Aspire to Perspire
As a physician, I get asked all the time, what is one simple thing that I can do to improve my health, to which I generally reply “aspire to perspire.” It may seem simple, or even comical, but in truth sweating has powerful health benefits that everyone can take advantage of. The tricky part for most people will be finding a way to make it happen. I try to encourage my patients to pursue a lifestyle that includes moderate to vigorous exercise several days a week, which should be enough to achieve the health and detoxification benefits of sweating. When that is not possible I recommend sauna therapy, either dry heat or far infrared.
The environment in which we live is toxic and becoming more so with each passing year. Luckily, our bodies are amazing at detoxifying themselves and we can use that innate ability to rid ourselves of the man-made toxicants, such as heavy metals and chemicals, which are becoming ubiquitous in our air, water, and food supply. BPA is one such chemical that has found its way into many of the foods and plastic products that we come into contact with daily. Study after study has shown elevated levels of BPA across all socioeconomic groups in fat cells, organs, and even breast milk. Making the issue more challenging is that fact that BPA is very difficult to rid from the body once it is there. Fortunately, its preferred route of exit is through the urine and sweat. When testing reveals high levels of heavy metals or chemicals, sauna therapy is an excellent first step intervention to reduce your risk and resolve your body’s burden of these undesirable substances.
In addition to detoxifying your body, sweating balances hormone levels, reduces the effects of stress on the body, improves oxygenation and circulation, and can even stimulate weight loss. While it is true that we release toxins and balance other aspects of our metabolism through sweating, we can also deplete the body of important electrolytes and minerals. I have had good success with replenishing using Klean Athlete’s Hydration packets, which are high in electrolytes and other important nutrients.
For those who find themselves sweating on a consistent basis, whether that be through exercise, sauna, or warm temperatures, there are important steps to take to mitigate any negative effects that may arise from profuse and persistent perspiring. First, insure that you are staying hydrated with clean water. You should be consuming approximately half of your body weight in ounces daily. Add electrolyte tablets to your routine before and after sweating takes place. Minerals are easily lost through sweat, so ensuring you have a strategy to replace them is important. Distance runners and endurance athletes, both male and female, will also need to consider how increased sweating may impact their iron levels. Runners are especially at risk due to what is known as “foot strike hemolysis” or the breakdown or red blood cells in the feet from running on hard surfaces. Vigorous exercise also increases circulation through the spleen, the organ responsible for removing red blood cells from circulation. Red blood cells are important because they are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body and when low, can cause decreased stamina. Female athletes are further at risk due to monthly menstrual loss of iron. I recommend athletes be tested for iron and ferritin levels every 4-6 months while training and competing in their sport. When we discover iron is low, often appropriate supplementation, medication, or iron infusion therapy is needed to restore iron levels and improve the red blood cells. At NaturoMedica, Iron is one of the most common IV’s we administer.
If you are curious about your need for increased sweating or sauna therapy, accurate mineral, electrolyte, heavy metal, and chemical testing is available through blood, urine, and hair testing at NaturoMedica. If you choose to pursue sauna therapy or vigorous exercise, it is best to check in with your doctor prior to starting a program to make sure your cardiovascular health is adequate to start a program.