Sauna Sessions: Sweating Your Way to a Supercharged Brain & Detox Boost

by | Apr 11, 2023

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Synopsis

In this episode of The Modern Vital Podcast, Dr. Ben reebs discusses the benefits of traditional and far infrared sauna use. A Finnish study reveals that frequent sauna use can significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cardiovascular events, while also improving cognitive function and overall brain health. Sauna use supports detoxification by upregulating the body’s organs of elimination, including the liver, kidneys, and skin. Sweating during sauna sessions helps excrete more toxins, unclogs pores, and removes dead skin cells, leading to clearer, healthier skin.

Dr. Reebs suggests several practical tips for maximizing sauna benefits, including staying well-hydrated, dry brushing the skin before entering the sauna, and taking binders like activated charcoal or clay an hour after the session to help remove toxins. Finishing with a cold shower or plunge can further enhance detoxification, while pre-sauna exercise may increase circulation and promote sweating. Post-sauna, it’s crucial to replenish electrolytes and essential nutrients lost through sweating.

Listeners are encouraged to reach out with questions, suggestions, or feedback, and to join the next episode of The Modern Vital Podcast for more insights into health and well-being.

If you’re looking to dive deeper into understanding the intricacies of chronic disease and its impact on your overall well-being, consider checking out Dr. Reebs’ book, “The Serpent & The Butterfly: The Seven Laws of Healing.” In this book, he discusses thyroid health and much more to help you on your journey to optimal wellness. Click here to purchase your copy: https://www.drreebs.com/serpent-butterfly-book/

Additionally, if you’re interested in a supplement designed to directly support your digestion, we recommend trying Digest: Gentian & Skullcap Capsules. These capsules are formulated with natural ingredients that can help improve and support overall digestive health. To learn more and purchase, visit: https://www.drreebs.com/digest-gentian-skullcap-capsules/

Thank you for joining us on The Modern Vital Podcast. Your support means the world to us, and we hope you continue to find value in the information we provide. Please remember to subscribe, leave a review, and share our podcast with others who might benefit from this content. Until next time, stay informed and proactive in your pursuit of health and wellness!

Complete Transcript of Episode 12624774

On today’s episode of The Modern Vital Podcast, we’re gonna talk about one of my favorite therapies, traditional and far infrared sauna, in particular.

Our Modern Vital Fact of the Day is that sauna has the potential to improve brain health and cognitive function. A study conducted in Finland, published in the Journal of Age and Aging in 2017, found that men who used a sauna four to seven times per week had a 65% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and a 66% reduced risk of dementia compared to those who used a sauna once a week.

One proposed mechanism behind this association is that the heat stress from sauna use increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF, a protein that supports the growth and survival of neurons. Additionally, sauna use may improve blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation, and promote the release of endorphins, all of which can contribute to better cognitive function and overall brain health.

Frequent sauna use in general, according to lots of studies, appears to reduce the risk of fatal cardiovascular events and coronary heart disease as well as decrease all-cause mortality, which is death from any cause. A review article from the Mayo Clinic proceedings in 2018 found that sauna improves endothelial function and also induces physiological changes similar to those experienced during moderate to high intensity.

I wanna talk a little bit about detoxification. The body has five main ways that it removes toxins. These systems used to be referred to as emunctories, which is basically an organ of elimination. My point is that sauna upregulates these organs of elimination and perhaps most obviously our skin. 

The five main organs of elimination are the liver, the genito-urinary tract, which includes most famously the kidneys, the gut, the lungs, and the skin.

By far, the liver and kidneys do the most work. The lungs can detoxify by removing gases. We know, for example, that gas anesthetics are removed from the body by the lungs. The digestive tract can detoxify through the stool, such as in diarrhea or just regular stools, or by vomiting. The kidneys secrete toxins or filter toxins out of the blood into the urine.

The liver detoxifies toxins. By changing the chemical nature of them, the skin reduces the penetration of toxic substances. It’s important to note that toxins in oils will penetrate the skin much more effectively and efficiently than toxins in water. The skin can excrete water soluble toxins, and heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium.

When we sweat during a sauna, we excrete more toxins. Some studies suggest that sauna use can result in a 10 to 30% increase in the excretion of certain toxins compared to normal conditions. Let’s talk for a moment about the skin as a detoxification organ. It’s the largest organ in the human body. Sweat glands located in the dermis of the skin, that is, just below the epidermis, which is the top layer, produce sweat in response to heat, exercise and stress.

This is gonna lend itself to how sauna supports this process. Now, the primary function of sweat is to regulate body temperature when the body’s temperature rises. The sweat glands produce sweat, which then evaporates from the skin’s surface, helping to cool the body. Sebum, an oily substance produced by sebaceous glands in the skin, also plays a role in detoxification.

Sebum can bind to fat soluble toxins, and help transport them to the skin’s surface where they can be eliminated through sweat or by washing the skin. No one knows for sure how much detoxification overall the skin does, but I happen to believe it’s more than people think. For the sake of this discussion, let’s conservatively call it 5%.

Overall, why not take advantage of it by upregulating it with sauna? Why not give our liver and kidneys a break? It appears that white blood cell production is enhanced during infrared sauna. Endorphins such as dopamine are released when spending time in an infrared sauna, which can act as natural painkillers and mood elevators, and promote relaxation and wellbeing and euphoria.

Kicking one into a parasympathetic state, GABA may also be upregulated by regular sauna use, but there are no studies showing this. Pain relief occurs with regular sauna use as improved circulation and relaxation helps to alleviate muscle and joint pain, due to its anti-inflammatory effects, and also by increasing blood flow to affected areas and promoting metabolic waste products to be removed, which may be mediating or causing pain. 

Sweating helps to unclog pores and remove dead skin cells leading to clearer, healthier skin. Increased blood flow also promotes collagen production and can improve skin elasticity. Far infrared saunas also use a lot less energy than traditional saunas, which is a bonus.

They’re easier to tolerate due to having lower air temperature. This makes them better for heat sensitive individuals or those who have certain medical conditions. One cool benefit of taking a sauna, and this does not just apply to far infrared, is that heat stress can activate various cellular stress responses, including heat shock proteins.

Heat shock proteins play a role in protecting cells from damage and assisting in protein folding and degradation. 

Let’s discuss some practical tips for sauna use. Again, this is not medical advice. Please consult your naturopathic doctor about your health and the best ways for you to use a sauna. It is excellent to be well hydrated before entering a sauna, as this will support detoxification and elimination.

Because so much of this happens with the help of water, dry skin brushing, or body brushing for five minutes before entering a sauna is supportive. Use a natural bristle brush to gently brush the skin in circular or long sweeping motions. Dry brushing promotes exfoliation. that is, dead skin removal, and it can also unclog pores and prevent ingrown hairs.

It stimulates lymphatic circulation, which can promote waste product removal. The gentle pressure and brushing motion of the brush brings blood to the skin surface, enhancing circulation and supporting nutrient delivery to the skin. Cellulite, which is basically fat that pushes up against connective tissue, is reduced as fat deposits can break down in infected areas.

Nerve ends in the skin are stimulated by the brushing, which can be calming to the nervous system. 

Another thing that I like to recommend is taking a binder which contains activated charcoal or clay or some combination thereof, about an hour after taking a sauna, and it can bind any toxins that were released into the body and into the blood, and take them out through the stool. 

Another cool hack is to finish with a 30 to 60 second, or however long you can tolerate, cold shower or a cold water plunge, or even an ice bath if you have one. I think of this as like wringing out the cells and the tissues with internal vasodilation and vasoconstriction. The heat of the sauna brings the blood to the surface and the cold drives it back in, and this effectively flushes out the system and it’s free.

There’s also evidence that pre-sauna exercise, that is, engaging in moderate intensity exercises before you sauna can help increase circulation and promote sweating and enhance toxin elimination, kind of setting one up for more success when they do actually sauna. 

After saunaing, we may want to replenish our electrolytes and essential nutrients that were lost through the sweating nutrients like potassium, magnesium, sodium.

That concludes episode #7 of The Modern Vital Podcast. We would love to hear from you. We value your feedback. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to me ben@modernvital.com. Also, please leave us a review if you enjoyed this episode. We look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of The Modern Vital Podcast.

If you’re looking to dive deeper into understanding the intricacies of chronic disease and its impact on your overall well-being, consider checking out my book, “The Serpent & The Butterfly: The Seven Laws of Healing.” In this book, I discuss thyroid health and much more to help you on your journey to optimal wellness. Click here to purchase your copy: https://www.drreebs.com/serpent-butterfly-book/

Additionally, if you’re interested in a supplement designed to directly support your digestion, I recommend trying my Digest: Gentian & Skullcap Capsules. These capsules are formulated with natural ingredients that can help improve and support overall digestive health. To learn more and purchase, visit: https://www.drreebs.com/digest-gentian-skullcap-capsules/

Thank you for joining us on The Modern Vital Podcast. Your support means the world to us, and we hope you continue to find value in the information we provide. Please remember to subscribe, leave a review, and share our podcast with others who might benefit from this content. Until next time, stay informed and proactive in your pursuit of health and wellness!

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About Me

Dr. Ben Reebs, ND, is an award-winning, naturopathic physician with a focus in environmental medicine, which looks at how environmental factors can cause chronic disease. He specializes in chronic infections, autoimmune disease, and digestive health.

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