There are an astonishing number of devotees who visit saunas and steam baths on the regular, claiming it’s the only way to truly purify both their bodies and minds. Aboriginals used fire in their sweat lodges and in the Middle East they have their hammams. In Sweden, they sweat it out in their bastus and the Japanese in their mushi buro. The list goes on, as do the health benefits, both physically and mentally, when it comes to using steam to detox.
“We live in such a toxic environment and anything can become a toxin–it can be a heavy metal, or PCBs, or plastic derivatives or carbon monoxide from living in a city. Our bodies are so full of toxic burdens, and that only really increases with age,” Vancouver-based naturopath Dr. Julie Moore of the Davie Street Sage Clinic shares. “The sauna helps clean out the cells’ toxic debris as well as the extra cellular matrix because the skin is one of the main emunctories for detoxification.”
Particularly good for skin detoxification, wet saunas improve circulation and boosting glow with a process of detoxing called biotherapeutic drainage. Asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic pain and stiff joint sufferers also sing praise to the relieving results of steam baths, as do endurance athletes: because plasma red cell volume is increased while systolic blood pressure is decreased while steaming, exercise tolerance is significantly improved.
Sauna’s are also supremely beneficial for your ticker: while the heat slowly increases heart rate, your relaxed state of mind allows blood vessels to expand, making your heart work harder, much like exercise does. Regular steams can improve overall circulation, promoting your body to detox by releasing toxins on a more regular basis, even when you’re not in the sauna.
As going for a steam isn’t ingrained in us like it is in many other cultures, we North Americans may not realize the importance and detoxifying health benefits that come along with sweating it all out regularly. Especially essential for those living in or near a city, steaming allows for the release of built-up harmful environmental toxins.
The beauty benefits are a solid bonus too, with sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells getting pushed out through the pores, which is a process induced by sweating in the steam. Gwyneth Paltrow recommends a few of her favourite spots to detox with saunas on her chic lifestyle blog goop.com, so you know it’s a got to be a good thing.