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Sweat therapy is a common practice and has existed throughout history, but does sweating flush toxins from the body? Companies marketing saunas and hot yoga make claims that sweating detoxifies but medical experts disagree. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says the sweat glands are not important for excreting toxins. One sauna company claims that its product will flush 20% of toxins, and traditional saunas only 3%. The number is actually less than 1% according to Donald Smith, a professor of environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz.
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Perspiring's main function is to regulate body temperature but sweat does contain trace amounts of toxins. Patents have been filed for systems that detect toxins in sweat. A steering wheel for example, which could detect alcohol in the sweat of a driver. Detecting toxins or substances is much different than clearing them from your system. The systems that detoxify are kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, immune system, lungs and to a much lesser extent, sweat glands, hair, skin and breast milk. Most toxins are eliminated in urine and feces.
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A Sea of Toxins
Mark Hyman, MD says, "We live in a sea of toxins. Every single person and animal on the planet contains residues of toxic chemicals or metals in their tissues." Toxins can invade your body from outside sources like the metals aluminum, lead and mercury. Chemicals like cleaning solvents, mold and pesticides are also outside sources of toxins. Your body can produce toxins on the inside as well, through bacteria or metabolism.
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External toxins and internal toxins can affect your whole body by disrupting metabolism, hormone levels and regulatory controls of behavior. They can damage mitochondria and cause inflammation. Your brain can also be damaged by potent solvents, noxious fumes and inflammation. The aging effect can speed up due to toxic degeneration of cells, arteries, and immune system and can lead to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
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Avoiding and Detoxifying
You cannot avoid toxins altogether, much like you cannot be completely stress free. But, you can limit your exposure and manage your risks. Many people scrutinize the chemicals in their cleaning supplies, buy organic food, limit plastic use, eliminate mold in their environment. Dr. Hyman suggests enhancing the primary detoxification systems in your body, the kidneys, liver and lungs.
He recommends regular exercise, 1-2 bowel movements a day, and drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day. He recommends sweat therapy as a helpful in detoxifying. He suggests that sweating improves blood and lymphatic circulation, which aids in detoxification. Does sweating flush toxins from the body? Dr. Hyman does not specify that toxins are flushed from the body in sweat.
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Sweat Therapy is Accepted Practice
The use of exercise, saunas, hot yoga to sweat and flush toxins from the body is widely practiced in modern times. Sweat therapy has existed through the ages and has attained cross-cultural acceptance. However, excessive sweating can be dangerous in some instances and injurious to people with medical conditions. Sweating does not provide major and proven detoxification.
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Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Module 2, Routes of Exposure
Systems Biology, Toxins, Obesity, and Functional Medicine, Mark Hyman, MD, Managing Biotransformation: The Metabolic, Genomic, and Detoxification Balance Points, S 134