Can You Actually Sweat Out Toxins?



By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

In the morning perhaps after a night of overdoing it on the alcohol, you may hear someone say: “I’m going to go in the sauna or force myself to work out, so I can sweat out all the toxins.”


Because many people associate sweating with detoxing. But are we giving this natural bodily process undeserved credit?

Let’s start from the top…

Why do we even sweat?

To put it simply, we sweat to cool ourselves.

Sweat is essential to human survival and serves as the body’s coolant, protecting it from overheating,” according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society.

“There are two to four million sweat glands distributed all over our bodies. The majority of them are ‘eccrine’ sweat glands, which are found in large numbers on the soles of the feet, the palms, the forehead and cheeks, and in the armpits.”

Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes excessive sweating. And if you sweat too much, your body may become depleted of critical nutrients or electrolytes, like potassium and sodium.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is hypohidrosis, when a person has trouble sweating because his or her sweat glands are not functioning properly. In severe cases, this could lead to overheating and heat stroke.

When you sweat too much, nutrients like magnesium, chloride and iron may also be depleted from the body. So if you have ever been an athlete or just a very active person, you have likely turned to sports drinks, like Gatorade, to “replace your electrolytes.” This is why it is imperative to make sure you eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet and do your best to maintain nutritional balance.

So sweating is one of those bodily processes we kind of love and hate at the same time. If we don’t sweat, we could overheat and this could be dangerous. But if we sweat too much it can not only be embarrassing (when we are not working out or playing a sport), but also rob our bodies of essential nutrients.

The question still remains...can we sweat out toxins?

We sweat to cool ourselves. We DO NOT sweat to excrete waste products or eliminate toxins.

If this information is new to you and disappoints you, hear me out.

According to new research published in Environmental Journal, when we do excrete environmental pollutants through our pores it is in miniscule amounts.

(Sweat is mainly just water and minerals, hence the reason why we may become dehydrated and suffer nutritional deficiencies if we sweat a lot and do not replenish our water and nutrients).

According to this National Geographic report, the leader of the new research on sweating, who is an exercise physiologist, says that the level of pollutants in sweat are so low they are essentially meaningless.

The doctor who spearheaded this research also studies pollutants that are stored in body fat.

“Known as persistent organic pollutants [the ones stored in body fat], these include pesticides, flame retardants, and now-banned polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which are still found in the environment,” according to the report.

These substances are attracted to fat and do not dissolve well in water, which sweat is mainly made of.

The proper term for such materials is really “toxicants” and not “toxins.” Toxins are actually natural substances made by plants and animals.

According to the report, there’s no way you could sweat enough in one day to even eliminate one percent of what you eat in your food that day.


Reportedly, small amounts of “heavy metals and BPA from plastics do make their way into sweat, because these pollutants dissolve more readily in water.”

(BPA from plastic is better eliminated through urination, and most places now sell BPA free plastic products).

But there are much better ways to eliminate certain unwanted substances from your body.

For example, chelation therapy is often used to remove heavy metals, like lead and mercury.

Certain plant-based supplements, like chlorella, are also frequently used to bind excess heavy metal.

So how do our bodies naturally eliminate toxins?

This is done through our liver and three other very important organs.

“The liver is one of the four major organs that eliminate toxins from the body. The other three organs involved are the kidneys, intestinal tract and skin,” according to this report.

The liver and kidneys are mainly responsible for eliminating toxins.

“The liver detoxifies harmful substances whether they come from internal sources such as burning sugars, fats, protein, or from external sources like medications, drugs, hormone enhancers, food additives, preservatives, food colorings, sweeteners, flavor enhancers, chemicals used in agriculture, alcohols, volatile organic compounds, fumes, air pollution and many other factors.”

The liver actually transforms those fat-soluble toxic materials into water-soluble materials so that your body can excrete them.

Your kidneys essentially filter toxins out of your blood and into your urine.

There is some evidence that toxins like mercury, cadmium and nickel are found in sweat. And there is also some support for the proposition that elimination of these metals via sweat appears to increase as exposure increases.  

“One study reported that the concentration of mercury released in sweat was comparable to that in urine. Levels in the sweat of persons employed in industry who work with mercury as part of their daily job varied from about 75 percent of that in urine (mcg/L) to over twice the amount in the urine. The highest levels of mercury in sweat were observed in persons who sweated the most.”

For a long time, sweating has been misunderstood.

There are spas that offer “sweat therapy” as an “effective” way to detox. And not only may this treatment not be effective, but it may also be very dangerous.

“Taken too far, sweat therapy can even be deadly,” according to the National Geographic report.

And, unfortunately, it was for a 35-year-old woman in Quebec who died after undergoing a very intense sweat therapy.

According to the report, “...a detoxification spa treatment plastered her with mud, then wrapped her in plastic and put a cardboard box over her head. She lay under blankets for nine hours, sweating. Hours after the treatment, she was dead from extreme overheating.”

“It’s the old story of wanting to provide a simple solution to a complex problem,” said the lead doctor in the report. “Hope is so precious, but some people use hope for selling crazy stuff to people who are vulnerable.”

So my conclusion from all this is that sweating does release some unwanted materials, but it may not be the primary method of eliminating toxins from our bodies. The liver and kidneys play a much larger role in eliminating toxins, and we should be proactive in ensuring that these organs are performing optimally so as to avoid toxic buildup in the body.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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