“Detox” is a word used to sell everything from tea and shampoo to footpads and coffee enemas. “Sell” is the operative word. Because, here’s the thing: You don’t need to artificially “detox.” Your body detoxifies itself naturally: Your skin, liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal functions all remove toxins from your body.
There is a legitimate medical use of the term; it’s pretty narrow. Here’s what Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, told The Guardian:
“There are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.” The former refers to treatment for those with life-threatening drug addictions.
“The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”
Of course, this latter use is the more common. Detox therapies are frequently touted as shortcuts to good health. But there are no shortcuts to good health. Sometimes, though, there are dangerous detours.
Here’s a look at some of the myths about detoxing that could hurt your health and your finances.
Myth: Your liver needs to be cleansed
Put away your wallet and don’t buy that “liver cleanser” product. If you want a healthy, well-functioning liver, simply eat healthful foods and limit your consumption of substances that make it work harder. Alcohol is the obvious culprit, but overconsumption of pretty much anything can overload the liver. In other words, common sense may be the best liver “cleanser” available.
Myth: Your colon needs cleansing
Have you heard that the average person has more than 10 pounds of old fecal matter along the walls of their colon? You know that’s not true — otherwise, we’d all lose about 10 pounds every time we prepped for a colonoscopy. And yet the myth persists.
In fact, cleaning your colon can be bad for you, experts warn. The colon is home to good microbes and good bacteria. “They are our friends and keep us safe,” Dr. Michael Gershon, a professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University, tells Live Science. Mess with those microbes and bad bacteria can move in, leading to disease.
And speaking of colons, let’s not forget the coffee enema.
Myth: Coffee enemas are safe and good for you.
Coffee enemas are considered unsafe and should be avoided. There is no — repeat: no — peer-reviewed evidence to support their use. “None of these claims regarding the production of substantial health benefits by coffee enema and other colonic cleansing treatments has been supported by scientific research,” conclude the authors of a 2013 paper in ISRN Pharmacology.
There are, however, numerous documented accounts of harm from unnecessary enemas of any sort, ranging from septicemia, rectal perforation and even death. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, Endoscopy, Journal of the American Medical Association and others have published such stories. The damage from coffee enemas has been particularly well documented.
Myth: Detox diets will make you healthier
Scientists and nutritionists agree: Most of these diets have no proven health benefits: It’s all hype. They’re popular, but they aren’t proven to do what they claim they’ll do: flush toxins out of your system. In fact, they may be risky, according to WebMD.
Among the most common are juice cleanses — or juice fasts. Done for a short time, they probably aren’t going to do much damage — unless you have diabetes, heart disease or kidney problems. You may also feel better— many people do. But juicing fruit removes most of the fiber. Fiber is not only good for you, but helps keep you feeling full until your next meal.
And anyways: Since the body naturally cleanses itself, you don’t need to do a juice cleanse or follow a liquid detox diet to get rid of “toxins.”
Truth: You can detoxify your diet
There are no shortcuts, but you can detoxify your diet. Limit your processed sugar and alcohol consumption, and eat more whole foods, including fruits and vegetables. Think about it. Would you rather do a lemon-juice cleanse, or enjoy whole, healthy foods? It’s not like you’ll be deprived on, for example, the Mediterranean diet, which includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, plus olive oil, fish and poultry — and even a little red wine.
Fancy detox programs and supplements are at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous. There are many areas where the science is unclear or unsettled, but this isn’t one of them: The most effective way to improve your health is to eat a healthful diet, get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly. No enemas or lemon juice required.
~ Health Scams Exposed