Jun 09, 2011
We have livers and kidneys for a reason, right?
But don’t tell that to the millions of Americans who routinely participate in detoxification or cleansing rituals which are perpetuated as scientific approaches to remove dangerous toxins from our bodies that accumulate as a result of exposures to pollution, environmental factors, and our own diets which are heavy in processed foods.
The question is - do they have a point?
Many detoxification programs combine limited calorie intake, hydration, increased consumption of raw fruits and vegetables, and a host of expensive supplements (not to mention the occasional enema) for a period of days or weeks. It’s true that many of us could benefit from fewer calories, more water, and more fruits and veggies. And while most supplements don’t have scientific data to support them, we also don’t have much data to suggest that most are particularly dangerous - it’s your money after all. But do two or three weeks of a monastic existence actually accomplish anything other than help you lose a few pounds (starvation works!) which you will ultimately regain once you settle back into your super-sized lifestyle?
No. There is little evidence to suggest that a person with healthy kidneys and liver actually needs an intensive program to do what the body is already supposed to do. And the fact that detoxifications or cleanses are generally brief suggests that they are not designed to be sustainable. But healthy lifestyles should be sustainable.
That’s not to say that individuals who do one of these programs won’t experience some short-term benefit - but the benefit is secondary to limiting alcohol and caffeine, or improving hydration, or not overeating - it’s not because toxins are magically whisked away. The useful elements of detoxification or cleansing are in the more healthful behaviors that they encourage in the short term, but not in the mechanism they use to justify them. The key is making the short-term acceptable enough that you can stick with it in the long-term. That way you can enjoy a balanced lifestyle and maintain a healthier weight, even when your friends have regained the pounds they previously lost and are heading back to the internet to buy another three month supply of vitamins.
In the end, it’s a more balanced life that seems a little less toxic - don’t you think?