In Blog, Diet, Health, Research

A number of factors in modern living have created a really toxic tidal wave that is nearly impossible for us to escape. There is good news though—we can trick our bodies into thinking they are living in the ancestral environment that helped us evolve into the humans we are today. 

SaunaSpace saunas are one way to do this!

In this interview, I invited SaunaSpace Founder, Brian Richards, to talk about the targeted therapy applications of heat, near-infrared, and red light that SaunaSpace offers. 

Not only a tool for detox, but there is also a tremendous amount of research showing that red light therapy can favorably impact traumatic brain injury, mental health issues, psoriasis, autoimmune issues, pain management, and for reducing the risk of things like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and fibromyalgia.

In this interview, we will cover:

  • Detoxification
  • The healing role of Photobiomodulation
  • How sauna can calm the immune system
  • The benefits of red light therapy 
  • The benefits of near infrared sauna
  • How those with heat sensitivity can enjoy the benefits of sauna

Hit play on the video or read the transcript below:

SaunaSpace s a Wahls Protocol® Sponsor. I am grateful for the partnership with this company and sponsorships like this are part of how we are able to produce so many informational resources at no cost to you. I have used affiliate links in this article.  I hope that you do find the information shared to be beneficial!

Read the transcript below:

Dr. Terry Wahls: Hello, everyone. This is Dr. Terry Wahls, and here I am with Brian Richards from Sauna Space. Now, Sauna Space is a Wahls Protocol® Seminar sponsor, and these partnerships are such a great opportunity to share information about the products and devices I use every day in my life. [Inaudible 00:00:23]. Because so many people ask me what exactly I do every single day, and a Sauna Space sauna is one of those things I do every day.

Now, sharing the interviews with these people helps me teach you and others about the self care routines that are so important to your daily health. Now, let’s get to this today, and we’re going to talk about what makes Sauna Space so unique and so valuable. Brian, welcome. I’m thrilled to have you today. So let’s talk first about sauna for detox. Why is it such a helpful tool?

Brian Richards: Well, Terry, the use of sauna, the use of full body hyperthermic therapy, heating the body up in a passive state, in a relaxed state, is a tradition that spans pretty much every human culture. It goes back thousands of years. And if you look nowadays in the PubMed into the modern research, into sauna as a therapeutic approach, it’s incredibly well researched. 

There’s hundreds, if not thousands, of studies and lots of long term human studies. So what we see is that, first of all, sauna is great for detox, but it appears that it’s good for many things. It’s an all cause sort of reoptimization approach to the body. There’s benefits in the literature that are associated with longevity, reducing all-cause mortality, reducing your risks of dying of all things, that’s what that means.

But also there’s a really incredible research on it as an approach to condition the body and reduce risk of things like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, as well as pain, and other things. There’s associations with improved cognitive functioning, and all of that is stuff that most people don’t really associate with sauna. Most people think of sauna as detox. You get into a sauna to detox, but for first and foremost, I think the detoxification aspect is something that we should talk about first. It’s probably one of the most important things. 

I think that the modern malaise that we have, the diseases of civilization we have nowadays is a combination of exposure to environmental stress, and toxins, and the degree to which we’ve gone astray from ancestral living, the way that humans lived a long time ago.

So you mention that a lot about severe temperature changes, constant access to food, as things that are ancestors didn’t have, but they also didn’t have so much exposure to all of these environmental toxins we have nowadays. There’s chemicals out there every year. So much more than there ever was. Every year, new petrochemicals are invented. There’s forms of manmade electromagnetic stress. There’s also our environment now is one more where we are all indoors all the time. We have lots of synthetic blue light stress, and other things that just have become this really toxic tidal wave.

So as far as things that we can do for our health to maintain or keep us strong and optimized, a daily detox or a multiple times a week detox is really essential. For our ancestors it was really important, but for us just to maintain health in this modern, weird synthetic world we live in, detox is so essential. So for Sauna Space, we do something kind of special. We take a very gentle detox approach. We use this near infrared light from an incandescent bulb, and the infrared light, it has a very deep tissue penetration, so we can heat the body up, but we can still have the ambient air be kind of lower and gentler than a traditional sauna. For folks who have physical limitations or sensitivities to heat, this provides a very tolerable, enjoyable, gentle access to heating the body up, and causing it to sweat, and excrete toxins.

And in fact, if you look at the body, there’s three ways that we get rid of junk in our body, the poisons in our body. We can either use the urinary system, the bowel system, or the sweat, or the sweating of the skin, but that third piece, which is sort of our three ways that we keep our bodies healthy and clean are the primary systems. It’s the immune system that’s behind that that’s backing that up as sort of an escalation system. But if we can rely on these three primary systems, particularly the sweating one, because we don’t do that as much in the West, in our modern culture. We’re relying on the built in, again, primary system, the easiest system, the least stressful system of getting rid of all these toxins and poisons in the body. And that’s related to infectious disease, but it’s also in terms of our brains working right, and our nervous system working right, toxin’s on the brain.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Brian, let’s talk a bit about photobiomodulation, which is another benefit of the Sauna Space bulbs. Can you explain that to our audience, what it is, and why it matters for people who have a neurodegenerative or a neuroinflammatory condition?

Brian Richards: Yeah, that’s a great question. That’s also what’s really cool about the Sauna Space approach to saunas. We’re layering in this thing called photobiomodulation. That’s a fancy word, but it has a very specific definition. Photobiomodulation describes the use of red or near infrared light to stimulate, heal, and regenerate, and protect tissue that has been injured, is degenerating, or is somehow dying in some way, and this is also something that is, again, part of our ancestral environment. 41% of the sun’s emission that we receive on earth is near infrared, the largest plurality of the sun’s emission, and it turns out we have sort of over billions of years, the mitochondria has developed a system to respond to it.

So we have these light receptors in our body in the mitochondria, and when we shine the infrared light on them, whether it’s from the sun, or from a Sauna Space incandescent bulb that’s designed to be near infrared centric, and emit almost the same, about 39%, near infrared, or even from other types of photobiomodulation devices. We activate healing systems in every cell of the body, because there’s mitochondria in every cell of the body, and so there’s over 5,000 photobiomodulation studies now that we can reference, and you really see it being used to heal almost any type of disorder and any disease type that’s been studied out there, particularly for inflammation reduction. So that’s wound healing, inflammation reduction.

And also for neurodegenerative situations, this concept of immune modulation. So it’s very interesting how photobiomodulation has a calming effect on the immune system. It helps reduce inflammatory cytokines that are pro-inflammatory, but it also helps increase the amount of anti-inflammatory cytokines. So it’s not just jacking up your immune system, and it’s not suppressing it either. It’s conditioning it similar to how you condition your body for exercise. It makes it slowly but surely work better, and so the inflammation aspect in activating the immune system, and sort of correcting the degeneration that happens in nerve cells is essential to what we’re talking about in neurodegenerative disease.

It also has regenerative effects, and you have mitochondria in your nerve cells, in your brain and all the nerves of your body. So we can go in there with near infrared light and induce an innate system of regeneration, reoptimization, correction of gene expression, and these other things, and what we see in the literature is…

Dr. Terry Wahls: And again, I want to tell everyone in the audience, there’s a really great research on red light for traumatic brain injury, for mental health issues, for psoriasis, for autoimmune issues, pain management. And so there has been a growing number of red light devices that are out there. Some of them are light emitting diodes or LEDs. Some are low level lasers, and then you have your device. What makes your device superior to these other forms of red light therapy? So what’s the benefit?

Brian Richards: And so I think first of all, one of the benefits is that it comes with heat therapy. We do have our folks on therapy light, which I’m showing you in the frame here, but primarily our primary product is our sauna. And so we’re combining, and we’re benefiting from the synergy of doing full body heat therapy, and then full body photo biomodulation at the same time, instead of divorcing the two, and there’s overlapping benefits to each. With the sauna, we’re cleansing the body, and correcting protein functioning, refolding proteins, having anti-inflammatory effects as well, increased blood flow effects. We’re improving cognitive functioning through sauna therapy in various cellular effects.

But then, of course, we’re doing the photobiomodulation, and particularly what’s interesting about what we do is we focus on near infrared. The emission of our incandescent thermal light bulb is near infrared centric. So it’s about four 40% near infrared and some red light, but not as much, and we focus on near infrared, because it’s near infrared light that is the wavelength band that’s been shown to penetrate tissue the deepest. So that’s really interesting. If we want to photobiomodulate and induce these corrective effects in the mitochondria in the brain, we need to use near infrared light. Near infrared light is the only wavelength that’s been shown to penetrate bone tissue.

So if you look at there’s some interesting study where they use photobiomodulation on the brain, use near infrared wavelengths, and you have a lot of stem cells in your skull, in the bone tissue of your skull. And so in this one study, the near infrared light, the photobiomodulation, induces mesenchymal stem cell release from the bone tissue in the skull, and then also helps it penetrate the brain tissue, and then that has sort of like a cascade of beneficial effects. Like in the study I’m referring to, there was a reduction in the amyloid plaque. This was an Alzheimer’s study.

So it’s a question of, “Hey, if I’m going to do red light therapy or near infrared light therapy, if they do the same thing in the body, why use near infrared?” Well, the answer is it’s only near infrared light that goes in deep into the body, and I’m talking about the internal organs and everything else. So when you sit in a Sauna Space sauna, we’re getting that photobiomodulation as deep as possible, as full body as possible.

Dr. Terry Wahls: So again, to all of you in my audience, my tribe, it’s this combination of red light, near infrared light. It has a better penetration into our tissues, and this is what… If you’re treating your brain, you want to have a light therapy that has a chance to get into your brain tissue, and so I think that’s part of the benefit. So, Brian, let’s talk about how long. Because many people with MS, we have difficulty tolerating heat, and so how could somebody who has a problem with heat intolerance begin to use a Sauna Space product to get the advantage of the sweating and advantage, most importantly, of the near infrared light?

Brian Richards: Yeah, that’s a great question. We’ve designed the product to allow you to control the amount of therapy that you’re getting. So in the Sauna Space sauna, you can sit inside and start out with one bulb on the body, and eventually work up to using four bulbs on the body. The door is a curtain style door, and you can keep that open, so you can control the amount of light and heat therapy you’re getting directly, and you can also control the duration of your session. So folks who have a lot of heat sensitivity or physical limitations could start out at one or two, using one or two thermal light bulbs in the sauna, and starting out with even just five minutes, and even with the door open.

And even if that is too much, I know there’s some folks in the Wahls Warrior community who have actually started out with just using the photon light on the face, on the gut, and so forth, and then working up to a point slowly but surely to where they can sit inside the Sauna Space sauna, do a full body session, even in a limited fashion. And so it provides a very gentle way to do this, and when you start out, especially if you’re very physically limited or very heat sensitive, you don’t have to go in there until you wet very profusely for a long time. You can start out just doing it for five minutes or 10 minutes, and slowly work your way up.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Yeah. Now, again, for all of you in my tribe, we do have many folks just like you who have heat intolerance, who’ve started with a single bulb a little farther away, and gradually getting the bulb closer and a longer duration. This is a concept of hormesis, that gentle stress of heat that will increase your tolerance for heat, and increase your overall vitality. The secret, however, is to start gradually and have a mild heat stress, not anything so severe that you experience any worsening of your symptoms, worsening of your fatigue, or worsening of other sensory or motor disturbance. So fabulously important. Brian, is there any specific research out there for either sauna or photobiomodulation that’s specific to MS?

Brian Richards: Yeah, there is. There’s a growing body of research, actually. So photobiomodulation in all the tissues, and part of the inflammation reduction, and healing, and the wound healing that it promotes is that it increases vascularization of the tissue and blood flow to the brain. And so that’s important for getting the toxins out of the brain, but also improving the functioning of it. The blood brings in the nutrients and takes away the toxins. Yeah, there’s some interesting photobiomodulation studies where there… And there’s one that’s a new one that’s a randomized controlled study that is showing that photobiomodulating the head, and the neck, and the spine reduces the… What is it? The IL1, Terry, this proinflammatory cytokine that’s associated with-

Dr. Terry Wahls: IL1B.

Brian Richards: L1B, yes. That’s associated with basically causing damage to… It causes this cascade that causes neurotoxicity, and can lead to some of the delineation stuff. And so there’s a interesting new study that I can link, actually. We can link to, if you want, after this, that they used it on MS patients, and they measured that marker, and that marker improved, but also in the patients themselves, their sort of quality of life markers, their gate, and their balance, and their walking, and sort of some of the physical symptoms they have were significantly improved. So it was a very interesting study, actually.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Now, again, Wahls Warrior folks in my tribe, there’s a lot more interest in how the microglia and the astrocytes and the role they play on our health in the brain, our ability to repair our myelin. And the reason I bring that up is there’s more recognition that it is diet, and lifestyle, or self-care routines that will help create that micro environment in our brain and in our body that speaks specifically to your microglia, and either help your microglia create a healing environment for your brain or a destructive environment for your brain. This is why I am so keen on those products and those devices that can help support your healing, lifestyle, healing micro environment.

And so, again, this is a reason I personally do a Sauna Space sauna probably six days a week. So it’s a very rare day that I miss my sauna, because I just so much appreciate just the experience of being in the sauna. I find it very enjoyable, very relaxing, and I feel better overall on the days that I’ve taken the time to have my meditative time in my Sauna Space. Brian, so if people want to learn more about why Sauna Space is so helpful, do you have a link to this research or articles on your website?

Brian Richards: Yes, I do. So you can go to, and then in the footer, there’s a link to our research archive, and that’s a growing body of literature that I’ve just tried to curate and link to the research, so you can sort of research it yourself, but it’s really nice, because I’ve organized it by topics. So you can click on a topic, and it will take you to the research related to brain, and mood, or immune, and other things, and so you can really dive into this there, but also on our website itself, on in the learn section, you can learn about, well, hey, what is light therapy? What is heat therapy? What are these ancestral practices? What is near infrared light? How does it affect our body? How does sauna affect our body?

And it’s like you said, it feels good getting out of the sauna. And once you get into a discipline of doing sauna and doing full body photobiomodulation on a routine basis, it’s really hard to live without it. It has just such a amazing… For me, it calibrates me for the day, particularly the mental effects it has in making my brain work better, make me feel better. It’s hard to quantify that, but it’s invaluable.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Yes, I think our mitochondria are talking to us, Brian, telling us that this is a healing part of our daily ritual. And again to my Wahls Warrior tribe members, I love that Brian has curated and has put out links and articles to the research. So you could go read the studies yourself to draw your own conclusions. That’s a wonderful service that Brian and Sauna Space are providing. Now, Brian, do you have a closing message for my tribe in terms of why Sauna Space is such a helpful [crosstalk 00:21:34]?

Brian Richards: Yeah, it’s all about activating this, again, these intelligence systems in our bodies. There’s a place for conventional medicine, and an important role it plays in our society, but it turns out that we have so much power ourselves to take care of our bodies and take care of our health by essentially tricking our body into thinking it’s in its ancestral environment, whether it’s hot therapy, or cold therapy, or more ancestral diet and lifestyle practices. And so what Sauna Space provides is this sort of multi stacked approach where you get in the Sauna Space sauna for 20 minutes, and you have photobiomodulation, the detox of the heat therapy, the protein repair, and also in our saunas there’s a grounding mat, and they’re electromagnetically shielded like in our Faraday version.

So you can escape from the electromagnetic stress, have a perfect environment in which to be present, to meditate, to do mental relaxation exercises, which is again a really essential thing. And so for me, the ultimate advantage of Sauna Space is that it does all these things at once with you just sitting there lazily on the stool in the sauna. By not doing anything, you’re doing so much for your body and for your health.

Dr. Terry Wahls: All right. Well, thank you so much, Brian. This has been a wonderful conversation, and again, to the Wahls Warriors out there, I love my Sauna Space. I love my daily sauna. It’s definitely part of my healing ritual. Now, you’ve heard a whole lot in this interview, I invite you to take a moment in the comments and tell us what was the one thing that you learned? What is the one action you’re going to take as part of your self healing ritual? And then please go over to, pick up the Wahls Diet Cheat Sheet, and then go through and look at my articles, my blogs, my videos that can help educate you about your self care routine. Take care of yourself. It is so key that you attend to your diet, attend to your meditative practices, your exercise, and your light therapy, and ideally some sauna as well. Thank you so much, and we will see you again next time.

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About Brian Richards, CEO & Founder:

Brian Richards is a nationally known expert in sauna therapy, light therapy, and EMF science. In 2013, he founded SaunaSpace, a company that combines cutting-edge infrared technology with the age-old practice of sauna. 

In 2008, Brian faced an important health decision: start taking pharmaceuticals for acne, insomnia, and adrenal fatigue OR try full-spectrum sauna therapy coupled with ancestral practices like clean diet, proper sleep, and yoga. By opting for the natural approach, Brian rapidly transformed his health. This life-changing experience inspired him to create SaunaSpace.

In his journey to develop the perfect product, Brian has immersed himself in the science and research behind light, heat, electromagnetism and the human body. Thirteen years later, he brings a refreshing approach to natural living, biohacking and natural health transformation.

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