April 02, 2024

Understanding the Link Between Inflammation and Your Age 

Longevity, Inflammation

Adding another candle to your birthday cake is always cause for celebration. You’re a year older and wiser, with 365 more days of experiences, vacations and memories. After all, age is just a number, right? Not exactly. 

What is inflammaging?

While you can feel and look younger than your age, your body is still going through the physiological process of aging. A big part of how fast or slow you age depends on how much inflammation is in your body. It’s known as inflammaging, an age-related increase in inflammation in the blood and tissue of the body. Inflammaging increases the risk for chronic disease including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, as well as depression and dementia. 

You can’t stop the clock when it comes to your age, but you can slow down the rate at which your body ages. Read on to understand how inflammaging impacts your body and health, and how infrared sauna therapy can slow down aging at a cellular level.  

How inflammaging works

There are lots of reasons to slow down aging, and none of them have to do with a few less wrinkles. Being able to live a longer, healthier life free of disease lets you spend more time with the people you love, doing things that bring you joy.  

To slow down the aging process, it’s important to understand inflammaging’s role in the body. As the years tick on, inflammation slowly builds up. (Remember, inflammation stems from many areas in life – from your stress levels to your environment.) It may be difficult to notice at first. But if left untreated, that buildup of inflammation can turn chronic. This is when larger health problems may pop up, such as chronic disease, joint pain, mood swings and more.  

A team of UVA Health researchers recently discovered why this buildup of inflammation speeds up the aging process so much. They found that as you age, macrophages (white blood cells that make up the immune system) lose the ability to take up and use calcium. This prevents the cells from being able to do their job, which is to eat up dead cells and protect the body against foreign invaders.  

If an invader in the body is found, macrophages would call for back up from other immune cells. But if macrophages aren’t functioning properly, the invader or damage in the body causes them to become hyperactive, messing up cell signaling in the immune system. This leads to inflammaging – chronic inflammation that speeds up the aging process. 

Common areas of the body affected by inflammation 

It’s estimated that 15% of cancers have a link to chronic infection and inflammation1. A major cause of disease, inflammation increases the risk of organ damage or disease2 in the:  

  • Heart 
  • Pancreas 
  • Liver 
  • Kidneys 
  • Lungs 
  • Brain 
  • Intestinal tract 
  • Reproductive system 

It may seem that once you start the inflammaging process and are dealing with chronic inflammation it’s impossible to halt or reverse. Yet, there are ways to control inflammaging and reduce your risk of developing disease down the road.  

4 ways infrared sauna therapy can fight inflammaging

There’s no question that sitting in a sauna feels nice, but this simple act of self-care can have a big impact on inflammation in the body.  

Here’s what happens when you regularly sit in a sauna with far infrared, near infrared light (NIR), and red light,  such as the Sunlighten mPulse Smart Sauna:

1. Far infrared light heat prevents inflammation 

Research has found that infrared heat prevents inflammation of the blood vessels by inducing a gene known as heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1)3. This gene sets off an anti-inflammatory effect within the body, helping to regulate inflammation. This process remains steady with regular exposure to infrared heat. When blood vessels are healthy, they maintain optimal function – which includes delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues throughout the body and being able to successfully remove tissue waste from the blood. We go into inflammation more in-depth in this article about Why Inflammation Happens – and How to Put a Stop to It. 

The result of this process is good circulation – a key component to combatting acute inflammation in the form of muscle and joint pain or soreness. Using any of Sunlighten’s infrared saunas regularly will help your body regulate its inflammatory response. 

2. Near infrared light hits layers deep in the skin 

NIR is able to go past the epidermis (the top layer of skin) and permeate into the dermis, the thick, middle layer of your skin. The dermis contains tissue, hair follicles, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, and sweat glands.  

A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that NIR can provide anti-inflammatory therapeutic effects4. It does this because as the dermis absorbs NIR, it biologically changes cutaneous component cells. This is an umbrella name for multiple cell types, including immune cells like macrophages.  

Plus, research published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology found that infrared light activates Langerhans cells – tissue-resistant macrophages across the epidermis. This activation happened independent of heat exposure5, which means that if you want to seek out these benefits through infrared sauna therapy, you don’t have to do it under high temperatures if that’s not comfortable for you. 

3. Near infrared activates Langerhans cells  

Langerhans cells are important for your immune system and protecting against inflammaging for a few reasons. First, the location of these cells in the skin makes them the first line of defense against pathogens, helping to guard the cutaneous immune system6 from anything the skin comes in contact with. These macrophages also have the ability to migrate to a draining lymph node, which happens when the body is dealing with an infection. This migration aids in speeding up the inflammation process by regulating that inflammatory response7, helping the body recover quicker.  

Last, Langerhans cells are also known as dendritic cells. This is a cell that boosts the immune response by fighting pathogens and regulating other antigens that don’t pose a threat to the body. By consistently activating Langerhans cells you’re helping your body control the inflammation process and boost immunity.

Using Sunlighten’s mPulse Smart Sauna regularly will provide this added benefit. 

4. Red light therapy is also key in battling inflammation  

Often, NIR and red light therapy go hand-in-hand, and for good reason. Together, this is known as photo biomodulation (PBM), and research has found it can relieve pain and reduce inflammation through several mechanisms. For example, research published in AIMS Biophysics states that PBM can change the characteristics of macrophages that may be damaged. This optimizes cells to take in and use proper amounts of calcium to provide anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. Red light is also absorbed by mitochondria, which uses that red light for energy to repair cells around the body. Clinical studies of PBM have shown its anti-inflammatory properties help with muscle soreness, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases like psoriasis.

Sunlighten’s mPulse Smart Saunas now have 3-in-1 infrared integrated with red light therapy8.

Per the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion the current physical activity guidelines are 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise with two days of strength training. But, the review states for individuals who can’t meet these guidelines sauna therapy can be an alternative way to lower their risk of disease. For those who can meet the physical activity guidelines, combining sauna therapy and exercise will help you get the greatest anti-inflammatory benefits for your health out of each modality. 

Put a stop to inflammaging  

Chronic inflammation can become a larger concern for your health as you age. Protect yourself against disease, joint pain, and more by regulating your body’s inflammatory response with infrared sauna therapy. When combined with other lifestyle habits that reduce inflammation like exercise and a healthy diet, you’ll feel younger even as you get older. Browse Sunlighten’s infrared sauna products to see which sauna is right for you.   

Discover Your Sauna


1 Coussens LM, Werb Z. Inflammation and cancer. Nature. 2002;420(6917):860-867. doi:10.1038/nature01322 

2 Chen L, Deng H, Cui H, et al. Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs. Oncotarget. 2017;9(6):7204-7218. Published 2017 Dec 14. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.23208 

3 Lin CC, Liu XM, Peyton K, et al. Far infrared therapy inhibits vascular endothelial inflammation via the induction of heme oxygenase-1. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2008;28(4):739-745. doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.107.160085 

4 Wei-Ting Liao, Chih-Hsing et al. Anti-Inflammatory Effects Induced by Near-Infrared Light Irradiation through M2 Macrophage Polarization, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Volume 141, Issue 8, 2021,

5 Chih-Hung Lee, Chien-Hui Hong, Wei-Ting Liao, Hsin-Su Yu, Differential immunological effects of infrared irradiation and its associated heat in vivo, Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, Volume 155, 2016, ISSN 1011-1344,

6 Clayton K, Vallejo AF, Davies J, Sirvent S, Polak ME. Langerhans Cells-Programmed by the Epidermis. Front Immunol. 2017;8:1676. Published 2017 Nov 29. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.01676 

7 Otsuka M, Egawa G, Kabashima K. Uncovering the Mysteries of Langerhans Cells, Inflammatory Dendritic Epidermal Cells, and Monocyte-Derived Langerhans Cell-Like Cells in the Epidermis. Front Immunol. 2018;9:1768. Published 2018 Jul 30. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.01768 

8 Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. AIMS Biophys. 2017;4(3):337-361. doi:10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337

9 Does the Combination of Finnish Sauna Bathing and Other Lifestyle Factors Confer Additional Health Benefits? A Review of the Evidence Kunutsor, Setor K. et al.Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 98, Issue 6, 915 - 926 

profile picture

WRITTEN BY: Colleen Travers

Colleen Travers is a health and wellness freelance writer focusing on all things that make you feel healthy and happy from the inside out.  She's been an editor for sites such as and Her work has appeared online in outlets like Reader's Digest, SHAPE, HuffPost Life, Peloton, Fitbit, MindBodyGreen, and more.