Due to sedentary lifestyles and air conditioning, most people in the modern world don't sweat much. As a result, the pores of the skin may become clogged from not sweating out enough toxins. Also, you constantly take in environmental pollutants through your skin, which can build up, harming your organs and body systems. According to Dr. Lawrence Wilson writing for DrEddyClinic.com, the sweating promoted by a sauna may help your body to rid itself of built up wastes and harmful toxins.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It is the body's main barrier against environmental toxins and so skin pores often become clogged by the toxins it protects against. The sweating induced through heat and humidity of the sauna push built-up sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells out through the pores. According to the North America Sauna Society, sweating in a sauna also helps your skin retain its elasticity. However, there is no conclusive clinical evidence of any health benefits from sauna use.
Fever, the natural heating of the body, is an immune response that functions to kill harmful microorganisms in the body. Wilson reports that the heat of a sauna performs a similar function. By temporarily raising body temperature, the sauna may help cleanse the body of invasive bacteria, viruses and tumor cells.
The heat of the sauna gradually increases your heart rate. At the same time, the relaxation induced by the sauna allows the blood vessels to expand, and the sauna also makes your heart work harder, similar to a physical workout. Since its effects are similar to a cardiovascular workout, regular sustained use of a sauna may improve overall circulation. This may help the body release toxins better even when you are not in the sauna—although there is not conclusive evidence for the effect of sauna use on circulation.
According to the North American Sauna Society, the sweating and increased circulation stimulated in the sauna can help purify your entire body from toxins. Heavy metals and other toxins can enter your body from food, water and air, and build up in the body over time, especially if you live in a city or near an industrial site. Regular use of the sauna may help your body eliminate these toxins.
Do not use a sauna if you have a serious injury, fever or inflammation. Don't drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before using a sauna. Use a sauna with caution. Avoid rapid changes between heat and cold, especially if you have complications such as heart disease or high blood pressure, in which case you should keep the temperature of the sauna under 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep it under 150 degrees if you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor before using a sauna.
Based in Bethesda, Md., Brigid Rauch has been writing about health and nutrition since 2007. Her work has appeared on websites for companies like Honest Tea. Rauch holds a master's degree in urban planning from University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance and teaches classes in Ayurvedic holistic medicine for moms and pregnant women.