Detox is another immensely popular fad. In alternative medicine, detox is supposed to remove acquired toxins from the body. Problem is, if you ask any of the detox promoters what these alleged toxins are and how they are detected, you end up with lots of waffling about ‘environmental toxins’ etc. and not a word of how they are supposed to be detected. Not a single website selling detox kits or promoting detox diets that I read while doing research for this article managed to say what these toxins are supposed to be.
Marketers claim often that detox will help with headaches, poor sleep, tiredness, lowered immunity, nausea, dull skin, thrush, overweight, constipation, spots and acne, sluggishness, mouth ulcers, difficulty waking up, allergies, stress and skin conditions. There is not a shred of scientific evidence that any of the detox procedures will do anything of the kind. The body is fully capable of getting rid of any waste products all on its own – that is what the liver, lungs, kidneys and skin do. Should the body actually accumulate a load of toxins, we would feel really ill, not just a little uncomfortable.
Detox promoters also make incredible claims about the benefits of the process. Here is a typical one:
Body detox is a preventative process. If it becomes a regular part of your lifestyle it’ll prevent various diseases. Moreover, it slows down the aging process.
I’d love to see any scientific research backing those claims, but there is none, since these claims are just marketing hype.
False information about the body abounds. My jaw was trying to get in contact with my knees when I read the following:
Colonics also help with emotional problems. The transverse colon passes through the solar plexus which is the body’s emotional centre. Most of our unresolved or ‘undigested’ emotional issues are stored here and as a result create a tightening of the colon muscle. This slows the bowel movement and causes constipation. The colonic can help clear the physical obstruction and release the tension that caused the emotional repression in the first place.
Where on earth did that little genius come up with the idea that “emotional issues” are stored in the celiac (solar) plexus? Also, if you take a look at this picture, you will also see where the celiac plexus is located: it is where the celiac trunk branches from the aorta. How the colon would manage to pass through that location when it is situated much lower, is quite beyond me. This is what you get when people who huckster worthless products try to sound scientific. Somehow the phrase ‘epic fail’ comes to mind.
There are several detox procedures. One gadget that used to be popular and is still marketed is the detox foot spa. The person adds water and salt to the contraption and soaks their feet in it for about 30 minutes. The water will gradually turn into darkish brown, which the marketers claim is caused by the toxins drawn from the body. This is nonsense, since you will get the same colouring of the water whether your feet are in it or not. What really happens is that the salt dissolved in the water will react with the electrodes of the gadget, generating rust. This rust is what makes the water turn brown.
Then there are the detox foot pads. These are adhesive foot pads containing usually different minerals – tourmaline is quite common – bamboo and wood vinegar. The pads are stuck to the bottom of your feet during sleep. The marketers claim that the pads will draw toxins, parasites and even cellulite from your body. This is pure nonsense, since the skin, being semi-permeable, will not be able to conduct anything like parasites or cellulite out of the body. The pads turn brown because all they draw is dead skin and dirt from your feet and, moreover, the wood vinegar is in the dry form, ground and mixed with the other ingredients. When it comes into contact with moisture, such as perspiration, it will turn back into its dark brown liquid state. You can get the same darkening reaction by sprinkling the pads with some distilled water.
Detox diets are very popular. They range from the utterly absurd lemon juice and cayenne pepper diet to the slightly more sensible vegetable-based diets. All of them involve drinking massive amounts of water. Wheat, dairy, meat, fish, eggs, coffee and tea, alcohol, salt, sugar and processed foods are prohibited. These diets are usually short-term, 3-21 days, and so are unlikely to cause any lasting harm, but they are completely unnecessary. If, however, they are followed long-term, they can cause nutrient deficiencies and health problems caused by them. For example, getting enough calcium is very difficult without dairy products, and in the long-term it can lead to osteoporosis or brittle bone disease in the later life.
Colon cleansing is a triumph of marketing over science, and relies on a trick worthy of the torch-lit medicine shows of olden time. The marketers claim that there is something they call ‘colonic plaque’ present in any ‘uncleansed’ colon – despite the fact that proctologists deny ever seeing one – and that it is toxic, causing all kinds of health problems. In reality, the colon sheds old cells every three days, so there cannot be any build-up of harmful material.
Users of these colon cleansing kits produce – and proudly publish photos of, which I won’t link to – huge ropy dark brown excrements, and this is where the trick comes in. Most of these kits contain bentonite and psyllium. Psyllium forms a mucilaginous mass when mixed with water and it has a bulk laxative effect. Bentonite is a type of clay that expands when wet and it can absorb up to 10x its own weight in water and will swell up to 18x its dry volume. It is used as a ‘clumping agent’ in cat litter. Once swallowed, psyllium and bentonite clay combine to make a soft, rubbery cast of the intestines, and this is interpreted by the charlatans as colonic plaque or whichever nonsense term for it they wish to employ.
Should you feel the need to ‘cleanse’ your colon due to constipation or hard stool, the safe and healthy way to do it is to increase the amount of fibre in your diet and drink more water.
There are real forms of detoxifying, but they apply to only a few conditions. All of these forms of detoxifying are done under the supervision of a doctor, and I sincerely hope you will never need any of them.
Alcohol detoxification is done to persons with alcohol dependence by withdrawing all alcohol. Since sudden alcohol withdrawal can kill, drugs that have similar effects to alcohol are substituted.
Drug detoxification is done to persons who are addicted to illegal drugs. The addict is isolated from their usual environment and denied the substance they are addicted to. Prescription drugs may be given to prevent the pain from withdrawal symptoms.
Heavy metal detoxification is done in cases of heavy metal poisoning. The body cannot break down heavy metals, such as zinc, lead, mercury and cadmium, which can build up to toxic levels. EDTA and other chelating drugs lower the blood levels of metals by binding the heavy metal molecules, which causes the body to remove them through urination.
However, alternative medicine has hijacked this process and claims it is effective for a number of conditions, such as autism, gangrene, thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. There is no scientific evidence that chelation is efficient for any of these conditions, and as it can be dangerous, is not to be recommended for anything else than real heavy metal poisoning and administered by a doctor. Some irresponsible alternative medicine sellers huckster chelation kits, but these are to be avoided at all costs.
Don’t waste your money on the worthless products to get rid of imaginary toxins. If you feel that you do not feel as good as you would like, perhaps a change in your lifestyle might be in order. Eat a varied and balanced diet of mostly vegetables, fruit and wholegrain, with some dairy and meat. Drink enough water – and by that I don’t mean the marketing hype of 8 glasses a day – and exercise, even a 30 minute walk a day will be good for you. Keep this up, and you’ll find that you feel much better, and all without paying the greedy charlatans a penny.