Losing weight and keeping it off isn’t easy. A big part of the reason is that we’ve finally realised it’s not just about calories in and calories out. Another part is that we are all unique individuals with different lifestyles, relationships, and perspectives on how we see the world and ourselves within it. One of the more interesting observations with weight loss programs is why it will work with one person but not for another? In this article, we explain four reasons for this and how one daily intervention can help overcome them.
To lose weight, it’s necessary to work with, not against, your natural biology. Obviously we want to move to a state where our body functions as it should. A state where it wants to maintain a normal body weight and it simply doesn’t want as much food.
Stress can certainly be emotional but it can also by physical aches and pains or even internal chemical stress. The issue with stress is that it triggers the fight or flight response. This hardwired response from an evolutionary perspective was designed to protect us when we were attacked, starving or in some other sort of trouble. This was great 50 000 years ago when we would store fat because we didn’t know when our next meal was coming but today our stresses are different. Unfortunately, our response to it remains the same…..fat storage.
Stress is related to difficulty losing weight for many physiological reasons. Here are just a few so you understand exactly how important stress management is.
It’s important to point out that this response is not a bad thing. What is a problem though, is that we were never meant to be under this stress constantly. Thousands of years ago we got stressed, dealt with it, and moved on. Today we are in a chronically stressful environment and the end result is often weight gain and difficulty in losing it.
The association between weight gain and environmental toxins might not currently be as well known as stress and the other factors we'll discuss but perhaps it should. Did you know that exposure to environmental toxins in the absence of increased caloric intake induces weight gain and insulin resistance. In other words, toxin exposure (which is more common than you think) causes weight gain. Stated simply, toxins are an invisible, unappreciated cause of obesity.
Consider this thought from Hyman "In 2006, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health found that rates of obesity in infants less than 6 months old have risen 73% since 1980. Mounting evidence points to a unique and unappreciated trigger for obesity—exposure to small traces of environmental chemicals in the environment".
Hyman further explains that "heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic are also causing diabesity. A recent article in JAMA linked arsenic exposure to increases in the risk of type 2 diabetes. Other data link mercury from fish consumption, dental amalgams, and vaccines through multiple mechanisms including enzymatic disruption, impaired glucose transport, oxidative stress, induction of inflammatory cytokines, and mitochondrial injury. This suggests a new model of potential treatment for diabetes and obesity. A comprehensive detoxification program for petrochemical and heavy metal toxins may be an effective addition to the treatment of diabesity"
Many of these toxins have an affinity for fat tissues and this may prove to be a critical aspect in weight loss. The problem is that the toxins remain in the body for a very long time and not only accumulate in the fat, but they also create many health issues and symptoms in the process.
Think of this storage fat as being "toxic fat". When a toxin targets and is stored in fat, the fat is now essentially doing a "job" and will be difficult to get rid of in traditional weight loss approaches such as diet. Mobilizing these fat stores is the best way to remove these toxins from the body.
If you are like most people you probably didn’t really enjoy or appreciate biochemistry in high school. Turns out to be important….who knew? Truth be told it’s quite complicated so we’ll keep it simple and to the point.
When we speak about increasing our metabolism to lose weight, in general we are speaking about increasing your energy capacity. So, if we have low metabolism, we tend to be tired, fatigued and put on weight. Conversely with a healthy metabolism we tend to maintain a healthy weight.
In the body, this takes place in our cells, the mitochondria to be specific. Within the mitochondria is where glycolysis, the krebs cycle and the electron transport chain produce ATP which is our body’s source of energy. For many this system is compromised and must be corrected to have full energy and to maintain a healthy body weight. Make no mistake, proper production of ATP is a critical factor. A good metabolism and ability to create energy is a problem for almost everyone looking to lose weight.
This has more to do with injury, pain or degenerative change. For many that are overweight their bad knees, hips or other injuries keep them from walking, biking or swimming. This is a very real issue and while there are usually some solutions available they are not always practical and often involve travelling which can be very difficult.
There is a concept called the minimum effective dose that is very relevant when addressing these factors. The minimum effective dose is defined as the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome. Now straight up I'll say that I'm not advocating laziness, far from it. What I'm saying is we need to work smarter, learn from research, and recognize what the minimum effort is for the desired outcome. Part of the reason this concept is important is because of human nature. Most people know what they need to do, but their compliance with it is poor. We all know we should eat well and exercise, but all too often those that need to the most don't do it.
So are there clinically researched "weight loss life hacks" out there that help us to get the outcome we want in the easiest most effective way?
Yes and no. There is ultimately no replacing diet and exercise and it would be foolish to suggest this. However, there are tools available that do help to create the desired outcomes with minimal effort and dose.
Some basic sauna background is needed here before I share how it has been clinically shown to help with weight loss.
There are three types of saunas. The traditional "water on the rocks" sauna, far infrared saunas and near infrared saunas. They all have clinically proven heat, or hyperthermia, benefits. The difference is in how they apply the heat, but it’s important to know they all work from a heat perspective.
The Near Infrared Sauna (also known as a lamp sauna) is different to the others in that in addition to the therapeutic heat benefits, it also provides near infrared light benefits. This cutting edge research is called photobiomodulation and has significant benefits for weight loss. Only the near infrared sauna has the double benefit of heat and light therapy and this is why it’s most often the best choice when looking to purchase a sauna.
Photobiomodulation is quite technical so we'll go with the simplified version which is, that at the end of the day, it creates energy (ATP) in your cells which can be used for healing. Near infrared light actually penetrates the body deeply and is absorbed by an enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase in our mitochondria. When the cytochrome c oxidase is exposed to the near infrared it increases ATP production. ATP is the molecule that gives us energy so the more ATP we can produce and the quicker we can produce it the better. Again, it's only near infrared does this and not far infrared.
Let’s look at our four factors and how near infrared light and heat therapy can help with weight loss.
Anyone that’s used a sauna will likely recall feeling loose and “jelly like” after it’s done. This is because there is a massive relaxation effect. It’s like being able to “flick a relaxation switch” and the sauna forces your body to relax.
This is needed because as a result of our pathological hectic lifestyles most people have chronically overstimulated sympathetic (stress) nervous systems. These people have created massive stress within their bodies and it’s not a reach to say this is most of us.
It’s essentially like a bank account. If your withdrawals are more than your deposits you will run a deficit and eventually if you keep it up a bankruptcy.
The goal with stress management is to reduce this excessive sympathetic nervous system activity and thereby assist the parasympathetic system that is required for healing and normal weight control. This is exactly what the NIR sauna does.
When used regularly and consistently over time the sauna “tames” the sympathetic nervous system encouraging the body to rest, repair and heal. This is one of the most important aspects of how a sauna works. The key to success though is regular and consistent use and this needs to be applied daily so it really needs to be in the home to make it practical.
This is where saunas excel as sweating is a very important pathway to eliminate toxins. Sears found that toxic metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury and lead are excreted in sweat in relatively high concentrations compared to plasma levels. Since we know that regular sauna users can secrete up to 2 liters per hour this equates to a lot of toxin elimination.  In addition the sauna and it's forced sweating has been shown to release these toxins from fat along with exercise. This is very important when you recall that a lot of toxins are stored in fat, and are therefore performing a function and won’t get released unless you force them to.
It’s not just heavy metals that get released. In 2011 Ross found that repeated sauna sessions improved the health and brain function in police officers that had been exposed to methamphetamine's. Saunas help your body eliminate all sorts of chemicals and toxins.
The evidence of environmental toxicity being linked to weight gain is clearly mounting. Using a near infrared sauna can help and it’s getting noticed by the medical and research world. In the clinical paper Heat shock proteins and heat therapy for type 2 diabetes: pros and cons it concludes that "heat therapy is a promising and inexpensive tool to be included in prevention and treatment of sedentary (or unable to perform exercise) obese and diabetic people".
This is where the near infrared aspect of the sauna really shines.
Research shows that near infrared is an integral part of the electron transport chain. The near infrared light targets an enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase located in the mitochondria. When the cytochrome c oxidase is exposed to the near infrared it increases ATP production. This near infrared penetrates very deeply into the body and has an effect on very deep tissues and organs.
This deep penetrating effect is part of the reason why we are seeing near infrared therapy have such incredible results such as actually getting people off thyroid medication which is one of the primary energy producing organ systems!  It also improves brain function and shows incredibly promising results in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.  Any tool that can increase ATP production is invaluable in increasing and addressing metabolism and metabolic issues and this is exactly what a NIR sauna does.
In addition, something called nitric oxide is disassociated from cytochrome c oxidase thus increasing vasodilation and oxygenation of the tissues. This means that you get more oxygen into your tissues. The more oxygen you get to the tissues the better the function and efficiency of the cell. This in turn ultimately helps to increase metabolism and reduce weight.
Because the photobiomodulation promotes the metabolism of oxygen, it also acts to increase another compound called reactive oxygen species (ROS). In turn, this ROS activates transcription factors, which leads to the upregulation of various stimulatory and protective genes. What all this fancy language means for you it that it helps turn off the stress response. It’s a very powerful “deposit” if we use the bank account analogy. By assisting in turning off the stress response a NIR sauna can be a critical factor in weight loss.
Finally, it might help to think of near infrared in the following fashion. Near infrared can best be explained as being a “nutrient” that we need naturally from the sun light like Vitamin D production. When we don’t get enough sun exposure our natural metabolism starts to dysfunction and we start to see the effects of this with weight and difficulty in losing weight. We need near infrared daily and the NIR lamp sauna is an excellent, proven safe, alternative source.
If you can’t or won’t exercise because of pain, out of shape or morbidly overweight, the following will appeal to you.
Studies indicate that light therapy in the red and near infrared range can reduce pain. In the text book Sauna Therapy by Dr. Lawrence Wilson he writes “NIR may have direct effects on peripheral nerves and may modulate the levels of prostaglandins in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Pain relief mechanisms may also include reducing muscle spasm and relieving ischemia due to impaired circulation. They may also include improving oxygenation of the tissues, removing irritants and toxins and disabling or killing pathogenic microorganisms. There are multiple benefits to NIR light therapy and pain and inflammation control are two of the bigger ones.
Also, when you use a sauna regularly you are mimicking many of the beneficial aspects of exercise. The heat mimics the naturally generated heat of exercise and you get the elevation of heart rate, temporary increased blood pressure and increased oxygenation of tissues but WITHOUT the physical work of exercise. This is incredibly important for those with physical injuries or significant obesity issues such that they simply can’t exercise. Please note it’s not a complete replacement for exercise but it can work miracles for those that have trouble with real exercise and you can do it from the comfort and safety of your own home. Believe it or not but studies show that compliance with sauna therapy in your own home is higher than compliance with daily exercise.
The dual action of heat therapy and near infrared light therapy is clinically well documented to help with weight loss.
Heat and NIR light work in complementary ways to help reduce weight and cellulite, and when used together, offer a one-two punch that can be the difference between success or failure.
As we’ve illustrated difficult weight loss is often the result of stress, toxicity, poor metabolism and the inability to exercise. When we apply the concept of minimum effective dose it becomes clear that NIR saunas have a role to play in difficult weight loss. One daily NIR session when applied consistently over months, has huge potential to not only help with weight loss, but also to improve health in many other ways.
A NIR lamp sauna provides these benefits and is easily and affordably able to be used by anyone in any space. A portable NIR sauna can be hung in a shower or bath or used on a stand in a small room eliminating the need for a great big “box” sauna. It also eliminates the cost of the larger wooden structures making it realistic to have in your home. The consistency of using it daily is the key and to do this it truly does need to be home based.
We’ve been using and researching NIR saunas for many years and welcome any questions or comments. For more information on our saunas, including price, visit us at www.nirsauna.com.au or check out our YouTube channel or blog in our Learning Centre also at www.nirsauna.com.au