03 Jan Detoxification
The practice of steam bathing has been around for thousands of years, with roots going all the way back to the cradle of civilization. While uses of these baths have ranged from religious customs to social gatherings, there is significant evidence that steam bathing also has numerous benefits for our physical and emotional health and well-being.
According to Dr. Reinhard R. Bergel of the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Balneology and Climatology, these benefits are a result of “physiologic changes that occur during the bath.” Dr. Bergel attributes these changes “in part to the rise in body temperature and in part to the influence of the reflexes of the hormonal and nervous systems, which attempt to increase the heat loss”—or cool down the body.
So what kinds of benefits are we talking about? A big one is detoxification. The Spartans used vapor baths—an ancient predecessor to our steam showers—and other spa treatments to draw toxins from the body. Today, as the toxins in our environment grow to unprecedented levels, it is more important than ever to find ways to cleanse and refresh our bodies.
In order to prevent dehydration, limit steam showers to a maximum of 20 minutes. Afterward, be sure to cool off gradually and drink plenty of water.
Every day you encounter innumerable toxins—in the air you breathe, the food you eat, even the medicine you take. Absorbing these toxins can result in any number of negative outcomes, from fatigue to illness. Of course the safest option is to avoid toxins whenever possible, but when you can’t avoid them, you can do your best to remove them.
Take pesticides, for example. These nasty chemicals can enter our bodies in any number of ways, from ingesting food to absorbing them through our skin. But there’s good news! A 2016 study concluded that induced perspiration—such as that which results from steam bathing—may be a viable way of eliminating certain pesticides from the body.
How Does Steam Remove Toxins?
The skin is the body’s largest organ. While the lungs, liver, and kidneys do most of the work of the excretory system, the skin also rids the body of toxins via small holes called pores. The combination of heat and moisture produced in a steam shower causes the pores of the skin to open and release perspiration—also known as sweat. Sweat is mostly made up of water, but it also contains salts and metabolic waste products, like urea and lactic acid. The main function of sweating is to regulate body temperature; however, unloading these unwanted wastes is a definite bonus.
Relaxation as Detoxification
While you may not think of stress as a toxin, that’s exactly how it is received by your body. When your body perceives a threat, it responds by producing a hormone called cortisol, which elevates your blood pressure and heart rate. This hormone is a throwback to the days when we humans often found ourselves in fight-or-flight situations, such as running away from predators. Today, our stressors are less tangible—think work deadlines and financial issues—and those cortisol bursts don’t serve us the way they once did.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common effects of stress on the body include headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, and sleep problems—not to mention possible impacts on your mood and behavior. So-called “toxic stress” is an especially dangerous form that has been shown to wreak havoc on humans, especially children. While it’s not possible to avoid stress all together, relaxation is a great way to mitigate the harmful effects of stress on the body. And the Mayo Clinic specifically lists hydrotherapy—which includes steam bathing—as a relaxation technique that can help with stress management.
So jump in the steam shower and start detoxifying!