and that's when I get out. I can now sit up in there as well. I meditate about half the time. I journal. I read spiritual books. Some days I just lay down on the bench when I am sick, but that's rarer now. I look forward to being in the sauna whereas I used to hate it violently. It's become part of both a health and spiritual routine for me. When I miss a day, I feel it in my body and usually end up sleeping poorly, so no matter how late it is, I try to get myself in there before bed.
© 2013 Green Heart Guidance