MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Yes, the festive season is upon us and therefore it is high time to discuss detox (yet again). As many of us are filling their fridges to the brim, most of us prepare for some serious over-indulgence. Following alt med logic, this must prompt some counter-measures, called detox.

The range of treatments advocated by detox-fans is weird and wide (see also below):

  • various alternative diets,
  • herbal, vitamins, minerals and other ‘natural’ supplements,
  • various forms of chelation therapy,
  • electromagnetic devices,
  • colonic irrigation and enemas,
  • various forms of skin bruising,
  • cupping,
  • sauna and other means of inducing extensive sweating,
  • homeopathy,
  • ear candles,
  • foot-baths,
  • etc., etc.

I suppose it was to be expected that detox often goes with other crazy beliefs. This website, for instance, shows that it is even associated with anti-vaxx:

START OF QUOTE

Whether you believe vaccines to be harmful or not, one has to admit that all the ingredients added to vaccines cannot be good for anyone, especially children.

As David Wolfe has discussed, vaccines contain the following: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, potassium phosphate, aluminum potassium sulfate, peptone, bovine extract, formaldehyde, FD&C Yellow #6, aluminum lake dye, fetal bovine serum, sodium bicarbonate, monosodium glutamate, aluminum hydroxide, benzethonium chloride, lactose thimerosal, ammonium sulfate, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, bovine extract), calf serum, aluminum phosphate, aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate, and ethanol.

That is a long scary list and many of these things will not leave the body naturally. Thus, a gentle detox is necessary.

Detoxification Bath

Living Traditionally suggests a detoxification bath with both Zendocrine and epsom salt. Zendocrine is an essential oil mixture made up of tangerine, rosemary, geranium, juniper berry, and cilantro. Rosemary, juniper berry, and cilantro are good choices for detoxification and tangerine and geranium are purifiers.

Garlic

Garlic has been scientifically proven to treat heavy metal poisoning. Organic Lifestyle Magazine suggests consuming three cloves a day to help remove toxins.

Silica

Silica is also good for a heavy metal detox. Natural News states, “Aluminum (Al) is passed out through the urine when one supplements silica. It seems there’s little danger of taking too much, as long as adequate water is consumed and vitamin B1 and potassium levels are maintained.”

One of the best ways to get silica in your system is with the horsetail herb, rye, barley, oats, wheat, and alfalfa sprouts nuts.

Chlorella

Chlorella is one of the best detoxifying substances available. According to Dr. Mercola, “Chlorella is uniquely designed to not bind to the minerals your body naturally needs to function optimally. It does not bind to beneficial minerals like calcium, magnesium, or zinc. It’s almost as if chlorella knows which metals belong in your body and which chemicals need to be removed. Supplementing with chlorella is like unleashing a tiny army inside your body to fight the battle of removing toxins from your tissues and ushering them back outside your body where they belong.”
You can take it in supplement form or add a powdered version to your smoothie.

Probiotics

Probiotics are what is needed to put good bacteria system to rights when it has been thrown off by toxins. “They can provide assistance by decreasing the number of bad bacteria while helping to restore balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut and to keep your body functioning properly.” (LiveStrong)

Some probiotic foods include: organic yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and fermented vegetables.

Omega-3

Omega 3 oils are especially good for cell repair and keeping your brain healthy. This is because of their high fat content is similar to the fats that are naturally part of cell and brain systems. (Daily Mail)

A teaspoon daily should be enough or you could take a supplement.

Cilantro

According to Natural Society, cilantro is a very gentle detoxification tool. It is also effective for removing heavy metals from the brain.
For 2-3 weeks, add a teaspoon of cilantro to your food, smoothie, or just eat it up. You can also substitute with 6-7 drops of cilantro essential oil by adding it to your bath.

END OF QUOTE

Don’t you just adore the sources quoted by the author as evidence for his/her statements?

As I said, the therapies recommended for detox are diverse. Yet, they have one important feature in co<span style=”color: #668a1d;”>mmon: they are not based on anything remotely resembling good evidence. As I stressed in my article of 2012:

The common characteristics of all of these approaches are that they are unproved. Even experts who are sympathetic to alternative medicine and AD admit: ‘while there are hundreds of randomized controlled trials on drug and alcohol detox, there are no such trials of detox programs focusing on environmental toxins … at present, “detox” is certainly more of a sales pitch than a science’. The ‘studies’ of AD that have been published are of such poor methodological quality that no conclusions can be drawn from them.

While there is a total absence of sound evidence for benefit, some of these treatments have been associated with risks which depend on the nature of the treatment and can be particularly serious with diets (malnutrition), supplements (hepatoxicity), chelation (electrolyte depletion) and colonic irrigation (perforation of the colon).

Yet detox is big business’. A recent survey, for instance, suggested that 92% of US naturopaths use some form of detox. To lay people, its principles seem to make sense and, in many of us, the desire to ‘purify’ ourselves is deep rooted. Thus detox-entrepreneurs (including Prince Charles who, several years ago, launched a ‘Detox-Tincture’ via his firm Duchy Originals) are able to exploit a gullible public.

Proponents of detox are keen to point out that ‘a modern science of ‘detoxicology’ seems to be emerging’. If there is such a thing, it should address the following, fundamental questions:

  • What are the toxins and toxicants?
  • What evidence exists that they damage our health?
  • How do we quantify them?
  • How do we diagnose that a patient requires detox?
  • Which treatments are effective in eliminating which toxins?

Currently, there is insufficient evidence to answer any of these questions. Until this situation changes, I do not think a ‘science of detox’ exists at all.

17 Responses to Have yourself a merry little detox

  • Any sentence which starts ‘As David Wolfe has discussed…’ immediately loses one the argument.
    You may as well state ‘Recent research by Daffy Duck has shown that…’

  • Your five questions are very much to the point. According to most dictionaries, a ‘toxin’ is a poison made by living organisms: they’re therefore entirely ‘natural’ (please take note, all those who think that ‘natural’ is a synonym of ‘good’ or ‘beneficial’.)

    In other words, toxins form a subset within the definition of a ‘poison’ and the concept of ‘environmental toxins’ is unhelpful, to say the least. Several of the ‘toxins’ on David Wolfe’s list are simple poisons, not things produced by any natural, living thing.

    I notice that several local 5 & 10 km runs arranged locally for the next week bill themselves as ‘detox’ events. Is there no end to the public latching on, like automaton slaves, to vague concepts of something ‘beneficial to health’ without stopping to consider the detail?

    • Odd Frank stated, “Is there no end to the public latching on, like automaton slaves, to vague concepts of something ‘beneficial to health’ without stopping to consider the detail? Ironical comment from this poster considering that he and his ilk didn’t pay more attention to the GSK/Paxil debacle before the scam injured and killed children.

      • To Logus: Paxil has saved many lives from suicide,etc. Renal dialysis and liver transplants have saved many lives for those who have lost their natural means of detoxification. Bogus detox as described above by Dr.Ernst and that you apparently support saves no lives and benefits no one except the fraudsters who sell it. With or without functioning livers and kidneys,it is a criminal practice of modern snake oil and a pathetic sales gimmick for shysters taking advantage of naive and gullible consumers. Anytime an alternative advertises “detox” it is ALWAYS a lie.

        • Ignorancio Elenchi! Cox has attempted to “spin away” my concern for off-label prescirbing via a logical fallacy.

          BTW, Cox, had you taken the time to scroll down one more post in this thread, you would have discovered that I share your feelings about detox.

          • L-B has evidently managed to copy some names of classical fallacies. Now it needs to learn what they mean and how they apply… I’m not hopeful 🙂

          • Thanks to Geir for another dullard’s comment. It seems he only has memorized “Tu Quo Que” as his default “rebuke” to criticisms of “modern medicine.” He apparently is again intellectually defenseless when he discovers that his drone-master is guilty of logical fallacies in his baseless rants. Hilarious!

            Please keep it coming, dear Geir. You are a true comOdian; and also a source for laughs to start a new year.

            Be well

  • Well stated, Edzard. I don’t believe there is any legit, consistently reproducible science which supports detox and I’ve not ever read any specific criteria for diagnosing its need.

    • To L-B: If you do not believe in detox then why do so many “alternatives” promote “detox” and sell it as if it is real? Are you speaking out against such fraud?

  • What are the toxins and toxicants?
    What evidence exists that they damage our health?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Do you know if there is evidence that they are not damaging our health?
    There are many ilnesses, disorders and allergies, professionals do not know how to explain. Therefore things are waiting to be discovered and explained. Different form of cancers have reached an epidemic proportions and no one knows awy.
    Also, the latest research conects dementia to our gut.
    Than there is that suprising discovery of a new organ we have, as well as of the vessel directly connecting our immune system and our brain. Therefore if people believe in detox maybe it works for them.

    • @JV
      The popular press is a very unreliable source of medical information. Especially the kind that is intent on frightening us to buy detox schemes.

      Overall incidence of cancer is not increasing. The pattern is changing however: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics
      Yes there is some evidence of correlation but that does not mean that dementia is caused by factors in the gut, it might as well be the other way around. Science is just starting on this. Fake detox schemes are not likely to save you from your dementia.
      By a “new” organ, you probably mean the idea someone came up with recently, to redefine the connective tissues in our mesentery as a “new” organ. The ruddy thing has been there all along and everyone knows what its for. Calling it new is a chep attempt at making oneself important.
      And how this relates to detox scams you will have to explain to us.
      The same applies to the recent progress in our understanding of the blood-brain barrier and its intricacies, a discovery that has been severely overhyped, even in Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/important-link-between-the-brain-and-immune-system-found/
      Why don´t you read somewhat more reliable sources? Here is one that is mostly free from cow droppings.
      https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/detox-diets/faq-20058040

      • Bjorn,
        I appreciate your comments although I have to say you come across as a bit opinionated, but maybe that’s just my first impression. For example I haven’t stated my sources so for you to assume what they are is a bit premature.

        Also I am not sure I understand what do you mean by saying how cancer is not increasing if it already reached the epidemic proportions.

        I was not talking about fake detox scams since I believe people should use their common sense to distinguish between real and fake, but rather about detox as a way of helping our overworked livers, from time to time, in removing some unhealhy elements from our bodies.

        I must disagree with you on the mesentery. In essence all the science does is discover (and rediscover) things which are already in existence. Yes it was in plain site, and so was Christensenella Minuta, but the scientists thought it is so unimportant they did not even bother to name it until one day Ruth Lay and Julia Goodrich decided to have a closer look.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/38508478

        Actually to tell the truth, I think it is exciting that new field of research, connecting our brain and our gut, is being borne.
        Perhaps it will help us find out much more about another big secret in plain site, our brain.

  • @JV
    1. Of course I have an opinion, and heaps of documents says my opinion on medical and biological matters should be considered trustworthy.
    1b. My tolerance is rather limited with amateurs who think they can cut and paste their cherry-picked morsels into a serious discussion of fake health-advice.

    2. Detoxification is a name for treatment methods used in hospitals for real poisonings and deleterious effects of substance abuse. Any other use of the word in whole or part can with confidence be considered fake.

    3. You can disagree all you like with my evaluation of this hyped up “discovery” I have had intimate relations with the mesentery for decades, handled it, cut it, removed parts of it and fixed diseases involving it. My opinion of this counts more than yours. Seen also item 1b.

    4. Christensenella Minuta is an anaerobic bacterium that can cause infections. There is no proper evidence for any interesting therapeutic uses of this particular bug. That 12 mice that received it in addition to a dose of shit put on less weight than 12 mice who only received shit, does not prove anything. It was a puny over-interpreted pilot study that you cannot draw any conclusions from. Mice are not men and results from mouse-trials seldom can be replicated in men. The poor mice might have put on less weight because the bug bit them in the gut. When results from proper studies are in we will perhaps be able to tell if there is anything to it.
    The main factor governing the composition of our gut flora is what and how we eat and behave, not the other way around. That feces-transfer from a lean individual to a fat one can make the recipient lean is not supported by evidence, it’s so far simply an unproven but enticing idea.
    BTW transfer of shit to a sick person can be frightfully dangerous. I knew a patient once who almost succumbed to sepsis after an ill advised administration of feces.
    Hyped up information of the sort you are parroting is commonplace in the popular press and makes up the modus operandi of fake health sites like NaturalNews, David Wolfe’s net-emporia, Mercola and similar charlatan shops who use such overhyped and fake information to entice the gullible and worried well to buy their useless supplements and fake products.

    5. We already knew the body and the brain are connected. The brain harbours much less secrets than the popular magazines and food supplement vendors you seem to rely upon for information, are claiming.

    6. If you want to be taken seriously in discussions on this blog you have to accept that most of the regulars are bon fide scientists and professionals within fields like medicine, biology, physics, chemistry, pharmacology etc. Many of us are even well versed in more than one of these fields and take a deep, scholarly interest in scientific matters in general.
    You have demonstrated limited to no skills in assimilating and presenting information and knowledge in these fields so you will have to accept being told off when you cut and paste half-truths and hyped up nonsense from the sCAM industry.

    Addendum:
    The audience may have noticed that I have been unusually productive in posting for the past days. I may even sound a bit more peeved than usual?
    The reason is that I have been idly bed-ridden for the first time in years with HRSV (probably) which is a nasty variant of the common cold. So bear with me dear friends 🙂

    • Ok, fine, whatever.

    • @Bjorn: Please, by all means get sick (or pretend to be) more often…the more posts and the more elaborate the better I like it and the more informed I become…it’s also needed to counter-balance the sharp drop in IQ associated with reading some of the other “posters”.

    • Extremely well phrased! Indeed, the big trouble with the “latest” research is that it’s the latest, so it is still in its infancy. Proper replication, assessment, reevaluation of conditions, tools, results etc. takes time. Science is not built upon spurious results. The press recites stuff for publicity, but there are loads of people who will see a causality in just about anything. It’s just not that simple… For the millionth time, it’s not that simple… Correlation does not imply causation!

      It’s not “whatever”…these things are serious, to begin with. What JV might have misunderstood is that false positives are the easiest thing to get in scientific research, such as trials. Especially with a small sample… Tons of incredible research has found its way in journals, which publish them and are later forgotten (as they should be), or hyped up to utter disgust. You can get positive results in a trial with just about any intervention you can imagine. You never interpret results without keeping in mind confounding factors, especially random chance. Anyway…

      Best wishes for a quick recovery!
      Get well soon Björn!

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