Did you know that your skin is your largest organ? It is a great pathway of elimination for the body. When you exercise, take a hot bath, or go in the sauna (any way you work up a sweat), you are encouraging toxic chemicals to be released from your skin!
There are hundreds of thousands of man-made chemicals in our environment. The majority of these compounds end up being stored in our fat cells, our bones, and our nervous system (including our brain). And many of them have very long half-lives in the body, years to decades! Luckily we eliminate toxicants through our GI tract, kidneys, lungs, and our skin.
Elimination through our skin is one of the very under-utilized ways of encouraging these toxins to leave our bodies. In fact, sweating is a safe and effective way to excrete chemicals out of our bodies. Ancient and modern civilizations have used sweat therapy for thousands of years and it is becoming more popular as current research is investigating its many benefits.
Insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, solvents, toxic metals, and natural body waste all come out in our sweat! In fact, the only toxins that have been studied that are not excreted in the sweat are perfluorinated compounds, the chemicals in non-stick pans and waterproof clothes and gear.
Ask your doctor if sauna therapy is right for you before you begin using sweat therapy. You’ll want to work with your doctor to run blood and urine labs to design a comprehensive protocol for you and track progress.
- A dry (Finnish) sauna or far-infrared sauna may be used.
- Keep hydrated with water in a glass bottle. Do not use plastic water bottles, as the high heat will cause the plastic to leach into your water.
- Exercise for 20-30 minutes before entering the sauna to enhance the benefits.
- Stay in the sauna for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you are in the sauna longer than 45 minutes, take breaks and stay hydrated! Ask your doctor if electrolyte replacement is right for you.
- Support your body’s natural detoxification processes with an organic whole foods diet, rich in antioxidants and fiber. Ask your doctor if additional supplements such as antioxidants or fiber/binders are right for you!
A word of caution:
Saunas are an extreme environment. If you are feeling uncomfortable or experience headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, heart pounding, or irritability, it’s time to get out! These are your signals that your body has had enough for the day. Take a cool shower, hydrate, eat a healthy meal, and rest until you are feeling better. Be sure to let your doctor know about your experience before using the sauna again.
Katherine Carvlin, ND
Dr. Carvlin is a naturopathic primary care physician with a focus in environmental medicine. She specializes in treating occupational exposures, heavy metal toxicity, mold exposure, multiple chemical sensitivity, gastrointestinal conditions, autoimmune disease, and fertility and preconception care. She emphasizes the use of diet, lifestyle, botanicals, IV therapy, hydrotherapy, and physical medicine.