Feeling sluggish? A little under the weather? Could it be all those toxins?
Just the other day I overheard someone extol the merits of slathering something on the feet and sleeping in socks to "suck out toxins." There's no actual scientific evidence that that one works.
But there are myriad internal cleansing regimes out there to consider, including diets, fasts, herbal concoctions and colonics. Are some more effective than others - and for what exactly?
What the experts say
"Our bodies are equipped to detox without doing anything special. But if you're going to do it, just do it for a short time. Drink clear liquids for a couple of days, and don't spend money on fancy products. If people are constipated, liquids for a few days might stimulate elimination of some waste. It can make you feel good, but it's not going to detox. We can accumulate toxins, but it's from the environment. Often those are stored in our fat. The only way to lose toxins is to lose all of your body fat, but you can't flush them out with a detox diet."
CHRISTINE ROSENBLOOM, nutrition professor emerita,
Georgia State University, Hartwell, Georgia
"When you clean up your diet, eat liver-friendly foods and take the right supplements, you clear out the colon. Fecal matter that has built up in the system for a long time is eliminated. People notice an improvement in energy and clarity. If somebody has high liver enzymes and does a liver cleanse with a naturopathic doctor, those enzymes come down. We give homeopathic formulas that clear the liver and colon, and target the lymphatic system and skin so all eliminatory organs are affected. Stress can slow down elimination of toxins."
SARA CELIK, naturopath, Toronto
"‘Detoxing' is a broad term. The body knows how to detoxify itself in some cases. It's often good to know what you're trying to remove and have some indicator as to whether or not it's being removed. If someone improves liver function and lowers cholesterol, the doctor can measure it. We expect it to occur over a period of three months. If we're not seeing results, we assume the detox is not working. Milk thistle is not a direct detoxifying agent, but it seems to help the liver increase its capacity to detoxify. Dandelion, burdock and artichoke are thought to cause the liver to make more bile, the principal agent in detoxifying the GI tract and maintaining the solubility of cholesterol.''
ROGER LEWIS, master herbalist, Toronto
"‘Detox' is a marketing tool invented by those with detox plans to sell. Eating burgers and beer is bad for you over a lifetime, but they don't create a residue in the body. Anyone claiming they can magically extract this residue has, at best, some rather waffly theory. They should be asked to explain exactly what molecules they mean, what real-world evidence they have that their method reduces the quantity of these molecules. Risk factors for ill health exert their influence over a lifetime and cannot be fixed with a five-day detox."
BEN GOLDACRE, research fellow,
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,
author, Bad Science, London, UK
"A three- to seven-day juice cleanse is the best way to release toxins. Fresh juices pick up dead matter and carry it away. During a cleanse, the body decomposes and burns only the substances and tissues that are damaged, diseased or unneeded, such as abscesses, tumours, excess fat deposits and congestive wastes."
LINDA PAGE, naturopath, Montgomery, Alabama
"The whole concept of detoxing is bogus. It's a myth that the body is contaminated by toxins and that we can purge ourselves of them. The liver has this huge capacity for metabolizing toxins, drugs or anything and excreting them. The kidneys do that, too. Detoxifying yourself by cleaning out the colon - what a ridiculous idea. What would it do? It just washes all the stool out and probably a good bit of digestive juices and nutrients. This is like leeches and bleeding back in the Middle Ages. It's no more scientific."
FRANK SACKS, professor of medicine,
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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