Clearlight would like to remind users that this should not be taken as direct medical advice, and you should always consult a licensed health practitioner before making any significant changes to your lifestyle
The thought of passing a kidney stone is perhaps one of the more confronting things our imagination can throw at us. To make things worse, the Kidney organisation estimates that in the U.S. alone, more than half a million people are hospitalised for the treatment of kidney stones, and the number is rising. They say that the number of kidney stones being treated has risen from 3.8% in the 1970s to nearly 9% in the late 2000s, suggesting that they are becoming more apparent in the population today.
Thankfully, we only need to make a few relatively small changes to our diet to ensure the risk of developing a stone is relatively low. Although, some of the best things in life - like exercising and spending time inside a sauna - can dehydrate our bodies, which poses an added risk of developing a kidney stone. Today, we’re going to cover the topic in full, and dispel the myths surrounding saunas, sweating and the health of our kidneys.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones, otherwise known as renal calculi or nephrolithiasis, form inside the kidneys and the urinary tract when there are more crystal-like substances than your body is able to dilute inside the kidneys. Remember, our kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from our blood and urine, and also control our blood pressure and return vitamins, amino acids and hormones back into our bloodstream. If the kidneys are unable to process certain substances, these waste byproducts can build up, and create a hard crystal that results in a kidney stone.
According to the Mayo Clinic these crystal-like substances include calcium, oxalate and uric acid, which can be difficult for your body to process and break down into a liquid; hence the formation of a crystalised stone, otherwise known as a kidney stone, which is made worse if the body is dehydrated and does not have enough liquid to dissolve the chemicals.
Does Sweating Help With Kidney Function?
As we’ve just covered, if the kidneys do not have enough liquid to process certain chemicals in our blood and urine, kidney stones can form. As a result, sweating, in isolation, can actually be damaging to our kidneys if we do not supplement the water we’ve lost in the process and become dehydrated and salts begin to accumulate in our bloodstream and urine. Overall, you can see the risks to kidney health when we sweat and we fail to recoup the water our system loses in sweat by rehydrating.
That’s not to say that exercise is at the detriment of your kidneys, though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Our kidneys, like the rest of our body, need you to exercise so they can better regulate their function, you just need to ensure that you account for the water you’ll lose in the form of sweat, and ensure your kidneys remain hydrated. The total absence of exercise in a daily routine is to the detriment of your overall health, and this extends to your kidney health. So, in summing up, sweating puts stress on your kidneys if you fail to rehydrate your system during and after exercise, otherwise risking a build-up of calcium and salts that can result in the formation of a kidney stone.
Does a Sauna Help Prevent Kidney Stones?
In this regard, traditional saunas are limited in terms of their ability to prevent kidney stones and improve renal health. While thermal therapy is beneficial to our circulatory system and promotes the dilation of our blood vessels, the process as a whole is taxing on our bodies. As we sweat a considerable amount of water that our kidneys need to process chemicals and salts.
Infrared saunas, on the other hand, can be seen as more beneficial to our renal health. This is due to the fact that as infrared energy is converted by our cells into ATP, otherwise known as the ‘engine’ of our cells, they can more effectively carry oxygenated blood and help to detoxify chemicals in our bloodstream. As a result, infrared saunas are no doubt the better option of the two, but does not eliminate the most important part of this equation: the water we lose while we’re inside. This means that while there are no doubt circulatory, lymphatic and detoxifying benefits of spending time inside a sauna, it should not be considered a means of preventing kidney stones, as the kidneys require hydratation to work optimally.
Does A Sauna Help Prevent Other Kidney Diseases?
As we’ve just mentioned, infrared saunas in particular offer a number of peripheral health benefits that extend to our renal system over a traditional sauna. Most notably, the promotion of oxygen-rich blood throughout our system, which can help the kidneys work more effectively. This is in addition to the fact that infrared saunas are said to assist the lymphatic system to detoxify chemicals in the bloodstream, and provide more energy for our cells - which they convert into ATP.
The result of the multifaceted benefits of infrared saunas in our key lymphatic and circulatory systems can be found in a recent study from 2016 that found infrared saunas were beneficial in combating chronic kidney disease in certain individuals. This research, however, remains in the preliminary stages.
How Can You Prevent Kidney Stones?
Healthline says that the most important consideration in terms of preventing kidney stones is to stay well hydrated, and make certain changes to your diet. If you drink more than enough water, the concentration of these stone-forming chemicals is diluted in your urine, and makes it difficult for a stone to form. The major tips include:
- Drink a minimum of 2L of water per day
- Eat less salty foods
- Eat more calcium-rich foods
- Reduce oxalates in your diet (chocolate, coffee, spinach, soy, sweet potatoes, peanuts)
- Eat Less Animal Products
- Avoid Vitamin C products
If you're worried about how much you may dehydrate in your infrared sauna, take a look at some of our other written articles on how long should you stay in a sauna, and how hot is a sauna on our blog page here.