Let’s talk about detoxing the body using the skin. Contrary to popular belief, the skin is not our largest organ… it’s the intestines! But using the skin to rid the body of toxins is still important and effective. In order to do this, you have to sweat and using a sauna can help you do that.
Saunas have long been used in many Northern European cultures to help maintain good health and are now often recommended as a component of many detoxification and healing protocols. There are two type of saunas: traditional and infrared.
Traditional vs. Infrared Saunas
Traditional saunas include both dry and steam saunas where temperatures typically reach almost 200 degrees F. These saunas heat the air causing blood vessels to dilate, blood to flow to the surface, and sweating to occur. Sessions in dry saunas are typically punctuated with cold rinses or plunges.
Infrared saunas use infrared wavelengths to penetrate below the skin to heat the person directly rather than simply heating the air. This allows temperatures to stay lower, between 120 and 150 degrees F. Infrared saunas are a great choice for those who cannot tolerate or shouldn’t be exposed to the high heat of traditional saunas. It is also much easier to get an infrared sauna unit for personal use in your home!
Why Use a Sauna?
I am a big fan of saunas for both staying healthy and specific conditions. Research has shown saunas to be beneficial for:
- Improving lung function in cases of asthma and COPD
- High blood pressure
- Reducing weight and body fat
- Congestive heart failure
- Pain relief
- Autoimmune conditions including Sjogren’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis
- Chronic fatigue
- High PCB burden
- Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)
In my naturopathic medical practice, I recommend saunaing to many patients experiencing a slow metabolism, obesity, acne, low immune function, many autoimmune conditions, and much more. I also find it to be helpful with patients who are having mercury amalgams removed and for those diagnosed with an MTHFR mutation.
When To Avoid Using a Sauna
Depending on the current state of your body and your health goals, incorporating the use of a traditional or infrared sauna into your detox routine can be a great option. However, using a sauna is not for everyone. Contraindications for using an infrared sauna include:
- Aortic stenosis
- Unstable angina
- Adrenal Fatigue
- History of a hemorrhagic stroke
- Recent heart attack
- Brain tumor
- Young children
How To Use a Sauna
If you have a diagnosed medical condition, do make sure to check with your healthcare provider to make sure they are appropriate for you. You can also ask your provider how long and how often using a sauna would be beneficial to you.
Generally, healthy people can tolerate a 45-minute infrared session daily without adverse effects; if you are new to using infrared sessions, you may want to start with much shorter sessions. Much of the medical literature on infrared saunas suggests that if you are using them to address a specific medical condition, a 10-14 day stretch of 30-45 minutes sauna sessions followed by 30 minutes of rest will get results. After this, you can consider a maintenance routine of 1-3 times a week.
Traditional saunas should be limited to much shorter sessions between 5-20 minutes, although multiple rounds penetrated with cool rinses can prolong your sessions.
Here are a few tips to make the most of saunaing…
- Drink plenty of filtered or spring water before, during, and after your sauna experience. You might consider adding an electrolyte replacement, especially if you sauna frequently.
- Avoid working or having stressful conversations while in the sauna. It’s a time to relax!
- Wear as little clothing or coverings as possible while in the sauna, so the majority of your skin is exposed to infrared light. Feel free to wipe up your sweat with a towel. Consider dry skin brushing before your sauna to activate your lymph system.
- Make sure there is adequate ventilation, so you don’t breathe in the toxins you’ve just sweated out.
- Shower afterward to remove the toxins from your skin.
- Avoid using any lotion and makeup afterward as you’ve just opened up all of your pores.
For even more information (and to access the material I cited for this post), please read “Sauna as a Valuable Clinical Tool for Cardiovascular, Autoimmune, Toxicant-induced and other Chronic Health Problems” by Walter J. Crinnion, ND.