What Is a Detox Bath?

Bath with water flowing from faucet
Detoxification Baths (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Detox Baths are a popular trend in a long line of detoxification therapies sold and discussed usually within the alternative medicine and spa industries. The premise revolves around the idea that a person can put different salts, herbs, and oils into hot water and soak in the tub to remove (through sweating) toxins and poisons that are in our bodies making us sluggish or sick.

History of Detoxification

Close-up of incense sticks in a burner with a bottle of oil on side of bathtub
History of Detoxification (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The premise of detoxification can be traced back to Ancient Egyptian and Greek dynasties who believed that dangerous toxins were created within the body and needed to be purged to aid in basic health. In the late 18th and early 19th century, early biochemistry and microbiology seemed to support this idea but modern 20th century doctors in general do not encourage detoxification based approaches and continue to find a lack of clinical evidence in support of detoxification claims.

Science behind Detoxification

Model of molecule
Science behind Detoxification (Image: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Common bath detoxification companies and websites claims detoxification aids with symptoms such as fatigue, irritated skin disorders, allergies or low-grade infections; Parkinson’s, arthritis, cancers, Alzheimer’s, bags under the eyes; a distended stomach; weight loss, menstrual difficulties; or mental confusion, etc. However, there is no conclusive clinical evidence that toxins cause any of these conditions, diseases or symptoms to begin with. The human body already excretes toxic substances from our systems when we sweat, urinate and defecate. Detoxification of foreign substances takes place naturally in the liver, which changes toxins into something that we can then excrete from the body; just as our kidneys filter toxins from the blood and out of our body through our urine.

Benefits of Baths

Woman relaxing in bathtub
Benefits of Baths (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

There could be limited benefits to sweating in moderation through exercise, sauna or bath; but clinical support is inconclusive at this time. We do know that losing excessive amounts of salt and water from the body can quickly dehydrate a person and can lead to circulatory problems, kidney failure, and heat stroke. It’s good to remember that the body’s main purpose in sweating is to regulate body temperature not detoxification and that sweating too much could lead to dehydration and even death.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that perspiration is 55 % to 60% water/fluid. Sweat also contains salt (sodium chloride/ 0.9 gram/liter) and trace amounts of other substances, potassium (0.2 g/l), calcium (0.015 g/l), magnesium (0.0013 g/l). Also many other trace elements are excreted in sweat, again an indication of their concentration is (although measurements can vary fifteen fold) zinc(0.4 milligrams/liter), copper (0.3–0.8 mg/l), iron (1 mg/l), chromium (0.1 mg/l), nickel (0.05 mg/l), lead(0.05 mg/l). Many people refer to these substances as electrolytes, and they help to regulate the balance of fluids within our bodies. There is no conclusive evidence that other foreign toxins can leave the body in significant amounts through profuse and/or induced sweating. Baths in general do have benefits to the human body. Many people find submerging in warm clean water personally relaxing, which can reduce stress and possibly aid in reducing blood pressure. Keeping the body clean through regular bathing and washing improves overall general heath by reducing germs and the possibility of infections through the skin. The warm temperature of the water helps increase blood circulation in many people, which helps the body speed up its normal functions of keeping the body healthy and finally, hot water has been used throughout history for assisting in the relaxation of tired and aching muscles.

Warning Signs & Precautions

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Warning Signs & Precautions (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If you want to participate in a Detox Bath be sure to follow basic safety precautions and watch out for warning signs of a serious problem that may require medical attention: • Be sure to check with your doctor or healthcare provider to see if it is safe for you to proceed, especially if you have high blood pressure, are pregnant, have pre-existing conditions, or you are taking medications. • Be careful with water temperature. Keep temperature no greater than 98 degrees Celsius when possible. The bath should be warm, not burning hot, which could injure/damage your skin. • Be careful when getting out of the tub after a bath. As the body relaxes, there is a tendency for reduced blood pressure, which can lead to becoming lightheaded or dizzy if you rise suddenly. • Stay hydrated. Regardless if you use herbs or salts in your bath, a warm bath will usually cause you to sweat (lose water from your body) which needs to be replenished to stay healthy. • Be careful about what substances you are adding to your bath. Epson salts, baking soda, and fresh herbs are commonly included in detox bath recipes. But be sure you are not allergic to ingredients you are adding and that they will not interact with medications or conditions you may have. If you have any cuts, sores or rashes on your skin you may want to avoid additives to your bath until you have fully healed.

Warning Signs: If you have high blood pressure, heart or kidney problems/disease, diabetic, or you are pregnant, do not attempt the detox bath without doctor supervision and approval. If you experience any discomfort, discontinue the bath. If you experience rashes, hives, shortness of breath, pain or discomfort, discontinue the bath and be sure to check with your doctor.

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