Infrared fever

A low-energy laser treatment is not your average sauna

Diane Underwood at Reverse Aging Wellness Center stands beside a sauna as a client prepares for a treatment.

Diane Underwood at Reverse Aging Wellness Center stands beside a sauna as a client prepares for a treatment.

Photo By audrey love

In surreal, disjointed sepia-toned black and white, a middle-aged man bicycles past the finish line where smiling faces greet him with high-fives. Some kind of prostate medicine? A cheerful voiceover warns, “May cause temporary numbness in the hands and feet, abnormal sweating or heart attack.” The same man hands a flower to a woman as they enjoy a sunset—“gout, suicidal thoughts or toxic mega colon.” Fertility pills? He’s sitting in a park playing checkers against a precocious child. Birth control? “Bleeding from the brain, mood swings or sudden onset of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” A colorful graphic pops up, and everything becomes color. You might want to ask your doctor about it. But even asking your doctor about it can cause “shingles, sudden weight change or inability to urinate.”

With big pharma continuing its Dali-like marketing campaigns of so-called blockbuster drugs, the spiraling costs of health care and ever-restricted access to doctors, the growth of so-called alternative medicine—including holistic therapies like infrared treatment—has been exponential.

“A lot of people are looking to become self-empowered and proactive with their health care these days,” says Diane Underwood, owner of Reverse Aging Wellness Center on South Wells, a clinic that specializes in “energy medicine,” a branch of holistic healing that uses the infrared heat spectrum to detoxify the body. Though expressly forbidden by the FDA to make any such claims as to actual healing, the literature says infrared detox can help improve anything from skin problems to cancer.

Sweat therapy

Climbing the porch and entering the clinic for the first time, there is a palpable feeling of abundance in the parlor. Several people sit in massage chairs with their feet on machines that deliver tiny electric shocks through the soles.

Underwood is neither expecting me nor knows who I am, yet with a yeoman’s smile, she invites me in and urges me to take my shoes off and have a seat at one of the machines. It tickles. She places an infrared band around my throat.

“Ten years ago I was tired all the time,” she tells me, offering me a glass of alkaline water, full of potassium and electrolytes. “I had cystic acne, and I was toxic.” There is a near-riotous, blissful vibe centered around the woman, as though she’s been freebasing vigor. She oozes health.

For $20, I have the use of the machines and the infrared sauna for three hours. She shows me pictures of some of her clients before they started infrared therapy and then the afters. One man is there in person. His “before” picture shows a bloated, exhausted, gray-skinned face with large circles under his eyes. It looks as though somebody punched him awake. Now, he stands there looking 10 years younger, and there’s life in his eyes where none existed before.

She introduces me to a man named Michael who she said entered Reverse Aging for the first time in mid-October, using a cane to walk and in agonizing pain. Michael, she said, was very skeptical about the infrared saunas but felt different after the first session.

After four months of therapy, he says he is completely off of his pain meds, coumadin, and synthroid. “The MDs told me I’d never get better,” he says. Today is his 80th day of treatment. Underwood takes a picture of him to compare to the picture from day one. He looks much healthier. His eyes are open wider. His skin is clearer.

Underwood goes over some plans the 24/7 center offers that run a couple hundred dollars for most of a year. She encourages me to take her challenge: Have any type of blood work done by a physician, come to the center every day for 90 days, and she guarantees there will be huge improvement in my overall health.

“Do you ingest a lot of toxic substances?” she asks.

“I’ve come to sweat,” I say, getting up.

Human heater

She leads me up the stairs to a wooden sauna with a TV inside and temperature controls. After an initiation that includes a demonstration of the unit’s lack of EMF pollution with a handheld Gauss meter, she leaves a pitcher of water in the room along with a DVD copy of The Road, should I want to watch. The differences between traditional saunas and infrared are explained. As any product of a public school science education would, I’ve read up on the safety of the infrared waves that will be penetrating my body. Satisfied that the sauna is not manufactured by Northrup Grumman, I sat back and enjoyed the experience.

The infrared sauna raises the temperature in the body rather than the ambient air, and instead of constricting blood vessels like typical steam saunas, the infrared sauna dilates them. Essentially, I become the heater.

The sweat begins to roll off. I imagine years and years of toxins being squeezed out of me like a dirty sponge. It was 130 degrees, yet I was completely comfortable. Wiping down with a towel was a study in exfoliation.

I had feared it would be uncomfortable, like being stuck in one of those 7-Eleven meat-food carousels, being radioactively bathed by rotisserie lamps until achieving a light-brown, maple-sugary crust.

But the infrared heat had a taste of the summery sun in it.

After about an hour, I had put my body through the equivalent of a two- to three-mile run.

Without the hot nosefuls of steam in a traditional sauna, there wasn’t the same sense of claustrophobia and stink. You could read a book, watch a movie, talk on the phone. Even plug in your laptop.

After an hour, I had sweat off nearly six pounds, but thanks to the constant rehydration, I wasn’t thirsty. I honestly felt really good. Full of energy but without that wired feeling. I was so relaxed, I sped right by a cop on my way home and earned a $94 ticket.

The officer’s insolence told me that he obviously hadn’t been detoxed in quite a while.