Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Detox?... MY ASS!
Girlfriends I ask you? What is with the colon these days? Make no mistake, I have spent a good deal of my almost forty years on this planet devoted to one body part or another. I am, as one might say, an equal opportunist when it comes to anatomy. The heart deserves as much attention as the hands... I myself wonder about the state of my various organs. Will my liver not hold it against me for the 1990's and their Las Vegas Daquiri rituals? Will my skin forgive and forget the baby oil days of the 1980's. Will my lungs find it in themselves the strength to move beyond the time when I thought smoking really was cool?
This is not an obsessive rant of a neurotic hypochondriac. More of a healthy "check in"... like calling an old friend you have not spoken to in some time and seeing how they are doing. Make no mistake.... I do wonder about the STATE of MY COLON... we all do. Those of you who are not at least mildly obsessed with your bowel movements, are just bullshitting yourselves (pun intended). So it is clearly no surprise when my dearest friend of over 25 years presented me with a wonderful conundrum this past weekend... and curiously the topic for this weeks GUIDE.
"What's the health benefit of a herbal cleanse? Is there anything to them?" she asked sitting on the floor of my closet (MY happiest place on earth)
"I think they are a bunch of crap...." and yes, like the teenagers we once were when we first met... we both burst into giggles at the play on words... (that and we had drank wine with dinner)
Yes, I have patients who have spent thousands of dollars on colonic irrigation and coffee ground enemas. I have in the course of my career admitted more than a dozen people to hospital with the horror story after effects of some herbal detoxification that has left them with dangerously low blood levels of one electrolyte or another and dehydration the like of only a desert treck could replicate. That was my only scientific "measuring stick" of the risks and benefits of herbal cleanses.
UNTIL NOW. Guess what my dear Girlfriends? There has yet to be a published study in a reputable scientific journal showing the benefits of herbal cleanses in preventing.... ANYTHING.
Here’s where all the thinking began….
In the late 1800’s many physicians accepted the concept of AUTOINTOXICATION. This was the idea that things we ingested sat around in our colon and “made us toxic”….. Think LANDFILL on a sunny day. Scientific observations through to the early 1900’s showed that in fact the liver is a pretty impressive organ and no…. your colon is not a landfill. Direct observations of the colon during surgical procedures or autopsies found no evidence that hardened feces accumulates on the intestinal walls. Symptoms of headache, fatigue, and loss of appetite that accompanied people who had constipation were found to be caused by the mechanical distension of the colon and not by the production or absorption of toxins from feces.
We now know that most of digestion in fact takes place in the stomach and small intestine (well before anything hits the colon). It is in the small intestine that nutrients are absorbed into the body.
The primary role of the colon is to be a 40 inch long tube which transports waste out of the body. There is reabsorption of water at the level of the colon in order to concentrate this waste but as for reabsorption of “toxins”…. It is just not so…. In other words…. By the time your s#@% hits your colon… you’ve absorbed whatever “toxins” you were going to from your food. As for those supposed “toxins”…. That is what your liver is for. In fact your liver is probably the best detoxifying machine you own… think of the amount of Tequila you have consumed in your lifetime and you will undoubtedly give praise to this organ as the superhero that has saved you from more Spring Breaks than you can imagine.
As for bowel movements; we are as varied as the cut of a good pair of jeans. Several observational studies have shown that the bowel habits of healthy individuals vary greatly. Some people have one a day; others two; others one every other day. Think of it as Goldilocks meets your intestines and you can imagine why variation is acceptable. People and their bowel movements are like snowflakes…. Everyone is unique.
Some chiropractors, naturopaths, and assorted food faddists claim that "death begins in the colon" and that "90 percent of all diseases are caused by improperly working bowels." The practices they recommend include fasting, periodic "cleansing" of the intestines, and colonic irrigation. There is no scientific evidence to support fasting and cleansing as a means of overall longevity. In fact small subsequent studies have shown that fasting actually increases a person’s level of “hunger hormones” as well as increasing their amount of fat free muscle loss.
When you go off the starvation and “cleanse” as you will inevitably do… You actually run the risk of gaining weight. Furthermore, you have been taking laxatives for 5 days and can be slightly dehydrated and thus can often be somewhat constipated for a period of time afterward.
In other words… you don’t have to be a trained physician to know that 10 days of laxatives no matter how “HERBAL” they are might not be the way to go on a path to physical enlightenment.
If you want a “socially sanctioned eating disorder” have at it… other wise how about you try my special GGTH special cleanse.
For the next 14 days try eating 3 meals a day, well balanced in terms of nutrition, 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and not drinking alcohol. Go for a walk for 45 minutes a day every day and don’t take any supplements, tonic or snake oil that has been sold to you by some clerk at a health food store promising the fountain of youth.
You never know… guaranteed you won’t be running to the bathroom three times a day, BUT it might be actually good for you. Now go forth my cybersisters. Be cleansed and report back soon.
FYI: for more info… check out: