Recognised for its relaxing and healthful sensations, the sauna is often associated with the notion of detoxification. Does the sauna really help to detoxify the body? Do different types of saunas, such as Finnish and infrared saunas, offer different detoxification benefits? In this article we will try to clarify this, based on scientific evidence.
Sauna and detox: truth or myth?
The sauna is often advertised as a tool for detoxification, a process that is said to help our bodies rid themselves of toxins. However, understanding what ‘detoxification’ actually means is key to this question.
The main mechanism of detoxification in our bodies is the work of the liver, bowel and kidneys, which filter the blood and eliminate unnecessary and potentially harmful substances. If these organs fail to cope with this task, we have a serious health condition that requires medical intervention. The skin also eliminates metabolic products, but it does so mainly through sweat, whose main purpose is to cool the body rather than detoxify it.
So how does the sauna affect this process? Can it actually help our bodies get rid of toxins? The sauna, especially at high temperatures, definitely makes us sweat. However, the sweat that our bodies produce in the sauna consists mainly of water, salt and small amounts of other substances. Although some studies suggest that a certain amount of toxins may be secreted through the skin, this is a very small amount compared to the work of our kidneys and liver.
As such, the sauna is not a key detoxification tool as it is often portrayed. Its real health benefits, such as improving circulation and general wellbeing, should be the main reason for using it. It is a place for relaxation and body care, not a magical detoxification tool.
Comparison of the detoxification effect in a Finnish sauna and an infrared sauna
The Finnish sauna, also known as the dry sauna, and the infrared sauna differ in terms of heating technology and the effects they have on the body. But is one of them more effective in terms of detoxification?
The Finnish sauna generates heat by directly heating the air, which leads to an increase in body temperature and intense sweating. As a result, the sauna user experiences intense sweating, which can help eliminate small amounts of toxins through the skin, although, as mentioned earlier, the main detoxification tools in the body are the liver and kidneys.
An infrared sauna works a little differently. It emits infrared radiation that penetrates deep into the skin, heating the body from within. It is said that this internal heat can stimulate metabolic processes and accelerate the elimination of toxins. However, science does not conclusively confirm that infrared saunas are significantly more effective for detoxification than Finnish saunas.
In practice, both sauna types may contribute to a slight increase in the elimination of toxins through the skin via sweat, but they do not replace the action of other organs, such as the liver and kidneys, which play a key role in the detoxification process. Therefore, sauna use – regardless of type – should be seen as part of a healthy lifestyle and not as the main detoxification tool.
Drinking water, sauna and detoxification
Proper hydration is a key aspect for the health of our bodies, and this becomes particularly important in the context of sauna use. The human body is made up of approximately 60 per cent water, and staying properly hydrated helps all of our systems to function effectively – from improving digestive function, to supporting the immune system, to ensuring adequate blood circulation.
Before and after using a sauna, whether Finnish or infrared, it is essential to consume more water. The heat in the sauna induces the body to sweat heavily, which leads to fluid loss. To prevent dehydration and support the detoxification process, it is important to drink at least 2 litres of water a day, especially on days when you use the sauna.
Adequate hydration, combined with regular sauna use, can help our bodies to better cope with the elimination of toxins. It also helps to reduce the negative effects associated with over-eating, as water supports digestive functions and helps our bodies filter and remove unnecessary substances.
Remember, while a sauna and adequate hydration can support detoxification, they are no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity, which are key elements of a healthy lifestyle.
Based on the above, it can be concluded that a sauna, whether Finnish or infrared, can contribute to overall wellbeing and health, but its role in detoxifying the body is debatable.
Nevertheless, regular sauna use can provide a number of health benefits, such as improved blood circulation, increased immunity or support for the musculoskeletal system. In addition, saunas can contribute to an improved sense of well-being and general relaxation.
However, it is important to remember that sauna use should be complemented with adequate hydration, a healthy diet and regular physical activity. The sauna is not a miracle solution for detox and should not be used as the only method to improve health.
Always pay attention to your body’s signals and consult your doctor or specialist before starting any new health practice, including sauna use.