The Science of Sweating: How Do Saunas Detoxify the Body?

Timothy Munene Timothy Munene
The Science of Sweating: How Do Saunas Detoxify the Body?

Sweating is part of the body’s natural cooling method. Your body produces sweat when you get hot during a workout, warm temperatures, or sauna session. Sweat glands are located throughout the body and secrete sweat, cooling the skin as it dries up. Sweating in a sauna is one of the fastest ways of producing sweat in high quantities, meaning you only need to spend a short time inside an infrared or traditional sauna to sweat a lot. Read on to understand how saunas help you detoxify.

Exploring the Science of Sweating

Sweating is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the fight-or-flight response. When exposed to physical activity or heat, the body stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, triggering the sweat glands to discharge sweat.

While sweat's core component is water, it can also contain sugars, ammonia, lactic acid, urea, salts, and proteins. Studies suggest that sweat can also contain toxins, such as mercury, lead, and arsenic. This explains why experts opine that using the sauna to prompt sweating can facilitate the elimination of toxins from the body. Completing a sauna session may not be a form of exercise, but it can help you burn calories and aid your weight loss journey.

Understanding the Concept of Detoxing Through the Sauna

Detoxification is the process of flushing unwanted components from the body. There are numerous ways of detoxing, including fasting, changing diets, drinking lots of healthy juices and water, or using supplements. Detoxification comes with various benefits.

For example, a review done in 2017 established that detoxing can facilitate weight loss, while some detox methods can encourage you to eat healthier foods and hydrate more. Another study conducted in 2014 revealed that detoxing rids your system of damaging toxins and boosts liver function. 

Regular sauna sessions have also been said to be an effective way of detoxifying and eliminating toxins from the body. Experts opine that sweating in the sauna can aid in detoxing. Whether you choose a traditional or infrared sauna, the heat raises your body temperature, increasing sweat production and removing toxins from your body through the skin. 

Which Toxins are Removed in Sauna Sweat?

Sweat can contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium. These metals have no beneficial effect on the human body and are said to be carcinogenic. In addition to increasing the risk of cancer, they can negatively impact the renal and immune systems.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can also be flushed out of the body through sweating. POPs are organic components found in air and water, including industrial chemicals and pesticides. They can accumulate inside the body over time and cause harm. Fortunately, you can eliminate them through sweating.

Saunas for Detoxification

You can use a traditional or infrared sauna when incorporating sauna therapy into your wellness routine. Traditional saunas have hot rocks inside a container. The stones radiate heat across the room and warm it to high temperatures, stimulating your body to produce sweat. 

On the other hand, an infrared sauna is fitted with infrared panes that discharge infrared light. This light can penetrate the skin and effectively warm the body from within, heating the skin's and muscles' deep layers to trigger sweat production. 

Traditional saunas generate more heat than their infrared counterparts. While the former can reach up to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, the latter reaches a maximum temperature of 130 degrees. As a result, infrared saunas are more comfortable to use. 

Sauna Detox Benefits   

Saunas facilitate detoxification in the following ways:

·        Removal of Heavy Metal

One study conducted in 2012 established the effectiveness of saunas in alleviating heavy metals from the body. According to the study, regular sauna sessions can significantly reduce heavy metal levels, such as mercury. Sweating under the sauna’s high heat facilitates the removal of these harmful substances via perspiration, flushing them out of the body and preventing accumulation. 

·       Increases Glutathione Production

Glutathione is a crucial antioxidant vital in detoxifying the body. Oxidative stress is partly responsible for various chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular complications and cancer. According to research published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, saunas can improve glutathione production, enabling the body to neutralize toxins and free radicals. 

·        Improves Lymphatic Drainage

The lymphatic system is your body’s natural waste-elimination system. It flushes out excess fluids, toxins, and waste from your body. Sauna-generated heat supports lymphatic circulation, facilitating the removal of toxic waste. While research on the impact of saunas on lymphatic drainage is scanty, enhanced sweating and circulation in the sauna have been found to promote lymphatic function. To enhance detoxing via the lymphatic system, consider combining sauna sessions with cold therapy

·       Eliminating Carcinogens

Saunas are associated with the elimination of carcinogens from the body. A study on firefighters and their exposure-abating methods revealed that sauna therapy enhanced the removal of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), also known as carcinogens, through sweating. This demonstrated that saunas play a core role in alleviating these possibly harmful substances. 

·       Lowering Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as industrial chemicals and pesticides, often build up in the body over time. POPs have been associated with health complications, such as reproductive and endocrine disruption issues.

A recent study established that the Hubbard sauna detoxification program can improve the removal of POPs. The Hubbard concept includes a daily physical exercise routine, followed by a sauna session at up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 2.5 hours between short hydration breaks to replace lost body fluids and cool down. 

Symptoms to Watch Out for While Using the Sauna

When using the sauna for detoxification, it's important to understand that everybody’s tolerance varies. Listen to your body to know when to adjust the intensity and duration of your sessions. Intense sauna detoxification sessions can have various side effects, especially if you’re doing it for the first time or using it for a prolonged period. Here are signs to watch out for during a sauna detoxification session. 

·       Headaches

Due to a change in blood flow or dehydration, you may experience headaches when using the sauna. Stay hydrated before, during, and after your session to prevent uncomfortable headaches. 

·       Lightheadedness and Dizziness

Prolonged sauna sessions, especially in high heat, can result in feelings of lightheadedness and dizziness. These symptoms could be your cue to leave the sauna to avoid overheating. 

·        Fatigue

Extreme detoxification can result in fatigue, as the body expends energy. This weariness is usually temporary, but hydrating and getting adequate rest can help relieve it. 

·       Nausea

Some people experience nausea during or even after extreme detox sauna sessions due to heat stress and dehydration. Ensure proper hydration and avoid remaining in the sauna for prolonged periods to prevent nausea. 

·       Electrolyte Imbalance

Excess sweating can trigger electrolyte imbalance, resulting in muscle weakness and cramps. It’s important to incorporate electrolyte-rich drinks and meals into your diet to reload lost electrolytes. 


Detoxification is important if you want to maintain optimal health, and sweating can effectively flush out toxins from your body. The sauna is a natural, effective, and safe way of stimulating sweating and facilitating the elimination of harmful components. Are you considering incorporating sauna therapy into your wellness routine? Start gradually and increase your intensity of heat exposure gradually. Remember to hydrate and replenish lost electrolytes after your sauna session. 

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