I was in a salon, cosmetic and fragrance store in Bangor yesterday and a young woman perusing the aisle next to me asked a clerk if they had cleansing products. The clerk asked her if she wanted it to cleanse inside or outside. The young woman, who looked to be about 25 or so said she was looking for something to cleanse her insides. The clerk explained that they didn’t carry such products there. I had all I could do to not walk up to the young woman and start questioning her about why she thought she needed to cleanse her insides. She was a slim, beautiful young lady and I was intrigued, but I kept my distance; it was really hard.
This happens to me a lot in stores — usually grocery stores when I hear people talking about products, and when they communicate wrong nutrition information sometimes I intervene. In this particular situation I decided to write about toxins and cleansing.
We were given this wonderful organ in our bodies called a liver. There have been at least 500 vital functions identified within the liver. These functions include clearing the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances, since all of the blood that leaves the stomach and the intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes the blood and breaks down the nutrients and drugs into forms that the body can use. When the liver breaks down harmful substances, the byproducts are excreted into the bile or blood. The bile byproducts enter the intestine and leave the body through excretion. One of the primary functions of our liver is to clear the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances, so our liver is our body’s own detoxifying and cleansing center.
In addition to cleansing through the liver, our bodies cleanse through the skin, kidneys, lymph, lungs and colon without needing any additional help from us — they know what to do.
There is little scientific evidence to support the efficacy of detox diets. Detox diets can range from three days of juice to a 10-day fast only consuming saltwater, maple sugar and cayenne pepper. Reasons to detox can be to improve health, energy and digestion, to decrease inflammation and weight loss. Many consider these diets just plain quackery. Many are also considered ineffective and extremely dangerous. Long-term detox can lead to serious health issues such as life-threatening electrolyte imbalances and can lead to cardiac failure in extreme situations.
The theory behind fasting makes sense, but there is no evidence to support it, and all this leads to is more money in the pockets of people such as Stanley Burroughs, who invented The Master Cleanser, and others who sell such products. Advocates of detox diets claim that toxins are released through the body during the detoxification process. Exactly what do these toxins consist of? We don’t really know.
There may be some benefit to fasting and a short-term detox may not be harmful, and if it helps someone get motivated to make healthier dietary choices then it may be useful. Detoxing is not a long-term solution to weight problems or as a way to prevent diseases. If you are going to detox, don’t bother with saltwater solutions, herbal laxatives or other products. Instead gradually increase the fiber and water in your diet and try a probiotic yogurt to improve the health of your intestine. Eating nutritious foods is the best way to keep your body healthy. Your body will thank you.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.