Breast Health Challenge Tip #12

Work up a sweat daily, using exercise, sauna or steam bath to eliminate chemicals and toxic metals stored in your fat cells.

Make saunas a part of your life, having at least one each week (two 20-minute periods with a cool shower in between). Do a 150 hour sauna detoxification program with naturopathic supervision every 1-5 years. Follow a sauna detoxification program before conceiving so that you do not pass on your accumulated load of environmental toxins to your children. Take your children into the sauna with you once a week.

Environmental Toxins are a Primary Cause of Cancer

The evidence that one of the primary causes of cancer is environmental is growing. The 2008-2009 President’s Cancer Panel Report of the NCI states: “The Panel was particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread. One such ubiquitous chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), is still found in many consumer products and remains unregulated in the United States, despite the growing link between BPA and several diseases, including various cancers.”

Toxins are Stored in Our Fat Tissue

One class of these environmental toxins are organochlorines. These are persistent chemicals that contain chlorine plus carbon molecules, and mimic the hormone estrogen. They resist breakdown in the environment for decades or centuries, and include PCBs (polychlorinated biphenols), dioxin, bisphenol A, solvents containing chlorine, and many pesticides. They steadily accumulate in the global environment and are dispersed through air and water and thus the food chain. Each successive generation has a greater body burden than the previous one.

Another class is toxic heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and aluminum. These xenobiotic compounds mainly affect the immune, neurological, and endocrine systems. They can also bind to the estrogen receptor, mimicking the hormone, estrogen. Toxicity can lead to immune dysfunction, autoimmunity, asthma, allergies, cancers, cognitive deficit, mood changes, neurological illnesses, changes in libido, reproductive dysfunction, and glucose dysregulation.

Many of these toxins are fat soluble. They need to become water-soluble in order for the body to be able to eliminate them entirely. The liver is crucial in this process. If the liver is sluggish or overloaded and overwhelmed, these toxins find their way from the liver to the blood, fat cells, and brain, where they can store for years. The fat cells in the breasts become a convenient place to store many environmental chemicals and heavy metals. The National Health Adipose Tissue Survey (NHATS) sampled fat cells in the US [starting in 1967 and concluding in late 1980s] and found over 20 toxic chemicals in a regionally diverse sample of the population.

We Pass Toxins on to Our Children

Because many toxins cross the placental barrier, they can affect the fetus. They are also mobilized from fat stores into the breast milk of all mammals during breastfeeding. Infants then acquire a high concentration of environmental toxins relative to their small body mass over a short time period. Subsequent generations pass on higher and higher concentrations from prenatal exposure, breast-feeding, and lifetime exposure.

We Can Eliminate Toxins through Our Skin

Although most of us go to great lengths to avoid sweating, perspiration has two essential functions: It cools you down, and it rids the body of waste products. The skin has a surface area of about 2 square meters, through which we can sweat out toxins. Our sweat glands open to its surface, secreting mostly water, salt, urea, ammonia, uric acid and minerals including sodium, chlorine, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, nickel, chromium and manganese. Calcium and magnesium are the primary minerals lost through sauna sweating. Our sweat glands are governed by the autonomic nervous system, and those of us who don’t sweat easily may be affected by toxins that disturb nervous system function. Often a sauna detox program will normalize the capacity to sweat, whether we are in the sauna or not.

Studies on firefighters show that PCBs can be eliminated through sweating.

How the Sauna Works

Due to the heat of a sauna, the core body temperature begins to rise. The blood vessels then dilate, causing increased blood flow. As heat from the blood warms the skin’s surface, the body’s nervous system sends signals to the millions of sweat glands that cover the human body. As the sweat glands become stimulated, they produce sweat. Sweat production is primarily designed to cool the body, and is composed of 99% water. However, deep sweating in a sauna can help reduce levels of lead, copper, zinc, nickel, mercury, PCBs, pesticides and other chemicals.

What Type of Sauna to Choose

There are three main types of sauna: dry sauna, wet sauna, and infra-red saunas. All types of sauna are beneficial for inducing sweating. However, with infrared saunas, at a lower temperature, the heat waves deeply penetrate the body and raise the body core temperature, while also warming the muscles and joints. Sweating is induced at a lower, more comfortable temperature than in an electric sauna. Typically we perspire more in an infrared sauna at a lower temperature than in an electric dry or wet sauna or steam room at a higher temperature. The infrared energy is close to the same wavelength as that which the body naturally emits, so the energy is well received by the body.

When choosing an infrared sauna, look for:

  1. low EMF output
  2. chemical-free wood, such as basswood
  3. no formaldehyde, toxic glue, chemical fire retardants, plastic or fibre glass heaters
  4. ceramic heaters
  5. Canadian made with electrical safety certification
  6. medical grade
  7. natural beeswax coating on the wood

Guidelines for Sauna Bathing

  • Avoid alcohol and medications that may impair sweating and produce overheating before and after your sauna.
  • Do two sessions of 15–20 minutes with a cool down period in between.
  • Cool down gradually afterward, and make sure to wash your skin to get rid of the expelled toxins so they will not get reabsorbed.
  • Drink two to four glasses of water before, during and after the sauna session, and at least a total of 3 liters of water per day
  • Don’t take a sauna if you have lymphedema, when you are ill, and if you feel unwell during your sauna, head for the door.
  • Take alkaline minerals (calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium), vitamin C, and a multivitamin before or after your sauna to replace nutrients that are lost in sweat
  • Use 45 grams of fiber in your diet so that you eliminate the toxins that are mobilized from fat stores into your blood
  • Talk to a naturopathic doctor who can design a supplement schedule for you to support sauna detoxification

One sauna we use and can happily recommend is:saunaray


Neurobehavioral dysfunction in firemen exposed to polycholorinated biphenyls (PCBs): possible improvement after detoxification.

Structure and function of the skin. Biomedical Network. accessed Feb 16, 2005

Hoshi A, Watanabe H, Kobayashi M, Chiba M, Inaba Y et al. Concentrations of trace elements in sweat during sauna bathing. Yohoku J Exp Med. 2001 Nov;195(3):163-9

Verde T, Shephard RJ, Corey P, Moore R. Sweat composition in exercise and in heat. J Appl Physiol: Respirat Environ Exercise Physiol 1982;53:1540-5

President’s Cancer Panel – Reports 2008-2009 – Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now

Lordo RA1, Dinh KT, Schwemberger JG., Semivolatile organic compounds in adipose tissue: estimated averages for the US population and selected subpopulations. Am J Public Health. 1996 Sep;86(9):1253-9.

Walter J. Crinnion, ND Environmental Medicine, Part 1: The Human Burden of Environmental Toxins and Their Common Health Effects , Alternative Medicine Review , Volume 5, Number 1, 2000

Take the Breast Health Challenge!

Relax in a sauna and take a photo or make a video of you doing it, and post on your Facebook page, Youtube or Instagram with the hashtag #breasthealthchallenge between Oct 1-31.

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