Enough with the detox fad

Annalina Jegg
Translation: Katherine Martin

Is detoxing with powder and other products actually good for your health? It’s complicated. Doing a detox regimen with powder can be helpful in some ways. It can, however, do more harm than good.

Detox is a concept born out of alternative medicine. Special food products, teas, powders, juice cures, baths and dietary supplements supposedly remove toxins and waste products from the body. Toxins and waste products which supposedly accumulate in the body uncontrollably. People who take the touted products over a certain, often unspecified time period, can purify their skin, digestive system and internal organs. The promise? To bid toxins goodbye and good riddance. All sound too good to be true? That’s because it is.

Waste products in the body? There aren’t any!

The idea of washing toxins out of the body isn’t new. In the 1930s, Doctor Otto Buchinger put forward the theory that the intestines need to be thoroughly cleansed on occasion. In the same way you’d occasionally clear the soot out of stovepipe. To put that in understandable terms, the intestinal contents consist roughly of digestive juices, food residue, mucus and water. At the end of its journey through the body, water is extracted from the digestive pulp. It then thickens up and is excreted.

So, where are these waste build-ups in the body supposed to come from? German consumer rights watchdog Verbraucherzentrale has the answer: «There are no waste products that accumulate in the body.» It’s also a fact that: «There are no robust human studies examining the effectiveness of detox diets.» That’s according to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (German Nutrition Society). So, are detoxes completely unnecessary? Not exactly.

Detoxing has its benefits, too

The vast majority of detox products are pointless. That said, as is often the case, there are two sides to every story. During a detox regimen, people give up alcohol and cigarettes, but eat more fruit and vegetables. In the short term, detoxes can prompt you to eat more healthily, which is good for the body. The bad news is that this is the only positive aspect of detox regimens. After all, they don’t contribute to the healthy detoxification of the body.

Here’s why. First of all, the body has detoxification organs. Most of the process is done by the liver and kidneys, supported by the intestines, skin and lungs – all of which make the purpose of all these detox products on the market seem questionable at the very least. Secondly – and here’s where it gets dicey – detox products can be dangerous for the body in the long-run.

Activated carbon, zeolite and their ilk

Using detox treatments in the long term doesn’t do the body any favours. Fruit- and vegetable-based juice cleanses provide you with energy, but no fat or protein. People who repeatedly do detoxes are lacking the latter. It’s a similar story when it comes to dehydrating products. Taking miracle detox products with horsetail or dandelion over a long period of time can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Activated charcoal is no silver bullet for detoxing either. The consumer rights watchdog writes: «Activated charcoal (black detox) has no place in food except as a colourant – especially since the amount contained is sometimes higher than the amount recommended for treating diarrhoea (0.5-1 gramme three to four times a day).»

Some products are even more harmful. Take zeolite-based products, for example, which suck important vitamins and minerals out of the body. And, wait for it: these volcanic minerals (zeolites) can even poison the body – particularly with lead, as stated by Germany’s consumer watchdog Verbraucherzentrale. Lead and other heavy metals such as arsenic or mercury can damage the central nervous system and organs.

Here’s what really helps to detoxify the body

Rather than constantly eating unhealthy food and doing regular «detoxes» to make up for it, it’d be far more effective just to exercise a touch more common sense. When it comes to healthy eating, we hear the same refrain over and over again: plenty of fruits and vegetables, enough exercise in the fresh air, enough water during the day, no nicotine and no alcohol. Boring, I know. But it’s true. If you stick to these tips, you’ll give your body the best possible support with detoxification. We don’t need detox powders for that.

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Annalina Jegg
Autorin von customize mediahouse

The adjectives that describe me? Open-minded, pensive, curious, agnostic, solitude-loving, ironic and, of course, breathtaking.
Writing is my calling. I wrote fairytales age 8. «Supercool» song lyrics nobody ever got to hear age 15 and a travel blog in
my mid-20s. Today, I’m dedicated to poems and writing the best articles of all time. 

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