Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Mar

Dear Mark: Are Detoxes and Cleanses Safe and Effective?

greendrinkToday’s edition of Dear Mark poses and then attempts to answer a question many have pondered: do detox and cleansing diets really work? More specifically, do the “more friendly” types of cleanses work, as opposed to the colon-blasting gut-rending methods? Several years back, I wrote a piece on the latter type of cleanse, and I wasn’t very kind. For all the claims of ropy mucoid plaque bogging down the colon of apparently every American (at least the ones who eat meat), I wasn’t convinced, and the evidence simply wasn’t there. I still maintain my stance, but a recent question from a reader drew my attention to kindler, gentler cleansing and detoxifying diets, the kind that you might see on Dr. Oz or in the cupboard of your vegan buddy.

Do these have any merit? Let’s look into it:

Hi Mark!

I was wondering what your take is on cleanses – I realize you have already done a post on this – kinda, but I’m talking about the nicer cleanses (if there is such thing).

Before discovering the Primal way of life I bought a cleansing kit, no, not the horrid lemon detox diet or anything like that. It’s called the “Ultimate Cleanse,” and it requires one to eat only vegetables, fruit and raw dairy for 10 days, in addition to taking the herbs and supplements provided.

I would like to do it, not only because it was expensive, but also just to see how I feel after. Although I don’t like the idea of giving up my fats and proteins as I have grown accustomed to, that have been giving me long lasting energy, and making me feel GREAT – a whole lot better than eating a heap of fruit anyway! More importantly, I don’t want to undo all the good work that I’ve done since eating Primally.

I thought you could maybe do a post on the more friendly type of cleanses (if they exist), and whether it is worth doing, or whether they do more harm than good.

It would be great to know your thoughts!

Thanks,

Debbie

I looked up the “Ultimate Cleanse” and found this, a product by Nature’s Secret. It has a “two-part system” of detoxification, with a proprietary blend of herbal extracts, and then cleansing, with a proprietary blend of plant fibers. The ingredient list for the detox blend is listed here. I randomly chose a few of the listed herbs, spent a few minutes in Pubmed looking for supportive literature, and sure enough, found some. It wasn’t definitive, and it wasn’t necessarily in vivo, and the results may not be applicable to humans or your specific situation (or even your colon), but Nature’s Secret clearly didn’t pull these names randomly out of a hat. There’s “something” to them. But the thing is: you probably could randomly assemble a list of herbs off the top of your head, punch them into Pubmed, and find evidence that each and every one of them has a medicinal quality of some sort. Some may be “hepatoprotective” or “hepatocurative,” some may be “anticarcinogenic” or “apoptosis inhibitors,” and many if not most will have antioxidant properties. The point is that herbs have physiological effects. They all “do something,” which is why they’ve been used for tens of thousands of years in folk medicine (there’s evidence that Neanderthals utilized medicinal herbs). Many modern pharmaceuticals are even derived from, or informed by, medicinal plants.

The big problem with all these detox diets and programs is that little to no scientific evidence for their efficacy exists. The herbs that make up the blends may have some evidence behind them, but beyond anecdotal reports from online forums or real-life acquaintances, there’s nothing to evaluate about the blends themselves. I couldn’t find a cleanse promoter with a section of their website containing clinical research, for example. Anecdotes are certainly interesting, and if I hear enough from people I know and trust, they can even be persuasive. I’m not writing them off outright, but when no concrete mechanisms beyond Pubmed abstracts that consumers must dig up themselves are proposed, there is little to discuss – and that makes it harder to criticize.

Without digging up the ingredients of all the myriad cleansing and detox protocols out there, here’s my general take. Even if these herbal detox diet/cleansing blends work (and there’s no hard evidence that they do), the effects aren’t permanent. Sure, you could do a darn thorough job of cleaning your house every couple months, but if you don’t address the core reasons for the accumulation of clutter, you won’t have solved the problem. The house will get dirty again, the toxins will bioaccumulate again, and you’ll have to cleanse it again. You can’t take these blends forever. I mean, I suppose you could, but who would want to?

So, how do we address the core reasons for the accumulation of toxins?

Well, any discussion of detoxification is incomplete without mentioning the body’s natural, endogenous methods of removing, nullifying, and processing deleterious compounds. Indeed, the liver and the kidneys are our “natural detox units,” literally crafted over millions of years to be stalwart expungers of harmful metabolic byproducts and exogenous toxins. The liver prevents pathogens from passing into the bloodstream, detoxifies environmental toxins, and processes excess nitrogen left over from the breakdown of protein. The kidneys sift through blood and filter out extra water, urea (a toxic metabolic byproduct of protein catabolism), and other wastes, which exit the body in the urine. This is how every able man, woman, and child detoxifies and cleanses. We all come equipped with this rather effective equipment.

The most surefire way, then, to avoid inundating our bodies with unhealthy compounds is to support the function of our livers and kidneys, whether by eating foods that contain supportive compounds or avoiding foods that contain stressful compounds. That’s easy enough, and it doesn’t take a bunch of detoxifying herbal blends (and no enemas).

For liver health, avoid omega-6 polyunsaturated oils in particular, and limit polyunsaturated fats in general, getting them only from fish, eggs, animals, and nuts. Don’t eat refined sugar. Don’t drink too much alcohol, and when you do, eat some saturated fat with it and really minimize your polyunsaturated fat intake the day of.

For liver health, eat egg yolks often and try some liver once in awhile. Both are the richest sources of choline, which our livers require to process fats. We can also make choline from methionine, an amino acid found in animal products, but it’s best to get plenty of both. Primal eaters, be aware: our choline requirements go up the more fat we eat.

Kidney health appears to be adversely affected by fructose intake when compared to glucose. And kidney failure seems to be preceded by the onset of metabolic syndrome, which, as we all know, has its roots in many of the same things that lead to fatty liver.

Funnily enough, the reason why, in my opinion, many of these cleansing diets could actually be beneficial in a roundabout way is because of what they eliminate. It’s not that the lemon juice, cayenne pepper, grade-B maple syrup, and distilled water are cleansing and detoxifying you; it’s that you’re no longer (over)eating the foods fried in polyunsaturated fats, the fructose-laden candy and soda, the nightly six pack of watery ethanol. All those foods, in the long term, actively conspire against the health of your liver and kidneys, the omega-6 fats, sugar, and alcohol by contributing toward fatty liver (which obviously impairs liver function), metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes (which impairs kidney function).

It’s pretty simple, in the end. As a society, our natural detoxification systems are overburdened with terrible food and a lack of supportive micronutrients. Detox gurus can talk about all the environmental toxins circulating through the air and being absorbed transdermally, but the biggest threat (and easiest target) is the stuff that we willingly put into our mouths, chew up, and swallow. If you really want to give yourself a chance at natural detoxification, eliminate the awful food that’s fouling up the process and start eating some nutritious Primal fare that supports liver and kidney function.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. It seems that lots of folks want an instant fix that requires little effort or accountability.

    Samuel wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • it’s the American way! Always looking for a quick fix

      Burn wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • Dumb comment. Most of the people cleansing are the same people eating healthy diets, or what they believe to be healthy diets.

      R wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • R, I respect your opinion. Could you elaborate? You’re saying they’re just misinformed? If so, what makes my comment dumb?

        Samuel wrote on March 13th, 2012
  2. For liver support, does anyone think supplementing with milk thistle is a good idea?

    GaryM wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • I have supplemented with milk thistle seed powder for some time. I can’t say for certain that it is supporting my liver, but I have noticed that my sleep is much deeper and more healthful – maybe there is a connection ??!!

      sjmusic2 wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • Milk thistle contains a high amount of magnesium. I too have noticed that when I take a magnesium supplement before bedtime that I sleep like a stone.

        liberty1776 wrote on March 13th, 2012
    • milk thistle helps replenish the glutathione oxidase system in the liver, and promotes liver regeneration. one of the nice things about it is that its constituents enter the entero-hepatic loop, so you get more bang for the buck.

      ryn wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • I looked into liver health when my mother got diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver and then cirrhosis.
      Forget supplements. If you stick with Mark’s advice you should be right – AVOID alcohol, PUFA, and sugar, EAT ruminant liver once a week or three egg yolks everyday (or both).
      For those that don’t like liver – cut it into swallowable pieces and freeze so you can throw it down without chewing.

      Grant wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • I can’t stand the taste of liver but I have found a way to eat it. I find that if I move it to the side of my mouth to chew, and make sure it doesn’t touch my tongue, then I have no problem with it at all.

        Andy wrote on March 13th, 2012
      • Does it have to be ruminant liver? What about chicken liver, which I find so much more palatable (especially when made into a pate)?

        Kathryn wrote on March 13th, 2012
  3. What about those green juice cleanses. Like drinking freshly made green vegetable juice for X number of days? or even just having a green juice per day as a supplement? not the sweet fruit ones, maybe a green apple in there for flavor rest are veg.

    Alex wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • I sold my juicer at a discount to a friend after a few months of use. You’re better off just using a blender to make those fruits and veggies into a smoothie. That way you get the juice along with some healthy veggie fiber. Juicing separates the juice from the fiber so it’s like shotgunning sugar and starch into your body. Best to keep those carbs in their complex form to avoid huge insulin spikes.

      Trav wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • Plus it’ s a pain in the a** assembling, disassembling, and cleaning a juicer every day…

        Elizabeth wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • It depends on whats your goal with juicing. I am a ulcerative colitis patient and not interested in too much of fiber so would prefer juice without fiber. I am planning to buy Omega J8004 juicer. Which one you had?

        Noel wrote on March 14th, 2012
        • I use the Omega Vert juicer, and love it. (Omega Verts do very well when juicing leafy greens.)

          I did an 8-day juice fast/cleanse a few months ago, and had huge improvements in energy levels and PCOS issues. I didn’t lose any weight (I juiced too many fruits…) but I wasn’t juicing to lose weight.

          Since then, some of the symptoms that went away after juicing have started to creep back. So I’m now adding in a green juice once a day to see if that will get me back on track. If after a while it doesn’t I’ll juice again for a few days, see if that helps.

          Why do I juice instead of blend, it’s an easy way to get all the nutrients out of your vegis, and I don’t like chewing my juice or drinking pulp (to each his own). My juice recipe for today? 1 green pepper, 1 med-bunch of parsley, 200 grams of Spinach, a head of read leafed lettuce, 1/2 green apple, 1/2 of a lemon, 1/3 hot pepper.

          Melissa wrote on March 19th, 2012
  4. I think this is a good use for intermittent fasting.

    Grokitmus Primal wrote on March 12th, 2012
  5. I gave Colon Blow a try a few years back and it left me clean as a whistle.

    rob wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • But you’d have to eat 300 bowls to get the fiber in just one bowl of new Super Colon Blow.

      onewomanband wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • I have a friend who did the Super Colon Blow, he made the mistake of taking it before he went kite surfing on Lake Erie and he wound up getting blown clear over to the opposite side of the lake.

        rob wrote on March 12th, 2012
        • LOL!!

          HopelessDreamer wrote on March 12th, 2012
        • I like mixing the Super Colon Blow with Bass-o-matic Bass

          peggy wrote on March 12th, 2012
        • God that was funny! I laughed so hard I cried.

          Cynthia wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • Castor oil will do the trick pretty well also and is probably a lot cheaper.

      Michael C wrote on March 12th, 2012
  6. I wonder whether it’s an emotionally/spiritually cathartic ritual that people are looking for rather than a physiological cleansing process. If so, just ditching junk and grains isn’t going to cut it — not dramatic or punishing enough. I believe that is the reason many popular diets have “phases” that prescribe precise amounts of particular magical foods instead of just having people eat well from day 1.

    onewomanband wrote on March 12th, 2012
  7. It’s a funny thing being human. We’re animals, we’re part of the ecology yet we we’re bestowed with this adolescent notion that “we know better”. Our subsequent tinkering has led us away from health and happiness and at the same time given way to inconcievable advances. What’s goin on momma nature?!

    marcus wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • Don’t worry – she’s planning her revenge.

      Chris wrote on March 12th, 2012
  8. Be wary of any detox or blend of supplements that will unnaturally spike your intake of vitamins and nutrients! There is such thing as too much of a good thing (hypervitaminosis, anyone?).

    And, of course, check the ingredients. Sugar goes by many names.

    Primal Texas wrote on March 12th, 2012
  9. In the early days when I was trying to regain my health I tried countless detox programs and kits. I never felt great afterwards. They never seemed to help at all. In the end they certainly may have made a move towards a healthier liver or kidney but ultimately what I have found over the years is that a supremely clean diet is the best detox there is.

    Nature built us well. Eat the foods she gives us and only the foods she gives us, in reasonable, natural amounts, and detox comes naturally.

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • I completely agree.
      I used to take Ultimate Cleanse ALL the time because I had chronic constipation. All this product did was eventually gave me a bowel movement (about a weeks in taking it)…I also noticed my veins shrinking and limbs always being cold.

      Compared to the primal diet, this ultimate cleanse has NOTHING…it does NOT detox at all. It just moved the bowels (and perhaps only for me). Since I continued to eat like crap (SAD at its finest) there was no detox being achieved at all.

      This product just ended up stressing my system even more than it already was and I eventually came down with rheumatoid arthritis.

      All my ailments have disappeared with the paleo/primal/preditor diet.

      Arty wrote on March 13th, 2012
  10. Mark,

    I think this is good advice for people that are generally in good health. However, there are a lot of people out there whose systems are in really bad shape. Their normal detox pathways are blocked up or dysfunctional. They may have undigested food from gluten problems that end up fermenting in the gut. They may have pathogens/parasites/bacteria. Sometimes the detox system becomes overwhelmed. Anyways, I think its not really fair to say that just avoiding toxins will do the trick if you are very ill or have lived on the “american diet” your whole life. These people can benefit greatly from targeted help with their detox systems.

    -Joe

    Joe wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • I agree with your comment. For those of us who have been very ill for a long time, sometimes a cleanse is exactly what we need. While I am not condoning the use of any particular commercial cleanse, I feel that the idea of giving one’s detoxifying organs a break is a useful one. Mark is correct in pointing out that it is often the foods that are omitted during a cleanse that give us a greater sense of well being. My version of a cleanse is consuming nothing but bone broth for a couple of days. It makes me feel great!

      Sabrina wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • Your detox organs do not need to take a “break” every once in a while. They are not muscles. Your heart and lungs do not need to take a “break” either. These organs and others perform their functions 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for 80 years or more, without a single “break.”

        A cleanse is basically a fast. If a short period of fasting makes you feel good, then by all means go for it. But in no way does fasting give your liver and kidneys a “break.” That is just not how the body works.

        law talking girl wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • The colon is not a detox pathway. What do you think a “detox pathway” is exactly?

      If you’ve lived on the SAD all your life, committing to eating a clean, whole-foods diet will make you healthier.

      We aren’t ruminants – our digestive system does not ferment food.

      Anyone who has had a colonoscopy knows that there is not that much up in there. You drink that godawful laxative they give you and it completely empties you out.

      If someone really has a colon blockage, they would be doubled up in pain, and without medical intervention would be dead. A blockage would only come about in someone with a history of severe inflammatory conditions like diverticulitis/Crohns, and that person would definitely know they have an issue.

      Hillside Gina wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • Gina,

        You’re right, the colon is an elimination, not a detox pathway. It is however, along with the small intestine, loaded with both good and not so good bacteria. When starches are not properly broken down by pancreatic enzymes they ferment. When fats are not properly broken down by bile salts they rot. Hence gas and bloating, or hopefully the lack thereof
        .
        Sure, a consistently healthy diet is ideal. But for someone who is finally enjoying going to the bathroom everyday after only going once every two weeks or for another who has been migraine free for the past 7 days after years of suffering, an elimination/detox program can be the eye opener they need.

        Andrew wrote on March 12th, 2012
        • I don’t believe someone with such issues can be helped with one of these quack “detox” programs.

          HillsideGina wrote on March 13th, 2012
      • Gina,
        There is increasing evidence that what is seen on a colonoscopy is misleading. What has long been thought of as the colon walls are actually impacted foodstuffs stuck along the colon walls. That impacted matter is unable to be flushed daily with a standard bowel movement; a cleanse would be more suitable.

        Toffler wrote on April 11th, 2012
        • Nonsense.

          As stated in the article, the healthy human body is designed to cleanse itself. The “evidence” you’re talking about is hype generated by the manufacturers of so-called cleansing products. Those people are interested only in profit. It’s to their advantage if they can convince you that your body is “toxic” (which it more than like isn’t).

          A much better idea would be to save your money and optimize your overall health through appropriate diet and exercise. This website is a good place to start.

          Shary wrote on June 10th, 2012
  11. I love this post because it really hits home the message that getting/staying healthy and healing yourself is really just, simple. Sometimes I get frustrated by the seemingly slow progress of some of my own minor health improvement goals (in this case, my acne), and perplexed by the fact that my skin is crappy now even after switching to a healthy diet, when for YEARS I ate the worst crap you could imagine EVERY DAY yet had milky white, smooth, perfect skin (even during puberty!). Now I realize that for all of those years of shitty eating, there was damage being done but it wasn’t until it reached a certain threshold of damage that it manifested into a symptom I could SEE. I’ve only been primal for about a year (and certainly have been FAR from perfect for most of it), and I’m sure it will take a bit of time to undo years and years of damage. But sometimes I still do get frustrated and hard on myself and want to give it a little “push”, but become so wrapped up in macronutrient paranoi/over-analyzing that it just creates stress (and stress eating, and a final surrendor that ends in cheating!). This post reminds me that as long as I’m not eating crap, I’m in pretty good shape.

    Liz wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • Hey Liz, I don’t know what’s your condition exactly, but I’ve been fighting acne for many years (accutane – 2 rounds, minocycline, anti-bio lotions..)
      After I’ve cut off milk products, sugar and processed products my situation turned much better, but I’ve made a fortunate mistake – bulking up on what I thought is “healthy carbs” (whole wheat, whole rice, oatmeal etc). Bulking up (wanted to gain weight for body-building) stressed my stomach, made me feel like crap and along everything else made my acne worse.

      Giving up wheat, sugar, milk and processed products and oils, eating plenty of veggies and healthy oils and meats, getting enough sun and/or vitamin D and Omega 3 all seem to work for me well (Tomorrow I’ll complete 2 months into this diet). While my skin isn’t perfect (still got some minor acne and scarring), I feel great and my skin shines.

      Hang in there and don’t lose hope.
      You’re not alone :)

      Gillian wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • Thanks, Gillian :) I have a feeling that for me, the vegetable oils are the biggest contributor, with sugar being next. I’ve noticed no difference in my skin when cutting out or increasing dairy, except for my skin was actually at its best when I was eating a ton of this amazing grass-fed yogurt made from non-homogenized milk from the farmer’s market (so I think another factor for me is definitely the balance of my gut flora… I know they play a fairly significant role in metabolizing/regulating certain female sex hormones… which might also be related to the fact that my jaw became clicky and prone to lock-jaw around the same time that my acne worsened, and when I mentioned this to my dentist he said that 8/10 people with this problem are young women, so he suspects it has something to do with hormones).

        Elizabeth wrote on March 12th, 2012
        • That’s interesting, Liz. I’ve got clicky jaw aswell (it doesn’t lock, but my yawns make a fierce click sound). I’m a male, by the way. In regards to what KL wrote in the comment below this, I guess it has some truth in it – when I had repressed feelings in me I used to touch my skin a lot..

          Gillian wrote on March 13th, 2012
        • That clicky jaw could be an indicator that something’s out of whack. Pick up a copy of Pete Egoscue’s book, “Pain Free.” He has some very good exercises that will get rid of it.

          Shary wrote on June 10th, 2012
        • I’ve been looking in to this too, liz. found this which is interesting, thought i’d share. http://www.paleoforwomen.com/hormonal-acne-where-its-coming-from-and-what-to-do-about-it/
          I also get the clicky jaw but find mine is totally related to stress – not cyclical with my hormones! think TMJ might be what mine is because i get lockjaw when i’ve been extra stressed.

          Trixie wrote on February 20th, 2014
    • Liz,
      on the body-mind connection side of things pimples/acne are associated with repressed anger. You could try some positive thinking/affirmations stuff, or not.
      Just offering a different field of view.
      have a great day.
      KL

      KL (almostGrok'd) wrote on March 12th, 2012
  12. Those detox products are great for detoxing your wallet of pesky green rectangles.

    Alex wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • ROFL, that is EPIC!!! :-D

      Milla wrote on March 12th, 2012
      • I’m imagining the cat in your avatar saying that.

        Trav wrote on March 12th, 2012
        • Again, LOL! These comments are making my day!

          HopelessDreamer wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • Lol :) that’s great.

      Lizzy wrote on March 13th, 2012
  13. How about just eating healthy and throwing in a weekly 24 hour fast?

    JL wrote on March 12th, 2012
  14. Great post! It entirely makes sense that people feel better after a detox because of the processed foods their eliminating and the switch to whole foods for 10 or so days.

    Katherine wrote on March 12th, 2012
  15. I think the best detox would fasting done properly.

    FB wrote on March 12th, 2012
  16. Once I did a 2 day fruit detox, gained 3 pounds and felt weird and shaky for 2 days. A few years later I tried the “lemon juice detox” where you mix juice with cayenne and maple syrup. Three glasses in and I found myself throwing up in the bathroom. I couldn’t hold it down. No more so called”detox” for me. I’ll stick to primal. Never felt better.

    Fair Flavors wrote on March 12th, 2012
  17. I always cringe when I hear the word ‘detox’. Firstly, because our body is equipped to efficiently get rid of waste anyhow! It’s one of those marketing words, that are vague and don’t really mean anything. It will probably ‘work’ (skin clarity, energy, bowel function) for someone who’se living off junk food, but for someone whose already eating healthy, its pointless, especially if it involves huge amounts of fiber and/or juice (aka sugar). If you want to ‘detox’, simply eat when you’re hungry; it will give your digestive system time to move things along, which is ‘detox’ in action. Great post, Mark!

    Milla wrote on March 12th, 2012
  18. Great post Mark. I had liver the other day and couldnt sleep. Wonder why?

    Adam Sharif wrote on March 12th, 2012
  19. The body stores toxins primary in it’s fat reserves, the body’s fat stores are living tissues with their own vascular system, so any WATER based detox program that does not address the body’s fat stores will be largely ineffective.

    Fats on the other hand can emulsify other fats, just like you use WD-40 to dissolve tar & gum on your car, and over time will “wash” fatty organs and structures via the natural process of (fat) cell, sterol & hormone interchange & replacement.

    Since primary organs are densely fatty and protein structures, the absolute best thing anyone can do to ensure their health is to eat lots of good, pure, high quality fats AND protein to make sure you’re providing your body the basic raw materials it needs for proper cellular and cell membrane structure, rebuilding and repair.

    More from the great Brian Peskin, Landmarks In Nutrition and Health.
    http://goo.gl/kzwBK

    Surprise #8 — Carbohydrates, not protein, are hard on the kidneys.
    High blood glucose levels place excessive stress on the kidneys. That
    is why diabetes is the single greatest cause of kidney failure in the U.S. “Protein is GOOD for KIDNEYS.”
    Reference: Basic Medical Biochemistry: A Clinical Approach, pg. 653. Dawn B. Marks, Allan D. Marks, Colleen M. Smith, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, August, 1996, ISBN: 068305595X.

    cancerclasses wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • Also remember that the liver and kidneys are self cleaning & self repairing FILTERS, NOT storage organs, they do not store toxins but instead dump toxins & wastes into the body’s urinary & excretory channels for disposal OUTSIDE the body. This is why animal liver & kidneys are safe to eat, and it’s the reason why regular intake of high quality fats & protein are absolutely essential, even critical to maintain the ability of these organs to clean & maintain themselves.

      cancerclasses wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • Excuse my ignorance here but if the body stores toxins in it’s fat reserves what happens to the toxins when you go primal and begin to lose the weight?

      Sian wrote on March 13th, 2012
      • Sian, When the body goes into it’s mild ketotic state after using up all of it’s stored glycogen it begins using fats for energy, and in doing so some or all of any toxins that have been stored in the fat cells can be released back into circulation in your bloodstream & system and may provoke what is (not exactly appropriately) described as a ‘Herxheimer Reaction’, sometimes strong & intense, which may cause a wide range of temporary symptoms, such as hives, itching, swelling, headaches & flu like symptoms, fatigue, etc.

        This would usually only be true for a person that has had a large chronic exposure to chemicals & toxins, the average person who has already adopted a paleo style whole natural foods diet will already have slowly removed stored toxins from their body and may not have noticed any negative reactions from a GRADUAL change of diet.

        Some people however do report feeling sick or having other symptoms when attempting a sudden change to a healthier whole foods diet. It even happens when training the body to run on fats instead of glycogen from carbs, the body initially resists the change which is why it sometimes takes a week or more to adapt to running on fats for energy. Dr. Eads & other have written about the symptoms a person can feel while transitioning to fats, although they are usually mild people sometimes have a few problems switching to a paleo diet.

        Even Brian Peskin, whose work I greatly admire along with Mark’s, recommends taking an herbal detoxifier every day as step 5 of his cancer prevention program “to help minimize the effect of any carcinogens and harmful additives in foods.” http://goo.gl/xE5eL

        Considering the information about environmental toxins in this excellent video I just became aware of yesterday I think a daily detoxifier is probably a good idea. http://goo.gl/Puifq

        cancerclasses wrote on March 15th, 2012
  20. Exactly my point – if you’re not eating so much crap in the first place, you won’t need to ‘cleanse’. I cleaned up my diet and body with primal already…

    Nion wrote on March 12th, 2012
  21. I think if you just avoid eating lead paint chips you’re 90% of the way to detox-ville.

    rob wrote on March 12th, 2012
  22. Several people mentioned Fasting- I agree that it is Nature’s cleansing method. A few weeks ago I felt congested and achey…no fever or anythng, but I hadnt felt “sick” in so long it really was a surprise. I didnt wake up with an appetite the next day, and that evening I just had some chicken (bone) broth, not much else. The lack of food helped clear out the clogged sinuses, and the next day I was able to rest and recover fully.

    HopelessDreamer wrote on March 12th, 2012
  23. Thanks for your post, Mark.

    As much as (frequently expensive) detoxes sound great to me, I’m always drawn back to the naturally detoxifying effects of whole, natural, organic foods to do that job on a daily basis.

    BTW, as I’m sure many of your other readers do, I have undenatured whey protein every morning.
    The cysteine-containing glutathione is also a great natural detoxifyer.

    Between it and the whole foods, I don’t think I could ask for more.

    Thanks again for the post, Mark

    Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on March 12th, 2012
  24. Thanks Mark for responding to this question. I have been wondering for quite some time how acceptable a juice cleanse is in the primal lifestyle.

    If you take the herbal blend out of the equation: What do you think of a few days of no food/only green juices ? And by green juice I mean a fresh blend of organic spinach, kale etc.. with just 1 green apple or 1 carrot to make it more palatable?

    My concern is the Glycemic index of the juice: on one hand it is almost only veggies, on the other hand it is pure juice with no fibres and a fruit/carrot added to the mix…

    I know I should go for the fasting but, while working, a day or 2 on juice is easier than a day or 2 without food. Is it useless to try a juice cleanse if you cannot go for fasting yet?

    Anais wrote on March 12th, 2012
  25. When I started trying to get healthy I did a bunch of different kinds of detoxes (in a box, nasty epsom salts oil and grapefruit juice liver cleanses, juice fasts, etc), and I never seemed to get much of a result… well except that I did poop more (TMI!!!), so I guess that was good to a degree…but no other apparent results.

    However, I decided to try doing fasting for Lent this year, and wow. This is like a real detox. Immediately, I have more energy, feel better, skin looks better. I started with intermittent juice fasting and that still didn’t do much, but just doing water fasting for a whole day makes a huge difference. I wish I had known back then that I didn’t need to buy those expensive concoctions of herbs, I just needed to stop eating for a little while!
    I do drink some herbal teas too, maybe that helps as well. At least, it helps keep my mind off food!

    Fasting so far is not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. But I’m making a conscious effort to eat plenty of protein fat and vegetables on the days that I do eat, instead of grains and apple juice cocktails. And it makes a big difference.

    anon wrote on March 12th, 2012
  26. I agree with the gyst of this article. I think society generally has wrong what real “toxins” plug us up. And you are spot on with the best way to not get “toxified” in the first place. For a lot of us however, we are pretty damn toxified in our current state. I did the Isagenix cleanse, lost 15 lbs, gained crazy energy, and used it as a catalyst to moving into the primal concept. I am far from following it perfectly, but much much much closer than I was pre cleanse. My main goal since has been cutting out processed carbs and sugars as much as possible, and man does it work. Of course the Isagenix cleanse was basically the same concept. It was a 9 day high protien, low sugar, make your body attack your fat diet, and mad did it work. I lost a decade of belly fat easy in 9 days, of course it sent me to the gym and I got a ton of exercise (but i am generally an active person who just recently got bogged down by bad health). The Isagenix was protien shakes for morning and dinner and a high protien lunch, with supplement snacks in between and surround by 2 days of fasting using this berry extract liquid to ease the hunger. Its basically everything that is in the Primal Blueprint, just cut down to a 9 day kickstart and utilizing protien powder for shakes. After doing this cleanse looking and feeling great, it was easy for me to motivate myself to go primal to keep feeling and looking this good. I wouldnt totally knock all cleanses, but I will say the painful ones probably do more harm than good, and agree with you that the biggest benefit is the crap processed sugars and carbs that you are not eating.

    You really have this stuff down, and more people need to understand how amazing they can actualyl feel from it.

    Buddy wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • A decade of belly fat in nine days on some kind of quack diet? Please.

      HillsideGina wrote on March 13th, 2012
  27. Great article, and something I’ve thought for a long time. If you nourish your body it will function gloriously!

    Jenni wrote on March 12th, 2012
  28. I agree, great article.

    I think a lot of people think about doing cleanses because they feel so bad. And they feel so bad because they are eating the wrong foods. Maybe not even what is considered crap, but sometimes just eating something they think is healthy like grains and not realizing how bad they can be for their system.

    Once you eat Paleo you don’t need to worry about any of this stuff. Another benefit to add to the list.

    Joanna wrote on March 12th, 2012
  29. I’ve been curious about this just recently. Although I do believe detoxification kits and cleanses are probably unhealthy and ineffective, I am sure there are healthy ways to detoxify, mainly through diet changes.

    An example of this would be cilantro, which I read about in a comment yesterday. I wouldn’t mind buying (or even growing) this healthy herb and liberally adding it to dishes.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19902160

    Keven wrote on March 12th, 2012
  30. Isn’t a detox essentially a gentle fast? And there are definitely cleansing benefits to fasting, as I think you’ve talked about before.

    Olivia wrote on March 12th, 2012
  31. Thanks for clearing that up! Can’t say I have not been tempted, but just could never muster up the courage. I know many who cleanse often – and they are often the same people who eat the food you suggest need cleansing. I think I will stick to clean foods and let my body take care of the rest.

    Susan wrote on March 12th, 2012
  32. Debbie – How much do you think you could get for it on eBay? Honestly, if you’re happy with how you eat, there is zero reason to mess with things, even if it means you wasted money. Try eBay; I’m convinced I could unload a bellybutton lint collection there.

    Sanctus Real wrote on March 12th, 2012
  33. I’m about to go on the juicing fast. I made a test drink with carrots, celery, beets, lemon, apples, oranges but then put a huge chunk of ginger in it. I will remember not to do that next time haha.

    I think fasts are great to sort of reboot your body. Thanks for this post.

    Brad

    Brad wrote on March 12th, 2012
  34. Did Mark just tell me to stop drinking?

    Slowcooker wrote on March 12th, 2012
    • Nah. I think you must have misheard him….

      Jan wrote on March 13th, 2012
  35. The Functional Medicine approach to biotransformation and elimination (detoxification) is as follows:

    An essential physiologic process that rids the body of xenobiotics (any foreign substance.)

    Balances the crucial phases of liver detoxification, known as phase I (biotransformation) and Phase II (conjugation). These must be in balance to properly excrete a harmful foreign compound.

    Balancing these phases requires essential nutrients such as riboflavin, Niacin, B12, BCAA’s, N-acetylcysteine, methionine, glycine and other amino acids.

    This process must be performed while removing other harmful foods from the diet (elimination diet) such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy and other allergenic foods.

    The introduction of a proper detoxification should be administered by a licensed health care practitioner who has knowledge of detox biochemestry.

    It is not a fad, it is a stradegy to facilitate the proper elimination of toxic compounds that have been proven to cause serious health issues.

    Ryan Lazarus wrote on March 12th, 2012
  36. I always think people are crazy when they are detoxing from food. Just eat better, crazies!

    Joshua wrote on March 12th, 2012
  37. This is excellent post.
    I recently went to an Ayurvedic clinic to understand their version of detox.
    They had following procedure:
    Early morning medicated ghee (clarified butter) for few days. During this time eat just small amount of diluted rice when hungry. They stop it and do colon cleansing when skin becomes oily and have other symptoms.
    Though I am not a fan of colon cleansing but I liked their method of gentle fasting.

    vizeet wrote on March 13th, 2012
    • Very smart, I like that. Butyrate, butyric acid in butter, is the single most important colon nutrient, it’s one of the main nutrients used by epithelial cells that line the last 3 feet of your colon, very important for cancer prevention and is why people that avoid eating fats have the highest rates of colon cancer.

      See beatcfsandfms dot org, Heal Your Gut

      cancerclasses wrote on March 13th, 2012
  38. What’s your thoughts on mercury from amalgams?

    jillybean525 wrote on March 13th, 2012
  39. no mention of diatomaceous earth ?

    lulz wrote on March 13th, 2012
    • I use DTE to kill bugs…. how are you using it?

      Grokette wrote on March 13th, 2012
  40. Important topic! Most people aren’t really ready to do a proper detox anyway, as their systems are too out of wahck to handle toxins trying to leave – clear pathways are a must. In order to get ‘clean’ you gotta start by eating clean. Eating fermented foods along with a Primal/paleo style diet is a great way to begin detoxing your body – not to mention there is always intermittent fasting…….I personally, each season like to do a little house cleaning, so I focus on supporting my liver a bit more and reducing all sugars for a bit!

    lydia wrote on March 13th, 2012

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