Photo Source:  The Guardian

Infrared and Thermal Energy: Here's What You Need to Know

When you hear the word “radiation”, one of the first things you probably think of is x-rays or radioactive material; but there are many different types of radiation, such as the sun’s UV rays, microwaves that heat our food, and the heat that is constantly coming off our bodies. In fact, all objects emit what is more broadly referred to as electromagnetic (EM) radiation – a spectrum of wavelengths and frequencies, including radio waves, microwaves, infrared (IR), visible light, ultraviolet (UV), X-rays, and gamma rays. Within this spectrum, infrared has been scientifically proven to have therapeutic health benefits, especially when this type of radiation is reflected on the body. 

 

What are Infrared (IR) and Far Infrared (FIR) Radiation? 

Infrared radiation (IR) is a type of energy that’s invisible to the human eyes, but we can sense it as heat. These waves occur at frequencies above those of microwaves and just below those of red visible light, hence the name “infrared,” which means “beyond the red”. 

Infrared and Thermal Energy: Here's What You Need to Know

Infrared radiation can be categorized into three groups according to wavelength, including near infrared (NIR), medium infrared (MIR), and far infrared (FIR) — the latter being the main generator of heat, which occurs at the lower end of the range. Note: the graph above shows the wavelengths in descending order, whereas the graph below shows these same wavelengths in ascending order. 

Photo Source: Not Unhealthy

Here we can see more clearly that infrared – especially FIR – encompasses many of the same wavelengths as the sun. In fact, infrared radiation makes up more than half of the Sun’s power output (sunlight). Research also shows that this range plays a key role in photosynthesis, which is the major source of energy for all life on Earth.

Photo Source: Mimi and Eunice

Though you can’t see FIR with just your eyes, you can use an infrared or thermal camera to detect heat coming from objects and living things. As an example, check out the video below – and watch the colors intensify as the woman’s body warms up during a workout.

Studies Support Using FIR to Heal the Body 

In humans, FIR can be extremely effective for detoxification. It works by penetrating up to 1.5 inches deep and gently heating the body. Raising core-body temperature is analogous to experiencing a slight fever – the body’s natural mechanism for destroying bacteria and viruses (NHF). As you warm up, the pores in the skin open and induce sweating, which pulls toxins out of your bloodstream. Sweat is an important excretory pathway, and possibly even more effective than urinary excretion, for removing heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. 

These metals impair proper functioning of the endocrine system, the immune system, and many other organ systems in the body. Interestingly, these substances are commonly identified in people who are on the autism spectrum — that’s not to say that toxins are the root cause of autism, but the inability to regularly remove them from the body can compound the problem. Note that as many as nine out of 10 individuals with autism also suffer from gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease and “leaky gut”, which generate their own waste products. That is a lot of toxins that the body needs to dispose of but can’t!  The most effective and gentle solution is detoxification with the help of FIR. 

Research suggests that slightly increasing core-body temperature and improving blood circulation could positively affect behavior in people with autism. Additionally, regular FIR sauna use increases microcirculation, which enables blood to flow more easily throughout the body, thereby improving the exchange of oxygen and nutrients for waste products in the cells. Blood circulation is a key factor for healing virtually all health issues — but especially for people with autism (NHF). 

Beyond detoxification, FIR is commonly used in saunas to help alleviate hypertension (high blood pressure), joint and musculoskeletal pain, as well as cardiovascular and skin conditions. According to Dr. Tania Dempsey, an expert in chronic disease, autoimmune disorders and mast cell activation syndrome: 

Due to the deep penetration into the skin, the infrared rays cause heating deep in the muscles and internal organs.  The body responds with a hypothalamic-induced increase in heart volume and rate. This leads to vasodilation, which increases circulation and blood flow to muscles, joints and connective tissues, which can help with healing and reduce pain in injuries, arthritis, muscle spasms, and much more. 

Poor circulation can lead to numerous health issues like high blood pressure, muscle cramps, blood clots, strokes, cardiovascular disease and numbness. It can also seriously hinder athletic performance. With that said, FIR treatments may be a great tool for healing exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) in athletes. FIR can also be used to improve the quality of life for those living with chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, congestive heart failure, or type II diabetes (NCBI).  

 For further reading: How to Harness Your Body’s Natural Energy to Improve Quality of Life

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