Is Sauna Good for Kidneys? (How Heat and & Steam Could Help)

Although traditionally used in wellness centers to relieve muscle tension or aid weight loss, there is new evidence that heat therapy may also be effective in treating chronic disease. Is the sauna good for your kidneys?

Saunas can help support your kidneys’ health by reducing serum potassium levels, improving cardiovascular circulation, and inducing waste removal. The best practice to optimize your kidneys is spending 10 minutes, 3 times/week, in an infrared sauna. Drink water frequently to avoid hyperthermia and further renal damage.

Continue reading to learn about the benefits of a sauna related to kidney health and what kinds of kidney problems a sauna can assist with. Additionally, we’ll dive into the best way to use a sauna for optimal kidney function!

Can the sauna help improve kidney health and function?

Most of the current data follow those with a particular kidney issue, although it’s safe to assume that these benefits apply to everyone regardless of their health status. Recent research suggests that the heat from a sauna can be an effective treatment option for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Heat and steam from the sauna impact kidney function by:

  • Decreasing interdialytic weight gain
  • Reducing serum potassium levels
  • Improving cardiovascular circulation
  • Inducing waste and fluid removal
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Increasing the release of erythropoietin (responsible for RBC creation)
  • Balancing our body’s pH levels

… the list goes on.

Medical data surrounding sauna use for kidneys

The main objective of our kidneys is to remove waste from an average of 200 quarts of blood per day.

A 2019 study suggests that these benefits are similar to those experienced during dialysis. They enable our kidneys to flush out waste products and toxins that build up in the bloodstream and contribute to end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

In a study published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition, participants who took three 20-minute sessions per week at 130 °F saw their blood pressure drop and levels of a protein called creatinine decreased by 30%. This decrease was even greater than those seen in participants who underwent traditional treatments such as dialysis or medications.

Last but not least, a study done in 2020 followed 6 hemodialysis patients who used the sauna 3 times/week, in 30-60 minute sessions, for a two-week period. They found that the participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressures fell 10 mm Hg and 2 mm Hg, respectively.

There’s so much positive data to support the sauna as a therapy option for kidney health; it’s clear that heat and steam have a substantial impact on these issues. In addition to the research done in labs, continuing anecdotal evidence supports this evaluation.

Note: While scientific studies will continue to be referenced throughout this article, we are in no way providing medical advice- rather stating relevant findings. Always consult your physician for treatment options as they relate to your body.

Is sweating good for the kidneys?

Sweating is one of the most natural ways for your body to release toxins.

Inducing perspiration can help remove toxins like heavy metals, chemicals, and bacteria through your sweat glands. If these compounds build up in our body, they can become overwhelming for our kidneys and damaging to other physiological systems.

Let’s dive a little deeper- which toxins specifically are removed via sweating in the sauna?

BPA, or bisphenol A, a known carcinogen present in resin and other plastic materials, is one of the main by-products of our sweat. Removing this will alleviate some of the responsibility of our kidneys to do so.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are another health problem causer. They are artificial chemicals that must be excreted either via sweat or urine. Unfortunately, because our sweat can’t remove all PCBs, our kidneys will be responsible for perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

Sweat also contains glycoproteins that can bind to bacteria and assist in their removal from the body. The fewer bacteria your kidneys are responsible for, the better.

Lastly, when you utilize the sauna, eccrine and apocrine sweat glands located in different parts of the body, remove small portions of salts, urea, sugar, and ammonia.

The bottom line is that flushing out these harmful substances via perspiration can take a load off of your kidneys, thus increasing healthy function and allowing them to work more efficiently.

Can heat damage your kidneys?

We know that when used properly, heat can help your kidneys, but can it hurt?

The biggest threat excessive heat exposure poses is hyperthermia. This condition can damage your kidneys by:

  • Excessive dehydration
  • Low blood flow injury
  • Accumulating acid in the body
  • Creating high blood potassium

These are all dangerous occurrences. A buildup of acid in the body clogs your kidneys with myoglobin (muscle proteins), putting your body at severe risk for acute renal failure.

If your body cannot dispose of its waste properly, your physiological system will go into shock. This emphasizes the importance of using a sauna properly, only if advised by your doctor, and not overdoing it.

What kind of kidney issues could the sauna help?

There are a wide array of kidney issues, so although it’s hard to give general advice, the sauna provides specific benefits to each.

As I mentioned above, there is evidence to support the sauna as a treatment therapy for chronic kidney disease (CKD), end-stage renal disease (ESRD), acute kidney injury (AKI), urinary tract infections, and kidney cancer. Because the effects are replicated, sweating can help with any condition treated using dialysis.

We’ll get into more specific kidney problems below!

Is the sauna good for kidney stones?

This is rather controversial.

There are no studies that show clinical benefits of using a sauna to prevent kidney stones other than offering pain relief when you already have them. However, states that saunas may even contribute to kidney stones.

This is because more sweating reduces the amount you urinate. Less frequent urination can cause a buildup of mineral deposits in your urinary tract, leading to the formation of kidney stones.

The best way to combat this is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Is the sauna good for kidney infections?

Pyelonephritis, in particular, is a type of bacterial kidney infection that originates in the urinary tract.

Because our glycoproteins bind to bacteria and are excreted via sweat, visiting the sauna can help eliminate these infection-causing organisms. Continue to increase your water intake so that your body has something to release. 

Is the sauna good for kidney disease?

This is the most researched and talked-about benefit: saunas for kidney disease.

The sauna is good for most cases of kidney disease because of its ability to speed up waste and toxin removal and provide pain relief.

In a study of chronic kidney disease patients who use a sauna 4 times/week for six weeks, over half of the participants experienced improved blood flow in their kidneys. In addition, when paired with medications that help improve kidney function, sauna therapy helped reduce symptoms in almost all of the patients.

Before starting a sauna routine, we recommend consulting with your doctor so he or she can monitor you and advise on what is safe for your kidney function.

The American Urological Association says that using a sauna is not recommended long-term treatment for people with chronic kidney disease because it can lead to hyperthermia, which can put limits on your blood pressure and your metabolism.

Sauna for dialysis patients

A type of dialysis treatment known as hemodialysis filters waste and water from your blood. It is often conducted 3 times a week for 4 hours each time. After this process is complete, patients feel chilled (as blood was removed and put back into their system) even days later.

In addition to releasing toxins like heavy metals, the sauna can also help with general warmth. The cold can be especially hard on the hearts of those with kidney issues, which are already struggling to maintain homeostasis. 

While the sauna can most definitely not replace dialysis treatments (and we would never recommend that), it can definitely improve the comfort of those who use this treatment.

What kind of sauna is best for kidney health?

Traditional saunas, steam saunas, and infrared saunas all have unique benefits to maintaining kidneys.

There isn’t a clear answer as to which sauna is the best, though due to the way an infrared sauna operates- this is your most efficient bet. Infrared saunas heat the body’s core first, then the room around it, enabling you to sit inside for less time while still reaping optimal benefits.

Infrared saunas are an especially attractive option for those who must sit through dialysis multiple times a week.

Traditional sauna and kidneys

Traditional saunas are the most widely found types. If you don’t have access to an infrared sauna, these make a great alternative.

To use a traditional sauna to support kidney health, follow these guidelines:

  1. Always consult your physician first.
  2. Spend 30 minutes inside, 3 times/week.
  3. If you have kidney disease, go on days you don’t have dialysis.
  4. Hydrate before and after.
  5. Listen to your body.

Infrared sauna and kidneys

Infrared saunas are the most efficient option to improve kidney health.

To use an infrared sauna to support kidney health, follow these guidelines:

  1. Always consult your physician first.
  2. Spend 10 minutes inside, 3 times/week.
  3. If you have kidney disease, go on days you don’t have dialysis.
  4. Hydrate before and after.
  5. Listen to your body.

Steam rooms and kidneys

Steam rooms are a great way to squeeze in a mini-facial while also helping your kidneys.

To use a steam sauna to support kidney health, follow these guidelines:

  1. Always consult your physician first.
  2. Spend 20 minutes inside, 3 times/week.
  3. If you have kidney disease, go on days you don’t have dialysis.
  4. Hydrate before and after.
  5. Listen to your body.

To summarize, saunas are great for your kidneys when used properly.

The benefits they provide by increasing perspiration are great for helping your body release harmful toxins. Saunas can also improve the experience of dialysis therapy by offering increased blood flow and warmth.

Look to this article as a way to compare the pros and cons of saunas for helping your kidneys. This is in no way, shape, or form intended to guide you medically!

You should always consult an experienced doctor before starting any sauna routine since they may have further safety concerns for people with kidney function issues.