While some of the most sensitive and chronically ill patients need to get through some layers of treatment before they are able to tolerate saunas and use them safely, for most individuals, sauna use is an incredible detox tool that's worth making part of your routine.
There are a few ways to maximize your sauna use to have the best effect either in the shortest time daily, if that's your goal, or over the long term so that you have the most efficient mobilization and removal of stored toxins and after that, the best prevention against storing more.
Before the sauna:
If you tolerate exercise, do 15 minutes of cardio, or how ever much it takes to get your heart rate up and skin warmer and slightly sweaty, as capillaries dilate in the muscles, in the fat, and under your skin. This creates greater access to stored toxins in skin and fat tissue.
While in the sauna:
Bring your glass water bottle (no plastic including bpa-free, is safe as a food and beverage container and it is worse when heated; no metal because it will get too hot), with quality electrolytes (some favorite brands are Selectrolytes, Biopure's Matrix Electrolytes, and Ultima) into the sauna, and drink throughout. It's easy to get dehydrated in a sauna, which is both counterproductive and dangerous. The main reason that people get light headed or headachey after a session is dehydration: either not enough water or not enough electrolytes. In individuals with very high toxic loads, similar symptoms can come from toxin mobilization, but if the detox protocol with binders and supportive supplements for detox processes is well tweaked, this should not be a problem.
About 80% of the toxins that you are going to excrete in a sauna are going to come out in the first 5 minutes after you've started sweating. There are other benefits to your cardiovascular and immune systems if you stay in longer, but for someone for whom time is an issue, the 5 minute rule is good info.
After the sauna:
Go straight from the sauna to a cold or cool shower with soap in order to close your pores and wash off the toxins that you have excreted. Without this step, you can reabsorb a significant portion of them. After soaping up and rinsing off, then you can have a hot or warm shower, if you like.
A caution on buying a sauna
If you're using the sauna at the gym, apartment building, etc. it's probably best to be happy with what you have access to. If you're planning on buying a sauna though, it's going to be in your home and hopefully it will be part of your routine for decades, so it's good to keep an eye on chemical offgassing and EMF toxicity. Our favorite, also recommended by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, for those factors and for their support of healthy local and community based economic policies, is the Saunaray.
While saunas are readily available and a culturally common practice in some areas, please use caution. As discussed above, saunas are best used in the context of a complete detox protocol. The information above is not complete enough by itself to make wise or accurate treatment decisions. Please talk with an appropriately trained healthcare provider to help manage your detox.
Dr. Carnes has no financial or other ties to the products and companies listed above.