Ads for detox diets and colon cleansers are rampant. The marketing schemes for them are alluring promising everything from weight loss to energy to restoration of total health. Even the most discerning can be attempted to try one of these programs. Are these “cleansing” programs necessary for health?
It’s true the Western diet is unhealthy and full of processed foods not beneficial to any part of the body including the gut. However, the body has amazing resiliency and can “detoxify” itself through many resources. Let’s take a look.
Dr. Stephen Barrett from John Hopkins University summarizes how the body cleanses itself:
- The Liver: the major detoxifier of what comes in. The liver has 2 main functions one of which is to filter toxins for excretion and the other to filter blood before it reaches the heart and lungs.
- The Skin: your sweat glands carry waste products in the form of perspiration, which are then excreted by the body.
- The Kidneys: your own built in filtering system that cleanses the blood of waste products in the form of urine.
- The Lungs: your breathing passages contain mucus, which is then carried to the throat by little fingerlike projections, called cilia which are then coughed out.
- The Intestines: your intestines also contain little fingerlike projections called villi, which help to create movement and flow through the intestines. The large intestine carries waste to be excreted by the body.
And what about colon cleansers? The gut contains lots of bacteria, which are in your favor. Ridding the intestines of these beneficial bacteria can disrupt the balance of normal digestion and absorption. In addition, techniques of colon cleansing can draw water from surrounding tissues of the colon, thereby changing the balance of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus leading to dehydration.
The stories of things staying in your gut for many years are anecdotal. Within three days most of what you’ve eaten is gone. If you want to “cleanse” your gut just eat a “clean” diet with unprocessed foods full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and other high fiber foods and eliminate the rest.
The good news is if you have indulged for months or even years, just shifting to a clean whole foods diet can clean your system in three days. Of course the shift in increasing your energy, losing weight and restoring your health can take much longer but the body has a built-in cleansing system so take advantage of it and save your money for – and let the body cleanse and detoxify itself as it was originally meant to do on it own.