Beyond Detox: How to Get Added Health Benefits From Saunas

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People have used saunas and sweat lodges for thousands of years all around the world, and sweating out toxins is only part of the reason.

Deeper health benefits from saunas don’t just lie in detoxification. You can actually boost your immune system, too, by using a few added techniques.

 

This article will tell you the exact steps to take to get added health benefits from saunas.

When you’re in a sauna, blood floods to the surface of your body, pores open, and eventually sweat gets pushed out.

For added health benefits from saunas, the idea is to bolster the ability of your pores to not just open, but close effectively as well. This will boost your circulation and enhance your immune system so it can practice its defenses.

Unfortunately most people who visit saunas neglect some of the key steps that help make this happen.

 

How to get added health benefits from saunas:

When you sit in the sauna, brush, lightly scratch, or tap the skin on your arms, legs, belly, and back. This will stimulate your pores to open more while you’re in the sauna, and boost the circulation at the surface of your body.

Pretty soon you’ll start sweating, and with all the blood at the surface of your body toxins will come flowing out.

Once you’ve started sweating, you can stay in the sauna as long as you feel comfortable.

 

 

And here’s the most important step:

Immediately after you leave the sauna you have to immerse yourself in cold water!

This will close your pores back up, pull the blood back to your core organs, and reinforce your natural defenses.

This means that you will actually lose less heat when you are out of the sauna, boost your circulation, stay warmer longer, and keep your vital organs happy and functioning at the same time.

I know, it sounds totally crazy.

Think of it as boot-camp for your immune-system.

It may not sound pleasant, but after a few times you’ll get used to it and you’ll actually feel great afterward, I promise!

This ritual is especially important in the fall and winter months when cold winds can more easily attack your body and you want your immune system to be on guard.

photo source: harviausa.com/

photo source: harviausa.com/

Once you’ve dunked, you can then relax outside of the sauna until you’re ready for another round.

Feel free to enjoy a warm foot-bath or wear cozy socks while you lounge to keep your feet warm.

You might also consider drinking some warm water with a pinch of salt and honey to refurbish your body with electrolytes lost in sweating.

Three rounds are typical for the sauna ritual, but you can increase or reduce this depending on what feels good to you.

 

 

How to mimic a sauna at home:

When time and money are limited you can still train your body’s defenses at home.

To do this, take a very hot shower or bath and brush your skin to stimulate the blood to the surface and induce sweating.

Then immerse yourself in very cold water to bring the blood back to the core.

If you still feel cold you can finish with a quick warm rinse and still gain the sauna benefits.

Another alternative is to try the wet sock treatment, (and yes, despite its name, it feels really good too!)

 

Contraindications:

If you ever feel light-headed, dizzy, or have heart palpitations, please leave the sauna immediately!

People who are frail, prone to dizziness, pregnant, have hypertension or low blood pressure should avoid using the sauna. Growing children would also benefit from avoiding high temperatures.

If you are feeling sick it would be best for you to stay home, rest, and use other natural techniques to kick your immune system into action (click here for some ideas).

Lastly, according to Chinese medicine sweat is associated with blood. Using this logic it would be best to avoid inducing a sweat during menstruation, as you are already losing a lot of blood during that week.

Want to live up to your healthiest, most vibrant, and well-balanced potential?

Click here to learn about Natural Health 101, a FREE 5 week e-course

 

 

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13 Comments

  1. Great info – thanks! How long do you stay in the sauna for each round? And how long in the cold water in between? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Good questions Joy! You stay in the sauna until you start to sweat, and then as long as you feel comfortable after that. When you plunge in the cold water you can be as quick as you like, but I like to wait about 10-20 seconds to really let my blood return to my core.

      Reply
      • Thanks!

        Reply
      • There’s no way to plunge into a cold bath at my sports club. Will a cold shower do the trick too?

        Reply
          • Okay, wish me luck, heading off the the sauna now!

          • How did your sauna go Lucy? Did you feel good after the cold shower?

  2. You don’t “lose blood” during menstruation. The uterus sheds the lining that has built up over the past 2 weeks.

    Reply
    • Actually, you lose lining and blood during mensturation, which is why more women are anemic than men (http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/menstrual-blood-problems-clots-color-and-thickness). Chinese medicine is also more concerned with the whole body than the individual parts, so even though the blood has been localized in the uterus prior to menstruation, the total amount of blood in the body is depleted during and immediately after menstruation, having an impact on how the body feels as a whole. Moreover, because blood is associated with sweat in Chinese medicine, it is not advisable to sweat during menstruation. I hope this helps clarify the process for you. Thanks so much for your comment Kayla!

      Reply
  3. The human body excretes the overwhelmingly vast majority (99.8%) of toxins through the urine. The sweating out your toxins thing is an age old myth that needs to die. Really you are just sitting in a hot room dehydrating yourself. You want to detox. Drink water, stay hydrated, eat healthy, and keep peeing.

    Stop perpetuating a myth built on ignorance of human physiology. Please.

    Reply
    • And if you don’t believe me, take it from Harvard Medical School.

      http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/sauna_health_benefits

      “‘All in all, saunas appear safe for the body, but there is little evidence that they have health benefits above and beyond relaxation and a feeling of well-being,’ says Dr. Harvey Simon, editor-in-chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.”

      Reply
      • Relaxation and a feeling of well-being sound like great health benefits to me! My skin clears up, glows and is softer after sitting in the sauna, too. I drink plenty of water so have not personally experienced issues with dehydration. All good so far!

        Reply
    • While it may be true that people sweat a great deal in a sauna, some up to several liters per hour, this is not necessarily a bad thing if the individual is in good health and stays properly hydrated.
      Some toxins cannot be eliminated through the urine alone. Nicotinimide, for example, is reabsorbed by the renal tubes, but is effectively excreted by the sweat glands on the skin. The body’s largest organ is also an excretory organ helping to rid the body of metabolic waste and toxins (diet or environmental). Part of the emunctories, the skins is one of the primary modes of elimination in the body. The others being the kidneys and urinary, digestive and solid waste through the intestines and gaseous waste respiration through the lungs.
      “Water-soluble exogenous and endogenous toxic/bioactive substances, such as metals, drugs, cytokines, and steroids, can be eliminated in the sweat. Genuis et al. analyzed for approximately 120 various compounds, including toxic elements, and found that many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat. It is worth noting that some xenobiotics that are rarely excreted in the urine without being metabolized, but can be excreted in the sweat”*
      Xenobiotics are exogenous chemicals, drugs, environmental pollutants, cosmetics, and even components of the diet. The skin plays a significant role in the metabolism and elimination of xenobiotics, endogenous bioactive substances, lipids, and cholesterol.
      “Masuda et al. have also observed that sauna, which increases the skin temperature and induces sweating, can protect against oxidative stress. Moreover, sauna has been found to alleviate symptoms of intoxication and improve lifestyle-related diseases. The beneficial effect of saunas is thought to be related sweat-mediated elimination of toxic substances from the body.”*
      *Zhou, S.-S., Li, D., Zhou, Y.-M., & Cao, J.-M. (2012). The skin function: a factor of anti-metabolic syndrome. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, 4, 15. doi:10.1186/1758-5996-4-15

      “Sweating with heat and/or exercise has been viewed throughout the ages, by groups worldwide, as ‘cleansing’.”
      – This review of scientific literature that looked specifically at toxin excretion in sweat found that “Arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury may be excreted in appreciable quantities through the skin, and rates of excretion were reported to match or even exceed urinary excretion in a 24-hour period.” and that “Sweating is not only observed to enhance excretion of the toxic elements of interest in this paper, but also may increase excretion of diverse toxicants, as observed in New York rescue workers, or in particular persistent flame retardants and bisphenol-A.”

      Sears, M. E., Kerr, K. J., & Bray, R. I. (2012). Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 184745. doi:10.1155/2012/184745

      Reply

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