Except from The Top 10 Lyme Disease Treatments: The skin is the largest organ in the body. It covers more than 20 square feet in an average adult and accounts for as much as 15% of our total body weight, more than any single internal organ. The average square inch of skin contains about 20 blood vessels, 60,000 melanocytes (which produce pigment), more than a thousand nerve endings, and 650 sweat glands. The skin has multiple functions, not the least of which is simply to hold your body together and prevent entrance of foreign objects and pathogens into the bloodstream and tissues. Often referred to as our third lung, the skin acts as an interface between our internal and the external environments as it regulates exchange processes like absorption and elimination. Skin is a semi permeable barrier through which your body can not only absorb substances but can also release them.
First we will examine the skin as a detoxification pathway, and then we will learn why sauna therapy is so important to the Lyme Disease recovery process.
The skin detoxification pathway: Sweating is one of the primary functions of the skin. It accomplishes both temperature regulation (cooling) and toxin removal. Your sweat is made up many different components. These include water (up to 99%), and substances like salt and other electrolytes, sugar, metabolic wastes like ammonia and urea, metals and heavy metals, and drug metabolites. Because our sweat can be as revealing as urine, sweat analysis is becoming an ever more common clinical procedure for detecting a multitude of substances in the body. Sweat in humans is produced by two types of glands. The eccrine sweat glands are present over the entire surface of our bodies and are especially concentrated on the palms of our hands, soles of the feet, and the forehead. They produce sweat composed mostly of water and salts. Apocrine sweat glands are predominant in the armpits and genital area. Apocrine sweat contains protein and fatty materials and is the source of the sweat odor which is caused by bacterial breakdown of organic compounds.
When sweat glands are stimulated to increase production, they secrete a substance (sweat) which is synthesized from the fluid which fills the spaces between our body’s cells (the interstitial spaces). This fluid comes from blood plasma leaked into the tissues by capillaries. Any circulating toxins present in the blood system are carried into the interstitial spaces along with the plasma. In this way toxins make their way into sweat, which is a filtrate of the plasma. Heat stress and exertional activities speed up the circulation of blood and thus accelerate the release of fluid into the interstitial spaces. This in turn prompts sweat glands to produce more toxin-laden sweat. Most people living in modern times do not sweat very much. Lack of adequate exercise, the prevalence of climate control technology at home and in the workplace, and the non-physical nature of most jobs contribute to minimal sweating. Unfortunately, decreased sweating means decreased toxin removal.
Nenah Sylver, Ph.D., in her book The Holistic Handbook of Sauna Therapy, cites several published scientific studies which illustrate the ability of the body to detoxify via sweat production. For example, from her book we know that nickel, mercury, and cadmium are eliminated more effectively through sweat than through urine. Also, people with known chemical exposure who have symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and/or multiple sclerosis can obtain between 90 and 99% reduction of symptoms through the skin detoxification pathway. Important to the Lyme Disease recovery process. Although skin detoxification is beneficial to anyone living in industrialized society, there are several reasons why it is specifically helpful to Lyme Disease sufferers. As we have seen, those with Lyme Disease accumulate a greater quantity of toxins than do healthy people. Sweating can help eliminate these toxins.
The advantages of efficient skin detoxification for Lyme Disease sufferers do not, however, stop there. Unlike most healthy people, Lyme Disease patients have burdened livers and kidneys due to the stress incurred by the inflammation and toxic burden created by a chronic infection. As a result, Lyme Disease patients often have very weak livers and kidneys. Because the liver and kidneys are the primary detoxification organs of the body, detoxification is often stagnant. This can lead to overwhelming symptoms of poisoning by the Lyme Disease neurotoxin. Detoxifying through the skin (via sweat) lifts the burden from the liver and kidneys because it completely bypasses them. Sweat production allows toxins circulating in the blood to be excreted directly through the skin, removing the necessity for the liver and kidneys to process, store, and eliminate toxins. The vast surface area of the skin allows quick, efficient detoxification without placing a burden on other detoxification organs.
The detoxification abilities of the skin through sweating are limitless. Even a completely healthy set of liver and kidneys cannot process more than a small amount of toxins in a given period of time. In contrast, there is virtually no limit to the amount of toxic material that can pass through the skin. In this way, sweating can greatly accelerate toxin elimination, even in people with healthy detoxification systems. Sweating is the “shortcut” to detoxification. The following therapies are intended to facilitate the skin’s detoxification processes. The information in this entire section is based in large part on information from Nenah Sylver’s excellent book, The Holistic Handbook of Sauna Therapy. This book, in my opinion, is the most accurate, complete and useful book currently in print on the topic of sauna treatment. Another useful book is Sauna Therapy by Lawrence Wilson, M.D.
Sauna therapy is one way to integrate sweating into a modern lifestyle. People have been using saunas and sweat therapy to detoxify for thousands of years. In comparison to other methods of skin detoxification, sauna therapy is the most affordable, effective, and established method. By increasing both circulation and lipid (fat) metabolism, the heat generated by a sauna causes the release into general circulation of a wide range of toxins stored in fatty body tissue. This process has been well documented in medical studies. Sauna therapy is so effective that the U.S. government recommends it for detoxification of dozens of poisons. In addition to accelerating detoxification, saunas provide numerous other benefits due to increased body temperature. From Nenah Sylver (as well as Lawrence Wilson, M.D., author of Sauna Therapy, another valuable sauna book). Note: A parent of a child with Lyme Disease stated that the best results, when using sauna therapy, were received when the child warmed up with the sauna instead of waiting to enter the sauna after it had reach it peak temperature.
We know that saunas have the following benefits:
- Immune system stimulation and activation
- Direct antibacterial action
- Balancing of the autonomic nervous system
- Improving oxygenation
- Normalizing enzymatic activity
- Relieving pain
- Normalizing body temperature
- Relieving internal congestion
- Relaxing muscles
- Enhancing flexibility of tendons & ligaments
- Alkalizing the body
- Increasing circulation
- Resolving edema
- Increasing energy
- Clearing the mind