Detox delusion

hangoverDetox diets are everywhere! People embark on all kinds of diets in an attempt to detoxify the body; to wash away their calorific sins and fast food lifestyle. A detox is sold as the perfect antidote to food binges and social lives doused in alcohol consumption but something you should know is that a detox is a pseudo-medical concept invariably designed to sell you something. It’s a scam.

Detoxing has its origins in the early 20th century, with autointoxication theory – the idea that disease was caused by waste products building up in the body. ‘This was debunked in the 1930s but the term seems to have prevailed and it keeps cropping up.


In the 1940s alternative medicine advocate Stanley Burroughs launched a plan called The Master Cleanser, also the title of his first book, that promised a full body detoxification by fasting on a tea made with water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup for between seven and ten days. In 1976 the fad was revived after publication of his second book “Healing for The Age of Enlightenment.” Burroughs had no credentials to speak of and was later convicted of second-degree felony murder, felony practicing medicine without a license, and unlawful sale of cancer treatments.

The myth persists with promises of flushing out toxins and purging excess fat and with promises like these it’s no wonder people are still falling for the nonsense.

A toxin is a substance produced by something living that is poisonous to human beings. This could be toxin from an insect sting or snake bite or from a bacteria. A toxic substance is a chemical that may harm human health. These include household products, heavy metals like lead and pollutants in the air like exhaust fumes.

snake-oil-bottle-cropped-labelThe lure of a quick fix for weight loss and relief from bad eating habits is strong but there is no evidence that you can flush your system of impurities. Detoxing seems to have become an umbrella term for a variety of different diets some of which may be healthy, as in feeding your body a diet of whole clean foods and then there are the ones to definitely skip, those that include fluid concoctions that claim to flush toxins from your body. The only thing a detox is going to flush is money from your wallet.

There is indeed a place for detox and that is the medical treatment of people with life threatening drug addictions. Any other detox claiming to rid you of toxins that your body is supposed to have accumulated is a bogus treatment being sold to you by quacks or charlatans. According to Edzard Ernst Emeritus Professor, Exeter University, medical physician and professor of complementary medicine, “These treatments seem diverse but they all have one thing in common: they do not work; they do not eliminate poisons from the body, they merely eliminate cash from your wallet.”

Lack_EvidenceIn 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity Sense about Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. The products ranged from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins. 

Health store shelves are packed with products claiming to “detox”. You can buy teas, bath salts, face masks, additives for smoothies, tonics, supplements and even foot patches that draw the toxins out.

Luxury resorts may claim to massage your toxins out for you and then you may want to Colonicindulge in some colonic irrigation which proponents will tell you will eliminate plaques of sludge that have adhered to your colon pumping disease causing toxins back into your body. For a fee you can have a hose pipe inserted into your bottom and wash these toxins away for you. But know this, no doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques and most will warn against having this procedure done. Not only does it disrupt valuable gut flora, cause possible electrolyte imbalances, there is a change that the colon could be perforated. Most studies reported severe ill effects following the use of colon cleaning products such as cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance and renal failure. 

Somewhat more insidious tactics include colon-cleansing tablets or solutions that contain polymerising agents which after consumption should deliver a rubbery poo snake, making the detoxified subject feel justified in his detox product purchase.

liver-detox-pathways1If toxins really did build up in your body in a way that you could not excrete them without a detox we would all be in need of serious medical intervention or dead. The fact is we have a natural detox system in our bodies that work very effectively when we are conscientious about our choice of food and lifestyle habits. Let’s have a look at how our body protects us. The skin is a protective barrier. Few chemicals can penetrate it and applying detox patches, creams and salts etc will have no effect on drawing toxins from our internal system. The liver contains enzymes that convert toxic substances into less harmful substances which are then removed in the urine and stool. The kidneys act as a filter; any essential chemicals are reabsorbed and any unwanted chemicals are naturally excreted in your urine within a few hours to prevent them building up in your body.

The gut is a pretty hostile environment it prevents many harmful bacteria from entering lymphatic-system-immune-systemthe body and good at ejecting unwanted solid matter from the body. Products that claim to cleanse the colon don’t help this process and aside from harming the gut’s protective membrane it can cause a disruption of the gut microbiome. Then we have the lymphatic system which is a network of tubes in the body returning fluid (lymph) and blood cells from the tissues back to the veins. Bacteria and viruses are filtered from the lymph by the lymph nodes. We need to have more trust in our own bodies’ ability to protect us.

All we need to do to detox is follow a healthy diet. Meats, fish, olive oil and healthy fats, good cheeses, salads, whole vegetables, nuts and fruits. Limit alcohol, cut smoking and do some exercise. It does not make sense to punish ourselves with detox plans when a very simple solution is readily available. Just eat real food, the body is essentially self-cleansing.

dollarsThere is a lot of money to be made from detox products and sadly many consumer decisions are made in ignorance. People trust that the world of alternative health is carefully regulated guarding them from making any poor decisions with regards their health choices. People think that as long as somebody has the right credentials they can trust what their advice but money talks and it is not uncommon to see a respected medical professional turned snake oil salesman become a TV or social media celebrity.

An extension to the whole detox concept is the gall bladder and liver cleanse. The reasons given for recommending a liver flush is to induce the liver to “purge all of the fats, old cholesterol deposits, gallstones, poisons, drug residues, and toxic waste stored therein.” People who understand how the body works know very well that the liver needs no help in purging waste – that is a big part of its function and in the case of a malfunction or liver disease, medical assistance would be required. Liver disease causes multiple systemic problems, none of which a liver flush is going to cure. 

Gallbladder and liver flushes are all the rage in some liver_flush_psoriasiscircles with advocates of the flush claiming that it can assist with medical conditions ranging from allergies to cancer and of course will eliminate gall stones from the gall bladder, even those not detectable on ultrasound scans.

The usual method of flushing the gall bladder entails consuming quite large quantities of olive oil mixed together with lemon juice and Epsom salts and usually after a day of fasting.

A large oily meal will have the same effect on the gall bladder by the way and this is why some banters experience trouble with their gall bladders initially. Stimulating the gall bladder may well expel small gallstones if they are there but the gall bladder flush ritual is not required to achieve this. Furthermore stimulating the gall bladder in this manner could cause an acute attack of cholecystitis which occurs when bile becomes trapped in the gallbladder. This happens because a gallstone over the size of 5mm will block the bile duct. Cholecystitis is a painful and potentially serious condition that requires medical intervention.

Proponents of the gall bladder flush claim that these flushed gall stones will be passed in a bowel movement. What is seen however are green, brown or black blobs, some of which may have a slight resemblance to gall stones. These are not gall stones but “soaps” produced by partial saponification (soap formation) of the oil.

Some may do a liver flush without any adverse effects, chances are they either have no gall stones or if they do, they are small enough to pass though the duct with no drama. How many out there would like to risk an acute bout of biliary colic though?


Just eat real food! Your liver, gall bladder and the rest of your body will detox very efficiently without assistance from money making charlatans and fake products.





For lots more information of facts and fads , check out our book ” The Banting Solution”


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