With the popularity of heated yoga and infrared saunas, there are a lot of wellness claims out there about the benefits of “sweating out toxins.”
But, what does that really mean? Does sweating help rid your body of toxins and keep you healthy? Are the benefits of working out in a heated studio better than staying cool in an air-conditioned room?
The answer isn’t so simple. Why do we sweat? Sweating is primarily a way our body regulates its temperature. It keeps us cool and prevents us from overheating. We also sometimes sweat as a response to the adrenaline we produce when we’re stressed or nervous.
Although trace amounts of heavy metals and pollutants can be found in sweat, sweat is still 99 percent water. And there’s no evidence that sweating out those toxic materials actually improves health. Molly Kimball is a registered dietitian, board certified in Sports Dietetics by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She says, “Some chemicals and metals may be excreted in our sweat, but compared to urinary, fecal and respiratory routes of excretion of these toxic compounds, the skin and sweat glands have much less impact.” Essentially, our kidneys and liver do much of the detoxifying we need.
If you do have a high level of heavy metals in your body, sweating won’t be a cure-all; instead, consult your physician for more effective forms of treatment.
What about that smell that sometimes happen when I sweat? Are those toxins? Nope. When we digest certain foods, sometimes they give off a distinct odor that gets released through the body, including through sweating. Think sulfuric vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower, or garlic and onions. It may smell funky, but it’s not toxic.
Sweating still has a lot of benefits outside of just keeping us cool. Molly says that the benefit of “sweating it out” is still very real: “It increases our blood flow, oxygenates our tissues and boosts the feel-good chemicals that lift our mood.”
How do we detox, then? Stay hydrated, sit back and let your organs do the work! Feel good about that heated vinyasa flow, if you like. But don’t think that it’s taking the place of the hard work your liver, intestines and kidneys are doing every day.
Want to learn more about establishing healthy eating and fitness routines? Contact Ochsner Fitness Center today.