Do healthy people need detox?

ANSWERS TO MOST OF THE QUESTIONS THAT HAVE ARE EXCITING TO US, we are all used to searching online. In this series of articles, we ask just such questions – burning, unexpected or common – to professionals in a variety of fields.

Concepts such as “cleansing” or “detoxification” are found in almost any alternative medical course. If, say, there are no complaints about the practice of meditation and “cleansing” your thoughts, then as for the physical cleansing of the body, questions arise about the need, benefits and possible harm of such a detox. We talked about this with a specialist.

Alexey Vodovozov

toxicologist, science journalist

The “slags” and “toxins” that are suggested to be cleansed in alternative medicine are a non-existent threat, and no one has ever seen them. They are not given a clear definition, they cannot be detected even with the help of laboratory devices of the latest generation, they are not visible either in optical or electron microscopes. In most cases, the postulate of their existence and regular accumulation is proposed to be taken on faith; sometimes pseudo-diagnostic techniques are called for help , designed to confirm the “terrible diagnosis”.

At the same time, “alternative people” actively use invented, but pseudo-scientific terminology – for example, they describe “seven degrees of slagging according to the classification of the World Health Organization.” It is not very clear why, in this case, hide behind the name of WHO: just go to the official website and try to find the word “slagging” with a search to get a zero result. Neither “slagging” nor “acidity” – another common diagnosis from the dark side of medicine – cannot be found on the website of the International Classification of Diseases.

A strange argument is often used: mainstream science cannot refute our claims, which means that we are right. But science does not work that way: the burden of proof lies with the approver – and this very evidence has not yet been observed. Although, to be honest, sometimes scientists still undertake to refute myths and successfully do it. Indicative in this sense is the story with stones that supposedly come out of people during the “cleansing of the liver”. The procedure is familiar to many adherents of alternative medicine: in the evening, olive oil and fruit (usually apple or lemon) juice are taken on an empty stomach. After that, you can put a heating pad on the liver area, you can not put it, you can lie on your right side, or you can lie on the left – it depends on the current to which the person being cleaned belongs. In the morning “stones” are guaranteed to come out.

The “slags” and “toxins” that are offered to be cleansed in alternative medicine are a non-existent threat, and no one has ever seen them.

In 2005, two New Zealand scientists – a clinical biochemist and a gastroenterologist – decided to test what these stones are made of. A woman came to their clinic with real stones in the gallbladder, to whom the herbalist recommended a similar “cleansing”; some formations really came out of the patient, which she collected, froze, and then brought for research. After careful analysis using various methods, it turned out that the “stones” consisted of components of olive oil and lemon juice, slightly modified under the influence of digestive enzymes. That is, the output was the same as the input; and the real stones had to be surgically removed from the gallbladder.

By the way, about surgery. Some gallstones can be lived a lifetime. But if you stimulate the liver with these alternative methods, the stones can go out on their own. It is good if they are small and pass through all the ducts and sphincters, but if they get stuck in a narrow section of the duodenum, where the common bile duct and pancreatic duct open? Stopping the outflow of bile will seem like flowers in comparison with acute pancreatic necrosis – the destruction of the tissues of the pancreas by its own enzymes. And no cleaning in such a situation will help, and doctors are not always able to cope with it.

Cleansing can also be relatively harmless, such as the popular detox diet of juices and smoothies. Bottles with multi-colored contents are unlikely to be able to directly harm, there are still food products. Passion for liquid food does not have a very good effect on the health of teeth and deeper parts of the gastrointestinal tract, but nevertheless, one should not expect large-scale problems from this side. The trouble is, people rarely limit themselves to detox bottles. Often they are “cleaned” in a complex manner. For example, with the help of hydrocolonotherapy, which is presented as a soft, natural and physiological technique, although it is not very clear what is physiological in pumping huge (tens of liters) volumes of water through the anus under pressure. Not only does the intestinal microflora wash out, much more unpleasant consequences are described. For example, the perforation of the rectum or infection amebiasis. This procedure not only fails to solve problems, but also creates new ones. Like the no less popular coffee enema, cases of rectal perforation due to burns of the mucous membrane with hot coffee, as well as deaths , have been described . And that’s not counting such “trifles” as violations of electrolyte balance and polymicrobial septicemia.

Hydrocolonotherapy is touted as a mild and physiological technique, although it is not very clear what is physiological in pumping through the anus under the pressure of huge volumes of water

“Natural” supplements, which are often included in the cleansing complex, in fact turn out to be stuffed with the very “terrible chemistry” that dietary supplements are supposed to replace. For example, just eight different “herbal” weight loss supplements found prescription sibutramine, bumetanide, phenytoin, pseudoephedrine, amfepramone, which have very severe side effects and are used under strict indications, as well as the carcinogenic and long-discontinued phenolphthalein known as purgen.

And there are a lot of such examples. Unable to prove the presence of real diseases, the apologists of alternative medicine and their adherents simply postulate: there are slags, it is necessary to cleanse them, without being puzzled by questions of the validity of such actions. As a result, people harm themselves directly or indirectly, without going to doctors in the presence of serious pathology and trying to escape from diseases by ephemeral “cleansing”.

When does the body need to be “cleaned” and from what substances? For example, in case of serious violations of the liver or kidneys, if they do not cope with their main task – in fact, the elimination of toxins and processed products from the body. Through the kidneys, metabolites arising from the breakdown of proteins are excreted, including urea, uric acid, indican and creatinine. If the kidneys do not cope with their work, these nitrogenous wastes (the official term) accumulate and begin to harm the body. The method of cleansing the body from such toxins is known: hemodialysis using the “artificial kidney” apparatus. This is a bulky stationary structure, although in 2016 the portable version of the device successfully passed the first phase of clinical trials .

A variety of toxins are also well understood. Many of them, for example toxins of microorganisms, we regularly encounter when we get infections. We can easily arrange for ourselves poisoning with some toxins: the famous hangover is nothing more than poisoning with ethyl alcohol metabolites, primarily acetaldehyde. And here, too, everything is clear with the cleaning process: methods are used that have been repeatedly tested in toxicology. Most often these are various intravenous infusions (“droppers”) with the simultaneous forcing of diuresis (excretion of substances in the urine) with diuretics, plasmapheresis or hemosorption may be involved, sometimes antidote (antidote) therapy is also required.

That is, toxins and toxins themselves are not a myth, they are known to medicine, they are well diagnosed, and there are different methods of treatment with proven effectiveness to combat them. But all this has nothing to do with the practice of “cleansing” or “detoxification” for a healthy person.

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