by Dr. Sarah Myhill
Recently we have seen a flurry of extremely well done medical studies which have looked at the chemical burden in our environment and also our bodies. We are being increasingly exposed to a whole range of new chemicals - indeed in the last fifty years it has been estimated that 5 million new chemicals have been created by man, of which 75,000 are in regular everyday use, of which less than 10% have had any sort of toxicity testing. These chemicals are now ubiquitously present in the environment, they are well absorbed through food, water, by inhalation and through our skins. Many of them are very fat soluble and bio-accumulate in our bodies. It is now becoming very clear that internal environment of our bodies reflects our external environment. Furthermore, because we are at the top of the food chain and because we live for many years, chemical burden is increasing each year. Studies done by the World Wildlife Fund and other such scientific bodies show that we all carry a heavy burden of chemicals, they are present in our fat in mg/kg (this would be similar to the sort of levels in blood if we were taking a therapeutic drug), they persist for many years and their effects are unpredictable. Most of these chemicals are known toxins, cause cancer, birth defects, damage to nerves and the immune system, to the liver and bone marrow, etc. Furthermore, we now know that cocktails of chemicals have much more serious effects than chemicals in isolation. Furthermore, low dose chemicals may be very much more toxic than we ever anticipated, partly because many of them mimic our own hormones and thereby disrupt the delicate hormonal balance within all of us.
In multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), chemical reactions are often triggered by overwhelming exposures to chemicals such as pesticides, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, toxic gases (carbon monoxide, NOX, SOX) etc. I now suspect that many patients with MCS not only react to chemicals outside the body, but may also be reacting to chemicals within their own fat. I am coming to the view, therefore, that we all need to do regular detox to keep our body load as low as possible. But for patients with MCS this is an essential part of treatment. If they can unload their bodies sufficiently, they can reduce their own sensitivity and tolerate inadvertent exposures to chemicals when they stray outside their own safe environment.
Chemicals are detoxified through the liver (and this is helped by good micronutrient status - see my nutritional supplements page - link below), they can also be excreted directly through the skin and by exhalation. This occurs when the body gets hot when chemicals are literally boiled off and passed out through the sweat. The most physiological way of doing this is exercise, but many of my patients are not well enough to exercise. For those that can exercise, I recommend putting one too many layers of clothing including a cotton layer next to the skin, on so you sweat freely into the cotton layer which can be taken off and washed. The toxins are lost into the washing machine!
For those who cannot sweat through exercise (or who are poor sweaters - interestingly many of my MCS and CFS patients are not good at sweating and this may be a risk factor in acquiring these problems), I recommend using the time honoured methods of detox including saunas, Turkish baths and spa therapies. However, the problem with these treatments is not only do they warm up the skin and subcutaneous tissues, but the whole body is warmed up. This means that chemicals are mobilised from the fat (which largely speaking lies underneath the skin), they get into the blood stream and may cause acute poisoning. Furthermore, many people with CFS do not tolerate heat at all well (for reasons of poor cardiac output - see page on mitochondrial failure). As a result, many of my patients are unable to tolerate these sweating therapies.
So this is why I became particularly interested in a new technique described in Dr Sherry Rogers' book "Detoxify or Die" (available from Amazon). She advocates a technique of far infra red saunaing. Far infra red is the main energy source that comes from the sun and is responsible for warming our skin when we sit in direct sunshine. The rays penetrate several centimetres through the skin and heat up subcutaneous tissues. With enough sun on the skin the skin will warm up and sweat, and chemicals from subcutaneous tissues will be mobilised and pass out through sweat. The sunshine does this without heating up the core temperature (although if you lie in the sun for long enough then the core temperature will eventually rise) therefore chemicals can be mobilised and excreted without causing the core temperature to rise. Indeed Dr Rogers describes many case histories in her book of patients who, for example, have severe heart disease who would certainly not tolerate a conventional sauna, but who can tolerate FIRS very comfortably.
Far infra red does not damage the skin (it is the sun's ultra-violet which is at the other end of the spectrum which does that), so have no fears on this count. Indeed primitive man evolved running naked under the African sun and so to have far infra red playing on the skin and warming it is an entirely natural process.
The joy of sweating is that is gets rid of most toxins. This is because sweat is blood but without the cellular and protein content. So sweat contains everything - a range of all toxins including pesticides, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. It is a very natural and physiological way of detoxing. Indeed it is very likely that many of the health benefits of sweating arise form the fact that one is also detoxing. It is never too late to start sweating. I often find organophosphates in fat biopsies decades after the last exposure, but levels will come down after a few weeks of sweating.
Key points about saunaing and sweating.
Firstly not only are toxins excreted in sweat, but so are the beneficial minerals. So after a sweat it is vital to re-hydrate with a physiological mix of minerals containing all essential minerals (i.e. one scoop of MMMs) in water and take a small supplement of salt (say an eighth of a teaspoon salt on food). This phenomenon explains why serious athletes sometimes drop dead inexplicably. They sweat so much that they deplete themselves of essential elements, in particular magnesium. They only rehydrate with "electrolytes", namely sodium and potassium. Magnesium is necessary for muscles to relax and if levels are very low, cardiac muscle cannot relax, and so the heart just stops in systole. At post mortem the heart appears normal.
Secondly, it is important to shower immediately after a sweat in order to wash away toxins which may otherwise be reabsorbed back through skin.
Thirdly, the most excretion of toxins occurs in the first few minutes of sweating as they move onto the surface of the skin - so the best results come from many short sessions (e.g. one daily just to the point of sweating) rather than protracted sweating which may make the patient feel ill. My experience of measuring levels of pesticides and VOCs in fat biopsies, or by measuring mercury excretion, is that 50 sweating sessions reduce the toxic burden reliably well. One could expect levels to come down exponentially so more toxins are shifted in the earlier than in the later sessions. However, we are all inevitably exposed to toxins in the environment and there is an equilibrium between us and our environment so sweating regimes should be a regular part of keeping well.
Where to get your FIR sauna from
I have recently been in contact with Get Fitt Ltd and have been shown their products. Below is the company's introduction to their style of work and products.
Get Fitt Ltd specialise in formulating, monitoring and supporting detoxification programmes using the latest Far Infrared Technology. Patients include people suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, M.E, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and other debilitating conditions.
The Company creates personalized programmes ensuring the most gentle and efficient detoxification. Each client is monitored and receives telephone support during their programme. Currently Get Fitt Ltd works closely with Doctors, Health Practitioners, Nutritionists, and Clinics in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. Far Infrared equipment is available for home use or use in clinics and can be hired or purchased.
Three types of unit are currently available: a FIR portable Sauna, a FIR Dome, and a FIR Blanket.
Contact Get Fitt Limited directly to find out the latest hire charges and purchase prices as these prices are subject to change and it is impossible to ensure that my website will always quote accurate prices. A direct link to the Get-Fitt Ltd website can be found below
Current (April 2007)purchase prices are as follows:-
Far Infrared Portable Sauna suitable for MCS sufferers (Includes extra large FIR Heating panels); Price £250.00 Includes VAT (not including shipping).
Far Infrared Blanket £385.00 Includes VAT (not including shipping). This is particularly recommended for MS sufferers and patients in wheelchairs who cannot sit in the "sit-in" unit. Also, this provides full 360 degree Far Infrared coverage.
Far Infrared Dome- Price upon Application.
For more information contact: Get Fitt Limited - Mark Givert
Telephone: +44 208 445 5412
Mobile: +44 785 9904142