Cleansing, sometimes also referred to as detoxification, has been all the rage in recent years among those interested in alternative medicine. The theory is that the body accumulates toxins from the environment in the form of pollution, processed foods and food additives (and even sometimes toxins created by the body itself), so a “body cleanse” or “detox” is necessary to rid ourselves of these harmful toxins. Those who promote detox programs have developed special diets along with a host of (often costly). Colon cleanses are another form of body detoxification that is popular in some alternative medicine circles. But scientific evidence shows that special cleansing regimes do not provide any additional health benefits, and in some cases may even be dangerous.
A noted epidemiologist from the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Frank Sacks, says of cleansing, “There is no basis in human biology that indicates we need fasting or any other detox formula to detoxify the body because we have our own internal organs and immune system that take care of excreting toxins.” Our bodies are expert at getting rid of unwanted substances.
Colon cleansing dates back to the days of ancient Egypt where it was thought that material in the intestines could poison the body. This theory became popular again in the late 19th century when the term “autointoxication” was coined, which led to resurgence in the use of enemas in perfectly healthy people. However, a study performed by Dr. Ranit Mishori and colleagues at Washington D.C.’s Georgetown University found that colon cleanses could actually be harmful for many people, causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
First of all, there is no way by which toxins can be absorbed into the blood through the colon. Almost all nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine, and any toxins that have been excreted by the liver and kidneys is efficiently expelled in the urine and feces. Meanwhile, injecting fluid into the colon in the form of an enema or colonic on a regular basis not only does not aid your body in clearing toxins, but it can remove beneficial bacteria, in addition to robbing your body of much-needed electrolytes. Also, regular colon cleanses can interfere with your body’s ability to create normal bowel movements, so you become dependent on enemas.
Most doctors agree that fasting or pursuing an extreme detox diet is detrimental to long-term health. The body starved of nutrients does not operate efficiently, and will go into conservation mode. This means that your metabolism will slow down and any of the water weight you lost in the initial days of the diet (very little of the weight lost in fasting is fat) will come back in the form of accumulated fat once you start eating again, as your body will be burning fewer calories.
There is no doubt that eating processed foods filled with chemical additives and preservatives is not good for health. But you don’t need to go on a special detox diet to improve your health. Simply drink plenty of water and substitute fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, moderate amounts of fish and organic meat for the processed foods you are now eating. Your body will take care of getting rid of any toxins you may have ingested and you will be healthier without having to spend money for a special diet that makes you feel miserable and could even be harmful to your health.