The Science Behind Infrared Saunas for Heavy Metal Detox
Saunas have been used for centuries for their myriad health benefits—including longer life and heart health (1)— and infrared saunas have gained attention for their own, exclusive benefits, including boosting collagen and reducing the appearance of wrinkles (2). In addition, infrared saunas have been attracting users that appreciate a good detoxifying sweat at a lower ambient temperature than a traditional sauna. This leaves many to wonder: can an infrared sauna be used just as effectively for a heavy metal detox?
What is Infrared?
First, a quick primer—at its simplest, infrared light is radiant energy that the body feels as heat. Light at the infrared spectrum is just below the spectrum that is visible to the human eye and above the microwave level and is the reason we feel heat from the sun and from fires (3).
Infrared Saunas vs. Traditional Saunas
In a traditional sauna, there is a heat source—hot stones in very traditional saunas, electric panels or wood-stoves in others. The heat source heats the air inside the sauna, usually to between 150-180 degrees Fahrenheit. An infrared sauna specifically uses panels designed to emit long heat waves to penetrate the skin and more directly heat the body instead of the air. An infrared sauna operates at the much lower 110-150 degree range, making for a more tolerable experience for many people.
The lower temperature of an infrared sauna allows the user to be inside for a longer time, maximizing the benefits while reducing the heat stress that can occur in a traditional sauna. In an infrared sauna, your core temperature is slightly elevated, increasing blood flow while lowering blood pressure, possibly the reason for those aforementioned heart benefits.
Infrared Saunas for Heavy Metal Detox
Heavy metals are substances found throughout the earths crust and in food. They are also often found in the air, a result of industrial processes. When found in air pollution, heavy metals can make their way back to earth and into the food supply.
Not all heavy metals are “bad”. Some, like iron and copper, are necessary in small amounts for the proper creation and function of blood cells. Others, like zinc, play other important roles in the body, notably the immune system. However, too much of even necessary minerals can cause unwanted side effects and when the detrimental heavy metals like arsenic and mercury enter the body, serious health consequences and death can occur. Unfortunately, these toxins have a tendency to build up in the body, increasing with age and environmental exposure.
Skin is the largest organ of the body and sweating may serve a purpose beyond its cooling ability. Sweating can remove substances from the body.
There are many compounds excreted in sweat—alongside minerals like sodium, there is some evidence that harmful substances, including bisphenols (BPA) are excreted through the skin. In one study concerning BPA’s, the authors concluded that “sweating appears to be a clinically useful tool to facilitate the release of BPA through the skin in order to eliminate this toxicant from the human body.” (4)
A study done in China found that while heavy metals were higher in older individuals, strangely they tended to be lower in those that exercised regularly. They monitored the sweat of volunteers and found heavy metals more heavily concentrated there than in other body fluids and concluded “Induced micturition and sweating appear to be potential methods for the elimination of heavy metals from the human body.” (5)
Opponents of the theory of sweating out toxins point to the kidneys and liver as the major organs involved in cleaning the blood and detoxifying the body. They deny the skin is involved in any detox process.
While sweating may remove toxins and heavy metals from the body as evidenced by the referenced studies, there simply isn’t a vast pool of research on using infrared saunas for a heavy metal detox. As of now, the most reasonable conclusion is “possibly”. If sweat does eliminate the buildup of heavy metals in the blood and if infrared technology allows a person to sweat for longer periods of time, then it’s possible that an infrared sauna is more beneficial than a traditional sauna for heavy metal detoxification.
Things to Know About Using an Infrared Sauna for Heavy Metal Detox
While there may be heart and skin benefits to using a sauna, if you have recently diagnosed heart disease or eczema, they may not be right for you so check with your doctor first. Same goes for pregnancy, low blood pressure, or diabetes—while you may still be able to enjoy a sauna experience but get the all clear first.
Be sure to postpone your sauna session if you’ve had alcohol, are ill or if you have a fever—you won’t sweat out your illness and may make yourself feel worse.
Since the biggest benefit of a sauna is sweating, make sure you drink plenty of water afterwards to replenish all those lost fluids—after all, you definitely can’t flush toxins from your body without water!
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Please note: All information presented to you in this website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. We cannot, and will not give you medical advice. We strongly recommend you consult your physician for any and all specific health issues. If you have any questions or contributions, please contact us via email or phone-call. We are constantly looking for new information to promote wellness – and hearing from you would make our day.
- Sauna use linked to longer life, fewer fatal heart problems
- Effects of Infrared Radiation on Skin Photo-Aging and Pigmentation
- What Is Infrared? | Live Science]
- Human Excretion of Bisphenol A: Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study
- Monitoring of heavy metal levels in the major rivers and in residents’ blood in Zhenjiang City, China, and assessment of heavy metal elimination via urine and sweat in humans