Deep Infrared Heat (IR) is a therapy gaining in popularity for the reasons outlined in this article. I use IR in my practice for two primary reasons:
- IR significantly improves Lipo-Light Body Sculpting results. The reasons are discussed below.
- IR accelerates the detoxification process.
The remainder of this article describes the science behind IR therapy.
- Chronic, degenerative diseases are increasing at a rapid rate
- Oxidative damage caused by free radicals plays a central role
- Xenobiotic chemicals, universally present in the environment, have increased in the body as well
- Xenobiotics cause oxidative stress
- The body has mechanisms to detoxify toxic compounds
- The skin and liver are major organs of detoxification
- The skin contains all Phase 1 & II detoxification enzymes
- Final excretion through the skin of water and fat-soluble detoxified compounds occurs via the sweat glands.
- Increasing the skin and subcutaneous tissue temperature has multiple benefits, including increased:
Activity of detoxification enzymes
Delivery of toxins to the skin to be made available for detoxification
Elimination of water-soluble toxins by increased sweating
Elimination of fat-soluble toxins through increased sebum secretion
Infrared blanket is the most effective method of increasing temperature, without increasing oxidative stress
- The incidence of diabetes and its precursor, Metabolic Syndrome (MetS), which is also called Syndrome X; has increased dramatically in the past three decades, as have a number of other chronic, degenerative diseases. Oxidative stress plays a central role in the development of these conditions. Sedentary life-style and dietary changes occurred concurrent with the exponential rise in the incidence of these conditions.
Oxidative stress occurs when the amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are also called “free radicals”, exceeds the body’s ability to successfully deal with these exceedingly damaging chemicals.
ROS react with normal cellular molecules, causing among other things damage to fats (lipid peroxidation), proteins, carbohydrates (Age-Related Glycosylated End Products or AGE’s), and to DNA. This contributes significantly to all of today’s chronic, degenerative conditions.
Concurrent with the rise in MetS is an increase in xenobiotics, which are a major source of ROS in the body. Xenobiotics are chemicals made exogenously, or outside the body. They are not normal body constituents. These chemicals, most of which have been created over the past 100 years, often cause formation of ROS. Xenobiotics include all the organic compounds man has created (at last count over 500,000). Among them are: environmental pollutants, drugs, cosmetics, food additives, plastics, hydrocarbon fuels, and virtually everything we surround ourselves with.
Xenobiotics are universally present in the environment and your body. You have measurable amounts of hundreds of xenobiotics. These chemicals are metabolized, degraded and “biotransformed”, by two enzyme systems called Phase I and Phase II detoxification. The liver’s primary job is detoxification through these enzymes. The end products are then excreted through the feces, urine, sweat, and in the case of volatile compounds, through exhaled breath.
This is where the skin comes into play. Skin is the largest organ of the body. One of its least appreciated roles is in the metabolism and detoxification of xenobiotics. In addition, substances made by the body (endogenous compounds), are detoxified by the skin, kidneys and liver. The skin plays a role in the metabolism of cholesterol and fats as well. Is it any wonder then, that there is a relationship to disorders of the skin, MetS and diabetes?
Phase I detoxification involves making the xenobiotics and endogenous toxins water soluble, to improve their ability to be excreted. Often the resulting compound is much more toxic than the original one. This is why Phase II is so critical. By adding certain compounds to the highly toxic chemical intermediate, it becomes “Conjugated”. This is the process of “Detoxification”. It may now be eliminated safely from the body.
A breakdown can occur for several reasons. If the body is deficient in anti-oxidants, if the Phase II conjugation system is not functioning properly due to essential nutrient deficiencies, or if the body is overwhelmed by excess toxins; it cannot biotransform and excrete all the toxins present. This creates toxicity, one of the effects of which is to increase the production of ROS and thus oxidative damage. This in turn accelerates aging and is a major contributor to a host of chronic diseases, all of which have oxidative damage and the subsequent chronic, low-grade inflammation at their root causes.
The skin is the most obvious of the “barrier systems” in the body. (The others are lung, blood-brain, and GI barriers). It is a mechanical barrier between you and the external environment. This barrier contains xenobiotic biotransformation, ROS eliminating, and excretory systems. The skin contains all the Phase I and II enzymes that the liver possesses. In addition to detoxifying xenobiotics, the skin can detoxify endogenous bioactive and toxic substances that are produced as a routine part of metabolism. Skin also contains all the major antioxidant enzymes that can eliminate ROS.
We noted above that the final step in eliminating detoxified compounds is their excretion from the body. We discussed that the routes for this included feces, urine, exhaled air, and the skin. Skin and urine are the major routes of excretion for water-soluble compounds. This occurs though the eccrine sweat glands, of which the body contains 3-4 million. One can perspire up to 10 liters/day. The weight of these glands is about that of a kidney, so it can be estimated that the skin can excrete as much waste as via the urine. Water-soluble xenobiotics, endogenous compounds, toxic elements, drugs, steroid hormones and cytokines (inflammatory chemicals), are all excreted through sweat.
The ability of the skin to perform detoxification is based on a number of factors, including activity level, working conditions, ambient temperature, essential nutrient, and anti-oxidant status. Temperature plays a key role because the enzymes involved in the biotransformation of toxins operate optimally at normal body temperature (around 98.6 degrees). The body core remains at this temperature through a wide range of ambient temperatures, but the skin temperature is greatly affected by the external temperature, which in turn, affects the activity level of the detoxifying enzymes.
Exposure to cold causes vasoconstriction of the skin and subcutaneous tissues, reducing temperature and enzyme activity. With heating, increased skin and subcutaneous temperature leads to vasodilation, which increases blood flow. Total blood flow to the skin can increase from about ¼ liter/ minute to as much as 6-8 liters/minute, or more that 50% of the total output of the heart! This dramatic increase in blood flow and temperature has several effects:
1) An increase in activity of detoxification enzymes
2) With increased blood flow comes an increase in the delivery of toxins to the skin to be made available for detoxification
3) Increased elimination of water-soluble toxins by increased sweating
4) Increased elimination of fat-soluble toxins through increased sebum secretion
There is little to no sweating at normal indoor ambient temperatures, especially when air-conditioning is present. This will reduce the amount of toxins eliminated by the skin. A sedentary lifestyle also reduces sweating, while an active lifestyle increases sweating and hence elimination. Some of the benefits of exercise, previously attributed to fitness, may in fact be due to improved detoxification due to increased sweating. To date, the effects attributable to improved detoxification and subsequent increased anti-oxidant capacity of the skin have been mostly ignored. Exercise carries with it an inherent increased risk of creating more oxidative damage, due to increased oxygen consumption. Sweating induced by an infrared sauna on the other hand does not significantly increase oxygen consumption and therefore does not increase free radical production and oxidative damage. In addition, an infrared blanket can raise the skin temperature significantly above that of exercise, leading to more profuse sweating and hence, detoxification.
Infrared heat, as generated by an infrared sauna or blanket, offers the ideal type of heat as it penetrates deeply, increasing temperature, circulation, sweating, and detoxification, while improving the skin’s anti-oxidant capacity.
Infrared Heat and the Lipo-Light
Our statistics show that by combining the Lipo-Light, with a 25-minute infrared blanket treatment, that the body sculpting benefits of the Lipo-Light may be increased by up to 50%. The reasons for this are multiple and include all the reasons noted above. As noted, deep infrared heat significantly increases circulation to the skin, which may account for up to 50% of the total cardiac output when the skin is heated by deep infrared. This significant increase in blood circulation is accompanied by a simultaneous increase in lymphatic drainage from the area. This, in effect, “sweeps” the fat liberated by the laser, from the area treated, increasing the effectiveness of the Lipo-Light.
A second potential method by which deep infrared heat may act synergistically with the Lipo-Light involves the effect of heat on cell membranes. We all know that heating butter turns it from solid fat to liquid. Heating fat cell membranes causes them to be more “liquid” or fluid. This increased fluidity may increase membrane permeability. Since the Lipo-Light acts in part by increasing the permeability of fat cell membranes so the fat can more easily escape the fat cell; it makes sense that further increasing permeability increases the amount of fat lost. In addition, the light from the Lipo-Light stimulates an enzyme call ‘Hormone-sensitive lipase” which increases the breakdown of fat. Increasing temperature to the skin, as noted above, increases the function of enzymes; so deep infrared heat may act as a stimulant to the enzyme that breaks down fat.
References: The skin function: a factor of anti-metabolic syndrome Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome 2012, 4:15 doi:10.1186/1758-5996-4-15