Sweating is known as a good way to remove toxins and is considered among the general recommendations for detox. So how effective is sweating when it comes to heavy metals? When he hears round words like me, “Do we accept it as true because it is repeated thousands of times, or is it really like that?” If you are one of those who think, this article, which I will talk about research on sweating, may be of interest to you. I recently wrote this article on greenmedinfo.com, on an article by its founder Sayer Ji. However, in his article, he emphasized that sweating does not only help to regulate body temperature, but is also important in removing toxins, while I shared the points that caught my attention from a study that I reached from the bibliography of the article and compiled many studies.
In a nutshell
The amount of heavy metals excreted by perspiration in individuals in the studies was generally higher than the amount of heavy metals detected in their urine and blood. In some individuals, while heavy metals were detected in sweat, it could not be detected in blood or urine. Exercise, sauna or sweat-stimulating drugs were used to make the participants sweat.
Meanwhile, Sayer Ji, in his article, included studies showing that bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, which are found in plastics and are associated with many health problems, are also higher in sweat than their amounts in urine and blood serum. Even here, while these substances could not be detected in the urine or blood of some participants, they were detected in the sweat. So sweat can also be a good excretion method for these substances.
Now back to heavy metals. The results of the studies that caught my attention from an analysis of more than 20 studies that measured mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic are as follows (2):
- In a study conducted in Canada, in which 10 healthy individuals and 10 individuals with chronic problems were examined, we can say that the average blood, urine and sweat mercury levels were close to each other even though they were slightly higher in sweat (0.61, 0.65, 0.86 mcg/L, respectively). However, while the number of people who detected mercury in all three samples was 16, only mercury was found in sweat in the remaining 4 people. In other words, if these people had blood and urine mercury tests for diagnostic purposes, the result would be negative, and it would be thought that they did not have mercury in their bodies.
- In a case shared in 1978, the treatment of a worker who was exposed to mercury vapor for an hour a day while working at a place that produced thermometers for 13 years. The patient, who became incapacitated in the last 6 months, was first given various chelation agents for two months. Then, sweating and physiotherapy sessions were applied every day for a few months. During the treatment, it was observed that mercury was removed from the sweat by measurements. At the end of the treatment, the amount of mercury measured in the blood, urine and sweat decreased to normal levels without any side effects in the patient (3).
- In the Canadian study I mentioned above, the average amounts of lead in sweat, blood and urine were found to be 31, 0.12, 1.8 mcg/L. Here, we see that the amount of sweat excreted is quite high. Lead was detected in all three samples in all participants. Lead is everywhere!
- In 1991, a very interesting study was conducted in England. Two volunteers drank lead chloride once or twice, for a total of 20mg! What kind of science is this? Or were they two researchers willing to even drink poison to complete their doctorate? We do not know these… But as a result, this lead compound, which was measured in the acute period, was not excreted much in sweat this time. It reached its highest level in the blood 4 hours after ingesting lead. It maintained this high level in the first 24 hours and gradually decreased over the next few weeks. Similar amounts were also detected in the urine. I was so intrigued by this work that I opened it and read it and realized that this was not actually the first time! There are many other works. In one of these, a researcher had 16 -initially- healthy subjects drink nickel! And after that, he could not see a significant breakthrough in sweat. Although there is an increase in nickel in the blood and urine… Our researchers who drink lead have drawn the following conclusion, taking into account other previous studies: These types of heavy metals are more common in blood and urine, since they have not yet penetrated into the tissues in the acute stage. When it is exposed chronically, accumulation in the tissues increases, and therefore it’s excretion with sweat also increases (4).
- In a study conducted in Germany in 1986, the amount of lead thrown by aerobic endurance training (rowing) was found to be higher than the amount of lead thrown by shorter but more intense training (cycling) (values measured in blood). So, according to this study, sweating for a longer period of time may be more advantageous than sweating at the same (or more?) rate over a shorter period of time.
- In Canada, in the study I mentioned above, cadmium could be detected in all samples, including blood, urine and sweat, in only three of the participants, while cadmium was detected in the sweat of 17. So sweat can be a good method for detecting cadmium. Considering the average amounts detected, it is seen that cadmium is excreted better with sweat than other ways. Average amounts in blood, urine and sweat, respectively: 0.03, 0.28, 5.7 mcg/L.
- In the study in which 28 lecturers volunteered in the USA, the amount of cadmium detected in sweat ranged from 11-200mcg/L, while it was between 0-67mcg/L in urine. There is no such thing as too much cadmium in the urine of those who have too much cadmium in their sweat. From this, we can conclude that a urine test performed alone does not always reflect the situation in the body.
- They compared a group in Bangladesh who had arsenic poisoning and showed skin symptoms, another group exposed to arsenic in drinking water, and a third group who had never been exposed to arsenic. As expected, the sweat arsenic content of those exposed to arsenic was several times higher than those that were not exposed. There was no difference between the arsenic poisoning group and those who received arsenic from drinking water. I wondered if there is a maximum amount of arsenic that can be excreted in sweat, or if the arsenic taken with drinking water is too high, perhaps because it spreads for a long time, although it does not cause skin symptoms… seen to be thrown. This shows that, as with other heavy metals, our need for these vitamins and minerals increases with arsenic toxicity.
- Again, in the Canadian study, arsenic was detected in 17 of the 20 participants. This time, the most arsenic was measured in the urine. (Average amounts are 37mcg/L, 3.1mcg/L, 2.5mcg/L in urine, sweat and blood, respectively)
I think we can draw two important conclusions from these findings:
First; Routinely practicing sweating through exercise, sauna or other means can reduce the body’s heavy metal load more than we think over time. As I said at the beginning of the article, we say “Sweating removes toxins,” but when we suspect heavy metals, the first detox method that comes to mind is usually taking chelation agents or supplements. I can’t compare the amount of metal excreted with these agents with the amount excreted through sweat, but even the mildest and the most herbal ones can have side effects. Therefore, sweating seems like a safer method to me compared to trying to get rid of the heavy metal accumulated in the tissue into the blood. As I said, I can’t compare their effectiveness, but I think that at least applying it in addition to other methods can speed things up.
The second conclusion we can draw is that sweat tests may be a new alternative to blood and urine tests, which generally do not work very well in measuring body accumulation. There are other tests such as hair, erythrocyte, intracellular spectrophotometer analyzes (oligoscan, zell-check) used to measure this load. Although hair tests are found to be more reliable than urine and blood, sometimes they may not reflect the situation directly and it may be necessary to interpret the mineral ratios. Zell-check, on the other hand, although it is a very practical test, is criticized by some researchers as inaccurate (5) (6). In short, a method that everyone considers valid has not yet been found to fully understand the heavy metal load in the body. Therefore, measuring the amount in sweat can be another method we can apply.
If you can’t sweat…
Unless you have an inherited or acquired disorder that damages the sweat glands, skin or nerves, the inability to sweat may improve over time. It has been stated that sweating may become more difficult, especially in people who are exposed to toxins, since the autonomic nervous system’s ability to balance body temperature may decrease(2). In order to regulate this, correction of biochemical processes with the help of nutrition and food supplements, as well as methods to stimulate lymph drainage and exercise before sauna were recommended (2) . Examples of methods that stimulate lymph drainage are massage, dry brushing, trombone jumping, and all sorts of other exercises. Unless you’ve been a regular exerciser, don’t expect great results on your first workout. It has been observed that those who exercise regularly for a longer period of time sweat better. Therefore, it is necessary to give the body some time to adapt… And of course, drinking plenty of water is another trick for sweating. When you drink plenty of water and insist on exercising, you will gradually find that you can sweat more easily. Let me write as a small reminder that you should also pay attention to your diet in order to compensate for the increased mineral excretion when you sweat.