To Detox or Not to Detox: The Great Debate
I recently posted on facebook that I was doing a five-day detox using colon cleansing products and juice fasting. I also posted a link to the website of the products I was using. I have always believed in detoxing and periodic colon cleansing. I have had many professional colonics over the years and used colon-cleansing kits twice. I also taught yoga at a detox retreat center in Thailand where I fasted and self-administered colonics for a week, ending it with a liver flush. I have always felt great after a detox and have been inspired to eat healthier and take better care of myself.
I was not expecting the barrage of commentary both positive and negative that ensued after my posting. Perhaps it was the fact that I mentioned cleansing is great for preventing disease and weight loss that triggered the heated debate that followed. Being that I am not a medical expert, I should have left those comments out. However, when I started doing research I realized that this “Detox Debate” is a very hot topic with differing views even within the medical and holistic health communities. It certainly prompted me to question my own beliefs, learn more and post this blog.
It turns out that one of my facebook friends, who contributed to the thread, happens to be a gastroenterologist. I did not know this. His input heated up the debate even more and gave those opposed to detoxing serious medical credibility. His view was that colon cleansing does more harm than good. The people who were pro-detoxing were mainly from the holistic health community. Many had had the experience of fasting and detoxing and had experienced the benefits first hand. The debate was very respectful and educational for all. Many different articles and videos were posted both for and against internal cleansing.
The main argument for detoxing is that our body becomes so toxic through the polluted air we breathe, the water we drink, and much of the food we eat; that our natural self-cleansing process is no longer sufficient to fully eliminate them from our body. It is believed that the average person has 3-6 kilos of impacted fecal matter sitting in their colon making them look and feel bloated and rundown. The body does not fully absorb nutrients from your food when the colon is congested. There are pressure points in the colon that affect the entire body. There are harmful parasites in the colon as well. These toxins cause a host of problems from weight problems, allergies, fatigue, Candida, constipation, depression, disease, etc. Detoxing programs promise the following: Safe weight loss, clearer and more radiant skin, calmer and clearer mind, improved blood circulation, improved energy levels, relief from allergies and Candida, diminished sugar cravings, healthier digestion and improved regularity of bowel movements, brighter eyes etc…
The main arguments for not detoxing are detox kits made up of herbal laxatives and diuretics are unnecessary and have shown to have no proven benefit. Detox regimes do not improve kidney and liver function. There is no scientific evidence to support specific detox diets, programs or supplement kits. There is no such thing as build up of fecal matter in the colon. You could achieve the same results with a pre-colonoscopy cleansing kit from the pharmacy. Fasting and colon cleansing does not aid in long- term weight loss. Long periods of fasting are dangerous to your health, as you are not getting enough nutrients. Fasting slows down metabolic rate, which encourages your body to store fat, making it harder to lose weight.
The interesting thing for me, being a yogini, is that yogis have been cleansing the body internally for thousands of years. A healthy body = a clear and tranquil mind is the belief behind it. There are Kriyas (yogic cleansing practices) for almost every part of the body. In Ayurvedic medicine cleansing practices have always been used as a way to prevent disease and purify body, mind and spirit. Fasting is even mentioned in the bible as a way to reach higher states of consciousness. Fasting is a practice that is encouraged in different religions and spiritual philosophies throughout the world.
There are several different ways to detox the body and a myriad of different products and programs available. There are many centers and retreats around the globe where you can completely submerge yourself in a cleansing program. These programs last from one week to one month. There are water only fasts, lemon juice fasts (The Master Cleanse), colonic cleansing machines and kits, juicing fasts, herbal remedies, brown rice only diets, dietary supplements, raw food detox programs, elimination diets, Ayurvedic detox methods (Panchakarma) and so on and so on…I am sure there are as many options as there are a multitude of differing opinions on the subject Funny enough, detoxing has enjoyed different periods of popularity throughout history. It is surely enjoying popularity today. Even Martha Stewart is promoting detox programs on her show!
One friend of mine on my Facebook thread asked “doesn’t the body rid itself of toxins on its own?” Great question! Yes, the body does but there are differing opinions again, as to how effectively the body can do this based on the barrage of environmental toxins that the body has to cope with. Another friend posted an article from CNN health about how toxic chemicals are finding their way into the womb. Environmental medicine is the study of how environmental toxins affect human health. Of course there is wide debate on this topic as the impact of these toxins on human health is supposedly a lot more dramatic than many would like to believe.
My intention for this blog was not to takes sides because I see validity in all the arguments. I simply wanted to share my experience. I believe after sufficient research it is ultimately up to the individual to decide if a detox program is right for them. One thing that both sides did agree on is that a detox program can help prompt dramatic changes. For some it’s letting go of habits and addictions and for others it is simply eating a healthier diet. There is no debate that cutting out fried food, junk food, cigarettes and excessive alcohol, sugar, white flour, and caffeine will benefit your health. However, a quick fix does not exist! Detox diets and cleanses are not an instant cure to health and wellness. You need to be able to make lifestyle changes that you can stick with over time.
This blog has just touched on the subject of detoxing. I have only provided a broad overview of the differing views. I invite and encourage my readers to share their opinions and experiences with me.
In Good Health!
References: Absolute Sanctuary, Blessed Herbs, Signs of the Times, Wikipedia
Ivy wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Fitness & Exercise.