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Eliminates Toxins – Prevents Disease – Treats Health Problems
Anthony Chapdelaine, Jr., MD, MSPH, Exec. Dir./Sec.*
Our Toxic Environment Creates Disease
We live in a society at a time when tens of thousands of chemicals are used in food production, and where over 4000 chemicals are being added directly to food and water. Many of these chemicals have been poorly tested for human use – or not at all. Scientists have estimated that 95% of cancers are because of environmental and nutritional factors. For each individual the interaction between that person’s gene and the environment determines subsequent cancer formation.1
Like it or not, we are bombarded constantly by electromagnetic pollution, radiation, oil-derived brain-addicting or brain-destroying chemicals (including prescription drugs), anesthetics from surgeries, food contamination with dangerous pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, work-related chemicals, “non-stick” toxins on cookware, heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury, occupational exposures to thousands of chemicals (think: first-responders), and numerous other daily environmental exposures which slowly accumulate inside our cells, especially storage sites such as fat cells in the brain and body.1, 2
Exposure to most of these environmental toxins began recently in human history – just over the last eighty years. These toxins accumulate over time, gradually adding to the body’s toxin burden and triggering, through various mechanisms, a cascade of damage to cellular DNA. These slowly-accumulating toxic substances are called, “xenobiotics,” which simply means that they are “foreign” to the body – they don’t belong there – and they are notoriously difficult to remove.1, 2
Traditional saunas are the dry or steam Finnish saunas with a history of hundreds of years of usage. These reach temperatures of 165 degrees F or higher (up to 200 degrees), although they may only reach 100 degrees at the skin. It depends on strict control of several factors. The heat only penetrates the skin and superficial muscles and the perspiration that results can potentially block toxins from excreting. To achieve long-term benefits according to studies requires between four and seven thirty-minute plus saunas a week. They are risky for people taking pharmaceutical drugs; can cause dangerous drop in blood pressure and heat stroke if not carefully monitored for proper rehydration and mineral-replacement; they may be not recommended for people with marginal breathing problems as the steam can cause feelings of suffocation. Most people cannot find or afford to do these frequently enough to provide any permanent health benefit. It all depends.
The first – and thus far the most successful – method tested for removing xenobiotics, and thereby decreasing the body’s toxin overload, is the “Hubbard Detoxification Method” (using a repeated combination of sauna to produce sweat, along with exercise, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, water replacement, and nutritional oils). The “Hubbard Method” – as it is often called – was the first, and most studied, method for removing the body’s toxin overload.2, 3
Hubbard’s method works, although for most people it is extremely intensive and difficult to complete. It requires medical supervision/sign-off. It requires five hour plus sessions daily for weeks to months, with proper nutrient replacements including vitamins, minerals, and oils, and frequent cool-off periods to accomplish “detox” or elimination of fat-stored toxins and metals. Nonetheless, studies confirm it works.
Doctors use the word “detoxification” to mean ongoing processes the body uses (especially through the liver) to change “toxic” substances into less toxic ones. When doctors talk about using a sauna (sometimes called “thermal chamber”) for “detoxification,” they are describing the sauna’s use (along with vitamins etc.) to facilitate the process of directly mobilizing and then removing toxins from the body.2 This meaning for the word “detoxification” doesn’t usually involve changing toxic substance to less toxic ones, although certain natural substances could be used for that purpose in addition to the sauna detoxification.
The Finnish definition of sauna excludes the FIR “sauna.” We’ll continue to use that word here to avoid confusion, since the delivery of heat to the body is still the end result. The best type of sauna (or thermal chamber) is one that provides far-infrared energy (FIR). A FIR chamber (sauna) is often used for toxin removal since it provides energy that penetrates up to one-and-a-half inches into the muscles and other tissues. The greatest regenerative effect is seen when the body absorbs between 6 and 14 microns (optimally around 10 microns) of thermal energy. The FIR sauna – which heats only the body – generally operates between 110 and 150 F degrees and is far more effective and safe than the typical “Finnish” sauna, generally used between 175 and 195 F degrees and which heat both the air and the body, thus increasing the risk of hyperthermia.4,5
To maintain its critical biological functions, the body makes its own far-infrared energy to produce a minimum heat threshold and will selectively absorb far-infrared energy to boost its production. The extra heat energy from a FIR thermal chamber – along with fluids, replacement minerals, certain vitamins, amino acids, and oils – allows the body to move the fat-bound toxic chemicals and metals from storage, bind them, and then remove them by processing and then excretion through the liver, kidney, intestine, lung and skin.2, 6
Benefits of FIR
What are the benefits of using a FIR sauna? We’ve already mentioned the mobilizing and elimination of a long list of xenobiotics (pesticides, street and prescription drugs, work-chemicals, etc.). Other benefits of long-term FIR sauna therapy may include: lowering blood pressure in hypertension; improving function in congestive heart failure; increasing skin blood flow, microcirculation; relieving urticaria; enhancing wound healing; stimulating the immune system; eliminating mild depression; temporarily relieving asthma and chronic bronchitis; decreasing inflammation and pain and improving joint mobility in rheumatoid diseases, including psoriasis.7, 8 Just like the Finnish sauna, several thirty-minute or longer sessions a week, over months to years, are needed to provide the best long-term health benefits. Water and minerals should be adequately replaced during or after the sessions.
A FIR sauna for home use is less expensive than a Finnish sauna, and safer to use long-term. TheraSauna uses a patented ceramic heating element control system for consistent heat (unlike most other FIR which cycle up and down) and is considered by some to be among the best FIR systems.
Very Few Medical Reasons to Avoid Sauna Therapy
What medical conditions prevent someone from using FIR sauna therapy? Patients with severe aortic stenosis; unstable angina; complicated pregnancy. Although FIR sauna therapy is recognized as generally safe at the temperatures used for short sauna sessions of thirty minutes or so, a medical doctor should clear patients who want to use the sauna over several weeks or months. Although considered safe for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies, for people with a history of an old heart attack, and for people with stable angina, a doctor should examine and approve these people before they attempt their first FIR sauna session.4, 7
* The Coalition for Advanced Cancer Treatment and Prevention a project of The National Fund for Alternative Medicine
- Perera FP, “Environment and Cancer: Who Are Susceptible?” Science, 1997, 278(5340), Pgs 1069-1073.
- Schnare DW, et al, “Reduction of Human Organohalide Body Burdens – Final Research Report,” Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, Los Angeles, CA, 1983 July, pgs 1-16.
- Tretjak Z, Shields M, et al, “PCB Reduction and Clinical Improvement by Detoxification: An Unexploited Approach?” Hum Exp Toxicol, 1990, 9(4), Pgs 235-244.
- Vatansever F, Hamblin MR, “Far Infrared Radiation (FIR): Its Biological Effects and Medical Applications,” Photonics Lasers Med, 2012, 4, Pgs 255-266.
- Roehm D, “Effects of a Program of Sauna Baths and Megavitamins on Adipose DDE and PCB’s and on Clearing of Symptoms of Agent Orange (Dioxin) Toxicity,” Clinical Research, 1983, 31(2), Pg 243A.
- Hannuksela ML, Ellahham S, “Benefits and Risks of Sauna Bathing,” Am J Med, 2001 Feb, 110(2), Pgs 118-126.
- Krop J, Swierczek J, “Patient with Severe Intractable Asthma, Urticaria and Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Response to Sauna Therapy,” Clin Ecology, 1987/88, 5, Pgs 136-139.