The Top 5 Reasons You Should Use an Infrared Sauna

Every winter I make my way to the sauna and I would go everyday if my schedule allowed!  For me, it started with the desire to be warm to the core and sweat during a season where it didn’t matter how many layers I worked out in, there was not a bead of sweat.  While the sauna certainly helped me warm up, and allowed me to sweat, I started to realize there was more to it than that.  There is valid research on the health benefits of the sauna, thermogenesis, activation of heat shock proteins, etc, but I just want to keep this simple.  After all, if you’ve never been to an infrared sauna, you are problem wondering whether it’s worth the time and effort.  I’m here to tell you that if I had one therapy in my office that wasn’t delivered by a person, an infrared sauna would be it.

Here we go…

  1. Detoxification– Sweating is one of the body’s ways to detoxify through the largest organ: the skin.  When I am working with patients that have chronic diseases, there is always a need to provide detoxification support. Heavy metals, pesticides, endocrine disruptors…they can all keep you from healing.  Sweat it out!
  2. Cardiovascular health– Cardiovascular events kill more people than any other disease.  It’s a real thing. Just like exercise gets your blood pumping, so does heat.  That means you get some of the same exact cardiovascular benefits from using an infrared sauna as you do hitting the gym!  That also means it’s a great way to continue “training” when you have an injury that keeps you from pushing your limits.  It has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events in men due to having positive effects on blood pressure and vessel pliability.  The more the men used the sauna, the greater they reduced their risk in a Finnish study that has been following people over the course of a lifetime to study impacts of sauna use.  They aren’t quite sure yet, but it appears that 20 minutes or more is the magic threshold.
  3. Energy-It’s no surprise that getting your blood pumping to tissues like your muscles and brain make you feel more alive, alert, and energetic.  When I leave the sauna, I can honestly say I feel rejuvenated!  I’m starting to sound like an infomercial, but this is the real deal.
  4. Weight management– Ok, I have never used the sauna for weight management, but there are a few reasons why saunas help do this: metabolic expenditure, increased growth hormone, increased nutrients to organs that regulate metabolism like the thyroid, and increased mitochondrial activity. Let’s call it the lazy man’s weight loss program not just because of lost water, but because of the cellular influence and hormonal impacts.
  5. Sleep– I have always been a deep sleeper, but I have many patients that struggle with sleep.  There are tons of things that impact someone’s sleep quality, but drastic changes in body temperature is one that has an amazingly positive impact.  Exercise can do the same thing.  Think about a hard day’s work of manual labor, or how wiped out the kids are after a day in the sun, or how sound you sleep on the days you do heavy lifting.  Outside temperature or physical activity have an influence on core body temperature that helps you fall deeper into restorative sleep.

Gallbladder Issues or Removal: Natural Solutions

You wouldn’t believe how many people I know who have had gallbladder issues in their lifetime.  Sometimes, gallbladder removal is suggested, sometimes it’s just a diagnosis of a sluggish gallbladder, and sometimes gallstones is what the doctor ordered.  No matter how you slice it, people typically find out there’s an issue with their gallbladder because it’s so painful they go to the emergency room. Since it is located just under your ribcage on the right side, that’s usually where most people feel it; however, many people experience pain in their right shoulder blade area!  At the point when you want to head to the ER, it’s usually too late.  So, let’s have a quick conversation about what the gallbladder is, how it can malfunction, and natural remedies for gallstones.

The very first thing I will mention is how important it is to have an appropriately-functioning stomach that is producing enough acid.  Hydrochloric acid found in the stomach is essential to proper digestion and elimination of bacteria before it reaches the intestines.  Without this important step, everything downstream suffers.  How might you know that you are suffering from low stomach acid?  Often times people will feel really full after meals and say they have a “heavy stomach.”  Many people will also experience brittle nails and even sometimes hair loss!  Ironically, one of the symptoms of low stomach acid is acid reflux.  Having adequate stomach acid signal to the esophageal sphincter to close, and without that signal…HELLO reflux.

Let’s jump downstream a little.  There is a hormone that senses fats and stimulates your gallbladder to release bile into the bile duct.  When that bile is emptied into your intestines, it’s job is to emulsify fats.  Interestingly enough, it has been shown that gluten sensitivity can seriously depress the production of that hormone that stimulates your gallbladder, called cholescytokinin.  (Notice the first part of the word looks like Cholesterol? We will get to that.)  When something like low stomach acid or gluten sensitivity are present, it can lead to sluggish bile, or technically speaking “biliary stagnation.” This eventually ends in glallstones (biliary stagnation). You guys know how big I am on gut health, and one other cause that can impair gallbaldder hormone signaling is damage of the little finger-like projections in your intestines called “villi.”  Guess what causes villi damage?  Chemotherapy, alcohol, medications, infections; it’s bad news, guys.

Without adequate fat breakdown, you will also see impaired assimilation of the fat soluble vitamins that accompany fats.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Vitamin A is essential for your immune system, for you gut lining, you skin health, and so much more.  Vitamin D acts as a hormone in the body and low in almost everyone with cancer and autoimmunity.  Vitamin K deficiencies can be a part of arterial calcifications and bone density loss.  This is real stuff!

If you eat a low fat diet, this can cause the issue of “use it or lose it.”  It’s important to demand the process of fat digestion to keep the bile flowing.  Having said that, if you are in a full blown gallbladder attack or suffering from stones, this may be the appropriate time to usher in the low-fat diet for a while.  If you are caught in the midst of a gallbladder attack, try your best to avoid having your gallbladder removed.  Having it removed can cause long-term issues with fat breakdown, fat soluble vitamin assimilation, hormone production, and even fatigue.

Here are a list of supplements to consider if you are having gallbladder issues or have had it removed:

  • Ox bile- let a supplement help you breakdown those fats when eat meals with fat
  • Vitamin D- letting this fat soluble vitamin get low can cause depression, autoimmunity, and cancer
  • Hydrochloric acid (HCl and pepsin)- this will help you optimize stomach acid, which will allow things to function better downstream *This should be done under doctor supervision because there are times when you would not want to take HCl or would need to combine it with other things to take it safely)
  • Phosphoric acid- this can help breakdown calcium gallstones naturally (if still have gallbladder)
  • Malic acid-this can help soften cholesterol gallstones naturally and thin the bile (if still have gallbladder)

This is a huge issue in the United States, and I wouldn’t even be surprised with we started to see campaigns around “save the gallbladders.”  You know, a play on “save the tatas.”  It doesn’t feel really serious to have it removed at the moment, but it could have real long-term health consequences.  I hope this was helpful!

Herbal Series: Echinacea for Cold and Flu

This photo of a purple coneflower was taken over a year ago before I even realized it was Echinacea!  Often times, we have medicinal plants growing all around us, and we are completely unaware.  Therefore, I wanted to highlight some of the herbs you may see around or that may pop up in your supplements.  I’ll let you know what they are, what they’re good for, and anything you should consider when taking them!

What is Echinacea?

Echinacea is a wildflower native exclusively to North America, and Indians used it therapeutically more than any other herb. In 1895, an Ohio drug firm manufactured the first preparations of Echinacea in the US, and by 1994, German physicians had prescribed Echinacea over 2.5 million times.  To this day, it remains popular in Europe, and is used most to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu.

What is it good for?

Echinacea is one of the most studied herbs in herbal medicine and it has shown many effects on the immune system.  It increases antibody responses to viruses and it signals to WBCs to fight infection.  This is a great tool to take when you feel as though you may be coming down with something, but it’s not that great for prevention.  So, look for Echinacea to use short-term during cold season.


Autoimmunity: Echinacea boosts the immune system and unfortunately, in today’s world, there are many people that suffer from autoimmune conditions.  These people have an over-activated immune system and should be careful using herbal remedies that boost immune activity, such as Echinacea.  These patients would do better using beta-glucans instead.

Medications: Echinacea can have an effect on liver enzymes and increase blood levels of certain medications including statins, allergy medications, and birth control.  Like I have mentioned before, herbs can work just as well as medications and therefore can react with medications or affect their ability to work properly.  The more you can rely on herbs PRIOR to using medications, the less interactions you have to worry about.

*This is not intended to diagnose or treat any conditions.  Please consult with a knowledgeable physician to decide it is right for you.