You may take a stroll through the grocery store or pharmacy and feel as though you are being bombarded with potions, pills, and drinks that promise to detoxify you, which could have a domino effect and remind you that you should also be purging the toxic people and relationships from your life. Oh, and don’t forget to throw out any items that do not bring you joy and live in a tiny hut as a minimalist. Before you know it, you feel like you are a walking Super Polluter who needs to detoxify your entire life and unload a million tons of baggage.
If you haven’t tried the Master Cleanse diet, the queen of all detox diets, I am sure you have heard of it: You chug a quart of salt water in the morning; drink a mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper throughout the day (no, you may not have a side of pancakes); and finish with a nice laxative tea in the evening. You do this for 10 days. Ten fucking days.
While this is supposed to rid your body of toxins, restore your energy, and help with chronic conditions, according to Harvard Health, “There are no data on this particular diet in the medical literature. But many studies have shown that fasts and extremely low-calorie diets invariably lower the body’s basal metabolic rate as it struggles to conserve energy. Once the dieter resumes normal eating, rapid weight gain follows. Much of the weight loss achieved through this diet results from fluid loss related to extremely low carbohydrate intake and frequent bowel movements or diarrhea produced by salt water and laxative tea. When the dieter resumes normal fluid intake, this weight is quickly regained.”
In other words, you are going to suffer for 10 days, feel like a sloth, hate everyone who dares to eat real food in your presence, and as soon as you start eating and drinking again (something we are born to do), you will gain all the weight back and shit yourself. How fun.
Harvard Health also weighs in on the risks of this cleanse and they are high: “The diet is lacking in protein, fatty acids, and other essential nutrients. Carbohydrates supply all the calories — an extremely low 600. The daily laxative regimen can cause dehydration, deplete electrolytes, and impair normal bowel function. It can also disrupt the native intestinal flora, microorganisms that perform useful digestive functions. A person who goes on this diet repeatedly may run the risk of developing metabolic acidosis, a disruption of the body’s acid-base balance, which results in excessive acidity in the blood. Severe metabolic acidosis can lead to coma and death.”
So, if you are trying to detoxify yourself through a cleanse, you are actually creating long-lasting damage. Yes, there are gentler ways to rid the toxins from your body, like supplements and various drinks, but studies lack evidence that they even work. The word “detoxify” has become so overused that many of us let out exasperated sighs and roll our eyes into our brain whenever we see it mentioned as a selling point for another multilevel marketing shake or your Instagram-celebrity-endorsed tea.
The good news is you don’t have to go through such lengths to get the squeaky-clean feeling you are longing for. Practice moderation, not deprivation. The human body knows how to defend itself against everything it is exposed to. While our kidneys and skin are able to filter some toxins, our liver is the real MVP. The liver has a two-phase process used to break down chemicals and toxins. And in order to work properly and rid the body naturally of toxins, we must feed it the proper nutrients like fruits, vegetables, and animal protein, as well as getting enough sleep, water, and exercise. Eating fried and processed food, sugar, and corn syrup sparingly is also key as they make it harder for your organs to cleanse naturally. Once you start taking a little extra care about what you put in your body, you have a well-oiled machine without the unnecessary measures.
If you are kicking yourself because this detoxification shit is really confusing, and you want to punch Bob because he brought chocolate donuts to work during your cleanse, and you don’t know how you are going to not kill him, just know your body is cleaning itself on its own. And as long as your are not existing solely on a convenience store diet, your detoxifying organs will be doing all the work for you without the help of pills or cleanses. Some bonuses are you may drop some weight, you won’t be running to the shitter every five minutes, your self-cleaning organs will be functioning at an optimal level, and most importantly, you won’t kill Bob. So stop it. Now. This detox thing has gone to far.
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