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%
  • brought my lead level down ~6%
  • increased my HDL by 20%
  • had a positive effect on red blood cells, testosterone, liver, and immune system markers

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…

Clearlight 300x250 v1

What is the Sauna and 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.

Sauna and Niacin Detox Protocol and Supplements.

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 with 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 infrared (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.

Niacin IR Sauna Detox log
My daily supplement intake spreadsheet

Sauna and Niacin Detox 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):

urine toxic metals test results before after

2015 (µg/g)Pre-Detox (µg/g)Post-Detox (µg/g)% Detox Change 

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

detox InsideTracker blood test liver markers


Niacin Sauna Detox - Insidetracker HDL

Oxygen Transfer and Blood Function

Sauna Niacin Detox - Insidetracker Oxygen function and blood function

Strength and Endurance

Sauna Niacin Detox - InsideTracker strength

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

Bulletproof Coffee 300x250 v1

What’s Next?

I have continued doing 3-4 sauna sessions 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.


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 MindMake 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 Infrared Saunas(website)
Sunlighten Infrared Saunas (website)
SaunaSpace (website)

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)

About Bob

Bob Troia is a technology entrepreneur and citizen scientist who is focused on the intersection of data-driven citizen science, health and wellness, human performance, longevity, and self-optimization. He has been featured on CBS News Sunday Morning, PBS NewsHour Weekend, National Geographic Explorer, CBC (Canada), SBS-TV (South Korea), Fast Company, Men's Fitness, Outside Magazine, and on many leading health and wellness podcasts.


  1. Avatar

    Your results were from a urine test. So you measured what heavy metals your body was actually excreting, as oppose to those that are stored in your tissue and brain etc. You could have exposed yourself to dietary mercury or heavy metals that your body can easily flush out in and excrete in your urine.. Urine tests show what is happening on that particular period of time and don’t represent actual heavy metal burden

    The Andy Cutler chelation book and protocol would explain this. Mercury and aluminum wouldn’t show up in a test but the levels of depletion of other elements shown in that test would indicate your actual heavy metal burden.
    The test needs doing again imo.

    • Avatar

      Hello! I need a help! I hope to purchase DMPS, but can not find the store. If anybody knows it please inform me!! I am from Japan. thank you.

  2. Avatar

    Bob: Your daily dosing chart seems to omit taking any binders such as bentonite clay or activated charcoal. Did you take any binders?

    • Avatar

      No, I did not take any bentonite or charcoal, but did take Vitamin C, which is a natural chelator.

  3. Avatar

    Bob: Are you aware of the fact red and near Ir light can also cause lypolysis without the need for niacin?

    • Avatar

      Yes, they can (assuming the proper wavelengths, power, duration are used). Many cosmetic surgery clinics use localized laser “body sculpting” devices.

  4. Avatar
    Mark Bremerkamp Reply

    Hi Bob!

    Are you still on the protocol? What are your current day values? And did you see some improvements when it comes to the brain performance quantification you started ( if you got to measure this at the same time..?)

    • Avatar

      Hi Mark! I continue to use IR sauna regularly but the protocol is not to be continued past 30 days – I’ve added in shorter 1-week detoxes every quarter. Sounds like you read my Brain Gauge post which showed I had scored extremely high in terms of brain health but this is due to all of the optimizations I have been doing – i.e., diet, exercise, recovery, oxygenation, lifestyle, etc.

  5. Avatar
    Winona Stewart Reply

    Hi Bob, I hope I’m not too late to get in on this discussion. My main question is: How in the world could you be sooo toxic and not be terribly terribly sick? Like almost dead. My lead and mercury (measured with same test but 6 hours and DMSA) were Lead: 68 and Mercury: 4.8. I was gradually exposed for over 20+ years but symptoms didn’t show up for another 20 years when I began losing my hearing (almost totally deaf now) and I started having constant repetitive panic attacks. I was put on an antidepressant which stopped the panic attacks but I have never been able to get off of it. Just recently in the last few months my doctor tested for heavy metals and discovered the high levels of lead and mercury. Since then I’ve been reading and learning a lot. Lead can cause panic attacks and hearing loss.
    I’m wondering if you had any symptoms at all besides your neurotransmitter levels decreasing (mind did too). Your test results are so much higher than mine or anyone else I’ve seen. How is that possible???

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