In the burgeoning wellness industry, where detox spells a lot of money, a statement that detox diets and products are not only a waste of time, but can also be harmful, can result in several raised eyebrows. Alan Boobis, a professor of Biochemical Pharmacology at Imperial College London has made the startling disclosure along with some other scientists in the Making Sense Of Chemicals guide.
Their theory is Mother Nature, honed by years of evolution, has gifted the human body with a very efficient detoxing system of its own—liver, kidneys and intestinal tract. Every day these three major organs breakdown and eliminate harmful substances from the body—some that come from the environment, and some that are by-products of natural chemical processes in the body. “We are further protected by an extremely efficient barrier between us and the environment: our skin. Together, they form a detoxification system that is robust, sophisticated and versatile enough to withstand the normal levels of impurities,” says Boobis.
They claim some detox products might actually cause health problems rather than solving it. For example, some detox tablets contain liquorice extract, which is recognised in medicine as a treatment for those suffering from constipation, since it can stimulate the gut—so those who take it could suffer from an upset stomach. But worse than that, because liquorice lowers potassium in the blood, it can also cause serious problems such as high blood pressure and fluid retention.
Boobis finds some Indian support. Navin Taneja, Dermatologist, The National Skin Centre New Delhi suggests, “It is better to eat healthy, fresh and organic diet rather than get detoxified later.”
Another concern are skin-smothering detox wraps. The effect— especially if the material isn’t permeable enough—will be like wrapping the body in plastic which could irritate the skin and even cause swelling because fluid will not be able to circulate properly around the body.
Aroma therapist Rupal Tyagi owner of Wikka brands is also not in support of periodic detoxification. She says, “Removal of waste products and toxins is a continuous process and we don’t need to periodically flush them out. The body does a perfectly good job of eliminating such unwanted substances on its own. The system that aids in this is majorly the lymphatic system, which is dependent on the normal muscular movement, heart beat and blood flow in the body, which we know are involuntary actions. In fact engaging into too drastic steps to detox periodically might shock the body and eventually prove to be unhealthy.”
■ Everyday, liver, kidneys and intestinal tracts breakdown and eliminate harmful substances from the body.
■ Some detox tablets contain liquorice extract, which is recognised in medicine as a treatment for those suffering from constipation, since it can stimulate the gut—so those who take it could suffer from an upset stomach.
■ Removal of waste products and toxins is a continuous process and we don’t need to periodically flush them out.