Toxins are everywhere: In the food and water you consume, the air you breathe, and the countless products your body is exposed to every day. They can compromise nearly everything, including your immune system and gut health.
Altogether, we are exposed to over 40,000 chemicals in products we use every day, from toys to deodorants to food containers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), less than one percent of these chemicals have been tested for human safety. 1
To be healthy, detoxification is essential. The benefits of detoxifying –– unburdening the body’s accumulated toxic load –– include more energy, better mental focus, a stronger immune system, weight loss, and a happy gut.
We are what we eat, drink, breathe, touch…. and can’t eliminate.
While the word detoxification carries a lot of different meanings, the way I refer to it here means the elimination of waste and toxins from the body. To detoxify simply means for the body to remove toxins, and to assist the body with removing those toxins.
When you think about detoxification, you probably consider removing toxins and adding the right types of nutrients. You likely think about the liver, which is ground zero for detoxification. Maybe you watched my Masterclass on Gut Detox, and learned about the 3 Pillars of Detoxification. You likely consider things like removing a few or all of the high-sensitivity foods from your diet, focusing on organic produce that is lower in pesticides, drinking filtered water, and taking specific nutrients that support the detoxification process.
All of these things are important to detoxify. To shed those accumulated toxins that can lead to disease, gut problems, weight loss resistance, and so much more, you want to support your body’s ability to excrete these things. Essentially, you breathe, pee, or poop out these toxins. I’ll talk more about the key roles that the liver plays in detoxification in the next blog. Here, I want to talk about a critical and sometimes-overlooked way to remove toxins — sweating.
To shed those accumulated toxins that can lead to disease, gut problems, weight loss resistance, and so much more, you want to support your body’s ability to excrete these things.
Sweat It Out: The Missing Link for Detoxification
Sweating is a great way to release long-held toxins in the body. Sweat often contains pollutants and heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Making it a goal to get sweaty every day is a great way to eliminate these and other problematic substances. Other research shows that sweating can help eliminate bisphenol A (BPA), which studies show can accumulate in the gut and create imbalances in gut bacteria. 2
When I say get sweaty, you might think exercise. For many, exercise means going to the gym and running on a treadmill, or spending 45 minutes on the elliptical. Those are all great ways to sweat, but for some people, this can feel more like taking medicine than enjoyment. We have a duty to our bodies to move, but it should not feel like a chore.
Any way you get your body moving is exercise, whether through taking a dance class, hiking in the wilderness, playing a pickup game of soccer, or swimming in the ocean. The point is to move more every day and get a little sweaty so your body releases those toxins onto the skin surface.
Luckily, you’ve got a lot of options to move more, get sweaty, and shed those accumulating toxins that can compromise the gut and immune health, create weight loss resistance, and rob your energy. These are five of my favorite ways to sweat.
1. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Going to the gym or taking a fitness class is a time investment. HIIT takes the “I don’t have time” element out of exercise. This intense type of exercise alternates short bursts of activity with recovery. The intensity alone means that HIIT will help your body sweat! You have a lot of options with HIIT, including sprinting, biking, and jump rope. So you might run at full speed for 30 – 60 seconds, recover by walking for one to two minutes, and repeat. A HIIT workout typically will take a total of 10 – 30 minutes. Studies show HIIT is more efficient than moderate-intensity exercise such as steady-state cardio, and you can get those results in less time. Fat loss might be the biggest incentive for HIIT, which increases your metabolism for hours after a workout. But regular HIIT workouts will also improve your blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, and how well your body utilizes oxygen. Animal studies also show that HIIT can improve the diversity and overall quality of your gut bacteria.
Dance comes in many forms, including ballet, jazz, ballroom, and hip hop. When you dance with energy and intensity, you’re certain to raise your body temperature, which means you’re going to sweat. Some gyms offer dance classes. If you’re shy or feel better busting a move in private, turn on some fun beats and get moving in your house.
3. Hot Yoga.
If you’ve taken a yoga class in the warm weather, you know that many instructors aren’t always fond of running air conditioning. Instead of complaining or wishing it were cooler in the room, use that to your advantage to detoxify! Hot yoga, however, is a whole different level of sweating. According to some claims, you can sweat up to two liters during an intense class. Some popular options include Bikram Yoga, where classes are heated to 105 °F with a humidity of 40 percent, guaranteeing that you will sweat. If you’re a yoga novice or you’re not used to exercising in heat, be warned these can be intense classes. Remember to drink plenty of clean, filtered water before and after class.
4. Play Sports.
If going to the gym or moving alone feels like work, consider getting involved in a team sport. Tennis makes a smart socially distancing option. In the future (yes, this pandemic will eventually end!), consider outside volleyball leagues in the warm weather and indoor hockey or basketball leagues in the winter. You’ll make new friends, stay physically active, and get rid of those toxins that can hijack your health and happiness.
5. Sauna Therapy.
Saunas are the best way to detoxify without doing anything. Yes, the experience can be intense and even unpleasant, but you’ll feel amazing afterwards as you shed those accumulated toxins.
Beyond Detox: The Many Benefits of Infrared Saunas
If you’ve visited your gym’s sauna after an intense workout, you know how deeply invigorating and yet relaxing spending even a little bit of time in a sauna can be. Visiting a sauna at a day spa can be even more relaxing than a massage. Saunas are the best way to work up a sweat without really doing much of anything. Their therapeutic potential to help the body relax and rejuvenate makes saunas my absolute favorite way to release toxins, deeply unwind, and enjoy their many health benefits beyond detoxification.
There are several types of saunas that you can use for perspiration therapy. Traditional saunas use electric or wooden heat elements, and the heat does not penetrate the skin very deeply.
My favorite saunas are infrared saunas. Unlike traditional saunas, where temperatures can go up to 200˚F, the air around your body isn’t heated with infrared saunas. For most infrared saunas, temperatures range from 100˚F to 150˚F.
Infrared saunas come in several types. Perhaps most popular are far-infrared saunas, which use far-infrared light to emit heat and penetrate deeper into the skin (about 1 inch), opening the pores, and allowing for the release of retained subdermal toxins in the fatty layer under the skin. Far infrared saunas can help eliminate toxins, reach fat cells, and stimulate your metabolism.
Some far-infrared saunas can emit harmful levels of electric and magnetic fields (EMFs), which I’ll talk more about in a minute. EMFs may pose a problem for people with EMF sensitivity, although companies are taking measures now to reduce the EMF exposure from these saunas.
Other types of infrared saunas include:
- Near-infrared saunas. Near-infrared saunas combine light and heat therapy. The light from near-infrared rays penetrates the skin even more deeply than far-infrared, according to NASA experiments, showing benefits in wound healing and pain reduction.
- Mid-infrared saunas: they penetrate deeper, which increases circulation, releases toxins, reaches injured areas, and helps muscles relax.
Among their other benefits, research shows that infrared saunas can help you:
- Lose weight
- Lower stress levels
- Look younger
- Improve specific conditions such as type 2 diabetes
The type of sauna you choose will depend on what kind of benefits you want to achieve. Take a look at the table comparison and see which one is most compatible with your health goals.
If you’re new to saunas and curious about these many benefits, plan to start with 10 – 15 minutes at a lower temperature in an infrared sauna. More is not better in the beginning! Over time, you can increase duration, temperature, and how often you go.
With any type of sauna, hydration is key. Drink plenty of clean, filtered water around your visit. Be aware, too, of your body as you adjust to the heat. Start at lower temperatures, as low as 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and slowly increase over several sessions as you tolerate the heat.
The point is not to shock your system; the point is to encourage a slow burn that opens pores and releases toxins. And remember, moving too quickly after a session can lead to feeling lightheaded, so take it slow after a session, especially when getting up. 5
Regardless of which method is used, after sweating, you’ll want to wipe the body down with a towel that is not reused and washed afterwards. Dry brushing before sauna therapy increases microcirculation to the skin and may help accelerate the release of internal toxins.
Saunas and EMFs
One concern about saunas are electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and their potential harm. Cellphones, microwaves, Wi-Fi routers, computers, and other appliances send out a stream of EMFs. They come in two forms:
- Appliances such as microwave ovens, cellphones, Wi-Fi routers, and yes, traditional saunas, send out low-level radiation.
- High-level radiation or ionizing radiation, on the other hand, comes from sources like ultraviolet (UV) light and X-rays from medical imaging machines.
EMFs can impact the body’s nervous system and damage cells. They can also create more “every day problems” such as sleep disturbances, headaches, depression, fatigue, nausea, irritability, and disturbances in brain function. You might not connect these symptoms with being exposed to EMFs.
Overall, infrared saunas tend to have the lowest total electric fields and lowest total magnetic fields. That’s one reason why I prefer them over traditional saunas. You might look for low-EMF sauna technology, which uses comprehensive third-level testing to ensure low levels of EMFs.
One of my favorite brands is Sunlighten®, which uses an exclusive manufacturing process to cancel out EMF to levels that are virtually undetectable. For many of the country’s top healthcare professionals including myself, Sunlighten® is the go-to brand for the highest-quality infrared saunas. You can learn more about them here.
You can’t totally avoid EMFs, but you can reduce your exposure to them. Limit how often you use your cell phone, avoid microwaves if possible, and be mindful of what devices are emitting EMFs, such as in airport security. 6
Your Goal This Month: Sweat More, Period
While the gym is a perfect place to get sweaty, it’s certainly not the only one. Especially with the warm weather and the limitations of being in indoor spaces right now with the pandemic, go outside and move more.
“Getting your sweat on” might mean 15 minutes of high-intensity interval training in your nearby park, dancing to your favorite music in the kitchen, or playing in your beach volleyball league. The point is to have fun and try to sweat daily!