Is It Possible To Sweat Your Toxins Out?

Have you ever attended a hot yoga class? Taken advantage of the hotel sauna? Had a hot stone massage? If you enjoyed them or felt invigorated afterwards, you have tapped into the magic (and science) of thermotherapy, or heat therapy. Thermotherapy dilates blood vessels and softens tissue, which is why it can help relax and soothe sore muscles (via Veritas Spine Health).

As your body gets hot — whether from that great massage, the summer sun, a fever, or a hard workout — it cues your circulatory system to start cooling you down. Sadly, it doesn't provide you with a popsicle or an attractive attendant to fan you with palm leaves, it just starts sweating. Perspiration, whether you see it as a gorgeous glow or a yucky liquid you can't wipe off quick enough, is a natural byproduct of your sweat glands, and its job is to cool your skin and redirect the dilated blood vessels back to inside your body, rather than right near your epidermis. This is a process called thermoregulation (via PT Direct).

Many fitness and wellness fads invoke the buzzword "toxins" when they tell you what their [insert product name here] will do for you. What those toxins are, exactly, most of them decline to tell you. Literal poison? The calories from that brownie? Germs? Who knows. So, can you really sweat out toxins?

In a word, no

"Your skin isn't actually an excretory organ," says Encyclopedia Britannica. The pores in your sweat glands are where the liquid comes out, yes, but your epidermis is not like a colon or a bladder. Your body isn't storing stuff there and waiting for you to tell it to get out. Much like tears, sweat is pretty much just saltwater (via Medline Plus).

What is your body doing while it's sweating? Well, for one, your heart is pumping hard! Whether it's because you're on your fourth mile or just because you've been sitting in the hot tub for a while, your heart is having to work extra hard compared to when it's sitting in a cool room. To that end, some doctors think saunas could be useful for assisting in heart health, because the more your heart works, the more it clears out plaque and other bad actors from your circulatory system (via The Wall Street Journal). But to be clear, that plaque doesn't hitch a ride to your pores. Sweat is just sweat.

Your body also doesn't know the difference between sweating on a very hot summer day and sweating while wrapped in fancy spa blankets and skin treatments. Thermotherapy can be great for certain injuries or conditions, but excessive exposure to heat can be deadly (via National Geographic). And as for those "toxins" you were so worried about? Your liver and kidneys have got it covered, don't worry.