Iratherm: Turning up the heat

Much concern is currently caused by the raised temperature of our planet - so it is intriguing to discover that raising the core temperature of our bodies, far from being harmful, could be positively curative. James Mallinson investigates.

Most people, when suffering from any of the common illnesses that cause fever, will take an aspirin and retire to bed. Aspirin, derived from the bark of the willow tree and first synthesised around 150 years ago, is a remarkably product. Aspirin never ‘cured’ anything but it has an extraordinary range of therapeutic uses and new ones seem tobe discovered every day. The most common is as an antipyretic (fever reducing agent) and an analgesic (pain relief).

Antipyretic or heat reducing

As with so much about aspirin, the precise mechanisms for its antipyretic effect are still unclear. It causes the body to sweat and sweat, which, like any evaporating liquid, has a cooling effect. The most likely mechanism for this is via the hypothalmus. It is interesting to note that the sweat glands are only activated when the temperature is abnormally raised. Aspirin has no antipyretic effect at normal body temperatures.

At first glance the antipyretic effects of aspirin and its derivatives would seem to be entirely beneficial. It reduces fever to a near normal temperature and as a result the patient feels better. But this view ignores the question as to why the fever happened in the first place.

Do we want to reduce heat?

The human body has many ‘built in’ restorative abilities, and, in the view of many medical professionals, both conventional and alternative, a raised body temperature is an integral part of the body's strategy to rid itself of disease. It does so through two mechanisms:

1. Raised temperature puts the body's disease fighting immune system into overdrive.
2. Most bacteria and viruses are extremely temperature sensitive and cannot survive in temperatures much higher than the body’s norm. So raising body temperature may, de facto, kill off troublesome invaders.

So, is this popping an aspirin to reduce body temperature such a good idea after all? Indeed, should we not be asking what effect artificially raising the core body temperature might have on a range of bodily malfunctions or illnesses which, unlike a fever, do not of themselves cause the body temperature to rise?

Sauna enthusiasts would claim that the Swedes have been doing this for years, but the effects of a sauna are only skin deep and to reproduce the body’s natural curative processes, a significant rise in core body temperature is required.

Dr Manfred von Ardenne

How to supercharge the body’s metabolism and immune system was of particular interest to Dr Manfred von Ardenne. In the 1970s Von Ardenne, who already had a string of medical inventions to his name, was suffering from apparently incurable chronic fatigue and believed that whole body hyperthermia could help his condition. He was, fortunately, head of a medical research foundation in Dresden so set about developing a device to raise core body temperature in a controlled and precise manner. the result of his work was the Iratherm, the whole body hyperthermia machine.

Iratherm uses infra red light sources filtered by flowing water, the rate of flow calculated to ensure that only ‘A’ band radiation reaches the patient. ‘A’ band infra red has the greatest penetrative power and is least likely to cause heat damage to the skin. Iratherm treatment had an extremely positive effect on Von Ardenne's chronic fatigue and the system was quickly taken up by clinics in Germany and Switzerland which have traditionally been in the forefront of new and unusual medical technologies.

Cancer Treatment

Around the time Iratherm was developed, von Ardenne’s father was diagnosed with cancer. This led von Ardenne to investigate cancer treatment based on Iratherm protocols. The role of hyperthermia in cancer treatment is complex and a matter of some debate, but would appear to depend on two principles:

1. Tumours are more sensitive to heat than non-cancerous tissue.
2. The process of heating the tumours makes them more susceptible to chemotherapy.

For interested readers there is a detailed analysis of the role of hyperthermia in cancer treatment in The Lancet (Hyperthermia in combined treatment of cancer. P Wust,B Hildebrandt, G Screenivasa, B Rau, J Gellerman, H Reiss, R Felix, PM Schlag The Lancet, Vol 3 Issue 8 P 487) and readers who have German will find useful information on the von Ardenne website at

At the present time there are a number of clinics in Germany and Switzerland offering von Ardenne’s Systemic Cancer Multistep Therapy (SCMT). Studies would appear to show that the treatment is well tolerated and has often produced very positive results. SCMT uses the high power Iratherm 2000 which is capable of raising core body temperature to 42ºC or even higher. At these temperatures treatments are sometimes carried out under light anaesthesia.

Hypertension, chronic back pain, SAD, detox

The less powerful Iratherm 1000 raises core body temperature to between 38.5ºC and 40ºC (normal temperature is around 37ºC) and is used for a wide range of muscular and systemic conditions.These include arterial hypertension, chronic back pain, SAD and, in particular, detoxification in environmental medicine.

Although Iratherm is licensed for use throughout Europe it has only been widely adopted in Germany and Switzerland. The system is not licensed in the USA  and anyone who wants Iratherm treatment has to go south of the border to Mexico.

However, there is now one Iratherm 1000 in the UK, at the Breakspear Hospital in Hemel Hempstead. Breakspear installed their Iratherm in 2003 and focus their use of the machine on environmental illness which is the hospital’s speciality.

A few month’s ago Breakspear invited Foods Matter to trial the machine as they believed it could be of interest to FM  readers. I was nominated as guinea pig as I have recurring lower back pain and also an underactive thyroid which results in low basal body temperature (average morning reading 35.5-36ºC) and incipient chronic fatigue.

The initial treatment was preceded by a consultation with Dr Jean Munro, the founder and medical director of the hospital, who took a detailed medical history designed to optimise the parameters of the treatment and make sure that there was nothing in my current medical profile to preclude the use of the Iratherm.

The Iratherm 1000 looks rather like an ordinary bath covered by a tight net web on which the patient lies covered by a reflective foil blanket. The infra red lamps are on the bottom of the bath and water is pumped over them at a volume designed to maximise the infra red ‘A’ radiation and remove the ‘B’ and 'C’ components.

The treatment is computer controlled and is designed to build up slowly to a maximum prescribed output followed by a normalisation cycle. The whole procedure lasts around 50 minutes.My treatment plan did not call for maximum output from the machine and was a comfortable and pleasant experience. At Breakspear treatments are followed by an intravenous infusion of vitamins and minerals designed to further boost the immune system.

Did it work?

On the evidence so far I have to say that it did. Even though I did not have a full course of treatment there has, to date, been no recurrence of my lower back problems and my average morning basal body temperature is between 35.6ºC and 36.7ºC.

And what does it cost?

Breakspear specialises in environmental medicine and they use the Iratherm as a component of their detox programmes, for patients suffering from chronic fatigue, and particularly in cases of exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs).

A full course of Iratherm is 6 treatments cost of £95 each.Vitamin infusions, if appropriate, cost from £75-£95 depending on the vitamins needed. Although the treatment is still very new and so the long term outcomes are still uncertain, it seems that the increase in basal body temperature,with its attendant benefits, is lasting. My treatment was three months ago but so far my increased body temperature has been maintained.

Further information on Breakspear’s use of Iratherm and other treatments on 01442 261333

First Published in 2004

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