The Detoxifying Power of the World's Oldest Biohack

by Dr. David Minkoff September 13, 2018 4 min read

The Detoxifying Power of the World's Oldest Biohack

A Brief History of Sweating

Humans around the world have harnessed the power of sweat for thousands of years.

In Finland, the tradition goes back at least 2000 years. Native American people have used the tradition of the sweat lodge for even longer.

You can find Turkish-style hammams throughout the Islamic world, everywhere from Central Asia all the way to Morocco. Throughout Russia you find Banyas. Ancient Rome is littered with ruins of bathhouses and saunas. There are even remains of ancient bath houses and saunas dating to 2500 BC found in the Indus valley.

This is a very old technology, so why has it stuck around?

Short answer, because it works.

So let’s get deep into the detoxifying power of one of the oldest forms of biohacking: saunas.

Benefits of Sauna

Deliberately overheating the body, technically called hyperthermia, creates many beneficial biological changes in the body:

  • Kills pathogens
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Increases growth hormone production
  • Reduces joint and muscle pain
  • Decreases recovery time
  • Detoxifies the body
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Increases resilience

Now let’s take a look at these in a little more detail.

Destroying Pathogens With Hyperthermia

What does your body do when you get sick?

You get a fever. But why?

Because the increase in core temperature kills off pathogens.

The same thing happens in a sauna. Our core temperature rises a few degrees and infectious microbes can’t handle the heat.

Humans are complex organisms with lots of built-in backup systems to help us survive intense heat.

Viruses and bacteria don't have these systems. Faced with hyperthermia, their proteins become misfolded and warped, and the invading microbes die off.

Even if you’re not expressing symptoms of sickness, you almost certainly have viruses and bacteria infecting some area of your body at any given time. It’s just part of being human.

Research into its effects on infection showed that people taking regular saunas experienced 30% fewer flu and cold symptoms [1]. Regular sauna can act as a prophylactic and help keep these minor infections in check.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

If you’ve ever seen someone coming out of a sauna, you’ll notice their skin is often flushed. Flushing happens when blood flow to the skin increases.

But it’s not just the skin. It’s everywhere. Saunas open up all the tiny little capillaries in all the peripheral tissues, improving cardiovascular health on every level. Research shows saunas reduce risk of cardiovascular disease 64%, and coronary heart disease 48%. [2]

The same study showed regular saunas even lowered risk of death overall by 40%.

The only other thing with such a broad range of health benefits is exercise. And interestingly, saunas also increase heart rate up to 60%––remarkably similar effects as exercise. [3]

Muscle Recovery, Muscle Gain, and Pain Reduction

When the circulatory system is opened and relaxed, you get more blood flow into your muscles. This means trapped lactic acid and other biochemical toxins that cause soreness and pain get flushed out.

This same process also lets the nutrients in the blood get deeper into the muscle tissue, facilitating faster tissue regeneration and bigger muscle gains.

Growth Hormone

It’s not just the increased circulation that increases muscle gains.

One study showed that two saunas 30 minutes apart increases the production of growth hormone, a critical hormone for overall health and muscle growth. [4]

Detoxification

If sweating did nothing else but help you detox, saunas would still be more than worth the time.

The skin is the body’s largest detox organ.

As your body attempts to regulate your temperature by flushing water through the millions of sweat glands covering the body, other impurities get flushed out with it.

Studies show sweat from sauna pushes heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury out of the body [5]. These heavy metals are highly toxic and disturbingly common in our food and water supplies.

Other studies show saunas even eliminate toxins stored in fat tissue, like the notorious BPA [6].

Heat Shock Proteins

The most fascinating benefit of saunas occurs at the molecular level.

There is a class of proteins that respond to environmental stress. They are called “Heat Shock Proteins.” They earned that name because when cells in a lab were subjected to “heat shock”, they make these protective proteins.

You can think of the like “emergency care” proteins.

The proteins and enzymes in your body are designed to function within a very narrow temperature range. When the cellular environment gets too hot, proteins become unstable and deformed.

In molecular biology-speak, they become “misfolded”.

Misfolded proteins don’t function, so an overheated cell brings out the “emergency care”: Heat Shock Proteins to the rescue!

These proteins keep the other proteins in line. They help them maintain their structure so the cell can continue to function.

What’s interesting is that heat shock proteins help cells stay resilient to ALL kinds of cellular stress––including psychological stress and inflammation.

By inducing heat shock proteins with a sauna, you train your cells to become more resilient to all stress.

Types of Sauna: Infrared or Traditional?

There are many kinds of saunas available today. The biggest distinction is in the method of heating, namely electric heat or infrared.

The major benefits of sauna occur with either method [7], so don’t sweat the decision too much.

However, infrared saunas do come with a few extra benefits.

Infrared light is experienced as heat. It is a longer wavelength than visible light and this helps it penetrate deeper into your tissues, particularly fat cells.

It stimulates the cells directly, instead of indirectly via the air like conventional heating. This direct stimulation triggers a deeper release of toxins stored in fat, which ultimately carries stronger benefits.

Using the Tools We Have

Our bodies are faced with higher toxicity, more intense levels of stress, and less opportunity for recovery than ever before.

To maintain optimal health, we don't just need to look forward to the next supplement or tech-based biohack.

We also need to look back into our past and see what our ancestors did to stay healthy and view their practices through the lens of optimal health biohacks.

Saunas are perhaps the world’s oldest, easiest, and most powerful biohack. 

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2248758
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25705824
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3218898
  5. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/184745/#B30
  6. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/185731/abs/
  7. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stephen_Genuis/publication/47701626_Blood_Urine_and_Sweat_BUS_Study_Monitoring_and_Elimination_of_Bioaccumulated_Toxic_Elements/links/5561456c08ae86c06b64aad6.pdf 
Dr. David Minkoff
Dr. David Minkoff

Dr. Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then worked as an attending physician in infectious disease, co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine until 1995. In 1997, his interest in alternative and complementary medicine led him to open LifeWorks Wellness Center, which has become one of the foremost alternative medicine clinics in the U.S. His search to find a source of the highest quality nutritional supplements led him to establish BodyHealth in 2000, a resource that could provide doctors with the best possible supplementation and education for their patients. Today, the BodyHealth products are used by hundreds of practitioners and individual consumers who seek all-natural wellness and detoxification supplements with a demonstrated high level of quality and effectiveness. In addition to their use by patients looking to heal disease, the BodyHealth products are also used by sports enthusiasts interested in achieving and maintaining optimal performance. As a 42-time Ironman triathlon finisher, (including 8 appearances at the Ironman World Championships) Dr. Minkoff has first-hand experience to help athletes achieve optimum conditioning. His expertise in protein synthesis, detoxification, and nutrition allow them to run, swim, and bike faster and longer. Today, Dr. Minkoff is an alternative healthcare expert, guest lecturer, writer, tv and radio show guest. He also authors two weekly newsletters, the BodyHealth Fitness Newsletter and the Optimum Health Report.


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