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What is the Best Type of Sauna For Detoxification?

As sauna bathing increases in popularity so do the many opinions of what is the best type of sauna to use. There are voices that are adamant for traditional saunas while others stand for far infrared or full spectrum infrared saunas. Ultimately when used appropriately all forms of heat therapy are very beneficial for health. So, the real question is what are your personal health and wellness goals when using a sauna?

If your main priority is detoxification then well researched studies from reputable institutions can easily settle the debate: Far infrared saunas detoxify the body from inorganic (heavy metal toxins, carcinogens, etc.) more effectively than any other means to active or passive perspiration. In fact, when comparing the sweat of individuals who have taken a traditional sauna versus those who have taken a far infrared sauna, significantly less toxins were found in the group who participated in traditional sauna bathing. (1)

Traditional saunas, as well as sweat lodges, and other forms of heat therapy all provide an incredible spring of health benefits. If you are specifically looking for a means of detoxification after incidence of toxic exposure you will definitely want to use a far infrared sauna. 

Whether you are recovering from living in a mold infested home, work as a firefighter, or have been exposed to other high intensity toxins it will be important to use a far infrared sauna, or at least a sauna that uses far infrared heating panels to rid the body of unwanted substances. 

What is the Data on Saunas and Detoxification?

  • AI = Aluminum
  • AS= Arsenic
  • BE= Beryllium
  • CD=Cadmium
  • NI= Nickel
  • Pb= Lead
  • TI= Titanium
  • Hg= Mercury

The toxic load that most humans carry living in our modern world is concerning. This is one of many reasons why sauna bathing has become so popular in recent years. There have been powerful studies performed on firefighters that were so compelling as it pertained to the effectiveness of far infrared saunas in ridding firefighters of carcinogenic toxins. Many fire departments are now including far infrared saunas on site. (2)

Further research has demonstrated the capacity that a far infrared sauna has to detoxify the body of heavy metals at a substantially higher rate than any other method of passive sweating. The study that was conducted and subsequently published in late 2023 demonstrates that when the sweat of individuals taking a far infrared sauna was measured against those who exercised, and those who took a traditional steam sauna,there were an almost comparatively higher amounts of heavy metals found in the sweat of those who had taken a far infrared sauna. (1)

It should be noted that, while it appears to be true that far infrared saunas are much more successful at expelling toxins from the body via sweat, detoxification is not the only goal or health benefit from sauna use. Traditional saunas, near infrared saunas, sweat lodges, and exercise all produce incredible results in many areas of health, including but not limited to immunity, reduction in all cause mortality, symptom reduction in autoimmune disorders, improved heat shock protein production, and so much more. If you are specifically interested in the detoxification process, as firefighters are, for instance, then the evidence certainly suggests that far infrared saunas are much more effective. 

Whether you are taking a sweat lodge with your community, or a Finnish sauna with your family, or flying solo at a spa boutique sauna, the below undeniable facts concerning your body’s reaction to passive heat remains: 

When the thermal load applied to the body through the sauna increases, the body activates heat-consuming mechanisms such as sweating. At this time, blood flow to the skin increases by approximately 5–10% and cardiac output increases by 60–70%” (3)

All forms of intentional sweating with adequate hydration appear to do wonders for human physiology.  If you are looking for the most effective manner of detoxification  definitely invest your time in a far infrared sauna.

Take a look at this table to see the results of sweat analysis after a far infrared sauna session compared to sweat from exercise and a traditional steam sauna.

Comparison of concentration analysis results of toxic elements in collected sweat samples (1)

ElementsFar Infrared SaunaTraditional/Steam SaunaExerciseExerciseExercise
Al5594.935100.55
As102.365.7
Be22.81
Cd29.37.020.5520.071.18
Ni876.29100.8478.764
Pb312.8531.0445.8080.6337.86
Tl1.490.11
Hg29.90.86
MethodFIR saunaExerciseSteam saunaExerciseExerciseSauna

Why are Far Infrared Saunas More Effective than Traditional Saunas at Detoxification?

The reason why infrared saunas are more effective at detoxification is not entirely known. However, it is known that this heat source penetrates deeply into the soft tissues of the body unlike any other method of thermotherapy. 

Here is what the research tells us according to a peered reviewed journal published by the National Institute of Health.

The IR heat generated from the sauna has a high skin penetration ability and hence can react with the eccrine sweat glands of the coiled tubular glands under the skin surface more effectively than a conventional sauna, consequently increasing the concentration of heavy metal ions in discharged sweat.” (3)

Given that far infrared saunas rely on radiant heat, or more specifically on light wave frequency that moves through space in a bandwidth or wavelength that is longer than UV light, this infrared light heat moves into the depths of the body and effectively heats the body from the inside out. A traditional sauna conversely relies on heating the cabin structure or the atmosphere to a high temperature. While this may feel very hot to the user, the internal core temperature cannot get as hot as it does during a far infrared sauna. Similarly, exercise raises internal body temperature and creates the sweat response. Because heat is limited to the body’s output of energy, there is simply not the depth of detoxification occurring compared to the far infrared sauna. 

If your specific goal is to detoxify, even if you sweat a lot during exercise, it is simply not accessing the heavy metals at the same rate as a far infrared sauna. 

Contraindication: Heavy Sessions of Detoxification Protocol in a Far Infrared Sauna Also Cause the Loss of Necessary Nutrients 

It is important to note that while far infrared saunas are more effective in the role of detoxification, they also cause a much higher rate of mineral and nutrient loss. This may pose a potential threat to health if re-mineralization does not occur.

“Sweat excreted through exercise or sauna can remove heavy metals from the body, but at the same time causes nutrient loss owing to the release of nutrients such as Ca and Mg. Since the body needs to replenish its nutritional supply, it is necessary to understand the intercorrelation between nutrients lost due to the excretion of heavy metals from the body.” (1)

Please, if you plan to use a far infrared sauna for the purpose of detoxification, be prepared for the fact that you will lose unwanted toxins from the body as well as important nutrients. This means that you must maintain a higher level of hydration than those who are not taking far infrared saunas regularly. The water you drink should also contain calcium and magnesium, as well as other electrolytes. Osmosis or other purified water is not enough to remineralize the body. 

Make sure that you are eating a healthy and nutritious diet to replenish the body of necessary nutrients. If you are feeling depleted, take some time from sauna bathing. If you are unsure of whether far infrared sauna bathing is for you please always be sure to consult with your doctor or other medical professional. 

How to Choose the Right Sauna For Your Needs: A Hybrid Sauna Gives You the Best of All Worlds

For the first time ever saunas.org is now offering a hybrid sauna. This  means that you do not need to choose between a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna because you can get both heat sources in one sauna. 

If you are looking to detoxify the body of heavy metals or other toxins for a period of time, but are beginning to feel nutrient deficient, switch to a traditional steam sauna that uses a Harvia stove from Finland. In a perfect world we would all have access to a hybrid sauna. If you do have to choose between a traditional sauna or a far infrared sauna, consider your personal health needs and wellness goals or speak with a sauna expert for an evaluation. 

For the most part all types of saunas are very healthful, but they serve different functions in some cases. When it comes to detoxification, far infrared saunas are the clear winner by a landslide. If possible, try to incorporate as many types of saunas as possible into your sauna protocol and ideally find a way to have access to a hybrid sauna to get the best of all sauna worlds. 

Sources Cited:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9546416/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8647371/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11165553/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10802199/

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