Detox cleanses sometimes hurt more than help: what you need to know

Detox cleanses sometimes hurt more than help: what you need to know

Detoxing: an old remedy for good health?

The idea of detoxing - purging the body of poisons and other harmful substances, to bolster the immune system, eliminate fat and increase energy levels – has been around since at least the early 1900s. These days, it is more popular than ever, thanks to a gaggle of celebrity endorsements of popular diets. A quick search on Amazon.com turns up hundreds of books, cleansing products, herbs and nutritional supplements to help you cleanse your way to good health.

Before having kids, I used to detox at least a couple of times a year. I’d usually fast using water, broths, and freshly-juiced fruits, alongside detoxing powders or tablets containing ingredients like psyllium husks, which stimulate the body’s elimination system. Like others, I felt better and more energized immediately afterwards. Years later, I wonder if all that detoxing might have done more harm than good. For years I suffered off and on from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and still occasionally have episodes if I don’t watch my diet carefully.

Doctors and many nutritionists have amply warned that long-term or frequent detoxing diets can harm the body and cause sustained health problems. People with certain health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and blood sugar disorders, or who are pregnant or nursing should not detox at all. (Most detoxes involve severely restricting the diet to liquids or purees for days or weeks at a time). However, a vocal minority of medical professionals claim that detoxing, done sensibly and in moderation, can enhance the body’s natural abilities to rid itself of harmful substances.

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