Detoxes, cleanses, and other hogwashes.

To detox or not to detox, that is the question. To answer that question we have to first understand what a detox is and what a detox can do for you. 

Technical understanding (and why you don’t need supplements for it):

Let’s start with the most technical term; detoxification is the process through which the body automatically flushes out any toxins that lurk within. This means anything from alcohol to inhaled and ingested pollutants present in the air, and various foods and water. I’m going to emphasize the word “automatically” here because the body is well equipped to automatically detoxify any of those substances without requiring any intervention. 

You can benefit from a detoxification process to stop consuming a drug, alcohol or other chemical or substance abuse. An example of detox is when you give up heroin and go through a period of withdrawal as your body deals with no longer being on the drug. This is a medical process and it shouldn’t be attempted without medical supervision.

Non-technical (or nonsensical misunderstanding and why you don’t need it):

Now, let’s explore it as the popular buzzword that is often used to sell supplements, juices, patches, pills, and “detox” products to the general population that does not need a medical detoxification process. 

A typical example is one of the ads offering $1 dollar workouts and nutrition plans for as long as you want them; want to know the catch? Beach body detox bullshit products, because you do have to buy them in order for the workouts to work apparently, hmm… (insert double eye roll here, please! And a very angry me knowing how much this is taking advantage of the general public without their knowledge). And to think that most people are thankful for the free or $1 dollar workouts… Next time, think twice before giving these people your email because people that con you into believing nonsense do not deserve access to your inbox. 

Detox diets? Let’s see if we can figure out what we are detoxing from, because I can only stand behind a detox diet if what you are getting rid of is actual toxins like tobacco and alcohol. Otherwise, it is pretty safe to say you can Google liver and kidney functions in the body because these modern snake oil peddlers seem to have forgotten or never learned it. 

Detox supplements? Again, let’s use our critical thinking skills and ask questions, what are those supplements made of what is their effect on our body, where are they coming from and why should I think it will help me in any way other than cleaning my bank account. 

There is a plethora of products to cleanse and detox your body and a myriad of diets that promise magical outcomes for any part of the body you could think of. From celebrity-endorsed concoctions to liquid diets that force your body into a caloric deficit and very possibly not very fun diarrhea. 

But when their claims are put to the test, studies have shown that fasts and extremely low-calorie diets, especially when sustained long-term, they produce the opposite effect of lowering the body’s basal metabolic rate instead of increasing it. And once normal eating is resumed, rapid weight gain follows since much of the weight loss achieved through these types of scams is a  result of water loss related to extremely low carbohydrate intake and/or frequent bowel movements or diarrhea produced by salt water or laxative teas. When the dieter resumes normal fluid intake, this weight is quickly regained but your metabolic rate may take a few days or weeks to readjust, so the end result is definitely not better than when started. 

So much for that promised super-powered energy or metabolic boost, you were expecting to get from them, huh? 

On top of that, these practices deprive the body of the nutrients it needs to thrive and perform optimally, lacking protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and proper fluid intake. In some cases, they can dehydrate the body, disrupt the natural intestine flora, and the risk of metabolic or eating disorders in case of recurrent attempts. 

Ooh… the intestinal cleanse you mean? The ones that promise to get rid of plaque buildup in the intestines from I don’t know… those cement muffins and pavement brownies you’ve been having, I suppose. Because the rationale for intestinal cleansing is fundamentally erroneous. When food waste accumulates, it compacts into firmer masses in the interior of the colon (constipation), not by adhering to the intestinal walls. Intestine or colonic cleansing carries similar risks of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, impaired bowel function, and disruption of intestinal flora among others. 

And don’t get me started on ionic foot baths or pads or any other method of witch crafting away imaginary impurities out of the body; it is so annoyingly scammy, that the process they employ is pretty fascinating actually.

The “ionic” foot bath often involves some sort of salt water (or magic product that ends up being some type of salt) and two electrodes that supply a low-voltage electric charge. “These pads contain tourmaline crystals, which are purported to emit ion-generating infrared rays. The foot baths allegedly generate ions by running an electric current through salt water. However, there is no scientific evidence that ionic changes in the environment can stimulate a discharge of toxins through pores in the feet — or any other part of the body, for that matter. Promoters assert that the success of the process can be monitored by a color change in the pad or in the water of the foot bath as impurities are leached from the body. But the pads, which are impregnated with wood vinegar, have been shown to turn the same dark color whether they absorb foot perspiration or are sprayed with tap water; and the color of the foot bath changes because the metal electrodes corrode.” Woohoo… the good thing is that the only side effects are that awful feeling of being scammed for agreeing to be robbed. 

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have taken action against several companies selling detox/cleansing products because they (1) contained illegal, potentially harmful ingredients; (2) were marketed using false claims that they could treat serious diseases; or (3) in the case of medical devices used for colon cleansing, were marketed for unapproved uses.
  • Some juices used in “detoxes” and “cleanses” that haven’t been pasteurized or treated in other ways to kill harmful bacteria can make people sick. The illnesses can be serious in children, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems.
  • Some juices are made from foods that are high in oxalate, a naturally occurring substance. Two examples of high-oxalate foods are spinach and beets. Drinking large quantities of high-oxalate juice can increase the risk of kidney problems.
  • People with diabetes should follow the eating plan recommended by their healthcare team. If you have diabetes, consult your health care providers before making major changes in your eating habits, such as going on a “detox” diet or changing your eating patterns.
  • Diets that severely restrict calories or the types of food you eat usually don’t lead to lasting weight loss and may not provide all the nutrients you need.
  • Colon cleansing procedures may have side effects, some of which can be serious. Harmful effects are more likely in people with a history of gastrointestinal disease, colon surgery, severe hemorrhoids, kidney disease, or heart disease.
  • “Detoxification” programs may include laxatives, which can cause diarrhea severe enough to lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Drinking large quantities of water and herbal tea and not eating any food for days in a row could lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalances.

Most detoxes out there aim to create changes (chaos, if you ask me) by imposing arbitrary restrictions and rules; skip the nonsense and the stress that these practices generate in our well-balanced system and aim at healthy changes instead. Quick fixes are luring but they do not produce long-lasting habits, nor health benefits, and on the contrary, they can have unwanted side effects while inducing unhealthy practices. 

For example; one often unknown fact is that for every gram of carbohydrate we consume, our body holds onto 4 grams of water that is bound to each carbohydrate.  So, when you deprive your body of carbohydrates, your body flushes that water that was bound to the carbohydrates and you can exhaust its glycogen stores in about 24 hours resulting in water weight loss that may convince the most skeptical of its magic if you wouldn’t know the why behind; but hey, now, you know better, right?

Detoxes and cleanses are wellness lies from unscrupulous marketers to stipe unaware customers from their hard-earned cash right into their pockets. Our body doesn’t need detoxification, detox, or cleansing products of any kind (not, at the cellular level even less, that’s not how things work), nor do we need a “reset”, any of that would imply that our organs aren’t doing their job properly, in that case, you would need a doctor, and most likely, an emergency room. In short, detoxes are a zombie myth that refuses to die.

Remember that feeling bloated or tired can be the result of accumulated behaviors over time, and the reason why they often show up during Christmas and New Year is that that’s when most people forget how several days of overfeeding washed down with a gallon of champagne or other spirits make you feel afterward.  Also, several days of those behaviors may result in weight gain and/or water retention (more water bound to extra carbs and salts), a disrupted digestive system, bloating, headaches, and interruption of your normal eating, sleeping, and exercise pattern. But no matter what you do after, the best option after that’s done is to go back to normalcy as soon as possible. 

And if you want to improve those habits, nothing better than take it one simple behavior at a time and work on it so next time you are in front of a temptation such as a miracle product, you work on long-lasting behavioral changes instead of wasting your money. 

Now, don’t take me wrong; some of these scams do work for some people, but the reason why they work is not that they are effective but because they ended up producing a behavioral change that might have started by the intention to improve health in general. I can tell my clients to add vegetables to their daily meals until the cows come home, then Mary the hairstylist tells them that celery improves their skin and next thing you know they are munching celery like there’s no tomorrow, heaps ot it, and OMG daily!!! Guess what is going to improve by finally freaking adding the vegetables? Yeah, well everything, I know, but yeah, the skin probably too. 

Being more conscious of our eating, drinking, sleeping, and exercise habits can certainly produce meaningful changes in the long term no matter how or where we start or what gets us started. 

You can certainly start here with some basic habits when you are ready:

You can also join one of our groups to get more information and ask questions:

Strength Sisters 101:

Strength Training 101:

More reputable links:

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