Can Sauna Use Help With Addiction Recovery and Detox?
What About Infrared Saunas?
From ancient times we’ve known that our bodies use sweat to get rid of toxins, which many cultures also identified with cleansing and purification rituals. Can it help with addiction recovery?
While some claims of the health benefits of regular sauna use are tough to test, research has proven many health benefits such as arthritis and sore muscle relief, pain relief for many, increased blood circulation which can also speed natural healing processes, detox of some toxins via sweat, fighting infection and wait for it… reducing fat (lipids). 1.
Finnish and German studies have found regular sauna use also leads to 30% less incident of colds and influenza, leading to the belief that it enhances the immune system.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 80 percent of all illnesses are a direct reaction to our modern environment and/or lifestyles. A 2005 CDC study of over 2000 Americans found trace amounts of 60 different toxic elements in nearly all participants’ urine and blood. Can sauna use help remove most or all of those? That is unknown, but by testing sweat of many subjects toxins were found to have been excreted after sauna use.
While both the dry and infrared saunas provide health benefits, the infrared sauna has become increasingly popular in general use and by detox and rehab facilities because traditional dry saunas use temperatures as high as 185 to 195 degrees F, which can be tough for folks sensitive to the heat. Infrared saunas use a much milder temperature environment of between 120 to 150 degrees F. However because the heat of infrared saunas travels much deeper into the body, they are able to cause a more vigorous sweat at a lower temperature, states Dr. Richard Beever in the July 2009 issue of “Canadian Family Physician.”. Starting at shorter amounts, rehabs report helping the client build up to about 20 minutes of infrared use.
It is easily observed that addicts in detox sweat profusely as the body tries to rid some of the poisonous substance(s). Some drugs can stay in the system for up to 6 months and many believe that toxins lodge in fat cells. As a result, Narconon is reported to use infrareds in their 100+ facilities with good effects in assisting in the elimination of drugs. 2.
Dr. Julian Whitaker reported in 4/2011, that his Institute uses infrared extensively and noted, “We see infrared saunas used with patients who are withdrawing from drugs and with patients who are smokers. In smokers’ cases, you can sometimes even smell the nicotine coming out of their pores.”
It gets even more gravitas when the 800 lb. gorilla, The National Institutes of Health in the Journal of International Medical Research November 2018 published a study with the catchy name (a portion of which is quoted here): “Safety and tolerability of sauna detoxification for the protracted withdrawal symptoms of substance abuse — SAUNA AND EXERCISE INFLUENCE PHYSICOLOGICAL STATES. Many studies show the benefits of exercise in promoting deep circulation in the tissues and mobilizing lipid from storage depots. Both processes aid tissue oxygenation, nutrient status, and healing.
Kukkonen-Harjula in that report suggested that sauna induces subtle endocrine changes, including raised noradrenaline and beta-endorphin levels and activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Although these changes usually normalize post-treatment, they may partially explain the physical relief described by participants.”
So, what conclusions can you draw from all these claims and the august research? Talk to your personal physician and the one at your rehab and see if the many benefits are something you want to avail yourself of as part of your treatment plan. But do not use a sauna if no one is around to see that you are OK. And, please, always sit on a towel.
Nothing feels as good as health and sobriety.
-The information presented here is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor, nor to replace an addiction treatment plan, but the growing data indicates that properly monitored sweating can enhance recovery as an alternative therapy. Check with your supervising physician for clearance first. 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 pressure, 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.
1. 96. Friedberg SJ, Harlan WRJ, Trout DL, et al. The effect of exercise on the concentration and turnover of plasma nonesterified fatty acids. J Clin Invest 1960; 39: 215–220. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar], https://www.nlm.nih.gov/
2. A paper presented to the 123rd Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association examined the Narconon method closer with a small trial of eight cocaine, valium and heroin addicts undergoing sauna detoxification. Tests on subjects’ urine and sweat after sauna sessions revealed an “increase in the concentration of drug metabolite” among seven of the eight participants. Furthermore, all seven showed these same metabolites present in their urine and sweat for five weeks after the sauna sessions ended, thereby “supporting the argument that drug metabolites were mobilized from stores.” (Reduction of Drug Residues: Applications in Drug Rehabilitation; Shields, Tennant, et al.)
By Sharon Valentino, CA LMFT, 7/13/19
Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.
Sharon Valentino, MA, ChT, CA LMFT, Psychotherapist, Behavioral Health
Calif. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, MFC51746
Masters Level Registered Addiction Specialist (MRAS) & Level IV Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor (CATC IV), Masters Counseling Psychology
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