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.

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  • 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
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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    1. I haven’t found teas (other than purging teas) to be all that helpful. I think that commercial tea doses are not individually tailored to health needs, especially for people looking for help with drug, alcohol or chemical detox. I would personally see a Chinese herbalist for this.

  1. The ladies in my group spent an hour talking on this subject last night. I’ve even gotten two emails about it today. It’s a hot topic.

  2. Very interesting information. This, along with the release of endorphins, may have something to do with why so many addicts turn to physical activity/exercise while in recovery.

  3. I actually did a program about nine years ago. And to give you some data on where I was at at the time, I was 32, had been using for over 20 years, I had been in residential treatment centers for one to six months and had graduated all five times. In spite of this, I had a meth lab in a bong factory (yes, really). I drank like a fish and was constantly suicidal.

    Anyway, after a ten day withdraw (I was on a lot of stuff), plus about a week of orientation courses designed to bring me up to present time, I started the Purif. It was a low heat sauna (about 140 degrees whereas you’ll find some saunas going up to 190 – shyeah right). I had to take a dose of Niacin before some light exercise, then we hit “the box.” I did the sauna in 20 minute intervals, making sure to cool all the way down between sessions (it was all supervised). I did 20 minute intervals with a jump in the pool or a cold shower in between, for a total of five hours a day. We basically sweated this entire time. We drank at least a gallon of water while in the sauna, plus whatever we drank outside. We loaded up on a very specific regimen of vitamins, minerals, cell salts, potassium and sodium, and we were given veggie trays with plenty of fresh raw vegetables, with some dip for incentive, in order to help replenish our bodies vitamins and nutrients we were sweating out (sweat carries with it the bad, but also the good stuff). We had to take fatty acids and oils to replenish those. I did this for 28 consecutive days. By the end, I was actually a completely different person. I wasn’t nearly as depressed as I had been, I took an adult IQ test they had given me just prior to me starting the sauna program, and it had gone from 121, to 154 in just four weeks. I could tell of course – I was thinking extremely clearly. One benefit I realized I was experiencing later was the complete absence of physical cravings for drugs. They were gone. It literally changed my life.

    I noticed that someone wrote that toxins from drugs can stay in your system for up to six months. That’s not entirely true from what I’ve read. Once I completed the sauna I wanted to get some objective data on the body’s tendency to store things in fat, and I discovered a phenomenon known as bio-lipid storage. In fact, everywhere your blood goes, whatever is in your blood goes. And toxins don’t store in organs or veins, they store in fat. And, unless you recirculate the fat that’s in your body all the time, which hardly anyone does, toxins can remain lodged in fat for years. Basically your fat stays right where it is, along with all the crap thats stored in it until you get rid of it.

    Having said that, doing that sauna was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I did it again last year and I won’t even go into what an amazing experience it was. Hubbard wrote a book called Clear Body Clear Mind in which he explains the entire process. It’s secular and in my own experience, very, very effective.

    One piece of advice I’d give though is to not do a program that you make up on your own. Overheating, lack of proper nutrition, etc, are very real issues if you’re sweating at that level, so use the book, or some medically supervised regimen. Also, I’d recommend doing it with at least one other person. I was in with about four others and not only was it not boring, but it was a lot safer.

  4. im going to try to sweat as much as i can sleeping all night im used to sweating cause i live in phoenix i actually like the feeling after you sweat feels plus im facing a whiz quiz soon so im doing everything i can to pass it

  5. Yes! The idea is that the toxins are stored in the fat, just under the skin…so that when you sweat, the emotional / physical / energetic junk can leave your body easily. We threw around the idea of getting a portable sauna today. Anyone heard of this?

  6. Thanks for sharing that information with us. Having a drug addiction is a very difficult condition to deal with. Drug addictions negatively affect a persons life in so many ways.

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