Detox bollocks

It’s the time of year when all the newspapers are advising their readers to engage in one form of detox or another. They spend all of November advising us which fattening food to eat to have the ‘perfect Christmas’ and then point out we’re fat and out of shape and ‘need’ to go on a ‘Detox’.

Here’s the thing: they don’t work. Your kidneys and your liver detox your body. That’s what they’re there for. That’s why you get so ill when either of them malfunction.

Magic salts or fruit cleanses don’t detoxify you. On the other hand, it’s also probably a good idea to give your body a break from the onslaught of 24/7 goose fat and mince pies! Hence the natural tendency for people to change their eating habits come the new year.

But the claims made by the papers and newly-published health books are ludicrous and normally evidence-free. Often fronted by a celebrity with zero medical or health training, they make huge promises and deliver nothing in return except a sense of disappointment when it doesn’t work for you.

I was thinking about detox methods in the sauna last night. “Hypocrite!”, I hear you cry. Hold on – put down your pitchforks. I wasn’t in the sauna to detox, inspired by a D-list celebrity’s book that came free with a tabloid newspaper. I don’t sit in the heat imagining that the copious sweat traveling down by face and dripping onto the floor is actually full of dangerous ‘toxins’ or the remnants of mince pies and Christmas pudding.

(Although a two-decade scientific study in Finland did indicate that regular sauna use is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease – bonus!)

No. I take a sauna because I enjoy it. The detox I was thinking of was absence of electronics and noise. I was completely alone in there and it was silent, aside from the clicking and sighing of the sauna heater.

I was also gadget-free. The sauna is far too hot to wear my Apple Watch, even if it’s waterproof. I think it would either melt and/or burn my wrist. The iPhone was safely in my bag in the changing room next door for exactly the same reasons. All I had to hand was a copy of The New European and my thoughts.

And it was a very welcome break.

It was then that I realised why I enjoy the sauna so much. Aside from the physical pleasure of getting slowly cooked and then jumping into a freezing cold shower, I enjoy the absence of other people getting in touch with me and the lack of any gadgets to steal my attention. It’s a pleasant change to be alone with my thoughts and to focus completely on one story in the newspaper.

It’s the only reason I subscribe to a physical news paper at all. It’s published weekly and gives me just enough content to read while sitting back in the sauna. As it’s essentially disposable, I don’t worry about it getting wet or damaged by the heat.

When I’m not reading – and sometimes, the heat makes it difficult to concentrate or, frankly, the sweat in my eyes makes it impossible! – I just sit back and think, or if I’m feeling a bit stressed or tense, I practice mindfulness.

No religious connotations, just mindful focus on my breathing and my posture. Just a few minutes a day is really helpful to me and while I usually use Headspace as a guided meditation tool, that’s impossible in the sauna as it’s an app on my iPhone. So it’s been a great experience in practicing mindfulness meditation without external stimuli or guidance.

So, I actually have my own little detox cough bollocks cough from the world at large every time I step in there. Actually, I’m going to stop using the word ‘detox’ as it’s so meaningless and potentially harmful.

The sauna is what it is: taking a break from the world outside and having a good old think. Something that can be tough for many of us these days. And given my epilepsy is exacerbate by stress and sleep disturbance, the sauna is an ideal way to knock both of these on the head – especially if I meditate while I’m in there.

It’s a habit I’ll definitely continue in to 2017.

  1. My lupus doesn’t play with saunas or jacuzzis but I have been employing a cool mist humidifier all winter. I’ve used them (not cool, that started a few years ago) my whole life when ILL.

    This year, I’ve used it all winter as my sinuses have just kept being sensitive & I own it, so why not?

    I think it’s probably a good thing to literally add moisture as it is lower in winter.

    Call me crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. I’d never call you crazy! And I’m just looking forward to the time of year when I *need* a cool mist 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. my old gym had a sauna and a plunge pool, and you’ve just made me realize how much I miss that quiet, contemplative start to the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. It’s the best 😅

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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