Our lives can be full of stress and ‘stuff’, so it isn’t a surprise that everyone is looking for instant ‘detoxification.’ Unfortunately with interest comes mythology! Products that claim to remove ‘dangerous’ toxins through sweat, juice cleanses, and even at-home enemas are not only ineffective, but can be downright dangerous. That’s why this installment of #mythbustermondays is dedicated to pulling back the curtain on detox deception.
Popular online products like an at-home enema kit (or a colonic) will ‘cleanse the colon’ and help remove dangerous ‘toxins’ from your body that would otherwise remain.
Please, please don’t be fooled by sales pitches disguised as alternative or ‘natural’ health from snake oil peddlers promoting the latest detox myths (even if they are coming from big brands backed by big name celebrities).
Instead, know the facts:
- In a healthy person with a varied diet, our colon ecosystem ‘cleans’ itself naturally as it absorbs what the body needs and pushes out what it doesn’t. There is nothing ‘bad’ and there are no ‘toxins’ retained that need to be removed beyond your normal bowel movements (that’s why poop is called a bowel movement!).
- Mucous membranes like the lining of the gut actively absorb specific elements of their contents – it’s evolution’s way of getting all the water and nutrients from what we eat and drink. So a coffee enemy could lead to a dangerously high level of caffeine.
- Our GI (gastrointestinal) system evolved to move things from head to toe, not the reverse. So shooting fluid in the other direction risks perforation (a tear) of the bowel wall and infection.
- The high described after ‘colonics’ isn’t euphoric good health – it’s lightheadedness and the short term effect of any stimulant in your enema.
- Yes, ‘Hollywood’ raves about colonics before award shows for that ‘perfect’ concave belly, but if you’ve ever had a colonoscopy you know it’s not sustainable – your contour returns to normal as soon as what’s next in your GI tract moves down from the stomach and small intestine.
The skin hangs on to ‘toxins’ that can be forced out in your sweat to ‘detoxify’ the body.
The major role of sweat is thermoregulation NOT excretion. The liver and kidneys are the body’s means of breaking down and filtering out anything harmful. So what does sweat do? As they taught us in 8th grade Earth Science, ‘evaporation is a cooling process.’ The evaporation of sweat from the skin reduces excess body heat. Sweat is >99% water with electrolytes (primarily sodium and chloride) – thus the salty taste – bicarbonate, lactic acid, urea, trace elements (like calcium and magnesium) and glucose. Sweat also contains antimicrobial peptides produced by eccrine (sweat) glands which helps the skin’s protective barrier function. If you smell garlic in your sweat after eating it, you aren’t ‘getting rid of’ anything bad, you are just a slower metabolizer of sulfates, some of which end up in the sweat. Other sweat aromas are primarily from bacteria breaking down proteins and stem from the apocrine, not the eccrine, glands. Some proponents of sweat detox point to being able to detect heavy metals in sweat. But just because something is measurable, doesn’t mean it is significant. Sweating won’t remove enough heavy metals from the body to cure poisoning. So enjoy the sauna and cardio to ‘sweat out’ your frustration, but don’t expect it to remove anything else.
This mythbuster is one of many #mythbustermondays that will keep you ‘woke’ when trends and hype get in the way. For more great tips, please don’t miss out on Dr. Heidi dispelling these common anti-aging myths.