Sweat Helps “Detox” Chemicals From Your Body

We should think not sweating is disgusting.”

That’s one of my favorite lines from the new book Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World by Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith. We have deodorant, perfume, wipes for your face, body and nether regions. There are shame inducing commercials of people afraid to raise their hands while dancing because of ring marks on their shirt.

But as the authors of Toxin Toxout describe, given the benefits of sweat, we should think not sweating is gross.

My yoga practice has taught me to embrace my sweat on and off the mat. My field is about eliminating the unnecessary exposures we have from toxic chemicals and I practice Bikram yoga. So the book Toxin Toxout was the perfect blending of these two worlds.

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from the links below on Amazon, I will receive a small referral fee, at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance!

Toxin Toxout

The authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck recently released a follow up book Toxin Toxout where they talk about the ways in which chemical leave our body. It’s a natural question to get when you work in this field, “how can I tell what chemicals are in my body and even more important how do I get them out?”

In some cases the honest answer is you can’t tell and they won’t leave your body. But with some chemicals there are ways to “detox” one’s body. Before we run all to the internet for a search about detox diets, Lourie and Smith researched and tested which detox methods were serious and which were a hoax. What they found was fascinating.

The world is full of fad diets and potions to help you detox your body. Most of those are scams and should be avoided. One of the things I appreciated about Toxin Toxout was their straight shooting approach to studying detox pathways in the body. They didn’t mince their words about what the science says about certain detox treatments, if the claims are backed up, and they give us simple things we can do to rid our bodies of toxic chemicals.

I will focus on three of those proven and effective pathways: sweat, exercise and breath. All core elements of any Bikram yoga class.

Sweat detoxes some toxic chemicals

As a Bikram yogi I knew instinctively that sweating in class was good for me. Despite what many will say about hot yoga, it is not harmful to your health. And the studies that Lourie and Smith did show that the benefits of a hot yoga class extend beyond the flexibility and weight loss you may also experience.

As part of an experiment Rick Smith, one of the book authors tested his phthalate and bisphenol A levels from his sweat during a infared sauna experiment. What they found was that the chemical bisphenol A (used in canned foods, hard plastics, thermal paper receipts and other products) uses sweat as a detox pathway. The levels of BPA in his sweat (captured while in the sauna, then tested in a lab) were much higher than the levels in his urine, meaning he sweat out more BPA than he did via urine. The class of chemicals phthalates however, were still found in his sweat but preferred to be detoxed via urine (higher levels in his urine).

This all may seem a bit gross, but our body has natural ways of eliminating waste: sweat, urine, feces, and even tears. In this small microcosm of testing two chemicals in one man’s body, it shows how complex our body’s detox pathways are and how we get rid of them vary by chemical.

Sweat is known for being exceptionally good at detoxing the body of heavy metals like chromium and lead.

Two ways in which sweat and heat help us detox

The first and most straight forward is chemicals leave through sweat on our skin. Second, when you’re in a hot room whether it be yoga or a sauna, the heat increases your blood circulation. The blood increases circulation through your liver (a powerful detox organ) thereby increasing the amount of blood being circulated through your body. So sweating is only half of the detox equation when you’re in a sauna or yoga class – lucky you!

Exercise breaks down fat loving chemicals

There is a third way you’re detoxing chemical in a sauna or hot yoga class, breaking down fat also breaks down toxic chemicals. While the benefits of exercise have been long touted, one that has been missing from the conversation has been reducing toxic compounds in the body. When you break down fat, you’re also releasing toxic chemical that love fat and eventually eliminating them via the routes we talked about before (urine, feces, sweat etc).

The most toxic of chemicals, those that are persistent (meaning they stay in the body and environment) hide themselves in our fat deposits.

Lungs and breath work

At the beginning and end of a Bikram yoga class you do extensive breathing exercises. In the final “breath of fire” the teachers often talk about blowing out the junk that was stirred up in your body during class. I thought this was anecdotal and simply a nice visual. As it turns out there is science behind exercise breaking down fat loving chemicals and then having them pushed out of the body with the breath – how cool!

I’ll be working hard in the opening and ending breathing series.


So whether it’s Bikram yoga, or a regimen of exercise and saunas or a hot bath at night – sweating is really good for you. Most of us will never know exactly how much cadmium or BPA are being pushed through our pores on any given day, but you can have a little piece of mind that what your’e doing for your body is amazing.

The last time I went dancing with my friends at the club I was drenched in sweat. I went square dancing with my beau, only to quickly have my shirt soaked through. During a “bootcamp” class at my gym I was drenched before any of my male counterparts.

This is just part of the new me. And after reading Toxin Toxout, I realized that’s not entirely a bad thing.

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