No, a sauna is not a necessity to eliminate oil-soluble toxins from the body

By: Karin Koronen
June 25 2024

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No, a sauna is not a necessity to eliminate oil-soluble toxins from the body

Source: Instagram/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts

Fact-Check

The Verdict False

Scientific evidence that saunas effectively eliminate oil-soluble toxins is not exhaustive, nor are saunas the only reliable way to detoxify the body.

Claim ID 8ab608bb

Context

In a video shared on Instagram (archived version here) by multiple accounts, Raymond Francis, a self-described chemist and author of books such as "Never Be Sick Again: Health Is a Choice, Learn How to Choose It" claims saunas are now a household necessity. He says they provide the only way to reliably eliminate oil-soluble toxins (more commonly known as fat-soluble toxins) from someone's body. 

Francis also claims saunas are necessary to rid the body of hundreds of toxins that bioaccumulate and reach concentrations that ruin cell function, leading to sickness. The video has been viewed over 1.3 million times. The original video was shared on Instagram by @DoctorTruthOfficial, an account with 712,000 followers. This account has a history of posting false and misleading health-related content. 

Detoxification is a popular topic for health-related misinformation. Logically Facts has debunked many detox-related claims, such as parasite foot detox, food misinformation trends centered around detox, ionic foot baths to detox the body, milk thistle to detox the liver, and the common cold as a way to detox the body from plastic. Many of these rely upon a well-known conspiracy theory, "big pharma," which spreads the narrative that pharmaceutical and medical companies push products to consumers for profit; thus, people should aim for herbal or "more natural" remedies. 

In fact

Raymond Francis, the author of the original claim, describes himself as a nutrition consultant and an M.I.T. graduate. His books have attracted criticism from various sources, including medical professionals, scientists, and skeptics of alternative medicine. Some of the connections he has drawn between lifestyle choices and health outcomes have been criticized as not sufficiently backed by peer-reviewed research or overlooking the complexity of many medical conditions and the role of other factors besides lifestyle, such as genetics. He also promotes multiple detoxification methods and dietary supplements that have not been backed by evidence.   

According to an overview published by Harvard University, detoxification is a term commonly used to refer to the process of removing toxic substances from the body. It might involve using foods, herbs, supplements, and treatments to expel metals via urine, sweat, and breath, with the aim of eliminating medical issues. However, detoxing in a medical context refers to treatments performed by medical personnel to treat alcohol, drug, or poison ingestion (see here). According to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health, a U.S. government body, no scientific evidence supports the effectiveness or safety of mainstream or alternative detoxification programs, including sauna use. They stress that while some studies have had positive health-related results, the studies have mostly been of low quality, exhibiting study design problems, too few participants, or lack of peer review. 

For the most part, detoxification happens due to the body's natural detoxification systems, primarily managed by the liver and kidneys but also by the lymphatic system, the gallbladder, and the gastrointestinal tract. In the liver, toxic substances such as drugs, alcohol, and environmental pollutants undergo a process known as biotransformation, which converts them into less harmful compounds, facilitating their subsequent removal from the body, often through bile or urine. This is also where fat-soluble toxins are metabolized into water-soluble forms. Once processed by the liver, these substances are excreted into bile and passed into the intestines for elimination through feces. The kidneys play a secondary role in detoxification by filtering the blood and removing waste products and excess substances, which are then excreted in the urine. 

Adequate nutrition, hydration, and diets rich in fruits and vegetables are proven to assist detoxification in the body (see here). However, this is not to say that detox diets and cleanses work. According to a review published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, there is insufficient evidence of their benefit. 

Another way to aid the body in eliminating toxins is engaging in physical activity, as it enhances the circulation of lymph fluid and blood, allowing them to be filtered more efficiently. The primary purpose of sweating, however, is not to clean the body of toxins but to cool it down through evaporation. According to a study done by Michael Hüppe and his colleagues, sweat-induced detoxification is not a significant route for removing fat-soluble toxins from the body. Moreover, a systematic review of the clinical effects of regular sauna bathing found that studies of using saunas for detoxification report more favorable findings with subjective rather than objective measures.

According to recent studies (found here and here) published by Jari A. Laukkanen, a cardiologist and a leader in sauna research, and his colleague Setor K. Kunutsor, a doctor in cardiovascular epidemiology, regular sauna bathing can reduce the risk of diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and respiratory conditions; may improve the severity of multiple conditions and increase one's healthspan. They state that these benefits have been associated with the ability to reduce blood pressure, combat inflammation, provide antioxidant benefits, offer cytoprotection, alleviate stress, and synergistically affect neuroendocrine, circulatory, cardiovascular, and immune functions. Most of these benefits are not directly related to getting rid of fat-soluble toxins but could still indirectly aid the process. However, the research makes no such conclusions.

When we asked Jari A. Laukkanen for a comment, he declined to provide a direct quote to Logically Facts. Instead, he directed us to his research, which fails to refer to fat-soluble toxins or the link between sauna bathing and detoxifying. Additional research on the topic is scarce, and experts stress the need for further investigation (see here).

In conclusion, while saunas offer several health benefits, detoxification is a bodily process not brought about by saunas, detox teas, or any other external compounds (see here, here, and here). Further research on sauna-based detoxification is warranted due to the complexity of the skin's excretory functions and detoxification pathways. Compared to the body's natural detoxification systems, sweating or sauna bathing are neither the only nor the most efficient methods to eliminate oil-soluble toxins. A healthy diet, proper hydration, and exercise may result in more significant benefits.

The verdict

A video posted on Instagram falsely claims that saunas are the only reliable way to eliminate oil-soluble toxins from someone's body. Detoxification in the body is achieved primarily by the liver and kidneys. Although sauna bathing may have health benefits, the extent to which it can detoxify the body, particularly by removing fat-soluble toxins, is not supported by credible, peer-reviewed scientific studies. Therefore, we mark this claim as false. 

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