The Chlorinated Villains and Their Impact
By now, you are likely aware of the negative health effects of chlorine-containing chemicals like pesticides, dioxins, and PCBs. We know that these chemicals, which the body is not adapted to process, accumulate in fatty tissue. This causes trouble in the form of breast and other cancers, infertility, endometriosis, hypothyroidism, neurological ailments such as ADD, brain fog and depression, chronic infection, allergies, autoimmune diseases, environmental illness, heart disease, and fatigue (Kaur 2003, Crinnion 2007, Rogers 2002). Alarmingly, the main way women purge these chemicals is through breast-feeding. A baby breast fed for 6 months receives more than 5 times the daily limit of PCBs set for a 150 lb adult (Kaur 2003)! Fortunately, there is another way to expel these toxins from our body fat: infrared saunas.
Sweating is an important detoxification mechanism for our bodies, a function enhanced in an infrared sauna. It works by using infrared light to penetrate beyond the surface of the skin to a depth of 1.5 inches or more (Rogers 2002). The heat produced in this wavelength range acts to stimulate the release of toxic substances from their hideouts in our organs and fat cells. One explanation for this is that the infrared light activates water clusters, causing them to break up, and thus giving energized water molecules greater mobility and penetration in and out of body tissues, carrying toxic substances out with them in sweat (Rogers 2002). Infrared wavelengths also improve lymphatic circulation, which translates into enhancing our body’s natural mechanism for moving toxins out of our cells.
The evidence on far-infrared saunas supports their use in detoxifying from the following substances: chlorinated pesticides, herbicides, PCBs, and drugs such as morphine, methadone, and amphetamines. Saunas have a history of clinical use in drug rehabilitation, and studies support their beneficial effects in treating advanced congestive heart failure, along with a variety of less acutely life-threatening chronic illnesses (Rogers 2002).
Who Should Use Sauna Detoxification?
- Women & men intending to conceive
- Anyone with a history of exposure to pesticides, dry cleaning solvents, other industrial chemicals
- People with illnesses like those mentioned above
- *Note: Since infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than regular dry heat or wet heat saunas, they are safe for people who cannot tolerate heat well, including those with heart conditions (Rogers 2002). But, please work with a doctor!
Sauna therapy is usually the third or fourth step in a doctor-prescribed naturopathic detoxification or environmental health program. The specifics of what supplements you may need before and after sauna, and what pace of detoxification is appropriate should be developed for you in conjunction with your ND or other primary care provider. The intensity and total number of sauna hours appropriate for you will depend on your lifestyle, your health status, and other factors. For examples of Sauna Detoxification Protocols, see Detoxify or Die by Sherry Rogers, MD, or The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer by Sat Dharam Kaur, ND.