Ep 26: Far Infrared Light Therapy: A Hidden Gem for IBD

Far infrared light therapy (FIR) is a hidden gem of a tool that can be used to help alleviate some of your worst IBD challenges.

You definitely won’t hear your doctor prescribing this underutilized treasure to support your health, but the benefits of FIR therapy can be felt in many areas that impact your digestive system including bacterial balance, immune response, inflammation, and detoxification.

This episode explores how anyone with Crohn’s or colitis, with any budget, can experience the benefits of FIR therapy, even in your own home.

We’re talking about:

  • The eight areas of health that FIR therapy can benefit (and the 3 you should focus on the most)
  • Why you should ditch your electric heating pad today (and what to use instead)
  • The difference between infrared vs traditional saunas
  • Why infrared saunas and FIR lights will leave you cool as a cucumber

And so much more!

After the episode, you’ll be ready go out and confidently buy your first FIR machine to help you detoxify, boost your immune system, decrease your pain and inflammation, and balance your bacterial load—all music to an IBD mama’s ears!

Episode at a Glance:

  • [05:10] Why far infrared light doesn’t make you sweat
  • [07:29] The 8 areas of health that FIR therapy can benefit (and the 3 you’ll want to focus on
  • [10:15] The biggest toxin upset for all of us with Crohn’s and colitis
  • [12:00] The link between your inflammatory CRP marker and far infrared therapy
  • [14:40] The difference between traditional vs infrared saunas
  • [17:01] The affordable far infrared therapy you can use in your own home
  • [21:35] The problem with using electric heating pads to help our IBD symptoms
  • [26:41] The best infrared heating pad you are going to want to buy today
  • [30:10] The best way to take your IBD healing journey to the next level.

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Mentioned in This Episode:

The Gut Love Community

UTK Jade Far Infrared Heating Pad

Far Infrared Mineral Heat Lamp

The 3 Best Far Infrared Heating Pads

Far Infrared Heating Pad (small one)

Additional Resources from the Episode:

Far Infrared Saunas Detoxification Benefits

Far Infrared Radiation (FIR): Its Biological Effects and Medical Implications

National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome Project

Environmental Determinants of Chronic Disease and Medical Approaches: Recognition, Avoidance, Supportive Therapy, and Detoxification

Far Infrared radiation induces changes in gut microbiota and activates GPCRs in mice

Can Heating Pads Cause Cancer? Ask Dr. Weil

Episode Transcript:

[Music]

INTRO: You are listening to The Cheeky Podcast for Moms with IBD, a safe space for moms with Crohn’s and colitis, connect, explore powerful tools for healing and transform our lives to thrive in motherhood and in life. I’m your host, Karyn Haley, IBD health coach, integrative wellness enthusiast, and mom to three outstanding kids. After having Crohn’s disease for 30 years and working as a health advocate exclusively with IBD clients for the last 10 years, I know it’s time to bring the types of candid conversations I have with my clients out into the open. It’s our time to go on an IBD healing journey and do it like only a mom can. Let’s do this.

[music]

[00:50] Hey there mama, welcome to the podcast and thanks for sharing this time and this space with me today. And I’ve gotta start this episode with a question. Because I’m wondering if we have this in common. Have you ever had a work project or a project you’re working on with the kids at home where you start in one direction and then partway through the project, it becomes something completely different, equally wonderful, but in a whole different direction? One you never could have expected?

I think this happens a lot with us unbound creative types. We see so many possible directions and we feel compelled to move in new directions all the time.

Some would call us flighty. I prefer unbound creative.

Well, this episode is a case of exactly that. My unbound creativity sending me in a new direction. What started out as me thinking about a behind the scenes episode that I was so excited to share with you took off on a whole new, but equally beautiful direction. After having Crohn’s for as long as I have, I’ve realized that sometimes when life changes course, the best thing to do is just go with it.

So, this behind the scenes episode I was planning for today was about my IBD Healing Morning Start. I’ve personally been doing this health focused way to start my day forever, and I’ve have had so much success with it and have seen my clients have amazing results with it too, but instead of this week’s topic, I promise to bring it back next week. I don’t know about you, but I love a good behind the scenes. Sneak peaks into the real-life way that something gets done is always fascinating to me, and I definitely still want to share it with you. You’ll just have to come back and join me next week for that.

THE BEST PART OF MY MORNING START

But within my morning routine is this mechanism called a far infrared light therapy. It’s so important to my daily life and the more I thought about what to share with you, I felt like I needed to explain its benefits, why I use it and how I use it, different types that benefit IBD… that I just started thinking about everything I had to share with you just on this topic alone. So just know that we’ll get back my IBD morning start next week, and this week, I’ve just got to tell you about far infrared light and what it could mean for your IBD healing regime.

WHAT CAN FAR INFRARED LIGHT DO FOR YOUR IBD?

When it comes to far infrared light, we’ve got to start at the beginning. If you’ve been around The Cheeky Podcast for a while, you know that I’m incapable of glossing over things. It’s probably a strength and a weakness of mine (in an argument my husband would definitely say a weakness), but the way I see it, if you’re going to heal from this complicated chronic illness, you’ve got to have all the facts. So let’s dive into all the facts about far infrared light and hopefully by the end of this episode, you’ll see exactly how it could be a huge benefit for you.

[05:10] Sometimes shortened to FIR- far infrared light at its most basic form is the frequency of invisible light that’s generated naturally by the sun. Using FIR therapy means that you use the low energy heat that comes from the far end of the infrared spectrum. With me so far? Cool.

FIR can be a completely safe and natural addition to your IBD wheel of wellness. I definitely want to make it clear right from the start that I’m not saying FIR is a cure-all for IBD. As far as I’m concerned with all the information scientists, doctors, and researchers have on Crohn’s and colitis at this point, there is no cure-all for IBD. But when we add FIR to our healing regime of food, lifestyle modifications, mindset techniques, supplements and/or medications when we need them, and we add in FIR, it makes our IBD wheel of wellness, that imaginary and multi-pronged healing wheel we all keep close to fight IBD, it makes that wheel even stronger.

If this sounds intriguing to you, I want you to delve a bit deeper with me to find out what types of challenges and conditions can be benefited from using far infrared light. This is where the rabbit hole of preparing for the episode took over my brain because the research really fascinated me. You know I’m an evidenced-based research girl. I geek out over scientific research, and when I started looking at all the ailments that are research-backed in favor of far infrared light, I was amazed.

For our podcast, of course, since we are IBDer’s, I want to focus on the benefits for the digestive system, but I also know that we don’t live in an IBD bubble and you might be experiencing other challenges as well, so let me tell you about some of the conditions I read promising research studies about when it comes to FIR therapy. I’ll link to these studies in the show notes in case you want to dig deeper with me.

THE 8 AREAS OF HEALTH THAT CAN BENEFIT FROM FAR INFRARED LIGHT

So, I found research backing the benefits of FIR in eight areas. Those areas are: detoxification, cardiovascular issues, metabolism and fitness, decreasing both inflammation and pain, increasing longevity, neurological benefits (specifically for Alzheimer’s and dementia), boosting immune function and decreasing infections, and lastly skin and aging (mostly with wound healing and circulation).

Three of these areas are of particular benefit for us with IBD: detoxification, lowering inflammation/pain, and increasing our immune function because these are the areas that can have a big impact on our digestive system. I want to tell you a little bit more about how the studies I found talked about these three areas because this is where the healing magic can happen for us specifically.

THE BIGGEST TOXIN UPSET FOR IBDer’s

I found the most research on FIR being used as a detoxifier. This could be of large benefit for us. We all know that everyone, no matter who they are, gets exposed to toxins on a daily basis. Toxins in our environment can cause cellular and even DNA damage. Toxins can build up in our system and create oxidative stress, endocrine disruption (so disruption at the hormone level). Toxins can create carcinogenesis (or the development of cancers), toxins can create enzyme inhibition (like we were talking about on the podcast last week with foods like nuts and grains), but when it comes to toxins, the one that impacts us IBDer’s the most is that this buildup of toxins can create bacterial imbalance in our gut.

According to a study by the Human Microbiome Project, toxins and heavy metals have the potential to alter our gut flora—that’s all those little bugs and critters roaming around in our gut. Appetizing, I know! In a healthy gut, there’s a balance between the good bugs and the bag bugs, but in an IBD gut, the bug balance moves to an out of control state. When this happens, according to the study, our digestive tract starts having problems with the absorption of nutrients, with elimination of waste, with immune function. All of these digestive symptoms can be impacted when our toxic load gets too high.

All of this toxin/gut disruption is bad enough, but these effects that stem from our gut can also become more systemic, affecting our whole body system with increased inflammation.

When we’ve got IBD, we know gut disruption and inflammation all too well. FIR therapy research shows that it can be used as a detoxifier for this gut dysbiosis and the inflammation affecting the entire body. 

I also mentioned finding research on FIR helping to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. In one study that I’ll link in the show notes, FIR therapy was able to lower blood serum levels of C-reactive protein or your CRP level. You might recognize from your bloodwork that your doctor ordered as it’s a really common marker for gastroenterologists to check to look at your inflammation levels. Lowering our CRP through FIR therapy can mean big things for us.

In terms of pain relief, I’ve seen FIR therapy work personally for myself, my hubby and my kids when they have sports related strains, sprains, or muscle pain. For me, I’ve had it help my osteoarthritis that’s creeped up after years of using prednisone back 20 years ago in my doctor prescribed steroid days.

Far infrared light has also been shown to increase cellular resistance to stress and viruses as it boosts the immune system. These are both huge wins for us.

So, lots of well-researched, scientifically proven benefits, the big bonuses for us being that FIR therapy can help with detoxification, the reduction of pain and inflammation, and boosting of the immune system.

Win. Win. Win.

[13:37] Now that you’ve heard about the benefits, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get some far infrared light into your life. As I teased at the top of the show, I get my FIR therapy in the morning. Let’s figure out how you can get yours.

THE MACK DADDY OF INFRARED THERAPY

When it comes to FIR therapy, the mack daddy of all sources is the infrared sauna. If you’ve been in a sauna before, you can picture what I’m talking about. It’s a large wooden box with a door. You enter and either heat sweat or heat steam to feel the health benefits. An infrared sauna is similar but not as hot. Remember this is low heat we’re talking about, but because it literally penetrates under the skin, it can be just as healing and powerful.

So, where a traditional sauna heats the air around you and then in turn heats your body, the infrared heat is using invisible light at low levels. Like I said, this type of heat is able to penetrate the skin, and it penetrates at a depth of 1.5 inches. So instead of feeling all sweaty and uncomfortable (like in a traditional sauna), we feel more of a gentle, relaxing heat.

And by the way, just to give you all the scoop on infrared saunas, just know that within the world of infrared, there are actually three different types of infrared saunas to choose from. There’s far infrared, which is the type of light we’re focused on today, there’s near infrared, and full spectrum infrared light. If you decided to try out an infrared sauna or buy one for your home, it’s definitely a good idea to research the different types so you can pick the best one for you. I just wanted you to know these terms before you start your search. Most people recommend anywhere from 15-20 minute sessions in infrared saunas.

HOW MUCH DOES THE INFRARED SAUNA COST?

If you have anywhere from $2,000 to 7,000 to spend, you can have one of these babies installed right in your home. I don’t have one but it’s definitely a dream of mine. You can also search for an infrared sauna in your neighborhood by looking online. Some functional medicine providers or spas have them to be rented for use.

THE AFFORDABLE OPTION FOR FAR INFRARED LIGHT AT HOME

If the sauna isn’t an option for you, you can still get an affordable far infrared light option in your own home with a FIR lamp. Picture a smallish, four wheeled contraption with a metal long poll, bendy arm, and a heat lamp at the top. I think it looks a lot like an IV stand—you know the stand that holds an IV bag. You might have seen this if you’ve ever spent some time in the hospital. The top of the wheely stand holds a heat lamp instead of the IV bag.

This is one of the types of far infrared light that I use in my home. My acupuncturist recommended to me it a while back. She used it in our sessions and thought that I would benefit from at home use as well. I love it because it’s convenient. I keep it next to my bed so I can use it while laying down. It’s definitely become a big part of my morning routine.

The FIR lamp can be positioned anywhere on your body that you need it. Your back, your arm, your belly… You position the metal poll with the heat lamp on it about 12 inches above the part of your body you want it to focus on and heat for about 30 minutes. The lamp takes a little while to warm up (10-15 minutes) so plan for that warm up time. I’ll tell you what I do in those 10-15 minutes in my behind the scenes IBD healing morning routine episode next week. There’s not a wasted moment as I focus on morning healing to start and take through my whole day in my best health possible. The FIR lamp also has an auto shut off feature so it will automatically turn off if you decide to do it at bedtime instead of in the morning. Just in case you fall asleep.

The FIR lamp works best when it come in contact with your bare skin so just be sure to pull up your sleeve or shirt or pant leg before using it. When I use it on my belly, I pull my shirt up a bit and lower my pants to hip level. That way the lamp can focus on my small and large intestine. I’ll link to the FIR lamp I have in the show notes if you want to check it out. It’s the one that my acupuncturist has in her office. It runs about $140 on Amazon—lots cheaper than the infrared sauna.

THE FAR INFRARED SOURCE WE ALL NEED

There’s one more source of the far infrared light that we have to talk about because it’s particularly useful for us with Crohn’s and colitis. And that’s a far infrared heating pad. Shout a hell yes if ever used an electric heating pad or a hot water bottle when your abdomen becomes achy, swollen, bloated, or gassy. We’ve all done that from time to time. I’ve definitely had periods on my Crohn’s journey where my heating pad felt like my best, inseparable friend.

[21:35] Well, the problem with heating pads is that there is some preliminary evidence that repeated use may be harmful for you. Electric heating pads emit EMF’s—electromagnetic frequencies or electromagnetic radiation. One study published in the British Journal of Cancer revealed an increased risk of leukemia in children after too much exposure to EMF’s.  Most of the research studies surrounding EMF’s focuses on cell phone and wi-fi exposure, so it’s tough to find heating pad specific research. But Dr. Andrew Weil, the father of modern integrative medicine, speaks directly about heating pad risk, and I quote: Because I can’t say for sure that EMF’s pose no risks, I would advise you to use a non-electric heating pad.

Well, if electric heating pads aren’t advisable to sooth our aching bellies, what are we left with? Enter the far infrared heating pad. I seriously love this invention. Are you familiar with these? Healing, soothing heat therapy to help us get rid of the pain, the bloating, and gas, without high levels of EMF exposure.

THE POWER OF 126 NATURAL JADE STONES

I love far infrared heating pads so much that I have two of them at my house (actually 3, but I ended up giving 1 away to my younger son) so in my personal possession, there’s two. One of my two is large and heavy. It’s made by the company UTK. It’s made with 126 natural and certified jade stones that emit negative ions when they heat up. These stones promote oxygenation, detoxification, and lower inflammation throughout the whole body.

I’ll link to my large heating pad in the show notes so you can check it out. It costs about $159 on Amazon. I love that it has multiple temperature settings, and not just low, medium, and high like on a regular electric heating pad. It has actual temperature settings that go from 103 degrees to 159 degrees. It has a timer that goes up to 2 hours and an auto shut off feature. This FIR heating pad even has a memory function that remembers my time and temperature from its last use.  I love this heating pad.

THE PROBLEM WITH THE 126 JADE STONES

Now, truth be told, I bought this heating pad for my belly. I was dealing with some adhesions in my small intestine from past small bowel resections and it was causing pain and bloating after eating in my belly. I really didn’t want to use a an electric heating pad while I was working hard to try to solve this problem without surgery. I knew it was a long haul issue and I didn’t want to use expose myself to high levels of EMF’s straight to my belly every time I ate.

I was really excited to find this heating pad. But what I didn’t realize is that 126 jade stones are freakin’ heavy. And all that heaviness, for me at least, didn’t feel that great on my achy belly. It was just too heavy. But what I did realize is that this mat is the perfect cure for when my back, or arm, or leg aches. I also loved using it when for gallbladder used to act up. And I mention it here because I just want to give you all the facts. Maybe you won’t have the same problem with it. We’re all different, right? Maybe the weight on your belly feels soothing to you. This is a great FIR heating pad and I love using it for everything except my belly. Definitely worth checking out.

GOLDIE LOCKS FINDS THE INFRARED HEATING PAD THAT FITS JUST RIGHT

Now after my experience with the too heavy for my belly FIR pad, I did a little more research and found another FIR heating pad that was just right for my belly. It’s lighter, it’s very plush, and it’s the perfect fit for me. It still has auto shut off, and multiple temperature options from 113-149 degrees. Plus it’s smaller than my other one so it’s more portable and I can take it with me wherever I go. I’ll link to this lighter weight pad in the show notes so you can check it out. The lightweight pad costs about $80.

[27:05] So there you have it… far infrared devices— from high end saunas to in the home heat lamps and heating pads. These helpful additions to your gut healing regime (your wheel of wellness as I call it) are worth a first or a second look for their detoxification, inflammation, and immune benefits. Check out all the information and research studies I’m posting in the show notes and you can judge for yourself. In my extensive search to find out all the nitty gritty about how FIR works and who it works best for, I didn’t come across any studies showing a negative impact or side effects of these devices if used properly, but if you have any reason to believe that you might have a bad reaction or maybe you have super sensitive skin, or heart problems (especially with regard to the saunas), consult your doctor and see if there’s any contraindication for you.

I can’t wait to hear from you about which FIR method you choose. Let me know. Shoot me an email at hello@karynhaley.com and let’s continue the FIR conversation.

Remember next week, we’re back with another The Cheeky Podcast for Moms with IBD episode—long title right? I’m thinking of starting to refer to it as TCP as all the cool kids have an acronym for their podcast. OK, let me try it out—Next week on TCP, it’s a behind the scenes of my IBD healing morning routine. What do you think? A bit cheesy, right? The jury is still out on that. Maybe I just need to lose the announcer voice. Let me know what you think.

Anyhoo, I can’t wait to share my first behind the scenes episode with you next week. Until then, I’m wishing you a cheeky and healthy IBD healing journey.

Chat soon!

[29:33] Thank you so much for joining me today and for listening to today’s episode. When it comes to IBD, I know there’s a lot of resources out there, and I’m truly honored that you chose the Cheeky Podcast to get your IBD information today. If you found this information helpful, please give us a rating and review. It helps other moms find the podcast and see what we’re doing over here to help IBD moms everywhere. And if you feel called feel a call to do it, share this podcast with an IBD mom who you know could really use an uplifting message today, ’cause that’s what we’re all about over here at The Cheeky Podcast.

One last thing, if you’re still with me, and if you are, you’re definitely my kind of gal. We have to get to know each other better. If you’re tired of living on the hamster wheel of IBD with all the ups and downs between flares and remission, if you’re struggling to get control of your abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and other troubling IBD symptoms, go to my website. It’s karynhaley.com, and my mom had to be just a little bit different, she spelled my name with the Y. So it’s K-A-R-Y-N H-A-L-E-Y.com and schedule your very own free 30-minute IBD root cause trouble-shooting session with me where we discuss the challenges you’ve been having, we set goals to help you move forward, and we talk about how we can work together to help you get your life back. It’s a power packed 30 minutes. You don’t have to live in IBD status quo. There’s so much that can be done to transform your life so you can thrive in motherhood and thrive with IBD. I’ve seen my clients walk this path and it gives me so much joy to take that journey with them.

My entire coaching practice is run online, so you never have to leave your house and you never have to get out of your jammy or yoga pants for us to work together. You know I’m wearing them to. If you’re ready to take your first amazing step towards healing, I’m ready to chat with you. Schedule your free 30-minute IBD root cause trouble shooting sesh today at karynhaley.com. Click on the work with me tab and I’ll see you soon. It’s important to note that the information in this podcast and in this episode is for general information purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The statements made in the Cheeky Podcast for moms with IBD, either by me or my guests, is not intended to diagnose, treat, to cure, or prevent any disease. Before implementing any new treatment protocols, do yourself a favor and consult your physician first.

Thank you so much for listening, for being here, for saving this space for us to spend some time together. Until we chat again, I’m wishing you a cheeky and healthy IBD journey.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This podcast, video, and blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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