tl;dr version:

  • I had extremely high levels of lead and mercury. A 30-day infrared sauna and niacin detox protocol brought my mercury level down ~36%, lead level down ~6%, increased HDL by 20%, and had a positive effect on red blood cells, testosterone, liver, and immune system.

About two years ago an Organix Comprehensive Profile urine test revealed that I had some suppressed neurotransmitter function. I had a theory that this was in part due to exposure to toxic metals like mercury and lead. Toxic metals burden has been linked to lower levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. [1]

What Causes Toxic Metals Burden?

The body is quite capable of providing ways to detoxify itself (liver, sweat, urine, stool), but we can still accumulate quite a lot of toxins (especially heavy metals) in our bodies over decades of modern living. This can be due to exposure to lead (paint, cheap toys, some types of window shades), tattoos, fabric softeners, seafood (especially large species such as tuna), drinking water, pottery, cookware and utensils, gasoline, and mercury amalgam fillings. These toxins then become stored in our tissues, bones, and fat.

Next, I took a Doctors Data Urine Toxic Metals test, and my results showed that, yes indeed, I had super-high levels of mercury and lead (“the highest I have ever seen out of hundreds of patients!” exclaimed my doctor).

I then went through several monthly rounds of DMPS, a chelator that binds and pulls heavy metals from the body. I also had all of my amalgam fillings removed by a qualified/experienced biological dentist.

While I was able to significantly lower my toxic burden (particularly lead and mercury levels), things eventually plateaued, and although my levels were much improved, they were still way above what is considered acceptable. There is a bit of debate around the use of chelators, in particular DMPS, for detoxification, so I was looking for other methods.

Enter high-dose niacin and infrared saunas…

What is the Sauna/Niacin Detox Protocol?

I had been reading about successes people were having doing an intense, 30-day detox where they would spend four hours per day in a dry sauna while gradually increasing dosages of niacin (vitamin B3) from 100mg to 5000mg(!), along with other vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, oil, and lecithin to assist with the detox and restore nutrients lost through sweat.

This protocol claims to have seen much success in treating everyone from people exposed to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, to 9/11 first responders exposed to toxic air, to recovering drug addicts. The protocol has encountered some controversy over the years due to it’s association with L. Ron Hubbard[3] (disclaimer: no, I am not in any way affiliated the Church of Scientology. I’m simply interested in sweat and detox!).

Niacin helps in two ways: First, it dilates (opens up) blood vessels—that’s why your skin becomes flushed when taking niacin—to allow for better circulation and assist with detox by bringing vessels closer to the skin’s surface; and second, niacin causes lipolysis, which is the act of rupturing fat cells in the body, the main place where toxins are stored.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to spend four hours a day in a sauna, but I came across a Sauna Niacin Detox Facebook group that has tweaked the protocol for IR saunas with much success. IR saunas provide a more effective/efficient detox than traditional (dry) saunas, because in an infrared sauna only 80-85% of the sweat is water with the non-water portion being cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, toxic heavy metals, sulfuric acid, sodium, ammonia and uric acid. [2] I would “only” need to spend 1-1.5 hours per day in the sauna. Fortunately, my gym had a Sunlighten infrared sauna in the locker room. While I would have preferred a full-spectrum sauna (Clearlight is another brand I recommend), it was low EMF and still provided the detox benefits of far infrared (FIR).

My 30-day IR Sauna/Niacin Detox

The image below shows a spreadsheet I created to track my detox protocol—niacin and other supplements taken at different times of the day, as well as sauna times/durations. I would take the niacin three hours before getting in the sauna, and for 30 minutes prior to the sauna I would jog lightly on a treadmill followed by a few minutes on a vibration plate to bring up my body temperature and get my lymphatic system moving so I could begin sweating the instant I got in the sauna. While in the sauna I would consume spring water with some added pink Himalayan salt to remain hydrated and assist with flushing toxins. At the end of each session I would jump immediately into a cold shower for 3-5 minutes to close my pores. For this protocol, one must use the regular form of niacin (full-flush) and not a non-flushing variety.

Results

After completing the 30-day program (it’s actually more like 32-33 days, since upon completion you start halving the supplement dosages until you are back to where you started), I retested and here are my results all side-by-side (click for full-size version):

 
2015 (µg/g)
Pre-Detox (µg/g)
 Post-Detox (µg/g)
% Detox Change 
Mercury
53
 39
 25
 -35.9%
Lead
420
 94
 88
 -6.38%

So, the detox protocol did in fact further reduced my heavy metal burden (including ~6% reduction in lead, ~36% reduction in mercury), and overall I’ve managed to reduce my lead level by 79% and mercury by 53%. Not bad, but still a ways to go!

Since lead accumulates in one’s bones, it can take years of steady detox to bring lead levels down. Consistent use of an IR sauna will have more of an impact than niacin (since niacin only targets fat). Elevated mercury levels over a long period of time could be a sign of an ongoing/acute exposure, most likely due to consuming seafood/sushi (there’s a little bit of arsenic showing up as well, most likely from some white rice I ate prior to testing).

Improved HDL, Red Blood Cell, Liver, and Testosterone Markers

My friends at InsideTracker also hooked me up with blood testing prior to and after my 30-day detox. Given the high doses of niacin and other vitamins, I had concerns about putting extra stress on my liver. But my testing showed that my liver markers actually improved.

Niacin has been shown to help raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and mine did, in fact, go up 20%. My vitamin B12 was extremely elevated, but this was due to the huge amount I was supplementing. Testosterone increased, as did red blood cells.

Liver Function and Toxicity

HDL

Oxygen Transfer and Blood Function

Strength and Endurance

The protocol definitely stresses the body, however, as shown by my elevated cortisol.

What’s next?

I will continue sitting in an IR sauna 3-4 times per week to keep pulling out toxins that I have accumulated and/or are constantly being exposed to. I also plan on repeating this detox protocol for one week each quarter, with possibly one longer (two-week) session once per year. In the meantime, I also plan to do more comprehensive testing to check for exposure to other toxins such as pesticides, plastics, etc.

Resources

Sauna Therapy Detox with Niacin Facebook Group. If you are interested in exploring this type of program, the best place to start is by joining (and reading everything in the Resources section) of this Facebook group. You should also watch the intro video. The person who runs the group offers a complete protocol “kit.” While you could probably hunt down all of the supplements yourself to save some money, he’s already spent hours doing the legwork/research and everything arrives in a convenient package along with detailed instructions.

Clear Body, Clear Mind. Make sure you get the 2002 or 1990 copyright version, as the new editions of the book have had much information removed.

Blood Testing: I took InsideTracker’s “Ultimate” testing plan prior to and after completing my detox experiment (use my code BOBTRO11012 to save 10% off your own InsideTracker tests!)

Best Low-EMF Infrared Saunas for Detox

You’ll want to make sure to use a low EMF (electromagnetic fields) and low ELF (extremely low frequencies) infrared sauna that is made of toxin-free materials. I’ve used a number of IR saunas and the following brands, in my opinion, are the best out there:

Clearlight
Sunlighten
SaunaSpace

Further Reading

[1] Toxicity and Depression, NDNR
[2] Detoxification Through the Skin by Mark Sircus Ac., OMD
[3] Clear Body, Clear Mind by L. Ron Hubbard (1990 or 2002 edition only)