You don't have to look too hard online to find loads of information about detoxifying your body. The turn of the calendar year and the approaching change in season are two motivators for many people looking to do a little internal spring cleaning.
Green juices, coconut-water-only diets, activated charcoal, clay potions, enemas or colemas, dry fasting, frog venom--these are all popular contemporary detox measures intended to flush out toxins, eliminate metabolic waste, kick parasites out of the intestines, and kill stomach fungus. Indeed, most people feel better following such a regimen. They may notice clearer skin and brighter eyes, experience easier elimination, feel more energized, or even heal more rapidly from an injury, among other benefits.
But the million dollar question remains: can you actually detox your liver, colon, or any other part of your body? How do you know that such positive benefits are owed to toxins actually being removed from the body or the simple fact that the digestive system got a much needed break?
There's always the placebo effect to consider too.
A good dose of skepticism is always on order when it comes to embarking on protocols meant to cleanse our bodies. It's entirely possible to disrupt a very fine balance that keeps us standing on two feet, alert and prepared to deal with life. Perhaps if we spent as much time researching these health recommendations as we did searching for the latest and greatest on Netflix we'd be a more health conscious society!
In all fairness, most people are genuinely looking to improve their health, lose weight, reduce their risk of disease, and just feel better all around. The problem is that there is so much information to tease out, and we're often looking for the magic potion that will fix our health woes for good. In reality, optimal health is usually the result of a combination of basic and arguably boring measures that health experts have known for decades. For example, sufficient sleep, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management.
I read this quote the other day, and it perfectly sums up the "not-quite-right" feeling that has always accompanied my research on detoxification:
"Indeed, "detoxification" may be the single most common marketing buzzword in alternative health care ("boosting" the immune system is a tough competitor)" (1).
To get behind this notion of detoxification, we have to know what toxins are in the first place. So, let's have a look.
(And if you're wondering about the frog venom, don't worry, we'll get there!)
What Are Toxins?
Toxins are poisons produced by living things or metabolic waste, which is a normal product of biology. As a built-in system of protection, your body either eliminates, recycles, or safely traps harmful molecules to prevent them from disrupting the natural internal order of things. However, things like heavy metals aren't as easy to get rid of. In this case, medically-administered chelation (and certain foods too that bind to toxins) help remove them from the body.
Toxic substances, on the other hand, serve to describe all the harmful substances we are exposed to on a given day. Cosmetics, commercial sunscreens, candy bars, fast food, alcohol, even the very air we breathe all contain substances that aren't harmful in small amounts, but can stress out our organs as they accumulate over time.
The take-away? Detoxification has more to do with what we don't put in our bodies rather than what we do. If we give it a chance, the body actually detoxifies itself quite efficiently. That doesn't mean you have to stop wearing lipstick or quit the wine or avoid the sun altogether. Minimizing exposure to such toxins and adding more natural, "cleansing" foods like fresh vegetables and fruits and spring water, and regular fasting, go a long way toward improved energy and overall health.
How Does Detoxification Work?
Your liver is the first line of defense, but your kidneys, skin, and digestive tract are heavily involved too. With the help of bile, the liver prevents toxins from entering the bloodstream. Then the colon produces beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that prevent those toxins from doing harm to the body. The kidneys filter the blood, further removing toxins via the urine. Sweat is also instrumental here, but not as much as most people think. Indeed the belief that one can "sweat out toxins" in a sauna, steamroom, zumba or yoga class is as much a fallacy as astrology is in determining our future. As well, detox massages work more to enhance blood and lymph circulation than to eliminate toxins.
So what about that frog venom?
You may have heard of kambo, also known as "frog medicine." It comes from the poisonous secretions of the giant monkey frog, native to South America. Historically, it was used by indigenous people within the context of a healing ritual to cleanse, heal, and strengthen the physical body. Today, people all over the world use this toxin to rid the body of toxins (notice the paradox) and treat numerous physical and mental health conditions. Indeed, some supporters of kambo claim it has a cleansing influence on the psyche.
Kambo works like this: The venom is applied to a burned portion of skin and absorbed into the blood and lymphatic systems. It immediately induces vomiting and other severe side effects including nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and heart palpitations. While there is no scientific evidence that supports the use of kambo as a method for detoxifying the body, it's not a surprise that it produces a kind of psychological relief as the body's mechanisms kick into high gear to eliminate the toxin.
So, are you a buy-in or a skeptic about detoxification after reading this? Are you looking for a kambo supplier, heading to your local green juice haunt, or retiring the idea of detox altogether? Whether you're leaning one way or another, the most important consideration is how your body feels in any detox or cleansing protocol. If a liver "detox" feels like the right move for you, go for it, but ensure you clear any potential health issues with an expert first. Ease into diet changes, allowing your body time to get with the program, so to speak.
For more tips on nutrition, cooking, and awesome deals on exclusive kitchenware, join our Insider's Club.
From our kitchen to yours, we wish you a mean, green, cleansing regime this spring!