We have repeatedly discussed the issue of detox as used in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and seen that, for a whole range of reasons, it is utter nonsense, e.g.:

But would it not be better to keep toxins from entering the body in the first place?

Yes, you suspected correctly: there are products that claim to do exactly this. Here is a particularly ‘impressive’ one:

ION* Gut Support seals cells in the gut lining, helping to keep toxins out of your body and strengthening the terrain upon which your microbiome can diversify. it uses Humic Extract (from Ancient Soil) and Purified Water.

Humic extract is sourced from ancient soil (roughly 60 million years old), and contains a blend of bacterial metabolites (aka, fulvate) as well as less than 1% of a variety of trace minerals and amino acids including chloride, sodium, lithium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, bromide, potassium, iron, antimony, zinc, copper, gold, magnesium, alanine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, methionine, threonine, and valine.

… the trace minerals in our humic extract are naturally occurring, well below the RDI, and not meant to be used as supplementary to any deficiencies. The truly active compound in humic extract is the fulvate, a unique family of carbon molecules with oxygen-binding sites that are produced by bacteria when they digest nutrients. These molecules are the backbone of the ION* blend, helping with critical functions like cellular and microbial communication and chelation of nutrients.

The science behind ION* lies in strengthening the cellular integrity of your body’s barriers, including not just your gut, but your sinuses and skin as well. Keeping your cells connected keeps these barriers intact, which sets the stage (or “terrain” as we like to call it) for seamless interaction between you and your microbiome.

At ION*, we’re all about connection – starting with the very foundation of our science: tight junction integrity. Tight junctions are the seals between your cells which help to create defensive barriers at the gut, skin, and sinuses. They act intelligently to keep toxins and foreign particles out of the blood stream while also allowing nutrients to enter. These seals are protected by the carbon and mineral metabolites of bacterial digestion.

Unfortunately, tight junction barriers can be degraded with exposure to gluten, glyphosate (the main chemical in commercial herbicides like Roundup), and other environmental insults. ION* has been scientifically shown to promote the strengthening of this barrier through redox signaling, even in the face of those environmental insults.

Your body’s barriers know what to let in (nutrients) and what to ward off (toxins). But the barriers must be strong. ION* works to strengthen your gut, sinus, and skin barriers at a cellular level by fostering tight junction integrity, helping to promote this intelligent defense system at a foundational level.

So much scientific-sounding language can make your head spin.

Which toxins are we talking about?

Are there any clinical studies of the product?

Why is the product so expensive?

What exactly are Humic substances?

I found an answer to only the last question. Humic substances are organic compounds that are important components of humus, the major organic fraction of soil, peat, and coal, and also a constituent of many upland streams, dystrophic lakes, and ocean water.

I imagine that tightening the named junctions – if this is truly a realistic mechanism of action – might interfere with the absorption of all sorts of substances that the body needs for survival. I am, of course, speculating, but one should ask about the risks of using this product (other than the one to the consumer’s bank account).

What we need are clinical studies. And there seem to be none (if anyone knows one, please let me know).

So, what do we call again a health product that makes unsubstantiated claims?

Was it perhaps ‘snake oil’?


45 Responses to DETOX is nonsense – but what about products that keep toxins from entering your body?

  • For starters…

    Wayne Jonas, MD, and colleagues at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (Jonas, Lin, and Tortella, 2001) studied the protective effects of homeopathic doses of glutamate against glutamate toxicity. They studied the effect of this neurotoxin on rats, and the homeopathic doses used were 18X, 20X, 22X, and 30X. Their data showed that pre-exposure of neuronal cells to homeopathic glutamate protects against subsequent exposure to toxic levels of glutamate.

    In 2011, French researchers demonstrated that hepatic cell mortality induced by environmentally realistic levels of the widely used herbicide Roundup in vitro can be almost entirely prevented by plant extracts called “Dig1” (Digeodren, a homeopathic remedy made with Taraxacum officinalis (Dandelion) D4, Berberis vulgaris (Barberry) D5, and Lappa major (Burdock) D4 in 70 percent alcohol (Gasnier, Laurant, Decroix-Laporte, 2011).

    In 2016, a study was conducted on rats who were exposed to the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) (Gress, Laurant, Defarge, et al, 2016). The researchers tested the in vivo effects of Dig1 alone (1.2 ml/kg bw/d), but also prior to and during 8 days of Roundup intoxication (at 135 mg/kg bw/d) in a total of 4 groups of 40 adult Sprague-Dawley male rats each. The 4 groups of 40 mature male rats received the following treatments in drinking water: control, Roundup 0.5 %, Dig1 2 %, Dig1 2 % and Roundup 0.5 % (prevention and treatment).

    After treatments, horizontal and vertical locomotor activities of the animals were measured by use of actimeters. Brain, liver, kidneys, heart and testes were collected and weighted. Body weights as well as feed and water consumption were recorded. Proteins, creatinine, urea, phosphate, potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride ions, testosterone, estradiol, AST and ALT were measured in serum. In liver S9 fractions, GST, GGT, and CYP450 (1A2, 2C9, 2C19, 2D6, 3A4) were assessed.

    Dig1 did not have any physiological or biochemical observable impact alone at 2%. Out of a total of 29 measured parameters, 8 were significantly affected by Roundup absorption within only 8 days. On these 8 parameters, only 2 were not restored by Dig1 (GGT activity and plasmatic phosphate), 5 were totally restored (horizontal and vertical locomotor activities, CYP2D6 activity, plasmatic Na + and estradiol), and the 6th was almost restored (plasmatic K+). The specificities of the toxic effects of Roundup and of the therapeutic effects of Dig1 treatment were thus demonstrated, both at the behavioural and biochemical levels.

    Dig1, without any side effect observable in these conditions, presented strong preventive and therapeutic properties in vivo after a short-term intoxication by the widely used pesticide Roundup.

    Gasnier C, Laurant C, Decroix-Laporte C, Mesnage R, Clair E, Travert C, et al. Defined plant extracts can protect human cells against combined xenobiotic effects. J Occup Med Toxicol. 2011;6(1):3–12.

    Gress S, Laurant C, Defarge N, Travert C, and Séralini GE. Dig1 protects against locomotor and biochemical dysfunctions provoked by Roundup. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016,16:234. DOI: 10.1186/s12906-016-1226-6

    Jonas, W., Lin, Y., Tortella, F. (2001) Neuroprotection from glutamate toxicity with ultra-low dose glutamate. NeuroReport, Feb 12;12(2):335-9.

    • Most helpful, Dana- Thanks!
      I don’t suppose you have any clinical trials?

    • @Dana Ullman
      [skipping the usual homeopathic nonsense]

      Just one simple question: can you name one homeopathic preparation diluted to 12C or higher that shows robust and consistent effects in independently replicable experiments?

      For clarification: there are thousands of real medicines and hundreds of thousands of chemical substances that show clear, predictable effects in an appropriate experimental setup, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

      There exists no homeopathic preparation that does the same.

        • And that page of specious, laughable bumwash shows us that, no. You are unable to name one homeopathic preparation diluted to 12C or higher that shows robust and consistent effects in independently replicable experiments.

          You and your dead horse, Dana. When are you going to stop hitting it?

        • @Dana Ullman
          No Dana, I don’t ask for ‘homeopathic research models’ or fictitious information-bearing ‘nanobubbles’ or ‘boundary layer memory’ or whatever other Tooth Fairy science you and your fellow deluded believers care to come up with.

          I simply ask you to name one homeopathic preparation diluted to 12C or higher that shows robust and consistent effects in independently replicable experiments. JUST ONE.

          As I said already, there are hundreds of thousands, likely even millions of such substances in real medicine and real chemistry. For any one of those there are experiments that can demonstrate its effects or at the very least prove its existence.
          Can you explain homeopathy’s utter failure at coming up with even ONE substance that has a demonstrable, independently repeatable effect? Why has literally no-one ever come up with a way to reliably tell two ‘different’ homeopathic preparations apart?

          IIRC, the highest number of subsequent replications of any trial in homeopathy ever is 3 or 4 – but those were all carried out by the same researcher (Ennis) in the same manner, and likely had the same flaw. Whenever independent scientists tried to repeat those results, they invariably failed.

          Look, I’m not out to get you or anything, I have nothing against you personally(*), and I genuinely feel sorry for you, because you have wasted decades of your life on complete fiction – even though that fiction can look pretty convincing (which of course is one of the reasons why so many people fall for it, even quite intelligent people). But promoting fictitious ‘medicine’ is dangerous and harmful, and thus undesirable.

          *: We could probably have a perfectly nice chat over a beer or two – just as long as you don’t shake or dilute my beer. I like my mother tincture, so to speak.

        • An evolution of homeopathic basic research models at the University of Bern

          Dr. sc. nat. Stephan Baumgartner.
          University Witten/Herdecke
          Faculty of Health (Department of Human Medicine)
          Chair of Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine
          Research Associate

          Alexander Tournier
          University Witten/Herdecke
          Faculty of Health (Department of Human Medicine)
          Chair of Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine
          Scientific project collaborator

          Two questionable scientists working at a German private university that is notorious for its proximity to SCAM. No further questions, your honour! 😉

    • Wayne B. Jonas is an American family physician, retired army medical officer, and alternative medicine researcher. He is the former president and CEO of the Samueli Institute. The institute does research into the efficacy of alternative medicine, such as on the effects of prayer on treating disease, use of homeopathy to fight bioterrorism, and use of magnetic healing devices on orthopedic injuries, with Jonas commenting on these research programs, “There is a good case for looking at these things scientifically, because we don’t know a lot about them”.

      Wayne B. Jonas is a family physician and one of the most influential, powerful and dangerous promoters of quackery and woo in the US, partly because he undeniably has his credentials in order and often manages to play the role of an apparently serious researcher (despite publishing in pseudo-journals like The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine).

      Here is a report on a testimony Jonas gave to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where he argued in favor of making government pay for offering quackery to veterans (Jonas has been among the most vocal proponents of pushing snake oil on military veterans). It is … telling (yes, it’s grand claims and some metaphors supported by some amazing examples of tooth-fairy science but no evidence for efficacy of the altmed treatments in question whatsoever). Meanwhile, Jonas continues to churn out meaningless papers completely failing to show the efficacy of homeopathy while loudly claiming otherwise.

      • @Pete Attkins
        Also note that the name of Amazing Eric and his Roundup Rodents does not exactly instil confidence in the scientific validity of what is contributed here.

        Furthermore, this fragment has the smell of p-hacking all over it: “Out of a total of 29 measured parameters …”

        • @ Richard Rasker, regarding the smell of p‑hacking and “Out of a total of 29 measured parameters …”

          You might be interested in reading a decent analysis of the paper, from which I quote:

          No, homeopathic remedies can’t “detox” you from exposure to Roundup: Examining Séralini’s latest rat study
          by Fallacy Man, The Logic of Science (2016-11-23)

          … it should make intuitive sense that as you make more comparisons, the odds of getting at least one false positive increase. In other words, if you do enough comparisons, you will eventually find some results that are statistically significant just by chance. So your error rate across all of your tests is actually much higher than 0.05. This is what we call the family-wise type 1 error rate, and it is extremely important. To compensate for it, you should do two things. First, at the outset of your study, you should have a clear prediction of what you expect to be true if your hypothesis is correct, and you should only make the comparisons that are necessary for testing that predication. You should not make a whole bunch of haphazard comparisons and hope that something significant comes out.

          So, how did our intrepid scientists do? In short, not well. They made a whopping 29 comparisons, only 8 of which showed any form of significance, and only 6 of which showed significance in a direction that would suggest that Digeodren does anything useful. Further, they did not control the error rate among these tests. In other words, they did exactly the opposite of what you are supposed to do. They went on a fishing trip looking for significance rather than only testing a small set of pre-defined expectations. They made so many comparisons that they got some statistically significant results just by chance. To put this another way, if I set up the exact same experiment with four groups of rats, but I did not give any of them Digeodren or Roundup, and I made the same 29 comparisons among those four groups, I would expect to get several significant results, even though I treated all four groups exactly the same.

          To reiterate my previous warning of this dire methodology…

          Post hoc subgroup analysis is a pseudoscientific tactic to manufacture positive results. Often deployed in conjunction with convenience sampling.

          • Gad…an anonymous person “performed” (or fabricated) a study that he never got published in any peer review journal and claims he got specific results…and the supposed hard-nosed scientifically-thinking people at this website don’t laugh out loud?! “How convenient!”

            It is so much fun to watch people here spin information in whatever direction suits their worldview…and they spew and ad hom anyone who provides a critique of this bullshit. Wait…this isn’t bullshit…it is bigger than that…it is elephant shit…or even maybe brontosaurus-shit. It is that big…and yet, not a single person here calls out obvious baloney.

          • @Dana Ullman

            … this bullshit. Wait…this isn’t bullshit…it is bigger than that…it is elephant shit…or even maybe brontosaurus-shit.

            What a wonderful example of proctophasia. However, I always thought that fascination with excrement was mainly limited to a rather younger age group than yours … just like unwavering belief in magical potions …

            … and yet, not a single person here calls out obvious baloney.

            What a strange thing to say, as your claims about homeopathy’s validity have been called out every single time.

            BTW, have you managed to locate that homeopathic preparation yet? You know, the one that shows robust and consistent effects in independently replicable experiments in dilutions of 12C and higher?

          • Dana

            Much as I hate to prick your witless little bubble of asinine stupidity again, you didn’t read or understand the piece. the Fallacy Man did not “perform a study”. He wrote a critique. You could’ve pointed out how and where he was wrong, but that would need insight and understanding. Two properties you do not possess.. So you yammered about what you imagined he said.

            With every post, you only demonstrate your own stupidity. This is why you are ignored, Dana. Because you are an irrelevant and inconsequential fool.

      • Ad hom attacks are so typical of people who have nothing of importance to say.

        Thanx for providing THIS hard evidence of your nothingness.

    • Most of those studies are from a long time ago, Dana. Because of the important results they potentially show, others will surely have by now replicated them independently with larger and more robust human trials which have shaken established science and changed the way homeopathy is regarded.


      Hasn’t happened, has it.

      Wonder why?

      I know, Dana. Do you?

  • Don’t throw out the snake oil with the snake oil salesman.
    Legitimate snake oil made from snakes high in omega-3 oils were and are proven therapies.
    The problem with snake oil salesmen were and are unsubstantiated claims, and counterfeit products.

    Science based medicine is capable of fraud also.

    • Your Honor! In the last 60 days at least 5 other banks have been robbed in this town. Bank robberies happen all the time. Therefore, my client should be acquitted even though he robbed a bank at gunpoint. I rest my case.

      • My question is why you only throw stones at so called scam therapies, and not the many scam science-based therapies that effect large numbers. You need to condemn both, but I’ve never seen it here.
        Condemn science-based medicine also (when applicable), and I will value your opinion. Until then, your views are biased.

        • You need to condemn both, but I’ve never seen it here.

          Author of this blog has done extensive research in SCAM therapies and this blog is about SCAM, not science-based medicine. This is clearly explained here:

          During the last 25 years, Prof Ernst’s research focused on the critical evaluation of most aspects of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). He does not aim to promote this or that modality; his goal is to provide objective evidence, reliable information, and critical assessments. This ambition does not endear him to many believers in SCAM.

          All of this has been explained to you several times before by the author and commenters. You claim that you do not value opinions expressed on this blog, yet you seem to be a regular follower of this blog and comment (mostly off-topic) here often using various monikers (Listener, Ruthy, James J0r0mat etc.). You fit the definition of an internet troll and you are treated as such.

  • “Detox nonsense”
    So Edzard is it your belief that glyphosate, organo-chlorine pesticides (developed from Zyclon nerve gas), microplastics, air pollution including mercury, endocrine disruptors, and the other 80,000 new chemicals that humans have introduced into the environment and our food, present no problem?

    My personal experience using ION Gut Support was an overnight massive improvement in my digestion. Tremendous reduction in digestive gas and less fatigue after eating. Everyone I read refers to the importance of the intestinal wall tight junctions between the single layer of cells that form it.

    • “So Edzard is it your belief that glyphosate, organo-chlorine pesticides (developed from Zyclon nerve gas), microplastics, air pollution including mercury, endocrine disruptors, and the other 80,000 new chemicals that humans have introduced into the environment and our food, present no problem?”
      Stan, you have lots of fantasy – but sadly you don’t seem to be able to read.

      • So, we do ingest or absorb these chemicals, many of which are fat soluble i.e. stored in our fat cells.
        But detoxing is nonsense?

        • yes, because detox, as promoted in SCAM does not work.

          • There are numerous and you know for a fact that none work?

          • why don’t you just read the posts I did on the subject instead of trolling?

          • I will do that actually. But I know your propensity for making unfounded blanket generalizations about subjects (such as mindfulness/meditation just to name one) that I know about from deep personal experience. And I know that there are so many approaches to detox that you couldnt possibly be able to generalize and be correct about all of them, and I have personal experience with that as well.

          • Background: The concept that alternative therapies can eliminate toxins and toxicants from the body, i.e. ‘alternative detox’ (AD) is popular.

            Sources of data: Selected textbooks and articles on the subject of AD.

            Areas of agreement: The principles of AD make no sense from a scientific perspective and there is no clinical evidence to support them.

            Areas of controversy: The promotion of AD treatments provides income for some entrepreneurs but has the potential to cause harm to patients and consumers.

            Growing points: In alternative medicine, simplistic but incorrect concepts such as AD abound. AREAS TIMELY FOR RESEARCH: All therapeutic claims should be scientifically tested before being advertised-and AD cannot be an exception.


          • “I know your propensity for making unfounded blanket generalizations about subjects (such as mindfulness/meditation just to name one) that I know about from deep personal experience”
            1) that’s an ad hominem
            2) your experience is not evidence

    • Everyone you read? Have you read any Jane Austen? I don’t recall her writing tight junctions.

    • My personal experience using ION Gut Support was an overnight massive improvement in my digestion.


      That is wonderful news. Key takeaway is that eating manure (humic substance) tightens your tight junctions

      Is there a SCAM out there that you haven’t tried?

  • stan:

    organo-chlorine pesticides (developed from Zyclon nerve gas)

    While both Zyklon (Zyklon-A) and Zyklon-B were developed as pesticides, they are cyanide-based, not organochlorides, and neither of them are nerve gases.

    However, while organochloride insecticides are indeed nerve agents, the first organochloride (DDT) was developed by Swiss chemist Paul Müller while working for J. R. Geigy AG in Switzerland, for which he was awarded the 1948 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine (for its use in controlling insect vector disease, a purpose which it is still used).

    Nice try to link organochlorides with Nazis, though.

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