Hindsight is always 20/20, so it’s easy to look back at trends that have popped up through the decades. Many people remember the low-fat trend in the 80’s, Atkins diet of the 90’s, and today gluten free, grain free, bullet proof everything just to name a few. You could probably name five more each decade. Being in my line of work, I’ve noticed over the last few years there has been an increase in trends relating to health and fitness. I’d suspect this is due to the accessibility of the internet and the ease of capitalizing on naive individuals desperately searching for answers.
The important one I would like to highlight today is the rising trend of Detoxes. I’m sure you’ve heard the word before, and I’m sure you’ve considered “detoxing” your body. Being that I live in Phoenix/Scottsdale detoxes are much more prevalent, and, unfortunately the truth about these things isn’t always accurate.
So let’s talk about them.
What are Detoxes?
I’m going to use Detox and Cleanse interchangeably. They mean the same thing. Essentially, a detox is a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic substances. Depending on what you’re detoxing there is a variety of ways to do this. An alcohol detox is a medically supervised period of withdrawal where you would be abstaining from any and all booze. A more common, general detox is done when you restrict certain foods or food altogether, and drink pressed juices or specially designed concoctions.
In other cases, you can purchase consumer goods, probably organic processed free, that help “detox” the body.
Here’s a short list of things that are sold as a “detox.”
- Bath Salts
- And pretty much anything that says “detox” on the package
I don’t want to discuss the consumer good products in this blog. That’s not my focus and you’re somewhat nuts if you think shampoo will detox anything (there are higher quality shampoos on the market that are better for you). Instead, I’m going to focus on fitness/weight loss detoxes that are prevalent in my line of work.
Here are 5 of the most popular detoxes on the market (no particular order)
Instead of breaking them down for you I’ve linked them up so you can read about them and their benefits.
Detoxes supposedly help you:
- Eliminate Toxins
- Lose Weight
- Cleanse your kidneys, digestive system and other organs
- Eliminate waste in the body
- Feel better
The general population is sold the idea that when you detox you are “cleansing” your body of all the cancerous, hazardous, poisonous toxins in the body. Toxins could be alcohol, processed food, air pollution, refined sugar, medicines, chemicals from cleaners, insert anything you can think of that sounds like it would have a negative effect on the body.
The question is, Is there any legitimacy behind this?
It is 100% true that your body absorbs toxins from the environment. Real toxins that can be named and identified can cause serious health problems. There are even toxins that can kill people due to too much exposure. Examples include nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and sucrose (understand these are dosage dependent).
Take this excerpt from LiveScience.com
“Your body can accumulate both natural and manmade toxins when you ingest food and water and when you breathe. Air pollutants like ozone and nitrogen dioxide have been linked to a range of health problems in humans — from respiratory inflammation to cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Pollutants in water include arsenic, a known carcinogen, and mercury, which is linked to nervous system disorders, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Even organic fruits and vegetables aren’t safe from toxins such as E. coli and salmonella, which can cause acute illness, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.”
Toxins are real and Toxins can F’ people up.
Drinking juice or undergoing an internal cleanse isn’t going to help your body get rid of these toxins any faster or more effectively. In theory, that would be wonderful if you could drink a special concoction, live healthy, never get cancer, never feel sick and never die.
Your Body. The Natural Cleanse
Your body is extremely complex. There are things scientists are still trying to figure out. But one thing is for sure, and that is your body has a natural built in detoxing system. It does it naturally, and if it didn’t you’d be 6 feet in the ground and not reading this blog post.
You have a few different organs that work in this process of detoxification and I’m only going to discuss the the liver, colon, and kidneys. I tackle each one briefly below.
Everything you eat or breathe in is broken down in the bloodstream and passes through the liver. According to the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, “The body depends on the liver to regulate, synthesize, store and secrete many important proteins and nutrients and also to purify, transform and clear toxic or unneeded substances.” (1) The liver uses a two-phase process to break down chemicals and toxins. The first phase toxins are neutralized and broken into smaller fragments. The second phase they are bound to other molecules, creating a new non-toxic molecule that can be excreted in your bile, urine, and stool.
If you are a normal, healthy individual, toxins aren’t “stored” in the liver.* Your liver takes these toxins and turns them into water soluble chemicals, yes chemicals, that are sweated out or excreted from your body. (1) The notion that your liver needs to be cleansed is just false.
I’ll make this quick. You’ve heard of colon cleanses. The notion is that your colon has years of built up toxins which is the cause of all disease. If you don’t cure yourself and cleanse your system you’ll suffer from these issues:
- Excessive Weight
- Disease (name one)
- Toxic Chemicals
Colon cleanses assume that your digestive tract is “clean” or needs to be clean. According to Science Based Medicine, the colon is crawling with hundreds of species of bacteria. Without this bacteria, we wouldn’t be able to digest food, and process certain food stuff. Your skin, mouth, intestine, lungs and other organs are filled with bacteria, most of them living in a harmonious relationship with your body.
According to Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, The fact is that the intestinal tract contains mostly bacteria, which can aid digestion. An enema or laxative does not get rid of more ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ bacteria.” It gets rid of both. We don’t like the idea of carrying bacteria, so lots of folks want to cleanse. But remember, bacteria can be your friend.”
Lastly, there just isn’t any scientific evidence supporting claims about colon cleansing. If there were, you would have your bowels tested every visit to determine your health situation. Even more crazy, is if you search PubMed search of colon+mucoid+plaques there are zero hits. If it were real, there would hundreds of studies with an abundance of information.
The kidneys are a vital detox organ as well. Two healthy kidneys help with the following:
- Regulation of electrolytes
- Maintenance of acid-base balance
- Regulation of blood pressure
- Natural filter of the blood
- Waste removal – create urine to excrete “toxic” build up
Over-usage of the kidneys and disease can cause serious problems. Diabetes and poor eating habits can cause damage. Long term high blood pressure can cause the kidneys to lose function and, of course, long term over exposure to medications and chemicals also do damage.
There isn’t a magical solution to clean out the kidneys. You can’t just roll up to the local juice shop, drink some juice, and become toxin free. General health choices over the course of years contribute to kidney dysfunctions, so it’s imperative that you take care of your body.
Your Best Detox
If you get anything from this article, let this be it.
Eat foods that support your liver and kidneys, or avoid foods that stress your liver and kidneys. Supplementing your body with the right nutrients will help make sure your detox pathways work optimally.
- Avoid high amounts of Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats from processed shit and get them from fish, meat, seeds, and nuts.
- Avoid high amounts of fructose and sugar. You can eat fruit just be smart about it.
- Limit Alcohol
- Drink plenty of water (3/4 your weight in oz daily)
- Eat greens
In general, have an awareness of what you’re putting in your body and how it can affect you. I recommend you do this by learning how to count and track macros. You’ll know the types and amounts of food you’re consuming daily. Both are beneficial for optimal body composition.
Lastly, avoid tacky marketing claims that “detox” [Anything Insert Here]. It will save you time and money.
And I forgot to mention. Going on a “detox” is not a beneficial, long term solution to weight loss. If you’re sick and tired of being overweight, unhealthy, and confused then shoot me a message. Action takers rule the world.
Here’s a good read if you would like more info.
* Individuals with viral hepatitis or alcohol-induced liver disease may accumulate toxins in the body because the liver is not functioning properly. Certain substances that can be toxic in high doses, like vitamin A, iron, and copper, can also accumulate in the liver or other organs as a result of disease. But there is no scientific evidence that detox diets or liver cleanses help treat liver disease. (1b)
1. Detox Diets & Cleansing: Facts & Fallacies. Live Science, February 9, 2015
2. Colon Cleansing – Myth vs. Science. Skeptical Raptor, April, 26, 2013
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