Cleansing the body of toxins via heat for alcohol and drug detox

The combined effects of heating the body and eliminating toxins through the skin rejuvenates the body. But what happens exactly during an intense sweat ritual? And should a recovering alcoholic or addict attempt a heat cleanse in early recovery? How can regular doses of heat help addicts in everyday life?

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Anatomically, you sweat to cool off.  But in many traditions (Indian Aryuvedic, Native American sweat lodges and Swedish saunas to name a few) sweating is one way that your body eliminates waste and is a sign of purification.  The idea, although not scientifically accepted, is that sweat carries with it metals, infections, toxins and blockages from these systems and organs of the body to eliminate them through the skin.  Increase in body temperature induces an artificial fever and proponents claim that sweating can lead to increased immune system function, increased production of white blood cells, increased metabolism, and increased heart rate and blood flow.

Doctors understand that sweating occurs during disease as body temperature increases to fight infection and the reaction to cool off is one way the body attemps to get back into equilibrium.   In fact, sweating is one of the most common signs or symptoms of addiction withdrawal, as outlined by SAMHSA’s TIP 45 on Detoxification and Substance Withdrawal and points to some need for the body to, literally, get rid of the “junk” addicts put in it.  But how applicable is consciously elevating your core body temperature to addiction treatment?  Is it safe?  Recommended?

It’s generally agreed that sweating is not harmful for you.  But certain populations should not consider excessive sweating as a part of a health regime.  Infants, children up to 4 years of age and people over 65 are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and should not participate in sweat rituals.  Additionally, people who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pres-sure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat.  Hyperthermia (increase in body temperature) is also not recommended for women who are pregnant, because the heat can affect a fetus.

Sweating can be a helpful practice for addicts who are interested in cleaning the body of chemicals.  As some drugs can stay in the system for up to 6 months, this practice is helpful at any point in recovery.  Plus, many believe that toxins lodge in fat cells beneath the skins surface. Sweating is the easiest and closest exit point for these toxins. There are, however, a few tips you should follow.  Keep in mind, that the information presented here is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor, nor to replace an addiction treatment plan,  Rather, sweating can enhance your experience as an alternative therapy.  Check with your supervising physician for a clearance first.


  • If you are not used to it, your body needs to adapt slowly to sweating and removing toxins through the skin and elsewhere.  Many people do not sweat easily and can overheat if they start with an aggressive sweating regime.  Begin a sweating regime once or twice a week, and only for 10 or 15 minutes maximum. As you feel comfortable, increase the time and the frequency of use.
  • Be careful not to overdo it, either the amount of time sweating, or the frequency of sweating sessions.
  • Even if you think you are in excellent physical condition, restrict the amount of time you sweat to 20-50 minutes.  One hour tops.  Listen to your body.
  • Sweat at least once weekly for therapy.
  • For best results, sweat each day, once or twice daily.
  • Drink eight ounces of water an hour before or during a sweat.  Drink at least 8 ounces of water afterwards, and more as needed.
  • Add sea salt to your diet to help replace any minerals lost through sweating.
  • Exfoliate your skin to enhance sweating. Using a loofa sponge on dry skin is the most efficient method for exfoliation.
  • The more you relax, the more you can sweat and release.
  • Lie down for 10 minutes after a sweat treatment.

ALWAYS LEAVE A SWEAT TREATMENT IF YOU FEEL VERY FAINT, DIZZY OR SICK. Other signs you should leave a sweating session include:

  • Body temperature increase greater than four degrees
  • A pulse that is more than 50% faster than your resting pulse
  • Feeling very faint, dizzy or sick
  • Stop sweating

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About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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