No matter how careful we are, we cannot fully protect ourselves from exposure to the toxins that have become ubiquitous in our environment. They can be heavy metals and/or chemicals and are lipophilic (fat soluble). The average adult has between 400 and 800 toxic compounds stored in their fat cells. Well over 200 chemical compounds were found in newborn umbilical-cord blood samples according to a 2005 Environmental Working Group study. Blood tests may reveal only one-fifth the amount of toxins that are being stored in the cells of the body. Toxins enter our bodies through ingestion, inhalation, absorption, and other vectors, including possible exposure during fetal development. There is likely a connection between this prenatal toxic exposure and autism.
Autism is defined as a developmental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It is a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) that appears in the first three years of life and affects brain development, impacting social and communication skills defined by behaviors including, but not limited to, deficits in nonverbal and verbal communication, lack of social reciprocity, and failure to develop and maintain appropriate peer relationships1 It is now understood that 1 in 50 children in the United States are considered to be on the autism spectrum.
Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, copper, and cadmium have been identified in many of the children on the autism spectrum. These heavy metals are known to negatively affect the metabolic detoxification pathways in the body and impair its ability to excrete these toxins.2 These substances also impair proper functioning of the endocrine system and many of the other organ systems in the body.
Toxic burden also negatively impacts proper functioning of the immune system. It is well known that much of our immune system actually resides in the intestinal tract. Individuals with autism are routinely diagnosed with severe gastrointestinal problems including candidiasis and “leaky gut,” which generate their own toxic waste products, thereby adding to the toxic load. The presence of these toxins has far-reaching effects on the body. It is obvious they must be eliminated for a person’s health to improve.
The most comprehensive, gentle, and effective technology available today to detoxify the body is far-infrared (FIR) sauna therapy. It is currently being used in clinics around the World for this purpose; and, using the appropriate protocols, it can be safely used with children as young as two years old.
A FIR sauna designed for therapeutic use will have emitters producing FIR waves of between 6-12 microns in length, which optimally stimulate multiple pathways in the body including the liver-detoxification metabolic pathways, kidney filtration and elimination pathways, and lipid-mobilization pathways leading to subcutaneous toxin release via sweat. Through the process of resonant absorption, FIR waves trigger the release of lipophilic toxins out of the lipid cells so they can be eliminated through these pathways. Many parents have told us that they see significant improvement in their child’s symptoms once they begin to reduce this toxic burden.
FIR sauna therapy will cause a mild increase in core body temperature of between 1 and 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Raising core body temperature is analogous to experiencing a slight fever – the body’s natural mechanism for destroying bacteria and viruses. It also causes sweating – which is one of the important ways the body excretes toxins. Interestingly, there is research confirming mild core-body temperature increase positively affecting behavior in children with autism.3
Another area of interest regarding FIR sauna therapy for individuals with autism is FIR waves’ ability to trigger the release of nitric oxide (NO) from the endothelial lining of the blood vessels.4 NO helps preserve blood-vessel elasticity and enhances blood circulation.5 This has significant implications, because optimal blood circulation is a key factor for healing virtually all health issues – but especially for people with autism. Research indicates that regular far-infrared-sauna use increases micro-circulation, which enables blood to flow more easily throughout the body, thereby improving the exchange of oxygen and nutrients for waste products in the cells. Also, individuals with autism can have diminished blood circulation in certain areas of the brain. This is known as hypo perfusion. Extrapolating from research done on FIR and congestive heart failure,6 and research on FIR sauna therapy and the release of NO, it is likely that increased perfusion in the brain would be expected in any individual who is exposed to FIR waves. FIR waves’ ability to trigger the release of NO may also play a role in enhancing memory, learning, and behavior modification7 along with improving neurotransmission and immune functions.8
It is imperative to use a true far-infrared (FIR) sauna designed to emit optimal FIR waves between 6-12 microns in wavelength – not just infrared (IR), which may emit waves outside the optimal FIR range. It must be specifically designed for therapeutic use; made with non-toxic components (many IR saunas today are made of woods that are on the list of toxic woods published by the wood industry), and with very-low electromagnetic radiation – ideally at or below 2 milligauss. Most IR saunas emit much higher EMFs – some as high as 100+ milligauss. To accurately measure EMFs, you must use a tri-field meter. The last thing you want to do is add to your toxic burden by using a sauna made with toxic materials and/or emitting potentially harmful EMFs. Another important thing to consider – most FIR saunas are not safety-certified for both home and clinic use.
As an example, look for a certification such as CSA and TUV. CSA is recognized throughout the United States and Canada, while TUV is recognized throughout the European Union. These safety certifications let you know that you are using a sauna that has been independently tested for electrical safety. Also, look for an FIR sauna that has the European roHS certification. This certification guarantees that the electronics are free of substances such as mercury, lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and brominated fire retardants. Finally, a high-quality FIR sauna will come with a money-back guarantee – so you know you are working with a company of integrity that stands by its product.
These are just a few examples of research confirming the benefits of far-infrared sauna therapy for individuals on the autism spectrum. I have personally talked with parents of children on the autism spectrum who have reported amazing, positive results ranging from increased eye contact, verbal communication, improved sleep patterns, and even improved cognitive ability after using FIR sauna therapy. We expect ongoing research to reveal even more benefits of FIR sauna use in the future.
Jill Harrison has a B.A. in Psychology and is a Certified Biofeedback Therapist. Having hosted the Healthy Nature Show from 1999 until 2006, Ms. Harrison is currently the Senior Product Specialist for High Tech Health International. She may be reached at or +1 (303) 413-8500. Website: www.hightechhealth.com.
1 American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed., Washington, DC: Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), 2000.
2 Dufault, et al., “A macroepigenetic approach to identify factors responsible for the autism epidemic in the United States,” Clinical Epigenetics, 2012 4:6.
3 Curran LK, Newschaffer CJ, Lee L-C, Crawford SO, Johnston MV, Zimmerman AW, “Behaviors Associated With Fever in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders,” Pediatrics 2007, 120; e1386-e1392.
4 Biro S, Masuda A, Kihara T, Tei C, “Clinical Implication of Thermal Therapy in Lifestyle-Related Diseases,” Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2003, 228: 1245-1249.
5 Ignarro, Louis, J. PhD, NO More Heart Disease, 2005, St. Martin’s Press, at 47.
6 Kihara T., Biro S., Imamura M., et al., “Repeated Sauna Treatment Improves Vascular Endothelial and Cardiac Function in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure,” J Amer. College of Cardio, Mar 6, 2002 Vol. 39, No. 5, at 754-759.
7 Ignaro, NO More Heart Disease, at 63.
8 Pritchard MT, Li Z, Repasky EA, “Nitric Oxide Production is Regulated by Fever-RangeThermal Stimulation of Murine Macrophages,” Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 2005, 78:630-638.