Dr. Alejandro Junger, New York cardiologist and detoxification specialist, answers your questions about infrared saunas.

Question: Why is detoxification so important?

Answer: When our systems are overtaxed, they begin to break down in a multitude of ways. Allergies, headaches, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, weight gain, and insomnia are just a few of the resulting symptoms. The majority of these common ailments are a direct consequence of toxin build-up in our systems that have accumulated during the course of our daily lives.

Q: Where do toxins come from and how do they affect our health?

A: Preservatives, additives, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, chlorine, mercury, lead, arsenic, fluoride, DDT, PCB’s, PBA, phthalates, saturated fats, trans fats, detergent andthousands of new chemicals that are released every year.The human body comes equipped with a highly effective detox system- a team of organs working together to eliminate the toxic waste of normal metabolism, such as uric acid, lactic acid, carbon dioxide, ammonia and homocysteine. The problem is when the detox organs get overwhelmed, toxins continue circulating and cause inflammation. As a defense, the body generates mucus to coat toxins and trap them in the tissues. If this persists over time, toxin and mucus accumulation can cause increased acidity, the organs malfunction and eventually, one by one, the systems collapse.

Q: Why are saunas so powerful?

A: Sweating inside a heated space was practiced by many cultures from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the Russians, as well as the Native Americans.Skin is our largest organ and sweat is a major elimination channel for toxins. Beyond the sauna’s incredible relaxation effect (it’s been shown that endorphin levels increase after a sauna session) it’s proven to be beneficial for musculoskeletal ailments, heavy metal detoxification, increased blood flow, and boosting the immune system’s cell activity.

Q: What other benefits have you or your patients experienced with infrared saunas?

A: The penetrating heat can help loosen muscles and relieve joint pain.It’s a wonderful option for people who are handicapped or unable to get their heart rate up with exercise. Also, improved sleep and weight loss – because infrared heat penetrates deeper, up to three inches, it mobilizes and burns fat. Infrared saunas can elevate the heart rate similarly to cardiovascular exercise, so expect to burn off anywhere between 200-600 calories per session. If the goal is weight loss, combining approaches often works synergistically to get you to that goal. I recommend taking infrared saunas during my 21-day Clean Program along with other activities, such as yoga and colon hydrotherapy.

Q: Why do you think an infrared sauna is better than a traditional sauna?

A: Infrared saunas heat the body differently than traditional saunas achieving deeper levels of detoxification. The rays of infrared heat penetrate more deeply below the skin than the heat of a regular sauna, exciting the fat molecules into vibration so they release toxins. People used to regular saunas will probably find they sweat more in the infrared version.It makes the body sweat at lower temperatures, so people tolerate it better.Infrared saunas are also smaller and easier to install than traditional saunas, and they’re more affordable.

Q: How frequently should we use an infrared sauna and for how long?

A: I try to get in the sauna every day until I break a sweat- this need be no longer than 15 minutes. Longer sessions of 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week are also a great plan. In general, do it as often as you can.

Alejandro Junger, M.D.

Dr. Alejandro Junger is a Cardiologist who is also trained in Functional Medicine. H’es the New York Times bestselling author of “Clean, Clean, Gut” and “Clean Eats” as well as the creator of Clean, a 21-day detox program.