Detox Benefits of a Sauna
If you’ve ever been in a sauna then you know first hand how rejuvenating and invigorating a good sweat can be. Sweating is a form of detoxification and there may be no better place to stimulate this process than in the sauna.
Sauna therapy developed in the Scandinavian region, specifically Finland, and is used for bathing and improving ailments. Many formal studies have set out to determine the health benefits of using a sauna and the outcomes have been very positive.
Hyperthermia therapy originated after man observed that people suffering from diverse ailments were cured following a high fever. Hyperthermia therapy stimulates cellular activity, increases metabolism, improves circulation, rebuilds tissue, and promotes healing.
Hyperthermia as a heat-treatment is widely used in various medical fields and has a well-recognized effect in oncology. In 1984, hyperthermia was approved by the FDA as a medical procedure to treat cancer. In this type of procedure, heat is used to kill cancer cells. Its effect is achieved by overheating of the targeted tissues from about 106° to 113°F.
There are milder forms of hyperthermia therapy, such as thermal therapy. Also known as heat therapy, fever therapy, sauna therapy, or sweat therapy, thermal therapy helps the body to cleanse and heal through the use of heat. By creating an artificial fever, people who were ill were able to literally sweat the disease out of their system.
The best-known form of milder hyperthermia treatments is sauna therapy. Saunas can draws out toxins, clean clogged pores, kill harmful bacteria and viruses, increase circulation and enhance the immune system. A 20 to 30 minute sauna can produce the following effects:
- Increased cardiovascular activity (about as much as a moderate to vigorous walk)
- The burning of up to 300 calories
- The emission of approximately one quart of perspiration, cleansing the pores and the body of toxins
- The triggering of endorphins (the body’s natural pain-blocking agents)
- The soothing of aching muscles, aiding in the recovery of minor muscle strain
- The inducement of a healing and cleansing fever
- The acceleration of the metabolism, inhibiting the replication of pathogenic organisms
- The stimulation of all vital organs and glands
Depending on the tolerance and experience of an individual, the ideal sauna temperature ranges from 140 to 190°F (60 to 88°C), with humidity between 10 and 50%.28
Sauna therapy has remarkable benefits. Clinical research has reported that thermal vasodilation following warm-water bathing and low-temperature sauna bathing at 60°C for 15 minutes improved the cardiac function in patients with congestive heart failure.29
Sauna therapy has had a positive effect on mental health in a number of clinical studies, including depression and neuropsychiatric disorders. Other research has determined that sauna therapy can cause significant improvement in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome32 and Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease involving the abnormal production of extra antibodies that attack the glands and connective tissue. It has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of substance abusers by reducing drug residue in the body.
Based on this research, hyperthermia therapy is a useful physical approach to detoxification for a variety of physiological and psychological problems.
A New Zealand study comprised of distance runners found that bathing increased run time to exhaustion by 32%. Additionally, plasma and red-cell volumes after sauna increased by 7.1% and 3.5%. Researchers concluded that the increased blood volume was likely the reason why post-exercise sauna bathing produced a significant enhancement of performance.
Austria’s University of Vienna designed an experiment to determine if sauna use impacted the incidence of developing the common cold. Over a 6 month period, a group that included 50 subjects total that were split two ways: 25 persons used the sauna, and 25 did not. At the end of the study, it was observed the sauna group had much less incidence of common cold than the control group and researchers concluded that regular sauna bathing may reduce the incidence of common colds.
Research has repeatedly shown that sweating in a sauna can help detoxify the body of the toxic agents, such as lactic acid, sodium, and uric acid, that routinely accumulate in the body. Toxins stored in subcutaneous fat are released through perspiration. As toxins stored in the fat pass through perspiration, toxins that are stored at deeper levels of tissue throughout the body will move up into this layer of fat and continue to be released through sweat. Circulation increases when you’re in the sauna and increased blood flow improves blood oxygenation. Enhanced oxygen levels can assist in the dissolution of hidden toxic agents in the blood.
According to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ, sauna can be an effective component of purification and cleansing protocols and very effective for flushing out fat-soluble chemical and toxins.
Unfortunately, law enforcement officers are often at risk for exposure to harmful substances such as methamphetamine and the toxic chemicals used to create it. This exposure can lead to chronic symptoms that may be disabling. To find new ways to combat this issue, 69 officers participated in a study conducted by the Utah Meth Cops Project. Subjects followed a multi faceted detoxification program that included exercise, nutrition, and sauna therapy. Following the detoxification routine, significant health improvements were observed. Researchers concluded that sauna and nutritional therapy may improve some symptoms of methamphetamine-related exposure for affected officers.
Matsumoto S, Shimodozono M, Etoh S, Miyata R, Kawahira K. Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 Aug;17(3):162-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.08.004. Epub 2010 Sep 25.
Vuori I. Sauna bather’s circulation. Ann Clin Res. 1988;20(4):249-56.
Gayda M, Paillard F, Sosner P, Juneau M, Garzon M, Gonzalez M, Bélanger M, Nigam A. Effects of sauna alone and postexercise sauna baths on blood pressure and hemodynamic variables in patients with untreated hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2012 Aug;14(8):553-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7176.2012.00637.x. Epub 2012 May 3.
Scoon GS, Hopkins WG, Mayhew S, Cotter JD. Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. J Sci Med Sport. 2007 Aug;10(4):259-62. Epub 2006 Jul 31.
Ernst E, Pecho E, Wirz P, Saradeth T. Regular sauna bathing and the incidence of common colds. Ann Med. 1990;22(4):225-7.
Crinnion WJ. Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant- induced and other chronic health problems. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Sep;16(3):215-25. Review.
Ross GH, Sternquist MC. Methamphetamine exposure and chronic illness in police officers: significant improvement with sauna-based detoxification therapy. Toxicol Ind Health. 2012 Sep;28(8):758-68. doi: 10.1177/0748233711425070. Epub 2011 Nov 16.