How Sweating Improves Your Health
“Sweat It Out!”
At one point during my illness, I was not able to sweat. Many who are diagnosed with MS complain that they no longer can tolerate the heat, and now I know why. And I can’t say enough how much that alarmed me! Somehow I needed to get my body back to a place where I could sweat. I figured, once I could get that to occur naturally again, I’d be able to handle the heat because my body would then have the means to cool my inner core temperature.
Why Sweating So Important for Health
Not being able to sweat is a serious situation, especially when combined with a lack of physical activity. Further, it is vital that you move your body in order for the elimination of toxins via the lymphatic system. So let’s talk a bit about the importance of sweating as another vehicle for removing toxins, because believe it or not, this is a controversial topic.
In today’s world, we are exposed to environmental, chemical and metal toxins on a daily basis. They are in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we consume and many of the personal products that we use every day, and the more toxins that we are exposed to, the harder our bodies have to work to get rid of them.
These toxins compromise our immune systems, cause inflammation and play a large role in the development of many diseases, including cancer, autoimmune, arthritis and heart disease. That being said, it is extremely important that we take the necessary steps to not only reduce our intake of these harmful toxins but also to enhance our body’s ability to eliminate the unavoidable contaminants.
The question is, does sweating really aid in detoxing the body?
Interestingly, this question has become somewhat controversial.
When most people think of “detoxing” they imagine cleanses designed to eliminate toxins through the digestive system, but studies are now showing that sweating is also an efficient way to flush out those unwanted substances and that it may be just as effective at cleansing and the detoxification of the body. This should really come as no surprise considering that our skin is a major organ of elimination.
A study published in 2011 reported, “Many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat. Presumably stored in tissues, some toxic elements readily identified in the perspiration of some participants were not found in their serum. Induced sweating appears to be a potential method for elimination of many toxic elements from the human body.”
So what are some things that we can do to break a sweat?
Well, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is a high-intensity workout, however for some, even physically active people may not be sweating as they should, and I have seen this first hand as a fitness instructor.
But for now, there are other ways to induce a good healthy sweat. And for me when I began my quest of sweating, I choose the sauna. Mind you, I took it VERY slowly, perhaps only 1-5 minutes at first, along with drinking plenty of water and “bouncing” to further help my lymphatic system to function at a more efficient level.
Saunas and steam rooms are both a great way to stimulate the sweat glands and encourage the release of toxic chemicals through the skin, but first what is the difference between a sauna and a steam room?
In a nutshell, saunas generate dry or infrared heat, while steam rooms produce moist heat. Both open the pores, increase body temperature, improve circulation and induce sweating so that toxins and other impurities can be released. Steam rooms have a lower temperature than saunas but generally feel much hotter due to the high humidity levels.
Saunas and steam rooms are safe for most people as long as they follow some basic rules:
- Drink plenty of water prior to entering the sauna or steam room to avoid dehydration, and begin with 8-10 minute sessions, working up to 15-20 minutes. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
- Never stay in the sauna or steam room beyond the time that your body can tolerate. The goal is to increase your body temperature to a point that generates a good sweat without causing dizziness or another uncomfortable effect.
- When your time is up, be sure to allow your body to slowly adjust to the cooler temperatures by taking a warm shower or sitting quietly for 10-15 minutes.
- Be sure to continue hydrating throughout the day.
Many gyms, health clubs, and spas have saunas or steam rooms in their locker rooms. There are also many smaller versions which can be purchased at a reasonable price and installed in the home.
Other ways to induce a sweat can be found in your home already such as hot baths or showers!
Are you ready to sweat it out? But first…
SOME WORDS OF CAUTION: Saunas, steam rooms, hot baths, and showers are meant to raise your core temperature, and this will also accelerate your heart rhythm. That being said, this type of therapy is not for everyone. If you have any concerns or questions as to whether this is a safe form of therapy for you, please consult a trusted healthcare professional.
As I already mentioned, when I first started using saunas to help me sweat, it was a bit challenging. In the beginning, it occasionally triggered anxiety, and that was something I was certainly trying to avoid! However knowing this, and I can’t stress this enough, I began by spending less than 5 minutes at a time in the sauna and then slowly increased the time as I built up a tolerance to the heat. After a while, I was able to stay in the sauna for 35 minutes! And not only that, my body craved it!
Bottom line, always use common sense and good judgment in these hot rooms. Here are some more tips:
- You may want to bring a cold towel
- Never fall asleep
- If you’re new to saunas and steam rooms it’s a good idea to have a partner with you
Don’t have access to a sauna or steam room? No worries! Here are a few suggestions to facilitate detoxification in the privacy of your own home.
- Take an Epsom Salt Bath. The warm water will produce a light sweat while the Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, draws out toxins. Add 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salt to warm bath water. (Epsom salt can be found at most pharmacies.) Soak for at least 30 minutes 3 -5 times per week to experience all of the amazing benefits of the Epsom Salt Bath. Add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for a more relaxing effect.
- Try a Mustard Detox Bath to open the pores and stimulate the sweat glands. This formula was inspired by Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath. I have to say this is one of my ol’ time favorites! Simply mix the following ingredients in a small jar and add the desired amount to warm bath water:
- 1 cup baking soda
- ¼ cup mustard powder
- 2-4 teaspoons Cayenne powder
- 10 drops Thyme Essential Oil
- 10 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
- 10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
- 10 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil.
Makes enough for 2-4 baths. Soak in this wonderfully therapeutic bath for at least 30 minutes 3 – 5 times per week
I have always loved keeping a journal, especially when I try new things regarding my health and well-being. If you are like me and also enjoy keeping track of how you feel, then here are some questions for you to consider as you indulge in this steamy activity:
- How did you feel after the first few times you induced a sweat?
- Which mode of sweating did you prefer? Over time did your preference change?
- Were you able to relax?
- After a few weeks, did you find that your tolerance to heat and ability to sweat increased?
- Were there changes to your overall mood, sleep patterns, and stress levels?