When Rob Besner started Therasage, his infrared sauna company, he wasn’t a long-time devotée of the practice. And infrared sauna, as a treatment modality, was barely a blip in the wellness world. But when his daughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease, doctors’ treatments didn’t help. And Besner, who earned his B.A. in business administration and biology, went searching for answers.
His search led him, ultimately, to infrared saunas. Unlike traditional saunas, which use heat to warm the air, the infrared versions use light to heat the body. For Besner’s daughter, Julia, the saunas were a lifeline. Her symptoms were so severe that she’d had to drop out of college and spent years practically bedridden. But with regular use of her father’s new find, she was able to get off her medications and regain some vitality.
The Besners were so taken with the results that they decided to build a business around their experience and make infrared saunas available to as many people as possible: to that end, they created their company and began sourcing portable and low-cost versions to make the devices more accessible.
Now, more than 18 years later, Besner’s the CEO and Science Officer for the company. He’s also become a thought leader in the biohacking world, working to evangelize the benefits of infrared saunas and help grow the field. Next month, Besner will be among the presenters at the Boston Biohacking Congress. The event brings together like-minded people across technology, health, wellness and investment, along with those looking to learn more about the space. Ahead of the event, which runs June 11-12, Besner spoke with Terra about biohacking, the culture of saunas and how saunas may be able to stimulate the immune system. Here are some of his thoughts, condensed and edited for clarity.
TERRA: You’ve become a prominent and frequent speaker at biohacking events, including the upcoming Boston Biohacking Congress, June 11-12. How would you define biohacking?
ROB BESNER: It has many definitions. One is a demographic of people that are intimately concerned about optimizing their health. And they’ll go spare no expense, they’ll travel to the end of the earth. They’ll read all the material. They’re a demographic that is very exciting to me, because they dive really deep and they want the best of whatever it is in each category to optimize their life experience.
T: There is so much information available about modes of biohacking. How should people approach it all to choose a product? Plus, it can be expensive.
RB: Attending the Biohacking Congress is one way; it allows you to join a community and get advice from trusted and vetted sources. After that, there’s the internet, which is very informative, but also confusing. There isn’t a single day that goes by that we don’t get customers and patients that come to our clinic or use our services who don’t mention that they just get overwhelmed. If you have a chronic ailment like Lyme disease or something that is impairing your thinking and then you go to the internet, you’re deluged with information. It makes people feel worse, not better.
[The best approach, then] is to go to trusted sources like your doctor or your health providers. Maybe even a good friend. There are also chat rooms [online communities] with specialists in each area. You can go there and say, ‘I was just diagnosed with Lyme and I’ve heard that infrared saunas are really good to help people detoxify. Which one do you recommend?’ The rooms will give you a lot of different choices to go and do your own investigating. Ultimately, you buy the device, the product, the supplement, or whatever it may be. And then you see how your body interprets that.
T: What are the benefits of using an infrared sauna? What types of symptoms can it treat?
RB: At my company, we study ancient cultures and the history of the world and health care. So for example, what was important to the Greeks 2000 years ago in terms of health? In the Baltic countries, Scandinavia and even Ukraine, they have community saunas. Native Americans have sweat lodges. Why is sweating so important? We learned it’s not just for health reasons; it’s cultural.
But detoxing is important too, particularly because the world is toxic, but sauna can be also used for weight loss and an increase in metabolism. It causes your veins, arteries and capillaries to expand. And your vessels carry blood and the blood carries DNA and RNA, which is your genetic material, as well as oxygen. If I could do one thing that will improve your health profile, it’s moving your blood around your body at a slightly higher rate, increasing your metabolism, because then you’re allowing your body to get more exposure to the resources that you need on a cellular level to be healthy and strong.
Finally, the other thing that sauna does is it elicits a heat shock protein, which is the precursor to [mobilizing] your immune system. When your body gets invaded by a virus or bacteria. It sends out a targeting system that identifies that invader and then it sends an army—your lymphocytes—out to attack. If you stay in a sauna long enough and it’s hot enough it will raise your core temperature, which is creating a false fever. That’s usually the frontline defense against keeping viruses, bacteria and parasites.
T: What’s unique, then, about infrared saunas?
RB: What’s particular about our portable infrared saunas [are] the light panels in the front with a special LED, light-emitting diode that we created. It has three frequencies and each will support mitochondria deficiencies. Mitochondria are your energy powerhouses [in your cells]. And what fuels the mitochondria is actually sunlight, which are the frequencies that we’ve harnessed. So that system will actually initiate stronger mitochondria, giving your body and your cells energy.
The red lights and the near frequencies will also produce nitric oxide, one of three transient gasses that the body produces. As we get older, we make less of it. And that’s why we suffer from oxidative stress, which is part of aging. By going into a sauna to detoxify and supplementing with nitric oxide to support vasodilation—which is better blood oxygenation—you lower oxidative stress.
T: Finally, what motivates you to continue developing and spreading the gospel of infrared saunas?
RB: We think that our role at our company is to keep our prices really affordable so that everybody can access the benefits of harnessing full-spectrum infrared in their homes, and so that they can mix both their lifestyles and those choices with healthy choices. Not just eating and drinking good water, breathing better air, but also bringing light frequencies into their life. For example, we make another device called an infrared healing pad, which is the same technology as a sauna but you can bring love to a certain part of the body rather than your whole body.
We also support our community with education. We love these kinds of interactive interviews, being in person, on stage, or going on webinars and so forth to let the community at large know that there are simple solutions. It doesn’t have to be that complicated to actually bring your body back to a place where it can heal on a primal level. And then from there, it’s just whatever destiny has come your way.
Rob Besner will be among the speakers at the Boston Biohacking Congress June 11-12. Get tickets here.
For more information, read Boston’s Biohacking Congress June 11-12 2022 – Event Preview.