Demystifying Detox

It’s a nebulous term used by snake oil-salesmen to sell products cloaked in pseudoscientific terminology on late night television. Detox. If what they say is true, we apparently have millions of toxins constantly circulating throughout our body, permeating our cells, coating our digestive systems in a poisonous film, bogging down our organs. These toxins cannot be dealt with, nor reasoned with via the standard avenues of diet and exercise; no, they require the aid of special supplements and detox paraphernalia: magic herbs, weird colon-scouring clay mixtures, foot pads that supposedly suck the toxins directly out of the body, lemonade or juice fasting kits, liver flushes. They’ll often bring out a spokesperson who plays doctor well enough to convince your average Cheeto powder-encrusted insomniac that he or she needs this book or that colon cleanse to avoid obesity, cancer, disease, and depression. If you could just flush out all those toxins, you’d be doing great.

It’s all utter nonsense, of course. And it’s telling that these people never actually identify the toxins. It’s just a blanket term with unnerving connotations and few real denotations – but that’s exactly how the detox scam artists like it. Drum up fears about mysterious toxins without ever having to identify them. Perfect.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more popular detox methods.

The Master Cleanse

Also known as the lemonade diet, the Master Cleanse protocol prescribes a strict detox diet consisting of distilled water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup, with morning salt water flushes. Yeah, you basically drink nothing but spicy lemonade for thirty days and this is supposed to remove “harmful toxins,” accelerate “healthy weight loss,” and bring about “the correction of all disorders.” Common side effects are dizziness, muscle waste, headaches, nausea, irrational cravings, and vomiting – but these are touted as evidence that the Master Cleanse is working. All that diarrhea and fatigue? That’s just your body expelling the toxins!

Still, some people report beneficial effects. Weight loss is one, but is that any surprise when the average glass of Master Cleanse (two tablespoons maple syrup, two tablespoons lemon juice, 1/6 teaspoon cayenne pepper) runs a little over 100 calories? Besides, there’s no protein in this diet, making it highly catabolic. Fasting of any sort can have beneficial effects (SIRT1 expression, for example), but those are better pursued through intermittent fasting and proper Primal nutrition.

Colonic Cleansers

You’ve probably seen the disgusting images of toxic “mucoid plaque” deposits culled from unhealthy colons.  If not, give “mucoid plaque” or “colon cleanse” a whirl in Google Image search. You’ll get hundreds of results, images of brown/black, ropy extrusions that look a bit like chewed up Tootsie Rolls. This is “mucoid plaque,” a toxic film that supposedly accumulates on the walls of our colons over the years. No one is safe from the scourge of mucoid plaque, and the only way to rid yourself of this menace is to purchase a special fiber-and-herb cleansing formula, or shoot a high-powered jet of water through your colon to dislodge the toxins.

It’s strange, then, that physicians have always been unable to locate this mysterious, seemingly ubiquitous colonic plaque, even after “several thousand intestinal biopsies.” Some even suggest that the colon cleansers are creating the problem themselves, and that those ropy extrusions are the product of consuming all that insoluble fiber in the cleansing formulas. Huh? A self-fulfilling marketing ploy that ensures repeated consumption of a product by exacerbating the very condition it purports to relieve? Nah, that would never, ever happen.

Heroic Doses of Fiber

The obsession with consuming massive amounts of fiber to push things along is just weird to me. If you realize what insoluble fiber does in your colon – it scours the walls and generates the production of lubricating mucus, sort of a defense mechanism – you get a little apprehensive about consuming heroic doses of the stuff. A bit of fiber is fine (and may even enhance gut production of butyric acid), especially in whole-food fruit and vegetable form, but to supplement with massive amounts of fiber is completely unnecessary. It assumes that single daily visits to the toilet aren’t nearly enough. We are unclean, impure animals that must purge our colons five times a day.

This is insanity. If you poop once every two days, you’re fine. I’d even say constant trips to the bathroom are indicative of a problem; the notion that our bodies were designed to expel waste every couple hours is ridiculous. Efficiency of elimination makes far more evolutionary sense.

But the detox crowd needs that feedback. They like to know “something’s happening.” They love depositing those “plaque deposits” in the toilet bowl. They live for the lightheadedness and vomiting of a lemonade cleanse, because that means it’s working. What’s interesting to me is that most of these detox pushers claim they’re promoting a more natural existence, free of toxic chemicals and manmade contaminants, and yet they display a distinct lack of faith in the body’s ability to naturally regulate itself. They place themselves in direct opposition to conventional physicians and claim to represent the alternative side of medicine that considers the body as a holistic thing, rather than a set of symptoms to be treated with drugs and invasive techniques. I see two sides of the same coin. I see a quack that considers the human body to be inherently flawed and in desperate need of outside assistance. He or she may not be peddling heavily marketed pharmaceuticals with questionable clinical support, but the “natural” lifestyle changes they promote are anything but non-invasive and border on the religious or the self-flagellating.

The concept of detox is real, but our bodies are already equipped with natural measures designed to remove toxic substances from circulation. We really don’t need any new-fangled products with no scientific basis when we’ve got lungs, kidneys, a liver, the colon, and our body’s tendency toward homeostasis, all of which work perfectly well.

When we breathe out, our lungs are expelling CO2 from the body.

Our kidneys remove various acids from the body while regulating water levels. Excess water can carry too many electrolytes, or even urea (a real toxin).

The liver is a massive factory devoted to detox. It has a real knack for taking insoluble toxins and adding a molecule that renders them water-soluble; the toxins can then be excreted out by the kidneys. This is a far more elegant detoxification process than swallowing a bunch of herbs and insoluble fiber to flush out your colon.

And finally the poor, misunderstood colon. The colon is, quite literally, a waste removal system. It’s specifically designed to handle large amounts of toxic fecal matter. It’s “dirty,” I guess, just like the inside of your garbage can is dirty. It’s supposed to be dirty! It’s built to hold all that dirt and keep it from ending up where it doesn’t belong. Sure, people have problems with their colons from time to time, but ripping it asunder with a bunch of fiber and regularly shooting it with a powerful stream of water won’t help you there.

If you’re eating an otherwise healthy Primal diet, detox is naturally taken care of via urination, defecation, sweating, and exhalation. Avoiding fructose and binge drinking keeps your liver free of fatty deposits and running smoothly. Round things out with regular exercise, steady sleep, and plenty of sun, and I’ll bet that you, your colon, and your toxic load will be just fine.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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115 thoughts on “Demystifying Detox”

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  1. I used to work in an Endoscopy clinic. Of all the insides colons I saw (several every day), I never saw any “mucoid plaque”. All these people did was drink the go-juice we gave them the night before. Clean as a whistle in just a few hours! All I ever really saw (besides disease process) were bits of corn. Just ask your dog, corn just doesn’t digest well. Actually, you don’t have to ask, just… watch.

    1. The plaque cleanout commercials claim that you have up to 20 lb. of plaque “like spackle or paste” in your colon. So I was disappointed that my weight and waist measurements were the same after my recent screening colonoscopy as they were before the prep started.

      1. At any one time your GI tract can hold 15-30 lbs of fecal matter. It’s the food you eat after and the amount of food you eat that is going to determine your weight loss. If you just cleanse out the garbage in your intestine and eat eat garbage what’s the point, you’re not going to see any results. The first time I cleansed, my very first stool contained a lot of sunflower seeds, I hadn’t eaten sunflower seeds in over three weeks! Thats disgusting, they were stuck in the fecal plaques unable to pass into my large intestine

    2. some of the detox methods you mention may well be questionable. however, to lump all of them in the same boat is not responsible or informed. i have talked with two pathologists about colon impactions, and both of them said that nearly every single one of them they saw on autopsy was filled with impaction. the primal blueprint is probably a good way to keep the body clean; maybe it is even the best method. but this does not detract from the veracity of some of the available cleanses that are out there. there are too many anecdotal stories now to disregard organ cleansing. i think you may have a bias since you are already healthy, and perhaps you don’t work with people who have any severe illnesses.

      1. “impaction” is very different than the type of “detoxing” most of these cleanses are aiming for. if you’re impacted, your health deteriorates very quickly. your intestines are prevented from doing the detox work that they’re supposed to do. Mark isn’t talking about a true impaction (which requires immediate medical attention and would be made significantly worse by large amounts of fiber), he’s talking about your run-of-the-mill “i could feel better so i’m trying a detox” sort of thing.

      2. Hi Albert.
        I am one of these people with a fully blocked colon and it is set like concrete. I only discovered one month ago through a CT scan with burimiun(?)(something like that, a dye to see the contents of the colon)
        Chronically constipated all my life (51) years; I’m sure I was near death the last two years trying to get movement in my bowls.
        I’ve seen all the professionals, and have found a Chinese doctor who is having any effect at all. With acupuncture, Tui Na massage on my ren channel and herbs. A very slow process indeed.
        I am looking for something to compliment this to help get extra feces out in between massage as this is the key element that seems to break down the compaction (and very painful) My self massage is not quite deep enough to get a lot of movement.
        Can you tell me what the primal blueprint is or anything else which my help? (I was thinking maybe more salt flushes)
        looking forward to your response Chantal.

        1. Greetings!
          Have you ever tried drinking Nourishing Herbal Infusions on a daily basis? One ounce dried herb (nettle, Oatstraw, linden, non aromatic plants) steeped off heat in one quart boiled water. Cover tightly. Strain after 4-8 hours.

    3. Well how many times did you see the insides of the small intestine? Colonoscopies only view the insides of the large intestine and the cecum, the end of the small intestine. The large intestine holds all the trash, left overs from what food we were able to actually digest, the plaques come from the small intestine.

  2. there’s a commercial master cleanse “energy drink” knocking around now. agave sweetened lemonade spiked with cayenne. got handed one free at a farmer’s market by a “guerilla marketer.” it’s still in the fridge, I should throw it away.

  3. Flax seeds seem to make it through the GI tract intact. Honestly, Mark, you should have had a warning label before showing us that opening picture.

    I did my own version of a colonic today. I had a slice of pizza (first time in over 6 months) at my daughter’s day care Christmas party this morning. My system almost forgot what wheat is. Almost.

    1. I had a little mishap with some pizza the other night. My body cleansed it… but the air in the room for the next day could have used some help!

      1. I don’t get gas from pizza, but since starting a low carb/high fat/primal-ish eating lifestyle about a year ago, I get mild acid reflux from eating any wheat flour, including pizza. It also makes me sleepy. Ah, pizza, you are my joy and my bane.

    2. Yeah,that’s why you have to grind up flax seeds into powder if you consume them.

  4. I completely agree that these fad “cleanse” diets are basically worthless. However, I do think some detox protocol is beneficial, but in a way that addresses detox from a nutritional point of view.

    For instance, supplementing with probiotics (or ingesting a lot of naturally probiotic foods like lacto-fermented sauerkraut or kefir) can be helpful for restoring healthy flora in the gut. A lack of friendly bacteria in the gut is a serious problem for many people, one that may not be conquered by dietary changes alone (although these are necessary as well).

    Other simple, natural practices like dry skin brushing can be very beneficial for detoxification, especially of the lymphatic system.

    However, I believe these are the exceptions, and in general detox should be addressed by eating a diet rich in whole, natural foods (including plenty of protein and fat of course) produced in a way that preserves their valuable nutritional content.

    Perhaps the greatest danger of fad detox diets is the fact that people might think they can “get away with more” as long as they do these detox diets periodically. An occasional detox period cannot make up for constant nutrient deficiencies and oxidation/inflammation from eating damaged foods.

  5. Aaron, pizza is my one remaining junk food craving. I still haven’t found a good primal replacement, unfortunately.

    The lining of your intestines is replaced completely by new cells every week or so. I’ve never bought the idea that we’ve got tons of junk sitting there for that reason – and because, if you’ve ever watched a colonoscopy (fun!) you’d notice that the inside of a colon tends to be pink and empty.

    The best thing you can do to “detox” your body is to maintain adequate liver function, and the best thing you can do for your liver is to avoid excessive alcohol and fructose (and to eat saturated fat, which is protective against liver disease… at least in rats.) The liver, contrary to urban myths regarding organ meats, is not a “sieve” and it certainly does not accumulate toxins, either, or you (and every other animal with one) would be dead soon after birth.

  6. Nah, that would never, ever happen.

    I almost launched lemon water (no cayenne, so no worries) all over my keyboard with that one.

    I, too, know of medical professionals who have seen hundreds of colonoscopies, and no plaque anywhere. Sure is odd.

  7. I think my metabolic syndrome is effect of the many lemonade “cleanses” I did in my twenties. The longest I went was 19 days.

    I ate no food, but repeated upped my insulin with syrup and fruit juices in copious amounts. Never felt worse in my entire life, but as the article says, the worse you feel, the more productive you imagine the fast is.

    Years later now, I’m pre-diabetic and can take no sugar or fructose without a terrible response. I’m gluten intolerant and get severe reactions when I eat the smallest amount of grains. Eating more primally keeps me energized, flatulence free, cramp free, and off toilet. I don’t need to feel pain in order to know I’m cleansing properly since I feel so good with the proper diet. Life is better 🙂

  8. I actually did the lemonade cleanse in the summer of 2008. Luckily I discovered this site not long afterwards and cut out the crazy.

    The lemonade diet is an interesting feeling. I was cold all the time, but never really hungry. The spicy lemonade is actually kind of tasty once you get used to it. The worst part was the salt water flush. You have to chug a liter of salt water every morning and 2 hours later (like clockwork) the whole liter comes out the other end. I shudder at the memory.

  9. This obsession with fiber is an eating disorder. People who put pipes up their tooshies think they are somehow assisting the body with detoxification. I say they are screwing around and looking for a sick excuse to get some pleasure in that zone. I think these people have a lot of self hate to think their bodies are toxic. My idea of natural medicine is nourish not break and enter.
    In my experience, high fat eating is great for constipation. High fiber eating was horrible.

    1. “My idea of natural medicine is to nourish not break and enter.”

      Wow. That might just be my favorite quote of the day!

      As a performance coach/trainer I every so often have to have this argument with a client that spent too long at the natural health store and was convinced to cleanse. Of course, from a performance point of view this type of stuff is just about the worst thing you can do nutritionally. I almost have to preface directions to a natural health store for a client with “Buy some good organic stuff, but don’t listen to anything about cleansing!”.

      1. I got that from reading articles by Susun Weed where she talks about the difference between medical traditions. She says there are basically 3 schools of thought: the Heroics, the Scientifics and The Wise woman tradition. She is really against veganism and colon cleansing. She says she has personally known a few people die after getting colonics. You can read a lot of articles off her website and check out some videos on youtube. There’s a great video that has a raw food vs. cooked food debate between Brigitte mars and her.

  10. Working in the ER just before bathing suit season starts is always entertaining. All the girls coming in fainting, falling and hurting themselves because some TV “doctor” told them they need to cleanse their dirty colons for boys to like them… sadly we can’t treat stupidity…

  11. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting this. 2 Years ago, I spent about 6 weeks working as a receptionist at a colonics/detox “spa” (clinic). I’m still recovering from the emotional trauma of working with such a manipulative saleswoman. I love going on MDA and learning all the BS they sold people on (with the single exception of going gluten free) including raw foodism and veganism is totally wrong for the human body! Every sentence of their literature was full of lies and misinformation, and the owner would send e-mails to my supervisor about how my nutritional beliefs were a “conflict of interest.” Stay AWAY from these people.

  12. Which image is more disgusting: mucoid plaque of the colon or the cheeto-powdered-encrusted insomniac? This post can be very helpful if you’re doing an IF!

  13. While I most certainly agree with a lot that you had to say, having been a vegan and “extreme cleanser” for many years and having had my health suffer the worse for it, I don’t agree with the notion that going to the bathroom once every two days is ok, or that we don’t need to cleanse every so often. Many traditional medicines, including Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, have deep cleanses as part of their health regimes. Plus, you have to think about the fact that not only are we dealing with chemicals in our foods that didn’t exist before seventy years ago, we also have to deal with a constant onslaught of pollution and chemicals in our daily environment that our livers also have to process. I do believe that rates of cancer (especially in the young) prove that we have toxins building up in our systems, though not necessarily the mucoid plaque they are trying to sell us on. I think basic cleanses twice a year, depending on your current health status, are helpful. I can’t go without animal protein more than a couple of days at this point, but my cleanses include all organic foods, no sugar, caffeine, or grains, and tons and tons of veggies.

    1. Yes, but what constitutes a “basic cleanse”?

      Do you mean full abstention from the sugar, caffeine, grains, etc? That sounds exactly like the PB eating plan, actually (except for perhaps the caffeine), rather than just an occasional cleansing ritual.

      1. For every person, a basic cleanse is a different thing. I’ve seen some people get their health back by consistently doing juice cleanses. I’ve seen others thrive on a macrobiotic diet, the opposite of this plan. For some people, like myself, caffeine is horrible and will muck up everything else I do.

        My point is, no one diet is good for everyone, but everyone can certainly benefit from cleaning their system every once in a while, whether that be something as simple as oil-pulling, or something as intense as a day or two of fasting.

    2. How are vegetables going to magically “cleanse” your system? If you think organic vegetables have nothing in them that your body would recognize as toxins, think again. Plants protect themselves from predators (animals) by producing chemicals (capsaicin, caffeine, phytoestrogens, phytates, oxalates, etc.) regardless of the type of plant and the part you’re eating. Fruit has the least amount of chemicals (seeds the most) but fruit also has fructose which, eaten in significant amounts, is as bad for your liver as alcohol.

      1. Natural “toxins” that our bodies have dealt with since we first began eating, or ones that we have learned how to break down over time (as is the case with phytates, phytoestrogens if we properly prepare the food – i.e. ferment, soak, sprout, etc.) are extremely different than man-made chemicals that our livers have never seen before.

        1. Are they? That’s an honest question! I’m not a scientist, but aren’t “man-made chemicals” made from chemicals that exist in nature, and which our bodies handle the same way?

        2. I do believe that humans have evolved to take care of plant toxins naturally.

          Whenever I feel like cleansing my system out because of inconsistency (cheating on my primal diet with a wheat pizza because of social reasons) I juice a bunch of veggies that make 1 giant glass of fresh juice and drink it at once.

          It produces a ‘flood’ without any ‘thunderstorms’.

  14. When my husband’s outrageous snoring problem stopped after putting him on a daily probiotic, I asked my doctor how this was possilble. He said “If you take good care of your good bacteria then they will take good care of you. They will clean house.” He also went on how the sugar and junk in the normal diet will undo any benefits. Real food is the best detox agent. If you don’t put junk into your body then you won’t have anything to detox. About 35 percent of us have lower Mannan Binding Lectins, meaning our ability to clear extra yeast and certain bacteria is lessened, making us more prone to allergies and yeast issues (especially Crohnie’s, were very low in MBL). Again, no junk and low sugar intake gives these buggers nothing to thrive on. Processed foods and grains feed them. Our good bacteria evolved on the same diet we did.

  15. Hi from Oz!
    Just found your site a few days ago Mark and have been eagerly devouring everything on it since then (like all day, each day), still going!
    I’m a qualified Personal Trainer who has always struggled with her weight – too heavy by far right now! I’ve always tried to stick to “healthy eating” (low fat, etc) and wondered why it wouldn’t work for me, and why I simply couldn’t control my sugar cravings.
    Well, now I know!!!
    The primal way of living just “sits” well somehow – deep inside I just know that it’s right and I can’t wait to get started. It’s amazing how 40 years of indoctrination just keep wanting to take you back to the comfort zone though.

    About those horrid photos – I’ve seen those too. You can get caught up in that stuff (genius marketing) – I started to wonder if there might be something to it. But it just didn’t seem quite right – then I remembered hearing that years ago people were ordering “weight loss pills” with unknown ingredients and it turned out the pills were planting tapeworms inside them!!!! Those photos just seemed very suspicious then!!!!!!!! Common sense wins out.
    Anyway, sorry for the Very loooong post (I’ve never posted to anything before) but just wanted to say “Thanks” for putting up such a great site and caring enough to share what you know!!!

    1. Welcome to the site, Peachy, and thanks for reading and the kind words. I hope to hear more from you in the future. Stay in touch and good luck on your weight loss goals. Grok on!

  16. Thanks again Mark. You’ll certainly see me around here. Just ducking off to the farmers market now (one habit I’ve been getting right).

    Grok rocks!!!

  17. Going to the bathroom once every two days is a CONSTIPATED person

    ALso, if u ever get a colonics, u will see ‘plaque – like stuff coming out without having used the fiber products.

    ‘…we’ve got lungs, kidneys, a liver, the colon, and our body’s tendency toward homeostasis, all of which work perfectly well.’

    Dude i dont know where you live, but this is false.

    Humans, Americans in particular, are radically unhealthy and have chronic health problems including constipation & irritable bowel, liver dysfunction and abuse from poor diet & lifestyle, people’s bodies are overwhelmed with stress and struggling and doing whatever it can to maintain homeostatsis, many times at the expense of long term health.

    Overall, the article is great and much needed in this culture, but far from totally accurate. Really love the meat eating vs. vegan article though

    1. This is a profoundly stupid response. The article points out that the reason you see “plaque” when you go for a colonic is because you ingest the stuff (as part of the cleanse, not as part of your daily life) that *makes* the “mucoid plaque”. It’s a miracle! I downed a concoction that is going to gel up in my intestines, I poop out some awful goo and they’re all ‘see! I told you you had awful goo in there!’ Did you not read that bit of the article, or the responses from people that actually look inside of people’s colon for a living?

      As for humans being unable to clean out their own bodies, I think you need to bring the proof and show us the science behind our dysfunctional bodies; Not dysfunctional American/British/whatever lifestyles that degrade the bodies, but how human beings are inherently unable to maintain homeostasis, assuming a good diet and good lifestyle. Because that’s what you claimed up there, and that’s bullshit.

      1. why don’t you read up a bit on dr. gerson who cured thousands of people of cancer and other degenerative diseases. there is a world of difference between a world class athlete getting fitter and a person on their deathbead trying to save their life.

        granted, the paleo diet may have been the ultimate answer for these people if they had started from birth, but this is not the case for some people, and you have to deal with these things on a case by case basis.

        now let’s see some terminally ill cancer patients on the PB diet. i’ll bet a lot of people will do well. and i’ll bet some will die. oops, we can’t save everyone.

        now put yourself in the position of the person who is dying and for whom the pb has not arrested the disease. what would you do?

      2. If the “concoction” creates the problem, then why is it that:

        1) Not everyone sees the same results?
        2) You don’t see the “awful goo” every time you use it, even though you consume the same amount with the same frequency?
        3) There are tangible subjective benefits (at least for someone on the Standard American Diet) during the cleanse, including increased energy and a decreased waistline?

        If this were mere hokum, you wouldn’t have so many people claiming that “it works”.

        Now, not all colon cleanses use the same method, nor have I personally tried any ones other than Colonix (tea+fiber+anti-parasite pill) or OxyCleanse (this one didn’t work out very well for me). Colonix (and the subsequent and probably superior BeneCleanse) does work (and is the source for those pictures at the top of this article).

  18. What about the cleansing effect of sweating through the use of saunas and steamrooms. I’ve pretty much stopped believing Dr. Andrew Weil (he markets too many chocolate-coated “health foods” now) but I took to heart his recommendation about saunas. Is that bunk too or do the Finns know something we don’t?

    1. Sweating is designed to cool the body, not to detoxify it. The toxins in sweat are no more concentrated than the toxins in your bloodstream, so you can’t do significant detox by sweating. However, if you sweat too much you may become dehydrated, which will interfere with your liver and kidneys, which are the waste disposal organs of your body.
      Sweating burns a few calories, but from what I’ve read this is not significant. It’s probably far better to sweat by exercising than to sit in a sauna.

      1. This reminds me of a locker room debate I had with some women who claimed that sweating “released toxins” from their skin and improved their complexions. My reasoning is that exercise improves complexion because it improves circulation not because of the sweat!

  19. Hey Mark-

    I was just wondering what is your stance was on extended water fasting? (Say, 5-7 days)

  20. i also was a chronic cleanser. i agree rachel that that totally messed up my system. i no longer believe in cleansing but in supporting the organs that cleanse. we are one of the only cultures in the world that doesn’t regularly ingest bitter foods. (i.e. dandelion leaves and….sorry early for me so i can’t think, but you get the point). other animals seek out bitter things every once in a while (cats, dogs, and gorillas seek out bitter leaves when they don’t feel well). the bitterness stimulates the system and the liver loves bitter foods. SO….long story short (too late), instead of assaulting the body with cleanses, give it some support. it will do what it’s supposed to do.

  21. and often, that black tarry stuff seen in colon cleansing adds is the LINING of the colon that is expelled with really aggressive and chronic cleansers. once the lining is gone, the colon is completely permeable and then there is REAL trouble. of course, cleansers think that all that illness brought on by the loss of part of their organ is just a call for another cleanse.

  22. It reminds me of those gall bladder cleanses that produce “stones” – actually soap stones caused by the consumption of lemon juice and fats (olive oil or cream) prescribed beforehand. Crazy stuff.

    1. Yea, if you were passing gallbladder stones, you wouldn’t be marveling at them at home, you be in some serious pain at the hospital!

      1. pain beyond belief…especially when you develop pancreatitis as a result.

  23. Mark-

    My question still stands as ‘what is your opinion on water fasting’, but in particular it is more so “how do you recommend I ease back into eating primally after a 7 day water fast” (I need to do the fast for a medical condition). I just don’t want to burden my stomach, but I don’t want to eat copious amounts of fruit either. What would Grok do?

  24. Katerina, a water fast is just a fast. I have referred often on this site to Intermittent Fasting and its benefits. How long you decide to fast is up to you, but all I would ever do personally is an IF of two days max. As for easing back into regular eating after seven days, I would do just that: ease into it. I’d make the first two meals fairly small, just to avoid any distension or other discomfort. Not sure why you would voluntarily fast for 7 days…

  25. the almighty coffee enema!! i still do this with a special detox of my own,,,,, for only 5 days though!!! master cleanse is worthless… anyone who starves loses weight… i may create the micro brew cleanse someday… haha…


  26. Mark,

    If you spend a few weeks really studying cleansing and detox you will find out that most people’s bodies in our country are NOT moving the fecal matter quickly enough. In fact, most people due to poor diet and consuming far to much animal flesh which putrifies in colon which causes all types of problems. I have studied this area for several years now and I can tell you that the colon, in an unclean state, over a long period of time causes most degenerative disease.

    There is a saying ” Death begins in the colon, coined by BernardJensen who has treated hundreds of thousands of paients in this area with far more first hand experience than you may haver. Take a look at his work. Talk to DR. Schultz who has treated 10’s of thousands of patients. They are/were on the front line in this area and have a great deal more information than you possess. This piece is very aggressive and you position is to matter of fact when this country ranks about the worst of all countries as far as health.



    1. “I have studied this area for several years now and I can tell you that the colon, in an unclean state, over a long period of time causes most degenerative disease.”

      Have you. Really. As a medical professional, using scientific techniques. I believe you. I really, really do. But you’re going to have to prove it to the rest of these fine people; show us…uhh, I mean them…the science conducted by reputable MEDICAL doctors using rigorous techinques and under peer review that support your claims of slow bowels and rotting meat. Also, it would be swell if you debunk the debunking that’s already been done on your “meat rots in the colon” baloney you’re trying to spread around here. Why is it that folks with cameras that go in peoples bums don’t find rotting meat in there? Start there.

      Naturopaths and Herbalists are not medical professionals. If they were effective, their industries would be regulated just like all the other effective industries and their techniques would be folded into real medicine. Neither one of these fellows you’ve mentioned have any hard science to back these claims you’re making.

      Also, I sincerely doubt Americans, Canadians, Brits or any of the rest of the generally chubby and heart diseased industrialized world are objectively some of the most unhealthy people in the world. I would suggest that access to immunizations, clean drinking water and medical care so they don’t die from minor flesh wounds that fester put them hands and fist above many places in the world. A little perspective, eh?

      The article is aggressive and matter of fact, as it should be. You simply *cannot* be *too* matter of fact; facts are facts, there is no gray to be found. Cleansing has no scientific basis whatsoever, and only enriches those who offer it to the gullible and desperate.

      1. Actually, Naturopaths are regulated in many states, and are covered by health insurance in places such as Washington. “Real” medicine is what has been defined by Allopathic medical professionals, by an industry that has been around for less than 150 years, while TCM, Ayurveda, and Herbalism have been around for thousands, and Homeopathy for at least hundreds. Need some “scientific studies” to show that what Naturopaths advise their patients do (diet-wise very similar to what is recommended on this site), not that Naturopathy in and of itself works (impossible to prove, just as Allopathic medicine in and of itself is impossible to prove – it’s about the “what they do” not “who they are”)? Just check out any of Dr. Michael Murray’s books.

        1. Are you actually claiming that it’s impossible to prove that real medicine *works*??!? Seriously? I’ve posted it before on other topics here; cured polio and eradicated smallpox, save millions of lives every year from malaria, typhoid, dyptheria, etc and have expanded our understanding of the human machine exponentially allowing us opportunities to save billions that would have never had a chance over the past hundred years. How many people have any of your CAM saved from, say, malaria in, say, the last 2000 years? None. I would suggest that the proof of failure lies with CAM, not conventional medicine. People died from minor cuts that became infected that we don’t think twice about now. Where was herbalism, Ayurveda and Homeopathy then? Fiddling around, not getting the job done.

          The problem with the systems you mention is that they are not able to evolve with new knowledge; Ayurveda is a couple of thousand years old, and Homeopathy a couple of hundred, and they haven’t changed a bit to reflect our expanded knowledge of how the world works. How is that helpful?

          I’ve also said it before, effective techniques are folded into conventional medicine; birch bark is distilled for the aspirin, honey as antiseptic and so on. The garbage is discarded along the way, which is what those techniques are; disproven in rigorous trials, clung to by those that want them to work and try not to see the evidence of failure by saying it can’t be proven.

        2. Thank you! There is a difference between a “naturopath” and a naturopathic doctor or naturopathic physician (ND). Naturopathic doctors attend 4-year accredited medical schools and are trained in all of the same basic science and clinical science (including pharmacology, minor surgery and emergency medicine) as allopathic physicians. They use the same diagnostic labs/imaging, physical exams, etc. that mainstream medicine uses. They can legally diagnose, and are well trained to do so. A regular “naturopath” is someone who attended an unaccredited program, many of which are online; such individuals are NOT medical professionals. Go to to see a list of the only accredited naturopathic medical schools in North America; only graduates of these schools are eligible to take board exams and obtain a license. I am a licensed naturopathic doctor, and I become frustrated when people comment on “naturopaths” without having a clue about our training or regulation. I certainly am a medical professional. If a patient needs a pap smear, a fundoscopic exam, an orthopedic evaluation, a complete neurological assessment or an EKG, for example, then I can do any of those things. I can also prescribe many pharmaceuticals under the regulated scope of practice in my state. More importantly, NDs have the medical competence to recognize when a patien’s care needs to be co-managed with an MD or completely referred out to a specialist. If you talk with licensed NDs, you will find that we care first and foremost about doing what is in the best interest of the patient – neither wholeheartedly accepting all natural therapies without criticism, nor totally rejecting all of conventional medicine.

      2. Why is there no rotting meat in the colon you ask? You dm realize the small intestine is never peeped at… and if you don’t know, parasites and worms live in the small intestine and when they die they are usually in your fecal matter impacted. Start eating raw papaya seeds and maybe you’ll see why people do these cleanses in the first place.

    2. David, who fed that scam to you? Read over at Gnolls about why meat does not rot in your gut, but guess what does? Stuff that vegetarians eat: beans, grains and veggies:

      I think Mark’s message is clear: instead of doing these fad detoxes, if you want to heal your body, start eating the right food. If you were formerly a cheetos eater + soda drinker, a few months on a clean diet of quality pastured meat, good vegetables and maybe some limited starches will do more good for your colon than starving yourself and feeding non-food to your body in the form of insoluble fiber.

  27. “Putrifies in our colon”? I don’t think so If it does, I suppose all of those native Americans were wrong to eat buffalo etc… Meat moves quite quickly and nicely through the colon. The old “putrefying in the colon” is an old vegetarian argument long disproved. Grains, on the other hand, do quite a number on the old gut…

    1. It doesn’t putrify in the colon, it putrifies in the small intestine. that’s the body’s “dark contitnent,” the one doctors can’t see with a colonoscopy. just from the smell of the horrid liquids and solids that come out of you from a master cleanse or a clay-based cleanse it’s clearly not solely from the products that people are ingesting.

      1. It doesn’t putrefy at all. (That’s the correct spelling, by the way.) Meat is mainly water, protein, and fat, and if you have a functioning stomach to break down the proteins into their constituent amino acids and a functioning gallbladder to break down the fats into their constituent fatty acids, you’ll be able to digest it just fine. Because animals have only a cell membrane and not a cell wall, they’re actually easier to digest than plants. And again, the lining of the intestines is entirely replaced every few days, so…

        1. Thank You Icarus.

          Tell me, have any of you that believe this bit of nonsense ever opened up the gut of a freshly killed animal, still warm? If you haven’t, what do you imagine it smells like? I’ll fill you in; it smells awful, no matter the animal or where it died. I’m sure that elk my father killed in the Canadian Rockies, in which he had to hike for half a day from his camp, a day and a half from automobile access didn’t live like an “American” or have an awful atmosphere full of over-hyped pollutants, but somehow his offal smells…awful. Same with the bear or the cougar or the wolf or the deer or the cow on his farm or the pig or…the people. What makes you think that every single one of them is dysfunctional? I mean, their digestive process stinks, therefore it’s messed up, right?

      2. Mark,

        You really are missing the point, you assume that everyone has a well functioning colon, unfortunately, very few do!!. If everyone was in homeostasis, then perhaps you would not need to sell pills, perhaps?

        Unfortunately a high percentage of the population is constipated and there are many ramifiications of long term constipation, one of the big ones is a build up of harmful bacteria in the colon. In a perfect world, what you say is true, we do not need to clean our colon ,then we do not need vitamin supplements either. We can eat our way to perfect health. What I do know is that most americans are not eating properly, are not eliminating properly and are riddled with illness. You would not have written your book if you believed that americans were doing it right. As many people realize there is a direct correlation to diet and disease, amoung other issues, it is reckless to believe that with the horrendous diets of most and the huge percentage of people experiencing chronic constipation that the colon is not suffering. We, in America are experiencing the highest rate of colon cancer in the WORLD, what do you attribute this to? It is reckless to throw out the window the concept of cleaning and maintaining a healthy colon. And yes, if most bodies were in homeostasis, the body could handle this. I hope you are aware that this country has the worst health of the 100 major countries that are followed, I guess it is safe to assume that homeostasis in this country is few and far between. I would love to see all of america on your eating and life style plan. Until then, clean and maintain a healthy colon.

        With only the highest regard


        If you want to get into a little more, you will realize that most people are deficeinet in beneficial bacteria as a result of overuse of antibiotics, this in turn makes the circumstances even more dangerous to the overall health of most. American’s digestion is slow at the very least, the wrong foods are being ingested and the abundance of good bacteria is well below what is needed to maintain health. To say the sinply cleaning the colon is a sham and for snakeoil salesman paints a very aggressive picture coming from someone who may not have studied this long enought to realize at a minimum the colon is and has been abused and a simple cleaning will not do harm. On the other hand, colon cleaning and cleansing being promoted as diets does not resinate with me. It is absurd to think our colons are healthy and vibrant with the knowledge you have regarding the diets of most Americans, the propensity to overuse antibiotics and the huge number of new pollutants and toxins that have been introduced to the human being over the last 100 years. Evolution does not happen this fast. The health of htis nation vs the world speaks loud enough.

  28. Hate to double post, but I remembered two radio personalities in Houston who did the 5 day fast with a natural “cleanse” where all that ropy, black corruption comes out of you for days. Well, one of them reported he had taken several of the “fiber” pills they were forced to take several times a day with copious amounts of water and placed it in a large jar with h2o. The pills soaked up more and more water in the glass they had been put in and after a time they said the substance that had formed looked mysteriously like the mucoid “plaque” that had been passing through them for days. Hmmmmmm. They and their listeners enjoyed a big laugh.

  29. Greetings Mark,

    I will start off by saying that I usually appreciate your “no nonsense” approach to everything. Even though I may not always 100 percent agree, I do respect your opinion. But I think that this is a controversial subject, and the “take away” for me anyway, is that this is your opinion.

    I do see your points, and I raise you a few more.

    Secondly, I would say that I was disappointed that, in my opinion, you crossed the line in good taste by starting off with the whole “anyone who tries to sell ya on the whole detox thing is a snake oil salesman”. Again this is my opinion… but I can think of several well respected, well educated, Dr.s that believe to some extent the contrary.
    ie; Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Nan Fuchs,PhD, Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, Dr. Robert Rowan, Doug Kaufmann (the fungus guy) just to name a few.

    That would be like me saying you’re a snake oil salesmen because you sell nutritional products. Come on.. we should get all the nutrients we need from a healthy diet right, why then the need to supplement? Don’t worry I supplement, Just trying to make a point.

    You referenced some extreme cleansing schemes. I agree, I wouldn’t go to those extremes. Is there excessive sludge in our gut as a toxic by product? I don’t know. Some say there is, some say there is not. But I do know that according the the American Heart Assoc, the average american only consumes about half of the RDA of fiber a day. You said “a bit” of fiber a day is enough. My question is what is “a bit”? A bit just doesn’t sound like enough to me.

    Since most people only consume around 15 grams, which is half of the RDA of fiber in their food supply, would it hurt them to supplement with a psyllium supplement? I don’t think so, because I look at it like any other supplement that I need and don’t get enough of in my diet.

    I don’t think that there is much doubt that our bodies are under a tremendous toxic burden from stress, pesticides, environmental substances, mercury, aluminum, etc. Is the liver and kidney over taxed with the burdens they must face? Considering the world we live in, I would tend to think so. Would it help to occasionally take herbs to help purify and support their function? For some, I would also tend to believe so.

    And what about parasites, worms H-Pylori and fungus? Dr. Ann Louise speaks and writes on this subject to a large extent. Do they just go away by themselves? No, they do not. Hence, the need for cleansing could be debated here.

    The majority of people do not live a very healthy lifestyle. If they did, would there be such an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease or cancer, etc? No, obviously not.

    Given all the circumstances, to say that the average person’s body will naturally work properly all by itself is rather naive. Think of how a baby processes food. They eat… they poop. Are they unhealthy? Not usually. Albeit, their digestive system is young and immature, isn’t it interesting that kids don’t get colon cancer? I personally hate the thought of waste products sitting around in my gut for a couple of days, I believe there is potential for harm there. Hence I “go” at LEAST once a day.

    Your last paragraph is right on, of course. But what about the masses that don’t follow that protocol? Are they toxic or not? That is the question.

    I think the bottom line is if you live a toxic lifestyle, your body will be toxic. If you clean up your diet and lifestyle your health will improve and the need for much extra help in the “cleansing” department will not be so great.

    But I think in the interim, it would benefit a lot of people to seek responsible ways (diet, exercise, water, air, sleep, less stress, PLUS probiotic and fiber supplements, etc) to cleanse the body and allow the tendency for homeostasis to occur.

    Just my point of view.

    1. I don’t have much time today, so I’m only going to touch on a few points here.

      “Is there excessive sludge in our gut as a toxic by product? I don’t know. Some say there is, some say there is not.”

      Those that say there is: Cleanse vendors and those that believe their claims.
      Those that say there is not: Medical folk with bum-cameras that can actually *see* in there. And order medical tests. I don’t think there’s any real discussion to be had there.

      “I don’t think that there is much doubt that our bodies are under a tremendous toxic burden from stress, pesticides, environmental substances, mercury, aluminum, etc. Is the liver and kidney over taxed with the burdens they must face? Considering the world we live in, I would tend to think so.”

      The medical community does not generally agree with your, respectfully here, amateur assessment. There is good scientific evidence that our bodies are more than up to the task of clearing environmental pollutants from itself.

      “And what about parasites, worms H-Pylori and fungus?”

      What about them? If they’re a problem, we have proven tools to take care of them. Live a good life and they shouldn’t be a problem.

      “isn’t it interesting that kids don’t get colon cancer?”

      Not really; the nature of *most* cancers is that they appear when you’re older, even when you control for diet, lifestyle, environment, etc. All things being equal, your odds of developing cancer increase as you age.

      “I think the bottom line is if you live a toxic lifestyle, your body will be toxic.”

      What do you mean by toxic? Once you clearly define it in a way that can be tested and/or manipulated, then we can talk.

      In the end, you need to bring the *proof* that cleansing actually does something, not that people believe it does stuff.

      1. Dear Alchemyguy,
        With all due respect sir, that is I’m assuming you are a sir… I directed my comments and concerns to Mark, but since you took the time to respond, I have some additional questions/comments for you.

        1) Comment In response to :
        “Those that say there is not: Medical folk with bum-cameras that can actually *see* in there. And order medical tests. I don’t think there’s any real discussion to be had there.”

        You’re right, there is nothing in there. Because Bum camera patients must endure a 2-3 day liquid only diet, harsh chemical laxative, and an enema. My father in law just had his (poor guy) and he was told that his colon had to be totally cleaned out of any solid matter and that the liquid that he passed within hours of his examine had to be “clean and clear” for the colonoscopy to be successful. Plus he was nauseous, weak, and had a severe headache for the 3 days before and 2 after. That’s not to mention the painful effects of the examine itself and the sedative. Wow. That sounds pleasant doesn’t it.

        2) In response to:
        “The medical community does not generally agree with your, respectfully here, amateur assessment. There is good scientific evidence that our bodies are more than up to the task of clearing environmental pollutants from itself.”

        Well, since my amateur assessment is not good enough, perhaps you should take the time to argue with experts in these matters.

        Because I derive some research and opinions from experts in their field, I would encourage you to contact Dr Ann Loise Gittleman, Dr. Grace Zeim, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Dave Holland, Dr. Fred Pescori, Dr. Iichiroh
        Ohhira, Ph.D., Dr. Luke Curtis, or even a lay person like Doug Kaufmann for starters.

        However, I’m a researcher. I do gather information from various other sources from mainstream Dr.’s that do publish test results for say, liver toxicity due to chemicals, drugs, aflotoxins, dietary carcingens, etc.
        Just go do a search at if you don’t believe me. Also visit, or for their opinion.

        Again, if our bodies were capable of handling the onslaught, would there be any such thing as colon cancer, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, etc. Our bodies were designed to filter and cleanse itself,that is true but in so doing a tremendous amount of free radicals are produced. Which in turn create a whole other host of problems.

        3) In response to:
        “What do you mean by toxic? Once you clearly define it in a way that can be tested and/or manipulated, then we can talk.”

        According to my medical dictionary:
        A Toxin is

        toxin tox·in (t?k’s?n)
        A poisonous substance, especially a protein, that is produced by living cells or organisms and is capable of causing disease when introduced into the body tissues but is often also capable of inducing neutralizing antibodies or antitoxins.

        There are bacterial toxins, marine toxins, fungal toxins, ricin, and toxoid vaccines, just to name a few of those that are of organic nature. Not to mention chemical and man made toxins like food additives.

        and Toxic is:
        toxic tox·ic (t?k’s?k)

        1. Of, relating to, or caused by a toxin or other poison.
        2.Capable of causing injury or death, especially by chemical means; poisonous.

        Therefore, what I mean is that when toxins are inhaled, ingested or otherwise introduced into the body, the body will try to repel, process, and eliminate them, but because it cannot always naturally or effectively do that on it’s own, it will become toxic. Or maybe a better word would be sick and diseased.

        Is there really any argument there?

        4) In response to:
        “*proof* that cleansing actually does something,”

        Again I would defer you to some of the named experts I have already mentioned. I would be curious to know what you come up with.

        But of course there is proof in Scientific studies that something as simple as the use of Activated Charcoal is effective for absorbing poisonous or toxic substances. Oil of Oregano can kill hundreds of pathogens. Curcumin has been studied as an effecitive antifungal. Again go check Pubmed for specific studies. There are thousands to pour over.

        All the best to you,
        Mellisa McJunkin

    2. Oh, well, if the American Heart Association says I need more fiber, then it must be true!

      1. Actually it’s not the American Heart Association that says you need more fiber. They just report that the average american only gets about half of the DRI of fiber.

        The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is a system of nutrition recommendations that comes from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

    3. There’s a really interesting theory being thrown around by the doctors right now, that the reason there’s such a jump in intestinal disorders in the first world (and only the first world) is caused by having a diet that’s too clean, and there’s been some interesting studies on treating Crohn’s disease by feeding the patients intestinal worms.
      I’m just saying, I’m much less scared of parasites in the food than I am of the antibiotics/hormones. Our bodies are used to parasites.

  30. Dr. Natura’s Colonix does this. They pack their “cleansing” product with so much psyllium, it then bulks up inside your intestinal tract, only to come out looking like the “poop-ropes” you describe. They try to pass it off as if it’s the “mucoid plaque” bogging you down, but in reality it’s just the product you ingested yourself. Sadly, on their website, you’ll see people proudly holding up their feces as if it’s an accomplishment. lol.

    The truth is, if you eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables, you’ll get all the fiber your body needs. Plus, you’ll get plenty of essential nutrients and vitamins. I’ve found that all the products that are surrounded by hype, usually don’t pan out. Don’t fall for these products.


  31. Mark,

    Perhaps it makes sense to consider colon cleansing isolated from cleansing and detox diets. There seems to be confusion here as I do not think there are many who to listen to what you have to say believe in diets like these but there sure is controvery over maintaining a healthy colon and those that rationize cleaning colons as a means to engage in a food regimen that is extreme in its nature. The question becomes, with most americans constipated and with slow moving colons, what can be done to get them moving along in a more normal fashion so that they may thrive under a way of life style program that you present int he primal program. So much disease begins in the colon, it is foolish not to keep the colon house clean. And there is nothing more important that including fermented foods for addressing the bacteria issue that plagues most and is a reason for the massive allergy issue in this country, amoungst other health issues that the lack of good bacteria presents. I was raisedon anti biotics and a diet that incorporated massive amounts of flesh but had a very weak colon. I nearly died many times due to allergies that were severly compromisded by a colon that was toxic which created horrible allergies. I have studied my own body for over 30 years and have conducted every trial and error program imaginable. Nothing has been more successful than focusing on the bacteria issue, maintaining a clean colon and moderating the quantity of animal flesh. By moderating, I mean not over doing what the body acvtual needs to operate. And of course this would differ depending on what activities an individual engages in on a regular basis. As you delve into the digestion issue, you will also find that most americans are deficient in HCL which makes the digestion of meat more challenging.



  32. Anything can be called “snake oil” if people don’t understand what that thing is designed to do. I’m sure many of those in the CW community see the primal diet as snake oil too. People attack what they don’t understand.

    Detox diets do work if done for the right reasons. Some people go overboard with them and damage their health but for some of us they are the first step in getting healthy again.

    I had severe eczema and after a decade of dealing with dermatologists that didn’t do a damn thing for my skin condition I went to a naturopath – who did. The first thing he did was put me on an elimination/detox diet. Then we worked on digestive enzymes and probiotics and eliminating foods I couldn’t tolerate but I was in such a state when I first came to his office that detox was the first thing that needed to be done. My body was no longer able to handle elimination of toxins on its own which is why I had eczema.

    I think fasting or detoxing once or twice a year can be beneficial for most people if they choose to do so. It can be snake oil or part of a healthy lifestyle depending on how you choose to fast or detox.

  33. Thank the gods you laid this one to rest, Mark. Once I dabbled in this stuff, and although it did me no harn, it was just an uncomfortable bore.

  34. Mark,

    I agree with you in all points, but…

    what about all the substances/molecules/drugs/toxins that are made by the human and accumulate in our body or disturb homeostatic regulations and our tissues?

  35. I once ate a small bag of sunflower seeds in the shell without removing the shells, having vaguely remembered doing so in the distant past (wrong…that was peanuts). They turned into little knives that came out bright red. I had been not only “cleansed” but roto-rooted.

  36. Hi chaps,
    A mate of mine just finished a 7 day fast, just drinking water and fresh fruit juice. He combined it with a visit to a colonic irrigation clinic where he got flushed out (6 times, 6 days). He said that on day 4 he started to discharge this plasticlike stuff which looked very much like the mucoid plaque shown on some these websites. It continued discharging with each visit for 2 more days. He did not ingest any supplements or dietary fibre, psyllium husk etc at all before or during the fast period so it couldn’t be attributed to that. What do you think it was?

    1. I’m a fan of Mark, but I’m also a fan of CLEAN by Dr. Alejandro Junger- I do cleanse periodically, and I don’t buy into Colonix, Master Cleanse, etc. The good doc states that our bodies produce mucous in response to inflammation, which is in response to a toxic lifestyle; when you are in the detox process, said mucous is expelled via the bowels (i.e. not pounds of stagnant poo). I don’t drink all the detox KoolAid, but this makes sense to me, and the Clean Program helped me discover that a gluten sensitivity had been keeping me miserable for years.

      Sounds like your friend did a pretty intense cleanse, which could cause a response like that.

      I know I’m a little late to this party, but I just came across this article; was interested in Mark’s thoughts on detox.

  37. I especially love about this article how this guy goes on about people that sound great selling products and telling you the medical world is lying to us, when this guys sounds great, with a real lack of scientific evidence, goes to the extremes and doesn’t take the time to actually investigate cleansing, and then promotes his own stuff. Your awesome man…keep up the great work. We need more people like you!


  38. You can read a lot of articles off her website and check out some videos on youtube. There’s a great video that has a raw food vs. cooked food debate between Brigitte mars and her.

  39. I bought a detox kit once and just ended up getting sick. But hey, that means it’s working right? Hmmm…

  40. I agree that the commercial psyllium and laxative based “cleansing” products are ill advised (yes that icky stuff is hydrated psyllium molded by the gut–so lovely) however I seriously question the wholesale dismissing of all modalities and practices intended to support and facilitate detoxification. I have seen, though I am not sure of its validity, endoscopic evidence of unclean and unhealthy colon–Search for Dr. Hiromi Shinya on youtube and you will find it. For those who have an interest in the subject and are sympathetic to the paleo way of eating and living (as I am) the book, “The Wellness Project A Rocket Scientist’s Blueprint for Health” by Roy Mankovitz, has a fascinating, intelligent and scholarly discussion of specific, empirically verifiable issues of toxicity in the body including that of of heavy metals, candida, parasites, and debris/residue from the modern diet.

    I might mention that Roy Mankovitz is a smart guy, even for a rocket scientist, but he is in no way as sexy as Mark Sisson. Mark’s book is lighter and more fun to read, so you know, read Marks book for sure…

    I will mention, while the topic of colon cleansing may not be sexy, that based on the realities of our modern exposure to chemicals, heavy metals, drugs, unhealthy eating practices, and the ensuing secondary issues of depleted beneficial bacteria in the gut and yeast/mold overgrowth, the possibility of addressing these issues in ways beyond what can be accomplished with diet and lifestyle changes merits careful consideration. Another possibility to consider is that the problems of a congested, slow moving, toxic gut may be a particular bane to women. This was suggested by author Natalia Rose in her book “Detox for Women” which I do not particularly recommend, but which I think contains some pearls of wisdom.

    I cannot offer authoritative advocacy for hydro colon cleansing (just to clarify, this practice is not discussed in the Roy Mankovitz book) but I will provide my anecdotal support for the practice. I have had occasional colonic therapy over the course of several years with no negative side effects (that I know of) and have noted improved mood vitality, clearer looking skin and eyes, and glossy coat (just kidding about the coat.) Issues of minor bloating and gas have disappeared and problems involving elimination have been much improved. Still, I would like to find some greater basis for doing this, admittedly un-grock-like activity other than my own experience and the quasi-scientific claims of the practitioners. Maybe we can get the pharmaceutical companies to fund a study. Ha ha ha -sorry. Seriously though, I believe part of the contentiousness of the the cleansing discussion has to do with the strong tendency for advocates of cleansing to be big into vegetarian-ism and often also purveyors of a cultish alternative view regarding health, much of which i do not subscribe to; My hydro colon therapist is a great guy, but I personally think he would be a lot healthier if he would eat some bacon LOL. The best resource on hydro colon therapy that I have found is In their Q and A section one of their therapists actually mixes up some psyllium to demonstrate the point that Mark was making in the photo that prompted all these posts…

    I am, by the way, not affiliated with any of these authors or with Gravity East Village. I am just a concerned-cave-girl-member-of-the-public who is all into health. 🙂
    I AM interested in information on the topic of cleansing/ detoxification from those with knowledge and experience, and I respectfully suggest to those who, like me, are to some degree undecided, that these are areas about which it might behoove us to keep an open mind.

  41. I recently visited a health food store and talked to a man getting an “Ionic Water Foot Detox.” He pointed to the water and said, look at all the toxins being removed. Yes, the water was a YUCKY color. I was a skeptic, and did the research on it.

    It is a scam. The water was salt water, and the electrodes sent a current through the water, as in electrolysis. The water would have changed color anyway even if his feet were not in it. The discolored water was a result of the electrodes being eaten away by the current flow.


  42. Why can our arteries get plaque but our Colon cannot?

    Nevertheless atherosclerosis probably would not be removed or in long droopy strings.

    I think that fasting is a better way of Detoxing – animals when they get sick they rarely eat – as most pet owners can testify.

    Our body stores Dioxins and toxins in our fat. – If we burn off the fat to fast we feel bad – when we fast our body goes into healing / cleaning / and toxin removing – I think that this is one reason that the Juice fasting / juice cleanses for people – that are gravely ill are effective – the body is detoxify and cleaning and the lower calorie cause fat to be used/burned and toxins are released and removed from the body – as well the energy demands from digestion are minimized.

    Thus the body can focus on healing. – Most people that are gravely ill are not doing P90x or Crossfit with the Juice fasting.

    I know that the Enema’s/Colonic’s are often a part of Juice fasting – which if a person is detoxing the Liver is dumping in to the intestine (not the kidney’s ) So it would be beneficial to get toxins out of the colon faster (Enema’s/colonic).

    I think that PB that IF – are cleanning and healing as well during the IF. Albeit on a slower pace.

  43. Well, I naturally ‘cleanse’ every other day, sometimes even twice a day naturally simply by sitting on a toilet…ya’ll should try it!

    Primal is da shiz! 🙂

  44. You are threading on thin ice Mark.
    You have some knowledgeable contributors that are up against disinformants who are very slick and have ulterior motives.
    Any one that claims americans brits are healthier than most of the rest of the world is clearly suspect.
    I suggest contributors list the books they have read protocols they have tried and positive or negative results as outcomes. Keep the disinformants out and ban arrogant and abusive responders. If one can’t show respect towards other’s journey to better understanding you will lose the honest health seekers that are really here to learn.
    Also what qualifications do you have to judge colon cleansing wrong, have you conducted honest research without ulterior motive.
    The gall bladder flush is real yet one responded as it being a joke and that no way could someone pass stones without pain. Has that person tried it or known someone to have tried it. All presumptions. Get some serious individuals that have followed through on various protocols correctly and can reflect on their experiences. We want to learn, give us true insightful info and anyone notice a shill feigning to be into health yet disinforming should be banned, they work for the big boys.

  45. Thanks Mark, for debunking these crazy cleanses. Back in 2006 I did one of those liver cleanses. I didn’t consume any fat for three days, just apples and one night for dinner, some spinach, a potato and mustard, but no oil. Then a day later, I did the final step of the “cleanse” – guzzled some olive oil and lemon juice and in the morning drank epsom salts (disgusting) and laid on my side to make the “effect” happen. The next day I crapped little green marbles just like all the cleanses said I would, but I really wanted to know what was going on and you know what, those weren’t any kinds of stones. I pulled a green marble out of the toilet and it was just coagulated olive oil.

    As for eating apples for three days… it sure is one way to get your crap to smell like apples! I’m sure all the paleo folks here will cringe over consuming that much fruit. It was pretty excessive.

    I come from a totally hippy vegetarian background, but after that stupid cleanse, I determined that they’re a waste of time and starving yourself isn’t a good way to take care of your body. Eat good food! That works much better!

  46. You are full of crap. Maybe if you consumed some of these products your mouth wouldn’t run away with you. Explain all the diseases running rampant and obesity . American eating habits are deplorable. I have been to France. No such thing as a fat french woman. or man for that matter. You have to get the intestinal track cleaned out then diet then exercise. did you major in lack of common sense and stupid in college?

  47. I’ve read here several times references to an over 300 day fast that one overweight man did that worked. I recall Mark writing about that in a positive light. How are some of these all that different? (I’m asking sincerely, I’m not trying to make a point or anything.)

  48. I did the Primal thing for a year or so with my husband. Although we encountered many detractors (as I believe you’ll find with nearly every method of eating or not eating invented) we stuck to it. It had some positive benefits; most notably it worked very well to reduce inflammation throughout our bodies, since there was virtually no sugar introduced into our diet by any means. Ultimately, I just could not manage it. As with most things, I took what I liked and left the rest. And then my best friend was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and given a death sentence.

    I am pleased to report that having a good deal more faith in herself than her doctors did, my friend is very much alive today. As her closest confidante, we forged a path through the miasma of mis- and dys-information which clutters the internet, and I believe, have now crafted a way of eating which combines the best of all of it. Because she is in a fight for her life, she has to stick religiously to the regimen. Because I am not, I use what I wish to use and modify it upward to suit my own health needs.

    The bottom line? The body does become overburdened with the constant need to eliminate things like meat, a staple of the Primal way of life. In response to the relentless process of breaking down these proteins, the body produces acids and acid wastes, which tends to cause intensified oxidization. Even without sugar, acid proliferates and works to damage all of the body’s organs and systems.

    We have come to believe that a diet which consists almost solely of fresh foods, including vegetables, fruits, grains and some fish offers optimum health for humans. It reduces the sugar burden (and its inimical forms of oxidative stress) but allows us to graze over the full panoply of unprocessed foods to arrive at a comprehensive, nutritional diet in a way the Primal way cannot.

    I raise this point here because I read your somewhat acid (no pun intended) review of a variety of cleanses. Your contempt, while obvious, is also a reflection of your lack of understanding about the benefits of intermittent cleansing. Particularly for those who are ill as a result of nutritional deficits, cleanses and flushes offer a means to clear out the eliminative organs.

    Although fasting as a way of life creates long-term problems, I think it is counterproductive for you to trash the process of cleansing in the wholesale fashion you’ve done with this blog.

    My girlfriend (mentioned above) has just spent a month in a naturopathic environment, a good portion of which involved a ten day juice cleanse. She lost twenty pounds, and when she returned home, her PET scan demonstrated massive shrinkage of her tumors.

    Granted, the cleanse was not the sole reason for her results. I believe wholeheartedly, however, that it was a major contributing factor.

    Less bark. More wag. You’ve got something good going here with Primal. There’s no reason to resort to hyperbole when discussing other methods. The uninformed might accept your contemptuous words at face value and make a serious error in judgment about their own nutritional needs. There’s room for everyone out there.

  49. Lets be honest here, I used Metamuicil to cleanse and lose weight! But its so expensive and DOESNT WORK as well as the Lady Soma Fiber Cleanse. The Lady Soma Fiber Cleanse is cheaper than something like Metamucil. I don’t have IBS, but I do need to lose weight and take in more fiber. If I take fiber, it helps counteract the terrible results of the bad things I have eaten that day. Lady Soma is less expensive, and I found it more effective.

  50. there’s is no compulsion in choosing to eat things that have fiber that is able to minimize the amount of “bad toxins” in your digestive tract. I’m sure people are also not compelled to stop eating fast food.

  51. Something one should remember is that in the “PRIMAL DIET” you would have been a “primative” and as such your diet would have included fasting when you couldn’t find readily available food. Basically, yes your body is the ultimate detoxer, but you have to quit putting stuff in your mouth for a little while for that to take effect. Otherwise your body is always just keeping up detoxing the crap you put in through it.

  52. Ive tried a lot of natural remedies to “cleanse” my digestive system out, and I’ve seen success with different things, but the Dr Max Powers 15 Day Cleanse is by far the most convenient remedy that I’ve used. Its so nice and simple to take 2 capsules right before bed, compared to making different concoctions on my own. It definitely does the trick!

  53. As always Mark – spot on on this post ! I learn so much from this website, its amazing. I did a lot of research on the web for many options of colon cleanse and did find most like Mark said, has zero science behind them. There is some legit research for constipated or digestion problems in case you want to look

  54. So glad you got schooled by the many other wise folks on here. Your glib put downs of these medically established protocols is sadly misinformed. I am buzzing off because of conflicts in my schedule, but will be back to comment further soon. All the best and do your research before cynically spouting off. Colonics and liver cleansing as super important. Look up diverticulosis. It is the medical name for impacted colon and causes auto toxicity, which is rsmpant in our modern society.

  55. You are INCREDIBLY wrong about The Master Cleanse by Stanley Burroughs!

    I was practically crippled with Rheumatoid Arthritis and a host of other ailments as a result of Lyme Disease. My doctor diagnosed me, a 26 year old, at the time, as “permanently, totally disabled”. My stomach and digestive system was also messed up by oral antibiotics. I could hardly digest or keep down anything. I was a healthy person before the disease.

    My mom, using the The Master Cleanse, was cured of Stomach Ulcers which plagued her most of my teenage years among other things. She encouraged me to detox using it! I could even walk up and down the stairs and within a month I was able to, after suffering and ‘handicapped’ for months!

    If you TOOK the TIME to READ what makes it works you would see how GREAT our GOD really is. The Bible says, the “herb is for the healing of the nation”.

    I lost weight even though I was looking to but I did not lose the good stuff. I did not lose muscle! With other liquid cleanses you do.

    Of course, you may feel nauseated, etc. And that is “may”. The fact is, our bodies, when in detox-mode, will have a stir up of the toxins to remove them from your body. These are tolerable side effects considering the long term and DESTRUCTIVE effect of disease!!!

    I dont fool with other detox methods, but for me the Master Cleanse makes sense. Read the tiny booklet and you will see why!

    Educate more responsibly and dont be so biased, Mark. Still, I respect your right to your opinion and thank you for sharing it.?

  56. I’m glad that some people are taking a stand against all of this ridiculous “cleansing” and the release of “toxins”. Are these people so blindly trusting that they’ll listen to someone selling them something rather than their own bodies?

  57. This is so true. Our digestive system is not like household plumbing in that things could get stuck and build up over time. Whatever is new will push out the old (unless there is pathology, such as diverticula).

    Great article, thank you Mark

  58. This article needs update. Its been over 10 years and new research and discoveries has been found.
    it is true that our body can fight itself, but why not help the process and sometimes boost it significantly

  59. Why do you write stuff that you dont really know about?

    Just to influence people?

    Look, with juicing alone I got out massive amounts of mucoid plaque! Without psyllium or clay, ok?
    I did numerous colon irrigations and took out TENS of pounds of build up petrified shit that remained for decades in my colon and YOU have the NERVE to say it is a lie? I cleared my detox pathway that werent working by cleansing my guts, and YOU say it is just a scam? You are not a professional, if you were you would have studied this more in depth. After cleansing my colon and intestines from this plaque that was intoxicating me for so many years everything changed for me in my body. And no matter how much psyllium or clay or splippery elm or cleansing products I would take now…no plaque is getting out now. You said that this products form that plaque, well it is FALSE, cause I should be passing each time some plaque but NONE is getting out, why? CAuse its not there anymore. The conventional medicine almost buried me, its not in their interest for people to know stuff. Period. You should study more before you write false statements pretending you know better, really. I suppose you wont publish my comment, at least read it.