What Are Heat Shock Proteins? Learn How An Infrared Sauna Helps To Repair Damaged Protein

Our entire body is built out of proteins. This macromolecule is incredibly versatile and can have many different shapes and functions. They are the building blocks in our muscles, they transport the oxygen in our blood, they speed up the chemical processes in our bodies, and they even act as hormones. Their importance in maintaining life is undeniable. However, sometimes proteins can be damaged from a variety of issues, such as problems during their synthesis. This is the basis of why we get older. Our proteins start to get damaged for different reasons, and they do not work as they used to [1]. What if there was a way to hinder this? Infrared saunas have received a lot of attention lately for their role in repairing damage proteins and in this article, you will find all you need to know about it. 

man enjoying an infrared sauna session in a JNH ProSeries 200

Can Infrared Saunas Repair Your Proteins?

Infrared saunas are a type of sauna that uses infrared radiation to heat your body. This means that the air around you is not heated, which makes the room temperature inside the sauna much more tolerable. With an infrared sauna, you get all the benefits from a traditional sauna, plus all the advantages of infrared therapy. As a result of increasing your body temperature, specific events happen inside your body, more specifically inside your cells. 

Whenever your cells are under thermal stress, meaning they are exposed to a higher temperature than usual, they begin to synthesize a specific type of protein. These are called heat shock proteins and work as "molecular chaperones". This sounds very complicated, but it means that they help repair other proteins that have been damaged for any reason [2]. As previously stated, damaged proteins are one of the reasons why humans age, so being able to repair them could have an effect on longevity and quality of life as one gets older. 

The stimulation of heat shock proteins by infrared saunas does not just come from the increase in body temperature. Infrared radiation is one of the most efficient agents to produce these proteins in the human skin. You could say that there is a double stimulation (and double benefits), from the infrared radiation and from increasing body temperature [3].

man doing a pull up

Effects Of Heat Shock Proteins 

Heat shock proteins have been studied for years now and scientists have been able to shed some light on some specific effects these have on different systems and diseases. For example, these proteins have some immunoregulatory properties that work in favor of blood vessel wall homeostasis. This means that they protect artery walls from thickening, helping in the prevention of cardiovascular disease [4]. Also, heat shock proteins have shown some promise in neuroinflammation. They help regulate the immune response in acute and chronic central nervous system disorders. Because of this, they can guarantee an effective immune response that is not too strong and does not last longer than necessary, which could potentially affect healthy tissues. In other words, they keep the immune system in check [5]. 

These discoveries have opened the door for many therapeutic options that involve the stimulation of heat shock proteins. All these effects could be achieved by infrared saunas. Having regular sessions could be enough to help in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, aging and much more. This is particularly convenient since this is a non-invasive procedure that involves no pain. In fact, it provides relaxation and has been shown to relieve the burden of chronic pain.

Are There Any Other Ways Of Increasing Your Heat Shock Proteins? 

Absolutely, and one of the most effective ones is exercise. This is one of the reasons why doctors promote regular exercise. Aside from controlling your weight and preventing cardiovascular disease, regular exercise also increases your body temperature. As a result, this increases the expression of heat shock proteins with all the benefits they have [6]. So, if you want to maintain a young complexion and possibly extend your life expectancy, you should limit the amount of time you are sedentary and start exercising regularly. Considering that exercise stimulates heat shock proteins, adding an infrared sauna session at the end of your workout seems like a recipe for success. This way you are stimulating these proteins in two different ways, both through internal and external heat.

man with a beard pushing a sled on turf

Use Infrared Saunas Responsibly 

Whenever we are told that something is good for our health, it is easy to take this as permission to eat, drink or do as much of it as possible. However, like everything in life, moderation is key. This is the same with infrared saunas. You already know all the incredible benefits it has by stimulating heat shock proteins. However, you should keep your sessions short at 15-20 minutes (especially if you are a beginner) and take all the necessary precautions like drinking water before, during and after the procedure to avoid dehydration or any other issues.

Repair Your Proteins: Higher temperatures synthesizes proteins, protects artery walls from thickening, keeps the immune system in check, aids prevention of cardiovascular disease, improves longevity and quality of life


[1] Pickering Andrew, Davies Kelvin. (2013). "Degradation of Damaged Proteins - The Main Function of the 20S Proteasome." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 14 July 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710712/.

[2] Iguchi Masaki, Littmann Andrew, Chang Shuo-Hsiu, Wester Lydia, Knipper Jane, Shields Richard. (2012). "Heat Stress and Cardiovascular, Hormonal, and Heat Shock Proteins in Humans." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, March 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3418130/.

[3] Hsu Wen-Li, Yoshioka Tohru. (2015). "Role of TRP channels in the induction of heat shock proteins (Hsps) by heating skin." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 13 February 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4736782/. 

[4] Xu W, Metzler B, Jahangiri M, Mandal K. (2012). "Molecular chaperones and heat shock proteins in atherosclerosis." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 1 February 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22058161.

[5] Dukay Brigitta, Csoboz Balint, Toth Melinda. (2019). "Heat Shock Proteins in Neuroinflammation." Frontiersin.org, Frontiers in Pharmacology, 27 August 2019, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2019.00920/full.

[6] Henstridge Darren, Febbraio Mark, Hargreaves Mark. (2016). "Heat shock proteins and exercise adaptations. Our knowledge thus far and the road stil ahead." Journals.physiology.org, Journal of Applied Physiology, 15 March 2016, https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00811.2015.