Detoxing the Body

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We have all read the articles and seen the infomercials about the various ways we can “detox” or “cleanse” our bodies. There seems to be as many ways to accomplish this feat as there are companies willing to take your money. The sheer number of products out there promising to cleanse, purge, detox, purify, and rid us of impurities is staggering. Starting at the top (pun intended) there are the oral routes to detox the body such as the famous “lemonade diet” (Also known as “The Master Cleanse” which gained publicity when Beyonce Knowles used it to slim down for Dreamgirls), the Acai Berry Cleanse, Liver Detox Juice, The Gallbladder Flush, The Liver Flush, The Olive Oil Cleanse, and the list goes on. Moving southward you find another method to supposedly remove toxins from your body: colon cleansing. This may take the form of colon hydrotherapy or ” colonic irrigation.” There are also enemas including the famous coffee enemas. And last but not least, there are the detoxing pads which are placed on the skin under the feet. The Kinoki Foot Pads, one of the more well known brands, promises to remove impurities from the body by absorbing toxins through the acupuncture points on the feet. The “proof”? When you pull off the pads they have turned an ugly brown color-evidently the accumulation toxins that were removed.

So just what exactly does it mean to detoxify one’s body? The rationale for colon cleansing is the concept of “auto-intoxication”, the idea that food enters the intestines and rots. According to detox advocates, our toxic load has increased beyond our body’s ability to handle the burden. They cite the increase in diabetes, obesity, cancer, allergies and the list goes on. They believe that an accumulation of hardened feces line the colon wall and these accumulations harbor pathogens, parasites and the like. This is not a new idea, for as far back as the ancient Egyptians believed that toxins formed as a result of decomposition within the intestines and moved from the circulatory system causing fever and the development of pus.

Modern medicine has basically declared all this as nonsense. They believe the body does an excellent job all by itself eliminating wastes. The regular detox channels-the lungs, kidneys, colon, lymphatic system and most importantly the liver, are all designed to remove metabolic wastes.

However, it is hard to argue that today we are exposed to more pollution, pesticides, mercury contamination in fish as well as BPA-a possible carcinogen found in some plastics. Is there any scientific grounds to think that our bodies could use some occasional “detoxing” to remove some of these assaults we live with on a daily basis? The Natural Standard, an organization which analyzes scientific data in integrative medicine says there is no evidence to support most of the claims made by these detoxing products. Dr. Stephen Barrett, who has written articles attacking the notion of detoxing the body, says that direct observation of the colon during surgery or autopsies has found no evidence that hardened feces collect along the walls of the intestines. Furthermore, he warns that colonic irrigation can not only be expensive but has considerable potential for harm. The process can be very uncomfortable because the presence of the tube can create cramps and pain. There have been reports of bowel perforation and serious infections from unsterilized equipment.

Okay, but what about those Kinoki foot pads that have turned brown when you remove them in the morning? An abstract in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine concluded their “was no evidence of detoxification of heavy metals” and “cautioned against applying these foot pads because they actually already contain significant toxic levels of heavy metals”. The website Science Punk dissected a foot detox pad and found a substance similar to kitty litter mixed with dehydrated wood vinegar which, when reconstituted with foot sweat would result in a brown foot pad!

Some detox dieters report feeling a sense of euphoria and a boost in mood. Dr. Peter Pressman at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles says the feeling -also commonly reported by people fasting-is actually a reaction to starvation. And what about reports of weight loss? Pressman says it’s all water-not fat. And so it is likely to be temporary. (Knowles admitted gaining all her weight back after shooting her film).

Environmental Nutrition, the respected monthly newsletter of food and nutrition, suggests that a detox that would make sense would be to: drink filtered water, avoid indoor pollution by opening windows daily, buy toys made with natural substances like wood and avoid plastics, buy organic produce, choose fish with low levels of toxins, avoid processed food, avoid using bug sprays, buy grass fed beef, avoid alcohol and don’t smoke! These are common sense approaches that we can all do safely to stay healthy.

write by rodriguez


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