Detox diets, procedures generally don’t promote health

Published: May, 2008

Infomercials and Web sites urge us to eliminate the buildup of toxins that supposedly results from imprudent habits or exposure to hazardous substances. But the human body defends itself very well against most environmental insults and occasional indulgences, reports the May issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

The newsletter reviews some of the most widely promoted detox procedures, including the following:

Intestinal cleansing: Kits typically include a high-fiber supplement, a "support" supplement containing herbs or enzymes, a laxative to be used daily, and enemas. The aim is to eradicate parasites and expel fecal matter that allegedly adheres to the intestinal walls.

Foot detox: One method employs a special type of adhesive pad worn on the bottoms of the feet during sleep. Another approach is to immerse the feet for 30 minutes in an "ionic foot bath," containing salt water and two electrodes that supply a low-voltage electric charge. Both methods claim to stimulate the outflow of toxins through the feet. However, there is no scientific evidence that ionic changes in the environment can stimulate a discharge of toxins through the feet — or any other part of the body.

Detox diets: A seemingly infinite array of diets is available for detoxifying the whole body. However, studies have shown that fasting and extremely low calorie intake — common elements of detox diets — cause a slowdown of metabolism and an increase in weight after the dieter returns to normal eating.

The bottom line: If you're healthy, concentrate on giving your body what it needs to maintain its self-cleaning system — a healthful diet, adequate fluids, exercise, sleep, and all recommended medical check-ups, instead of relying on so-called detox procedures, says the Harvard Women's Health Watch.

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