Are You Actually Detoxing In A Sauna, Or Is It All Just Marketing?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Justin Ternes
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Saunas have been in use for thousands of years, and they’re still very popular today. This popularity can be attributed to the many excellent benefits sweating out in a sauna is said to have. While many of these benefits are real, some are just marketing ploys to promote sauna use. Detoxification is one of the benefits often associated with saunas, but is it a real one?

Sweating out toxins is a myth. The purpose of sweat is to cool the body, and there is no evidence linking sweat production and detoxification. The kidneys and liver are responsible for getting rid of toxins in the body. That said, sweat does improve skin health by cleansing your pores.

Sauna baths are a great way to unwind your muscles and relax your body, but detoxification isn’t part of the package. Let’s look at how saunas work and which benefits you can honestly expect to get from using them.

How Do Saunas Work?

Woman with perfect skin taking body treatment in sauna

Saunas are rooms that are enclosed, heated, and lined with wood. Saunas come with several options for seating, such as benches. A typical sauna is heated to somewhere between 150 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Saunas have many benefits, including reducing stress levels of individuals, improving cardiovascular health, reducing pain, etc.

You might begin to wonder how exactly saunas help the human body achieve these things. Recall that a typical sauna is quite hot, and the heat raises an individual’s skin temperature.

An increase in skin temperature, in turn, increases the person’s heart rate and also widens blood vessels in an attempt to cool the body. Ultimately, this helps to improve the circulation of blood. 

While using a sauna, a person’s heart rate can increase to as high as 100 to 150 beats and this, in turn, brings about many amazing health benefits.

Can You Sweat Out Toxins?

There’s no doubt that working up a sweat has many advantages for the human body. One such advantage is cooling the body during hot temperatures and strenuous exercises.

However, many people believe that sweat is also a way to get rid of toxins.

To effectively explain if toxins can be passed out in the sweat or not, we must explain what sweat is. For starters, we need to know that sweat is not made up of toxins; its major component is water, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Toxins of all kinds, such as drugs and alcohol, are processed and held in the liver and kidneys. Foreign substances that are dangerous to the body are strained out in the spaces between the liver cells for them to get eliminated.

Recent findings published in a journal titled ‘Environmental International’ revealed that even if we excrete environmental pollutants through our pores, they will be in minute quantities. Pascal Imbeault, an exercise physiologist, explained further that the level of harmful substances or contaminants in sweat is essentially meaningless.

In a study conducted by Imbeault and his colleagues, it was found that the number of pollutants excreted by an individual doing a 45-minute, high-intensity exercise would be less than one-ninth of a nanogram of the total contaminants ingested.

This value is approximately 0.02 percent of the toxins ingested daily on a typical diet. The process of drug and toxin elimination occurs internally, and sweat does not have a major impact on this process.

Do Infrared Saunas Detoxify?

oung woman in the infrared sauna

Humans are regularly exposed to radiation and environmental pollutants. What’s even more interesting is that sometimes we don’t know how much of this radiation we are exposed to.

This radiation includes radiation from airplanes, computers, outlets, etc. The infrared sauna is a good heavy metal detoxifier and usually comes with enhanced chemotherapy LED light and an AUX input that allows you to play music through your sauna sound system.

According to the infrared wellness spa called HigherDOSE, sweat from an infrared sauna is unlike any other old sweat. The spa explains that sweat induced from infrared heat sources comprises about 20 percent toxins while the sweat produced by traditional heating systems comprises about 3 percent.

Usually, when individuals sweat, it is only superficial. The heat from an infrared sauna penetrates an individual to about three inches deep and, as such, it pulls out toxins from fat cells.

HigherDOSE and most infrared sauna brands claim that 20 percent of toxins are eliminated through the infrared sauna heat source.

However, these claims by HigherDOSE cannot be substantiated by textbooks, and they were unable to provide a reference for the study they used or evidence of their claim.

Are There Other Benefits of Saunas?

Sauna’s dry heat has impressive effects on the human body. It is essential to note that irrespective of how a sauna is heated or its humidity level, its impact on the body is similar.

When an individual sits in a sauna, there’s an increase in skin temperature, which leads to an increase in heart rate and widening of blood vessels. This has tremendous effects on human health, some of which include:

It helps to ease or relieve pain

Sitting in a sauna improves circulation, which has been linked to relieving pain and reducing muscle soreness. It has also been linked to relieving symptoms associated with bone disorders such as osteoarthritis.

It helps to reduce stress levels

The intense heat in a sauna helps increase blood circulation, which, in turn, helps promote circulation and ultimately improves the feeling of well-being.

It helps with skin problems

Having a dry sauna bath helps to dry the skin during use. This has proved very helpful for individuals with psoriasis as their symptoms improved with regular sauna baths. It is, however, not encouraged for all skin types; an example of such is atopic dermatitis.

It provides relief from Asthma

Studies have shown that a sauna helps to improve lung function. It helps to open up airways, loosen phlegm, and reduce stress. This ultimately allows people with asthma to find relief from some of their symptoms.

It improves cardiovascular health  

Sauna baths have been proven to improve the cardiovascular health of individuals who take them regularly. A study conducted in Finland revealed that individuals who use saunas might have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

It helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Results from a 20-year-long study conducted in Finland linked regular use of saunas with a lower risk of having dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This study was conducted among healthy men aged between 42 and 60 years.