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I have been sick this past week. It is probably a spring cold not helped by some allergies. I did my COVID test and it was negative.

In that eerie way that your Internet browser seems to know what you’re thinking, I started seeing ads for detoxification products. I have seen them on the shelves of my local pharmacy too. There are 3-day juice cleanses, pills and drinks. I clicked on one for detox teas and, of course, that led to more suggestions.

The idea of doing something over the weekend that will cleanse your body of things that are hurting you is certainly tempting – but unlikely. Some of these detox programs remind me of doing the prep for a colonoscopy. But purging your body by urinating, bowel movement or vomiting can be more harmful than beneficial.

Detox diets are said to eliminate toxins from your body, improve health, and promote weight loss. There have been only a small number of studies on DIY detoxification programs in people. From what I found, the benefits seem to be minimal. There have been no studies on long-term effects of “detoxification” programs.

Juicing and detox diets can cause initial weight loss because of low intake of calories but that they tend to lead to weight gain once a person resumes a normal diet. There are also plenty of warnings on these products and online. Any harmful effects are more likely in people with a history of gastrointestinal disease, colon surgery, severe hemorrhoids, kidney disease, or heart disease. Some “detoxification” programs may include laxatives, which can cause diarrhea severe enough to lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

The idea of eliminating dangerous chemicals, such as those from forms of pollution, is appealing, but most of those cannot be eliminated by the methods available over the counter.

Hospitals and medical facilities do legitimate detoxifications and you likely first heard the term related to people who were dangerously intoxicated (drunk) or had an overdose of drugs or ingest some type of poisonous substance.

Detoxification is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, and in the human body, that process is mainly carried out by the liver.

Marketers have capitalized on the scientific fact and you can find “liver cleanses” available too. On one site, it had a list of symptoms that supposedly indicate that your liver needs help: You crave sugar, feel like you need more energy or your bowel movements aren’t as regular as you’d like them to be. I think everyone I know could check “”yes” next to one or all three of those.

This week I was good candidate for a fast way to eliminate whatever is making me feel lousy but I don’t think a cleanse is the way to go. Read the ingredients on even the mildest of detox products, such as the teas, and you’ll find “natural” ingredients that you have never heard of and don’t know their effects. Herbs like borage, comfrey, groomwell, and coltsfoot have “pyrrolizidine alkaloids” that can gum up the tiny blood vessels inside the liver over time or all at once (if you take a lot). Other herbs like Atractylis gummifera, celandine, chaparral, germander, and pennyroyal oil (used in tea) can also cause liver problems.

An article on on how to keep your liver healthy has safe advice on what you should do.


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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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