Ah, the detox fad. Juice cleanses, lemon and cayenne pepper water, eating only cucumbers and “local” algae you skimmed from the backyard pond. Not to mention other non-dietary procedures designed to rid the body of toxins. While there are a million things you can do to optimize the health of your body, “detoxing” per the current diet trends isn’t one of them. Why?
Well, there’s just not enough research out there to back it up. You’ll find bloggers, health gurus, and pseudo-scientists claiming that a good ol’ cleanse every now and then will help you achieve optimal health. Been feeling sluggish from all that fast food? Take this supplement! Been wanting to lose weight for a while now? Drink celery juice for a month! Not sure what deadly molecules might be hiding in your body? Enjoy a colonic! The results of such activities are said to be more energy, fewer headaches, and maybe an extra zero in your bank account! All kidding aside, the evidence that these methods work to actually remove toxins is simply lacking. Check out this report on detoxes from the Mayo Clinic for more information.
To be sure, there are toxins that would best be avoided. Mercury and lead are examples. If you love a nice fish filet, it’s likely you have ingested trace amounts of mercury. That’s why we have regulations and recommendations, especially for pregnant women, to avoid eating too much mercury-laden fish. And there are instances where true detoxification is necessary, as in the case of addictions or drug dependencies, which require medical intervention.
But overall, when it comes to detoxification from the normal chemicals and foreign substances you encounter on a daily basis, your body pretty much does the work without you thinking about it. A simple trip to the bathroom could suffice to demonstrate the body’s ability to remove waste. And we know from biology class that our bodies have organs and systems designed to process the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the substances our skin absorbs – all with the goal of taking in the good stuff, and getting rid of the bad stuff.
In fact, it’s incredibly fascinating to learn about the intricate tools the body has to defend itself. Consider this: after you eat protein, your body needs to digest it. During the process of breaking down protein, ammonia (which can be poisonous) is produced. Your liver takes this ammonia and converts it to urea, a much less harmful substance that is then excreted in urine via the kidneys. Or consider that your body contains special immune cells designed to literally engulf bacteria and other unwanted invaders to prevent them from doing harm to the body. To learn more, visit this page on the immune system or visit PubMed Health to read up on the liver, kidneys, immune system and more!
If you ever have done a detox diet, and felt better afterwards, consider what you removed from your life. You may have chugged juice for days, and felt great afterwards, but was it the juice that helped? Or was it the fact that you avoided junk food? Truly, the best way to “detox” is to help your body help you. Feed it healthy stuff, try not to breathe in too much pollution, and don’t go breaking mercury thermometers. If your body’s functioning as it should, you’ll do just fine.