The human body is very efficient at detoxing when it comes to self-cleansing and protection from chemical damage, but you wouldn’t think that if you looked around at all the claims and promises of what might be termed a detoxing ‘industry’. An example: “For only $239.82 you will get 90 days’ supply of Detoxifier Capsules and Digestive Cleanser along with our specially blended herbal tea….” Unfortunately, the myriad promises of these detox and cleansing plans are all hype with no proven health benefits.
There are many ways to get your body clean and healthy, none of which involve a purge, or special pills and liquid diets, and certainly not flooding the colon. These plans and diets are all responding to a supposed need to cleanse the body for a radical reboot to health. The claims are everywhere you look: online (of course), in lifestyle magazines, from celebrities (always knowledgeable about medicine, right?), celebrity doctors (Dr. Oz) and others.
On the surface, the idea of ‘cleansing’ may sound appealing especially if you are feeling poorly or have overindulged (over the holidays perhaps) but there is no evidence to back this detox concept.
Detoxification used to refer to a medical procedure to rid the body of dangerous poisons (real toxins) including those arising from addictions. That meaning has been lost and ‘detox’ now refers to any number of non-traditional diets, treatments or products that will ‘eliminate’ so-called toxins from the body. They also offer the benefit of weight loss, in some cases.
Toxins are properly defined as substances that are poisonous to humans and animals at relatively low doses. But toxins have come to mean almost anything that will sell a “detoxing” including refined sugar, caffeine, red meat, gluten and various environmental contaminants. Detoxing claims to treat all sorts of ailments from pimples to headaches, fatigue to insomnia, depression and even cancer. All these conditions are claimed as ‘evidence’ of toxicity wreaking havoc in the body. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence or research that supports any of these claims.
If the goal is to detox your body, don’t waste the money or the time. Nature, it turns out, has already provided all the tools the body needs to do the job itself. Toxins do not build up in the liver, kidneys or colon so there is no need for the latest detox wonder.
In general, the body is entirely capable of cleansing itself and doing so very efficiently. The liver is the main organ with this function. It converts dangerous substances into less harmful ones that are then evacuated in the urine or stool. The kidneys also filter unwanted compounds, this time directly into the urine. Unless overwhelmed by a large dose of poison, the body can do its own cleansing just fine. Certain illnesses will affect the ability of the liver and kidneys to do their jobs, but otherwise, they’re perfectly adapted to the job. There is no evidence that a special detox diet, fast or enema can improve of the body’s own ability to cleanse itself.
If the idea of detoxing sounds appealing, there is a way to do so: try ‘clean’ eating that focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. In other words, choose whole foods without a lot of processing. Not only is a healthy diet good for the body, it is also more likely to make you feel better and give you more energy, especially when you add in regular exercise.
Written by Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.