On detoxing

There are certain products out there that line the shelves of health and fitness stores and promise you that you will “lose weight,” “digest your food better,” and “cleanse your body!” Well, they’re empty promises. Don’t waste your money. I’ll keep it short and sweet and tell you why.

One of the few things you retain from two semesters spent in anatomy is information about organs and their functions. Turns out, some of your organs work together to detoxify your body as their natural function. Isn’t the human body amazing?!!! This “system” that naturally cleanses your body includes your kidneys, your liver, your colon, your lungs, and even your skin– all of which constantly filter out toxins, whether through urine, or lymph, or other.

And what are toxins? Toxins are poisonous substances. Yeah, pretty vague definition. This can mean anything. Cyanide can be toxic. So can too much water. And in fact, these definitions are so unclear, that when asked, of 15 different producers of detoxifying products, no two companies used the same definition. And none of these companies could provide scientists with any legitimate backing to their claims. When scientists put the products to the test for themselves, and tried to measure these toxins, the intial value of some major accumulation of toxins did not exist (Voice of Young Science, 2009).

Now, that’s not to say that a detox or cleanse isn’t necessary when you are dealing with a life-threatening drug addiction. Yeah, someone in that situation is going to need a detox, in which REAL treatment and medication will be used. Or, say someone ingested some kind of pesticide. That person is going to need real medical attention to legitimately detox their body.

However, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about Instafit gals who credit their bods to detoxifying tea bags or those body wraps that make you look like a stuffed sausage in saran wrap. A study published in 2013 concluded that the science behind these products lacks any statistical evidence, and is unconvincing, and certainly inconclusive, to say the least. Most of the studies didn’t even use a control group and were reliant on self-reporting (and if you’re a nerd like me, then you know this is a HUGE NO NO when it comes to science and experimental design).

I haven’t even gone into the fact that a detox for any period of time can do real damage to your metabolism. First of all, you’re essentially starving yourself— especially if you’re doing some kind of juice cleanse or highly regimented cleanse. These kinds of restricted caloric intake are completely unsustainable, and any weight you lose, water weight or otherwise, is going to come right back on once you’re back to normal diet.

Secondly, most of these detoxes will put your body in a state of dehydration, especially if you’re on some kind of detox that makes you shit a lot. If this happens, you’re more than likely losing some of that important gut bacteria. Some of these bacteria are thought to fight metabolic diseases like diabetes, are anticorrelated with obesity, or help ferment lactose and fiber, and even moderate pH levels (Thompson, 2016). You’d be in a world of shit without these little guys (no pun intended), so you’d better do your best to keep them where they are.

I could go on forever, but I know most of my readers are too busy to read a novel. Moral of the story: if you have a problem with a large number of toxins in the body, you should probably see a doctor. You’re gonna need more than a “Detox.”


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