TBulls are a word that terrifies us. The idea of detoxing with different treatments sounds refreshing and is worth a try. Unfortunately, detoxification treatments are nothing more than myths.
Detoxing your body with foods and drinks is now a popular trend. We’ve become obsessed with the idea of ”detoxing.” “Green Detox”, “Rapid Liver Detox”, “Nine Natural Detox Foods”, “Roti Detox”, “Colon Clean Drinks” – The detox “industry” has conquered the health sector and is growing exponentially. Detox therapy supports the belief that the body can be cleansed of alcohol, smoking, and drugs through specific treatments. However, the concept that you can cleanse your body after a party, festival, or weekend binge eating is a myth in medical science. It is a fraud associated with our rational thinking.
There are countless detox foods, supplements and drinks available in the Indian market that claim to cleanse your body, detoxify your system, or help you lose weight. Detox products include herbs, juices, teas, and other supplements that promise colon and liver cleansing. Often these products are not regulated by a competent authority to evaluate safety and efficacy. Additionally, most detox products that claim to promote weight loss, fail to provide sound scientific evidence to support long-term benefits. Thus, the consumption of these “magical” elixirs, made with unregulated ingredients, poses a serious threat to health with limited or no benefits.
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The body detoxifies itself
We consume environmental toxins every day and our bodies also produce some toxins as a byproduct of digestion and metabolism. Specific physiological processes help remove these toxins from the body via the liver, lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract without the need for external “detoxifying agents”.
Detox products primarily target liver cleansing. The protein is metabolized in the liver to produce ammonia, which can be toxic to the body if present in large quantities. By converting ammonia into urea, the liver releases it via urine from the body.
Likewise, the kidneys also eliminate harmful toxins. It destroys the intestines and removes foreign matter and pathogens, and the skin releases toxins through sweat. A healthy lifestyle can keep these organs functioning optimally, eliminating the need for detox therapy and saving you a lot of time and money.
There is no medical evidence to confirm the benefits of a detox diet, nutritional supplement, or beverage. Detox treatments that target weight loss produce short-term results because they include a low-calorie diet that complements solid foods with liquids and juices. Once the diet is over and normal eating resumes, the weight quickly regains.
A study of overweight Korean women evaluated the effectiveness of a lemon detox regimen that allowed participants to drink a mixture of palm or maple syrup and lemon juice for seven days. While the results indicated significant weight loss, improved body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio, body fat percentage, improved insulin resistance, etc., they did not provide information on the results once the women started eating Normally.
A severely calorie-restricted diet can lead to weight loss and improvements in critical metabolic health indicators, but any diet low in calories leads to the same results. A critical review of the Detox Diet for Detox and Weight Management in 2015 reported that there were no randomized control trials (the gold standard in research) conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of commercial detox regimens in humans. A 2019 study in which participants were fed 1,350 mg/serving herbal supplements for four weeks did not document any beneficial effects on body composition or the GI tract.
All said and done, there is no way to benefit from lemon-ginger water, cinnamon and honey, green tea, or cucumber and mint juices if your daily diet is full of calories, sugar, trans fats, and other processed foods. Not a single food, drink, or supplement can be a medical miracle.
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Detox treatments can be risky
Side effects of detox treatments include nutritional deficiency, liver damage, over-consumption, etc. Long-term detox treatments are deficient in many micronutrients and proteins and may cause nutritional deficiency disorders such as anemia, protein-energy malnutrition, muscle loss, heart palpitations, weak immune system, etc. Interestingly, most detox diets lack protein, an important nutrient for promoting enzymatic reactions needed for the body’s natural detoxification mechanism. Detox juices or cleanses lack dietary fiber – a critical component to ensuring the optimal function of your gut and digestive system microbes.
Surprisingly, detox teas and supplements intended to “cleanse” the liver often cause fatal organ injuries. A 60-year-old woman reported acute liver failure due to drinking a liver detoxification tea for 14 days. The authors said the tea ingredients list contains six ingredients known to affect the liver. Green tea extracts, a common ingredient in many detox supplements, have been found to raise biomarkers such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) or aspartate aminotransferase (AST) that are associated with an increased risk of liver injury.
The bottom line is: You don’t need a detox product to cleanse your organs or your entire body. These products are expensive, nutritionally deficient, contain ingredients that are toxic to the liver, and are not regulated for safe consumption. To keep your built-in detox system running smoothly, a balanced diet based on whole foods, along with regular physical activity, is essential. Don’t be fooled by detox tricks, follow the science.
Dr. Subhasree Ray is a PhD researcher (the ketogenic diet), certified diabetes educator, and clinical nutrition and public health expert. She tweets @DrSubhasree. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Serengwe Dai)