The written article is based on a summary of existing literature on the topic of infrared saunas. The article is for educational purposes and the information provided below cannot be taken as a promise to help with acute health problems or diseases.
Nowadays, humans are exposed to toxins almost everywhere. Whether you’re breathing in some toxins when filling up the gas tank of your car, lead from an overflying airplane, parabens in cosmetics that you put on your skin, and hormone disruptors in shampoos and hair conditioners.
Most people just want to live their lives and don’t want to worry about exposure to so many dangerous substances. And yet, if you’re reading this, you’re one of the few people who is probably concerned about excessive exposure to toxins. And, surprise, I’ve also a great tool in your health toolbox that will massively help you remove toxins from your body. That tool is an infrared sauna.
In this blog post, I’ll tell you exactly how long you should use a sauna for detoxification benefits. I’ve written extensively about this topic in the past, with blogs such as:
Today, I’ll refer back to some of these topics but mainly focus on the question of “how long should you use an infrared sauna for detoxification benefits” I’ll also tell you how to maximise the health benefits. Let’s start with a summary that gives you the basics of the optimal session time for using a sauna for detox:
Doesn’t Detoxification Happen Automatically? Why Do I Need To Spend Time In A Sauna?
Detoxification in the human body is like breathing. Sure, people breathe automatically but many people also breathe improperly as mouth breathing has become really problematic. Half of school children mouth breathe nowadays (1). And, while breathing is automatic, it’s not automatically proper.
Detoxification is similar to breathing. In a perfect world, your body would automatically detoxify substances that it shouldn’t be exposed to. In a perfect world, however, you’d also not live in a society where there are hundreds of thousands of new toxins introduced into the world that weren’t there a few hundred years ago. And, in a perfect world, you’d eat a well-rounded diet of organic foods and move and sweat a lot throughout the day so that your detoxification pathways are supported properly. But, you and I don’t live in a perfect world.
Unfortunately, just like with mouth breathing, we need to learn how to detoxify properly. For you, that means 1) limiting exposure to toxins; 2) supporting the body’s natural ability to remove toxins. That process is no longer automatic as most of us no longer sweat a lot in our daily lives, don’t know what healthy toxin-free products are for skincare and our hair, and don’t automatically eat the right foods. Now here’s the deal:
Many different compounds can be eliminated from your body through sweating (2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10). These compounds include heavy metals such as nickel, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, phthalates and Bisphenol-A from plastics, drugs such as the metabolites of alcohol and more dangerous compounds, prescription drugs, and more. And, sure, your body detoxifies internally as well. That internal system includes the liver, urinary system, and gastrointestinal system. Both systems are equally important. For both the internal and external systems (sweating) to work well, you’ll need optimal nutritional status. And the problem here is that many people have nutritional deficiencies nowadays (11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19). Examples here are vitamin D, vitamin K, potassium and magnesium where 25-~95% of people have a deficiency. Which leads me to the next topic:
Why You Want To Remove Toxins Through Sweating In A Sauna
The solution here is to sweat profusely on a frequent basis. And, the best way to accomplish that feat is to spend time in an infrared sauna regularly. After just 5-10 minutes, you’ll start sweating like never before. And the experience is extremely gentle and relaxing, meaning that most people feel amazing after a session. Here the example of mouth breathing comes in once again: ideally every person would breathe through their nose. But once that behaviour is unlearned, we’ll have to help nature a hand and help someone breathe properly again. The same is true for detoxification: what normally didn’t need any active intervention we now need to direct so that you’ll get the proper results. Basically, the more you sweat, the more toxins are removed from the human body. And infrared saunas are the perfect tool to accomplish that. And sweating more is better, assuming you don’t get any side-effects.
So if you ask “how long should you sauna for detoxification benefits?” The answer here is that three 30-minute sessions per week in an infrared sauna are great already. But if you can accomplish six 45-minute sessions per week that would be far better even. I’m assuming here that you recover properly and don’t place unnecessary stress on your body. Infrared saunas are like exercise in that they place temporary stress on your body. So if you’ve got health issues - especially multiple health conditions - then you’ll have to take things very slowly in the beginning.
Suffice it to say that the more you sweat, the more toxins you’ll remove from your body over time. So more is better, assuming that your health improves and you don’t get any side-effects. You may ask though: “but does my body really store toxins?” Let’s consider how that is the case below:
Does The Human Body Accumulate Toxins?
It turns out that some toxins are preferably stored in your body fat (20; 21; 22; 23). PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are an example of that. PCBs were traditionally used in consumer products and are still stored in the body fat of many people. Sweating, in many studies, helps mobilise these toxins and removes them from the body permanently (24). But why do these toxins end up in your fat cells in the first place?
Often, the body is exposed to toxic elements. That used to be true when humans were hunter-gatherers and that’s still true today. However, today the levels of exposure you and I are getting is far greater than anyone ever had in history. Over time, if the initial internal detoxification systems of the human body cannot deal with the overload of toxins, many of these toxins will be stored in your body fat. The human brain is an example of that. Some toxins are also stored in your bones. And, over time, these toxins wreak havoc on your health as the function of many organ systems is impeded by them. Nevertheless, the human body chooses for the lesser evil in that regard. Instead of letting the toxins be processed by the liver and gastrointestinal system over and over again, or leaving the toxins in the bloodstream where they can do harm, the body stores them. And, your bones and fat tissues become the prime areas for storing toxins.
Creating a “garbage dump” type of place is thus a defense-mechanism for your body to prevent toxins from even doing more harm. The goal, of course, for you, is to remove these toxins from their storage and remove them from your body permanently. This blog post gives you the basics on how to do that. One of the most dangerous stored toxins are so-called “heavy-metals”, such as mercury, cadmium, nickel, and aluminum. Let’s explore these now:
Does The Human Body Accumulate Heavy Metals?
I’ve talked about some elements of the periodic table of Chemistry in this blog post before. For instance, your body needs potassium, magnesium, and many other minerals to function properly. Heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, nickel, and cadmium are also found on that periodic table. However, contrary to minerals such as magnesium and potassium there’s no function of these heavy metals in your body - their only effect is to deteriorate your health. And, the more of these heavy metals that are stored in your body, the worse your health becomes.
Many government agencies have also reduced the cutoff points of “tolerable” exposure levels to these heavy metals throughout the decades. So a level in the blood and other tissues of lead in the 1960s was no longer considered safe in the 1980s. And, the current 1980s level that was accepted is no longer safe as well. There is overwhelming evidence that heavy metals are stored inside the human body, unfortunately (25; 26; 27; 28). The good news, however, is that you can remove these toxins from your body.
And, the more toxins you remove, the easier detoxification gets. Heavy metals and other toxins stored in the human body are a continuous stressor. When you remove these toxins, more energy is freed for other activities. So detoxification becomes easier over time - the beginning is the hardest part. So if you’ve got chronic health conditions and can only stay inside an infrared sauna for 15 minutes, that’s no problem. Three sessions of 15 minutes inside an infrared sauna will do amazing things for your health over time. You’ll start removing toxins from your body, freeing up precious energy for other processes. Ironically, the more energy that is freed up, the better your liver, urinary system, and gastrointestinal system can do their job removing incoming new toxins.
So you’re creating a virtuous cycle. In no time, you’ll be doing 30-minute sessions six times a week and enjoying it. And, while you were tired initially when you just started your infrared sauna detoxification journey, now you’re feeling more energetic than ever even after six sessions per week. But why should you worry about toxins in the first place? Many people ask me whether toxins really are that harmful? I’ll explore the health effects of toxins immediately:
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What Are The Health Effects Of Toxins Stored In Fat And Other Tissues?
You may think it’s “not that bad” with toxin exposure in modern society. But sadly, because of modern technology, more and more substances enter a human society that weren’t here 200 or 300 years ago.
Let’s consider a few of the most critical toxins that many people are exposed to daily:
Glyphosate is a herbicide that’s routinely used in conventional agriculture. Glyphosate ends up in the food supply and likely causes chronic inflammation, nervous system problems, different types of cancers, and autoimmunity, among others (29; 30; 31; 32; 33). Glyphosate is banned in 20 countries but still shows up in people’s bodies where it’s banned.
Phthalates are used in many plastic products to soften them up and make them durable. Plastic products you may use to store food you’ll reheat at work, flooring, and personal care products contain phthalates. The problem? Phthalates negatively affect reproductive function, hormone levels, and organ health and may affect the course of pregnancy in women (34; 35; 36; 37; 38). Earlier “safe thresholds” of exposure also turned out to be unsafe.
Air pollutants are present extensively in today’s society. Whether you’re talking about particulate matter - tiny particles emitted by vehicles and industry that travel into your lungs - or other compounds like sulfur dioxide, all have a devastating track record (39; 40; 41; 42; 43). Air pollutant levels are mostly a problem if you live in a city - I recommend getting a high-quality air purifier if you’ve got a problem here. Different air pollutants increase the risk of brain conditions, heart and blood vessel problems, diabetes, impaired airway health, and more.
VOCs or “Volatile Organic Compounds” are gases emitted from different sources. These gases enter your lungs and wreak havoc on your health (44; 45; 46; 47). Modern vehicles emit VOCs, as well as the paint in many houses, furniture, cleaning products, and more objects. The problem? VOCs create airway problems, increased cancer risk, and low birth weight during pregnancy.
I could mention many other toxins but I won’t. These are some of the most important toxins many people come in contact with daily.
The most important thing you can do is limit exposure to such toxins by removing non-natural materials as much as possible. Use natural cleaning and cosmetic products of which you fully understand the ingredient list, buy inert furniture, limit exposure to air pollution or get an air purifier, and get a reverse osmosis filter for the water you drink.
The second most important thing you can do is to remove these toxins from your body. So in the next section, I’ll cover that topic in detail:
Sauna Detoxification Protocol 101: The Basics For Safety
Now I’ll explain how to use the optimal sauna detoxification protocol 101. That protocol ensures you detoxify safely. Here are the X steps:
Make sure you’ve eaten well several hours before a sauna. Fasted sauna sessions are for people in excellent health and/or those with more sauna experience. If you’re new to detoxification, eating several hours before a sauna session is best to keep your blood sugar levels higher. This step is crucial if you’ve got chronic diseases.
Ensure you’re well hydrated. You lose a lot of water when you’re sweating heavily. You don’t want to be dehydrated before you enter a sauna because you won’t sweat as much, defeating the purpose of these detoxification sessions.
Start the sauna so it warms up and get moving. If you’re in great shape, you can do some intense exercise. Exercise gets the lymphatic system moving, which aids detoxification. If you’ve got one or several health conditions, light movement is recommended first, such as walking, yoga, using an exercise bike, etc.
The actual infrared sauna session. Start slow for 20 minutes. If you’re in great shape, you can do a 30-40 minute session. Drink water - ideally with a gram of salt added per litre - to taste. Use a towel to remove sweat from your skin. And after the sauna session, shower with lukewarm water to remove leftover toxins accumulated on your skin.
Observe how you’re doing after the sauna session. Are you feeling relaxed or energetic? That’s great. Are you feeling tired and run-down, or are you sleeping poorly at night after an infrared sauna session? In that case, slow down - reduce your infrared sauna session time.
It’s better to be consistent than to do super-long sessions. Six days of 30-minute sessions per day are far superior to doing two days where you spend an hour in the infrared sauna. Detoxification results build up over time - daily consistent sessions are superior for internal detoxification than super-long sessions once in a while.
For the best results, use 6-week periods of frequent sauna sessions alternated with a few weeks of rest. These rest periods allow your body to recover and set you up for even more success during the next 6-week period of infrared sauna sessions. One 6-week cycle removes 20-40% of long-term stored toxins in many people using this program (48).
Want to do even better? Check the next section on sauna detoxification success preparation:
Preparing Your Body For Sauna Detoxification Success
Detoxification doesn´t happen in isolation. The healthier your overall lifestyle, the better your eventual results will be.
One of the recommendations I´ve given you earlier is to ensure you´re eating a high-quality diet. With a high-quality diet, your risk of getting nutritional deficiencies will be much higher.
Also, ensure you get at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. If you don’t sleep well, your body cannot recover from the intense infrared sauna sessions, and your eventual results will decrease.
Another hugely important strategy is to simply add fewer toxins to your body, such as:
Use natural cleaning products and cosmetic products. If you don’t understand the names of the ingredients on the packaging, don’t use it.
Use inert furniture in your house that doesn’t contain flame retardants.
Use natural flooring like wood and stone wherever possible that’s untreated (although that’s more expensive and harder to change for many people).
Clean your clothes and bedding with cleaning products that are as natural as possible. Ventilate the areas where you spend the most time in.
If you live in a polluted city, use a high-quality air purifier. You can simply find a great air purifier by searching for the best air purifier on your favourite search engine.
Eat as much organic food as possible. If you cannot afford all organic food, make sure the fatty food and oils you eat are organic. And for fruits and vegetables, choose for the Clean Fifteen and avoid the Dirty Dozen.
If there’s mould in your house, have it cleaned up by professionals with a long track record and great testimonials.
Infrared Sauna for Detoxification: Can You Remove Drugs Through Sweating?
Yes, you can remove drugs through the skin when you’re sweating. Even if you’re barely sweating, some drugs can be detected on your skin because your body is removing them from itself.
Law enforcement knows this and uses drug testing via the skin for this exact reason. And, you can use that to your advantage, meaning that if you know that you’ve got toxicity due to drug use in the past, or maybe even harmful effects from too many prescription medicines, there’s a good chance you can remove some of these substances by sweating.
What Saunas Are Best For Detoxification?
We recommend infrared saunas for detoxification over traditional saunas. The reason is that infrared sauna have a long track record of being used in detoxification clinics worldwide. Also, infrared saunas are gentler on the body as the air temperature is not that hot, so you’re breathing in more easily.
Also, some evidence exists that infrared saunas are better in releasing stored toxins from your fat cells than traditional saunas.
FAQ: How Effective Are Infrared Saunas For Detoxification?
Below you’ll find some common Frequently Asked Questions about sauna detoxification:
What Toxins Are Released During An Infrared Sauna Session?
As stated before, the best evidence right now hints that plastic-derived chemicals such as BPAs and phthalates, heavy metals such as cadmium and arsenic, pesticides, prescription medicine, and drugs are eliminated through the skin. So the body prefers to remove these toxins through sweating.
Other toxins are removed through your gastrointestinal system. To optimise the removal of these toxins, ensure that you ingest some fibre in your diet. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are excellent sources of fibre. Ideally you’ll want to ingest some fibre with every meal, except if you’ve got digestive problems that don’t allow you to consume (much) fibre.
Can You Sweat Out A Virus? Or Can You Sweat Out A Common Cold?
You can’t sweat out a virus during a sauna session. In fact, if you’re sick, it’s smart to rest and not use a sauna.
The only benefit a sauna can have at a low temperature for a short duration is opening up your congested nose. A 10-15 minute session is perfect for this goal. Decongestion your nose and getting some relaxation in the sauna will subsequently help you sleep, which aids recovery from a virus.
Do Infrared Saunas Promote Lymphatic Drainage?
Infrared saunas only indirectly aid lymphatic drainage. The lymphatic system works mechanistically, meaning that it needs stimulation from the outside to get moving. Movement, exercise, and massage are three ways to stimulate the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is tightly intertwined with detoxification in your body though. So for that reason I recommend you integrate 20 minutes of movement before you step into the sauna. That movement not only gets your heart rate up but also creates the mechanical pressure on the lymphatic system to increase detoxification.
How Do You Know Whether You Need To Detox?
The answer here is simple: if you’ve lived in modern society and you’ve been exposed to toxins that have been introduced into society in the last few hundred years, you’ll benefit from sauna detoxing.
Only if you’ve somehow avoided being exposed to such toxins would it not be smart to detox. So, 99% of us will benefit from sauna detoxes. And if you were unlucky enough (or maybe fortunate?) to grow up in the Amazonian rainforest, far away from modern toxins, then infrared sauna detoxification aren’t necessarily for you…
Dealing With Detoxification Symptoms During And After Sauna Sessions
With detoxification come symptoms in the same way that exercise can temporarily stress your body. With detoxification, toxins are removed from their stores and released into the bloodstream.
As a result, you can expect headaches, tiredness, skin rashes, temporary digestive issues such as diarrhoea, brain fog, depression, and other symptoms. These symptoms ought not to be intense and if they are, you need to cut down on the infrared sauna session length. If you feel great, on the other hand, you can increase the duration of your sauna sessions.
Remember that the more you sweat, the more toxins are released. So even if you can only do 10-minute sessions at the outset without too many symptoms, it will still help your health tremendously. And before you know it, you can use an infrared sauna for 20 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day, and so forth. Begin slow and monitor your health.
How Do The Supplements You Take Influence Your Detoxification Protocol?
Salt is the most critical supplement you must replenish after each sauna session. Next up comes magnesium. You can buy a high-quality magnesium supplement, such as magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, or magnesium gluconate, online and in almost any health store across the globe.
Next up, eating sufficient dietary fibre is extremely important. While sweating removes the toxins from your body externally, the internal systems, such as your gastrointestinal tract, need fibre to remove toxins. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, and other foods high in fibre, ideally with each meal if you’re detoxing a lot, is the best.
You want a steady supply of fibre throughout your day to optimise detoxification processes because the detoxification process isn’t just an on-and-off switch. If you use the infrared sauna during the afternoon, your body still removes some toxins at night and during the morning. Therefore, the niacin protocol I’ve discussed also uses a seven-day-a-week approach to keep these detoxification processes running.