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'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Posted by eric_oh 6a (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 25, 09 at 11:55

Some timely articles on the craze for purging supposed toxins from one's body through fasts and "cleanses". First, a feature in USA Today:

"The plans are supposed to remove chemical and dietary toxins from the body. But weight-loss experts have long been skeptical about the claims, saying there is no scientific evidence such programs do a better job than the body's own organs. They also say many of the plans are deficient in protein and other nutrients.

"These kinds of diets are not a reasonable approach to weight loss, and there is no data that they do what they claim," says Gary Foster, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is concerned that the cleanses could be harmful to people who suffer the medical consequences of obesity, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian in New York City, says: "People are always doing them, and it's disheartening because they are sophisticated, smart people who know better, but they are so desperate for a quick fix. You don't experience long-term success on them. You may be less bloated. You may feel lighter. You may be losing some weight, but much of it is water weight...Nutrition experts say they'd like to see some scientific evidence the plans work. "I've never seen any published trials that would lead me to believe that if you are healthy, your lungs, kidney and liver need help removing toxins from your body," says Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society."

Another view on "cleanses" and alternative, sensible things one can do to feel and be healthier.

Jane Brody's column in the Science section of yesterday's New York Times is an interesting read about antioxidants, the enthusiasm with which they were hyped, and the wisdom of not relying on one or more "magic" supplements or foods.

"Simply put, there is no quick fix. The best chance for leading a long and healthy life comes not from any pill or potion but from pursuing a wholesome lifestyle. That means following a nutrient-filled but calorically moderate diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains...not smoking; exercising regularly; maintaining a normal body weight; and driving and riding safely.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

From the USA Today article: Gwyneth Paltrow followed a week-long detox diet after the holidays, cutting out dairy, caffeine and processed foods and drinking a beet-carrot-apple-ginger juice, according to People magazine.

Oprah Winfrey blogged about her experiences on a 21-day vegan cleansing diet that was free of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten and animal products.

That type of cleanse doesn't strike me as particularly extreme or dangerous. Cutting out caffeine, processed foods, refined carbs, eating more fruits and veggies, restricting calories, and avoiding foods that are common allergens (like gluten and dairy) - in fact, that sounds like a plan that might actually help some people.

Depending on the actual plan that is considered a 'cleanse' it may not be sustainable as a long term diet ... but by definition, most cleanses are meant to be occasional, short term events.

Here's an interesting study that found that a one week juice fast lowered insulin levels by 42% and lowered total cholesterol by 10%. If the body's own organs can be counted on to work without any consideration, why do so many people have elevated cholesterol and elevated insulin?? One of the predictable side effects of chronically elevated insulin is insulin resistance and type II diabetes, which is a very common disease. We can only conclude that under 'normal' conditions, many organs cannot do a fine job on their own, and that fasting, 'cleansing', dieting and exercising may be useful to maintain optimum health. Of course, this is not a blanket endorsement of each and every practice out there (some of which may be dangerous and/or an expensive scam). It is merely to point out that people who try to speak with great authority about 'The Science' of these practices typically have not even bothered to review the research, while they rely on platitudes and glittering generalities.

Here is a link that might be useful: Effects of one week juice fasting on lipid metabolism: a cohort study in healthy subjects.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

What the USA Today article focused on are "detox/cleanse" programs that supposedly eliminate toxins and are used for weight loss, but have not been shown to be effective for either purpose and may prove harmful to some people. One popular plan, the "Master Cleanse", involves consuming nothing but lemon juice, organic maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water.

Sounds extreme to me - as well as the weight loss and health experts quoted in the article. Are you accusing them of "rely(ing) on platitudes and glittering generalities"? What they're emphasizing is proven and safe nutrition (the generalities, pseudoscience and testimonials are coming from the cleanse promoters).

The study whose abstract you quote says nothing about eliminating "toxins" and does not demonstrate that the juice fast in question is a viable, healthy way to lose weight. All it says is that during this short-term liquid diet, insulin levels dropped (this is an unreservedly good thing for everybody?) and cholesterol was somewhat lower - of course, we don't have to consume a liquid-only diet to lower harmful cholesterol levels.

"We can only conclude that under 'normal' conditions, many organs cannot do a fine job on their own..."

We can't even conclude that the study you cite supports any such inadequacies. What was your reaction to this quote from the USA Today article?

"I've never seen any published trials that would lead me to believe that if you are healthy, your lungs, kidney and liver need help removing toxins from your body," says Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society."

"...dieting and exercising may be useful to maintain optimum health."

Absolutely. We agree. :)


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> "I've never seen any published trials that would lead me to believe that if you are healthy, your lungs, kidney and liver need help removing toxins from your body," says Colleen Doyle,

Doyle's perspective ignores the fact that millions of otherwise healthy individuals are on prescriptions of statins or fiber or fibrates. Why would doctors prescribe these if the liver was producing the proper amount of cholesterol, and it was being excreted properly by the digestive system?? Obviously, millions of prescriptions are written every year because these magic organs often are not performing optimally, even in otherwise healthy individuals.

We know that high cholesterol levels are a serious risk factor (dare we call it a 'toxin' at higher levels?) and that is can be beneficial to bind the cholesterol with fiber or fibrates, or to stop the liver from making so much in the first place. Her statement indicates a serious conceptual myopia.


>>The study whose abstract you quote says nothing about eliminating "toxins" ...

First, we need to consider what a toxin is - In the case of insulin, can molecules that are normally good build up to harmful levels and thus be toxins? Certainly. Do you deny the mechanism by which high insulin levels lead to type II diabetes and other diseases? Is an LDL cholesterol level of 500 considered toxic? Are there negative consequences from allowing cholesterol to remain so high? Again, yes.

Second, what does the term 'eliminate' mean? In the case of elevated cholesterol, yes, that can be physically eliminated in the stools. In the case of elevated insulin levels, it merely means to lower the amount of insulin in the blood. It may not be precise as you would like, but then some people also frown and froth at words like 'tonify', 'normalize,' or 'restore.'

In either case, lowering the insulin or cholesterol levels can be referred to as a 'detoxification', even if you don't like that nomenclature.

I would agree that for optimal long-term health, diet and exercise are key. But the blanket dismissal of anything labeled a cleanse or detox is mostly ideological - it requires ignoring what we know to be true - why proclaim the infallability of the liver or gut and then turn around and regulate their activity with prescriptions in the healthy? Why engage in faulty generalization and lump together anything labeled a detox or modified fast or cleanse?


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

"Doyle's perspective ignores the fact that millions of otherwise healthy individuals are on prescriptions of statins or fiber or fibrates."

Cholesterol is not a "toxin". It's an integral component of the human body, essential for cellular function. Only a small minority of it is synthesized in the liver, and no one has demonstrated that any popular "cleanse" removes it. You may find the information available here helpful.

What the devotees of "detoxification" and "cleanses" think of as "toxins" can be hard to fathom, but what they generally talk about are environmental chemicals and body waste products. The problem is what they consider "toxins" are virtually never toxic, either because concentrations are too low to have an effect or because generally healthy people process and eliminate these "toxins" through normal physiology.

One can regard virtually anything as a "toxin" (just as one can deny that any plant-based drug is a drug), but making up definitions that are not fact-based and not recognized by medical science is pointless.

"But the blanket dismissal of anything labeled a cleanse or detox is mostly ideological - it requires ignoring what we know to be true"

The professionals in health and dietary science who don't buy into the concept of "detoxification" and "cleansing" will be convinced of its existence the way they're convinced of anything else that has to do with human health - good evidence. The "toxin" and "cleanse" advocates need to do two things - first, demonstrate that their regimes ("Master Cleanse" or any of the kazillion products and plans on the market) have the capability to remove genuine toxins, and secondly show that people's health benefits as a result.

Show us clinical trials that provide this evidence, and you'll have lots of believers.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

To cleanse & to de-tox just seem inappropriate verbs to describe what many people are doing in the name of better health. The fact that famous personalities publicize their self experimentation further confuses the lay public.
(Certainly consistent intake of a different/new substance or decisively altering the use pattern of certain dietary ingredients is good for some people. As per previous examples of blood glucose & cholesterol.)
However, those purification connoting verbs are behavioral descriptions growing out of a society that continues to generate new taboos.
It is primitive magical thinking that physical penance is needed. This conflates with the statistical rise of what the USA National Institute of Health calls "Anxiety Disorder." ( Yes, pill popping is a whole other mania.)


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> Cholesterol is not a "toxin". It's an integral component of the human body, essential for cellular function.

Yes, it is essential in certain amounts, just as sodium is essential in certain amounts. And certainly, like sodium, there are levels at which it is has negative effects on health. If you don't want to call such imbalances toxic, what do you prefer? "Undesirably High Levels"?? "Elevated Concentrations Which May Negatively Impact Health and Lead to Premature Death"?? Sounds like a toxin to me. Even oxygen, as necessary as it is, can be toxic if its concentration is too high for too long.

In a previous thread this week, Eric was warning us about blueberries and hibiscus, saying that all "chemical components affecting biochemical processes" are drugs and must be respected as such, we must be wary of toxicity, etc. etc. Now he is saying that chemical components like cholesterol that can cause a heart attacks and strokes cannot be properly thought of as a toxin!!! Oh, boy.

>>> Only a small minority of it is synthesized in the liver, ...

I would refer you first to the wiki page on statins (or any of several hundred journal articles), which states "The statins (or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) are a class of drugs that lower cholesterol levels in people with or at risk of cardiovascular disease...Inhibition of this enzyme in the liver results in decreased cholesterol synthesis as well as increased synthesis of LDL receptors.

Furthermore, the risk factors that most doctors test for (HDL, LDL, VLDL, etc) and describe as cholesterol are actually lipoproteins ... VLDL is almost entirely from the liver, while the gut and the liver are the main sources of the others, and inhibiting cholesterol synthesis in the liver reduces risk.

Once again, eric defends his sweeping claims with inaccurate science.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

So, where is the evidence that fad diets/fasting and "cleanses" remove "toxins" and make us healthier? Surely there's got to be handy links to a bunch of research abstracts demonstrating this, no? :)

Failing that, can we have an answer from apollog to the question I posed earlier:

What was your reaction to this quote from the USA Today article?

"I've never seen any published trials that would lead me to believe that if you are healthy, your lungs, kidney and liver need help removing toxins from your body," says Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society."

From another perspective on the goofy world of "detox" and "cleansing":

"To think, all these years we've been popping pills, body brushing to within an inch of our lives and guzzling green tea in a bid to battle terrible toxins. It was all a waste of time and, these days more importantly, money. "Detox is marketed as the idea that modern living fills us with invisible nasties that our bodies can't cope with unless we buy the latest jargon-filled remedy," says one of the authors of the report... "Our investigation into detox products has convinced us that there is little or no proof that these products work, except to part people from their cash and downplay all the amazing ways in which our bodies can look after themselves."

Regarding the attempted distraction about cholesterol and inaccurate claims made in the preceding post: first, cholesterol is an integral part of our cell membranes and essential to life. Only in Bizarro World could it be regarded as a "toxin" (never mind that the people who are always on about dread "toxins" in our environment are not referring to cholesterol. The Wiki link (and other sources) confirm that only about 20-25% of cholesterol is synthesized in the liver, so "eric defends his sweeping claims with inaccurate science" is an inaccurate statement.

And nowhere did I "warn" about blueberries. Hibiscus tea, if it truly does markedly lower blood pressure and can be said to equal or exceed the effect of one or more standard blood pressure drugs, is acting as a drug itself and should be respected as such, both regarding benefit and potential risk, as discussed in the separate thread. The only reason to avoid characterizing it as a drug is to dodge regulations to assure its efficacy, safety and purity, as is the case with "dietary supplements" in general these days. Great for the supplement sellers, not so good for us.

Here is a link that might be useful: The


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> Failing that, can we have an answer from apollog to the question I posed earlier:

I've already posted a response - you may not agree with what I said in my response, but I did respond to that statement. Maybe you should re-read the thread.

>> cholesterol is an integral part of our cell membranes and essential to life. Only in Bizarro World could it be regarded as a "toxin"

Yes it is essential to cell membranes, just as oxygen is absolutely essential to utilizing energy in most cells in our body; yet when breathing high concentrations of oxygen, oxygen itself can be toxic. In many cases, the dose makes the poison.

Please explain to us simple herbalists why doctors prescribe drugs to lower cholesterol if high cholesterol levels cannot be considered toxic. Is it merely undesirable and potentially fatal, but in no ways toxic?? And why would these prescriptions be necessary if the organs don't need any assistance? You keep dodging that.

Are you suggesting that high cholesterol and LDL levels don't contribute to diseases like atherosclerosis? Or that they do contribute to disease, but do so in a non-toxic manner?

Why do the scientific journals contain articles like "Unfolding the toxicity of cholesterol" and "Cholesterol detoxification by the nuclear pregnane X receptor" and "Toxicity of cholesterol-fatty acid mixtures" and "Pregnane X receptor prevents hepatorenal toxicity from cholesterol" ... ??? Because you are BS-ing us when you state that cholesterol cannot be considered a toxin.

>>> Detox is marketed as the idea that modern living fills us with invisible nasties that our bodies can't cope with unless we buy the latest jargon-filled remedy

Again, that is a simplification and distortion (which is much easier to rail against). Some people do refer to detox in terms of external chemicals, while others talk of detoxes and cleanses in terms of changing the body's own metabolism. And most of the popular detox ideas don't involve buying remedies - they involve things like avoiding some foods, eating others, restricting calories, and drinking more water.

>>> And nowhere did I "warn" about blueberries.

Oh, another double-standard? You have already classified anthocyanins as a drug. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, just as hibiscus does. Blueberries and hibiscus both can lower blood pressure. Blueberries and hibiscus can both inhibit angiotensin. Do you have evidence-based evidence to conclude that only hibiscus is a drug, while blueberries are not? You can't even apply your own illogic consistently (but that shouldn't surprise anyone here).

Here is a link that might be useful: Oxygen Toxicity


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Oh, and that article you linked to in your last post has some valid points, but I think it's overall tone is misleading. From the article:

>>The importance of "regularity" to overall health has been greatly overestimated for thousands of years....The theory of "autointoxication" states that stagnation of the large intestine (colon) causes toxins to form that are absorbed and poison the body....Around the turn of the twentieth century many physicians accepted the concept of autointoxication, but it was abandoned after scientific observations proved it wrong.

That article differs somewhat from this recent publication from researchers at the Mayo Clinic, which concluded:

"Constipation is one of the most common digestive disorders in the United States; however, the association of this condition with related comorbidities, both gastrointestinal and extraintestinal, is poorly documented. Here, we have reviewed the association of constipation with specific comorbidities. The data suggest that there are considerable clinical consequences associated with constipation. Ultimately, realization of the disease risks associated with chronic constipation may provide the impetus needed to direct new research, and shift attention on the part of patients and practitioners to methods for preventing significant and potentially costly comorbid medical problems."

If a state of the art review concludes that the relationship between constipation and overall health is poorly documented and in need of much research, then it is difficult to make definitive, sweeping statements.

Here is a link that might be useful: A gap in our understanding: chronic constipation and its comorbid conditions.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

I've read the article on chronic constipation. The authors focus on problems like ulcers, fissures and other anatomic complications of long-term constipation in additions to infection and pain. They do not argue that "toxins" build up in the system as a result of long-term constipation, or that "colon cleanses" are the answer.

"You have already classified anthocyanins as a drug." Untrue. I see no need to make stuff up.

I wish you would address the substance of the health and nutrition experts' views in the USA Today article - that there is no valid clinical evidence that we need external cleanses/flushes/detoxification to help healthy organs do their job, and that the products claimed to do so have little impact beyond flushing out our wallets (and potentially doing harm in certain situations).

But all we're hearing from you is that the word "toxin" should be reinvented to cover just about anything in the body that might be undesirable in excess (fat? calcium? red blood cells? bone? - the list is endless), whether or not it's produced in the body or vital to our existence, and that anyone who says otherwise is "ideological" and wrong. That's even more extreme than the argument by many alt medders that a chemical substance is a "toxin" regardless of how low its concentration is and whether or not it's ever been shown to have any physiologic effect whatsoever.

After all this attempted obfuscation, we're left with the sad fact that many people are fooled into buying useless "cleanse" products (like the assorted "liver flushes", "kidney flushes" etc. that are marketed en masse over the Internet) and quackery like the foot bath "detoxifiers" that have been brought up repeatedly in this forum.

This physician has a succinct and deadly accurate take on the "detoxification" culture and the industry that serves it.

"Except in the context of substance abuse treatment, the term "detoxification" is wholly unmedical, unscientific and quasi-religious."


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Added note: it looks like a key element to apollog's rebuttals in this thread is as follows: Diet and health experts have no business criticizing useless formulas and diets that claim to eliminate nonexistent toxins, because...cholesterol is a real toxin, and there are actual effective drugs that control it.

If we're to take a leap and accept that logic, we cannot criticize any ineffective or dangerous medical therapy or drug, because other treatments and drugs do work.

Sorry, does not compute.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Of course it doesn't compute - you refuse to understand it in the first place. You insist on refuting the ideas that you have set up in your own head, not the wide variety of practices that people are actually talking about.

In this thread, I've already provided a link to a study showing that one such cleanse which resulted in a decrease in insulin and cholesterol. And yet you refuse to entertain the possibility that such programs could possibly be beneficial because you have already defined them as quackery, therefore, they cannot have any effect.

My repeated references to cholesterol prove that one of your central arguments is not only unproven, it is wrong - the organs of the body do not always do a great job when left alone. I also showed that one common herbal cleanse (psyllium) reduces cholesterol levels and can be beneficial, even though it is not in agreement with your ideology.

Herbalists may or may not describe everything in the language of science (which I find regrettable as a scientific herbalist), but sometimes they are right in spite of the fact that they describe things inexactly. But you insist on latching on to the terminology and using that to 'prove' that it is all bunk.

You can keep playing your games forever, eric ... these rebuttals are obviously not to convince you ... it is to demonstrate to anyone that wanders into this thread that you are a pseudoscientific bully intent on spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt on herbalism. You love to deride other ideas as unscientific, when your own ideas don't always pass muster.


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Fess up, Eric!

>>>> "You have already classified anthocyanins as a drug." >>Untrue. I see no need to make stuff up.

I'm not making things up, but am starting to suspect that you play fast and loose with reality in more than one way.

On Wed, Mar 18, 09 at 15:38, in the thread on hibiscus, you said "The chemicals (anthocyanins) in hibiscus tea, if (as it seems) they lower blood pressure, constitute a drug."


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Annually 6.8 million in the USA are deemed to have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. These seem like enough candidates to keep the cleansing attitude popularized in the culture.
This category is significant for it's persistent worrying based on unrealistic view(s) of certain problems. Many become obsessively concerned about issues pertaining to their health.
These unfortunate individuals share physical symptoms that include
nausea, indigestion, diarrhea & gastro-intestinal discomfort like non-nuclear dyspepsia.
Since the complex includes headache, fatigue, irritability, muscle ache & feeling faint/dizzy it is difficult for the sufferer to ignore their body.
It is probably quite easy for these folks to accept the theory that they must detoxify to get rid of what has gotten "in" to them, since they are poly-symptomatic all the time.
(No, I do not advocate drug treatment.)


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Sorry to see apollog reduced (yet again) to volleying insults in lieu of calmly discussing evidence (or in this case, the lack of it) for removing "toxins" from the body via "cleanses" and extreme fad diets. I wonder also at this need to personalize the discussion to the extent of ignoring all the knowledgable opinion from health and diet experts (liberally quoted in this thread) who agree with me. Are they all to be dismissed out of hand as nasty ignorant bullies?

I will grant you that I referred to the anthocyanins in hibiscus tea as an herbal drug, because of the preliminary reports of marked blood pressure lowering which were compared to standard blood pressure drugs. I did not recall saying that in another thread, and apologize for saying you made it up. What you did invent was the claim that I "warned" people against eating blueberries. A retraction by you would be appreciated, in the spirit of civil discourse.

"I've already provided a link to a study showing that one such cleanse which resulted in a decrease in insulin and cholesterol."

You referred to people fasting for a grand total of one week on fruit and vegetable juices. This is not the type of "cleanse" referred to in the USA Today article (or popularized by alt med advocates) and there is zero evidence provided that there's a lasting effect on cholesterol beyond the one week period (it's not exactly surprising that dietary modification can reduce cholesterol; however that modification needs to be long-term, and it's unrealistic to expect anyone to permanently subsist on juices).
By the way, I missed out on responding to this gem earlier:

apollog: In the case of insulin, can molecules that are normally good build up to harmful levels and thus be toxins? Certainly. Do you deny the mechanism by which high insulin levels lead to type II diabetes and other diseases?

Well, yes...since high insulin levels are not the cause of type II diabetes, they're part of the body's response to the disorder (insulin resistance leads to increased insulin production as the body tries to compensate and maintain glucose control). Referring to insulin as a "toxin" is laughable.

I think people reading this thread are capable of seeing past the attempted distractions and recognize that quick-fix "cleanses" and extreme diets are not evidence-based, are a waste of time and money and can actually be harmful, particularly as users are missing out on good and useful diet and lifestyle factors.

By the way, here's a typical example of the type of "cleansing" and "flushing" that's touted by alt med advocates. What they're going gonzo about is not cholesterol, but imaginary environmental toxins and parasites. You can find this stuff being feverishly discussed on a ton of websites and alt health forums, not to mention eager exploitation of these delusions by supplement dealers.

It's our choice whether to buy into this silliness, or be smart health consumers.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> Referring to insulin as a "toxin" is laughable.

And what happens to type I diabetics if they inject too much insulin?? They go into a coma and can die.

Of course insulin can have toxic effects. Only a fool would say otherwise. Chronic elevated insulin levels are not a recipe for good health, but for health failure; there are 40,000+ articles that discuss or mention hyperinsulinemia in their research.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

So you're still claiming that insulin causes diabetes?

And no response to my request for a retraction, I see.

Anyone can make a mistake. It helps one's credibility to acknowledge it.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> So you're still claiming that insulin causes diabetes?

I don't think of metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes as simple diseases with a single cause. But constantly elevated insulin levels are a factor in most cases, and there is no question chronic elevation of insulin has negative effects.

Certainly, insulin resistance tied in with changes in the cell membrane that are associated with obesity and other factors. There has been a great deal of research on the role of fats, and that cannot be denied. But insulin itself is a hormone that (when elevated over time) can stimulate inflammation, increase LDL cholesterol, and cause detrimental changes in the insulin receptors. Insulin not only signals cells to take in sugar, it also signals them to create fat stores and it suppresses the use of fat as a source of energy. Hyperinsulinemia itself is a key factor in the metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

There is abundant research on the importance of glycemic index. Four ounces of white sugar and five or six ounces of complex carbohydrates end up providing the body with the same amount of sugar. But complex carbohydrates are preferable - complex carbs do not trigger the high blood sugar levels, nor the spike in insulin levels and associated problems. Likewise, continuous 'grazing' on sugar water (soda) or starches is associated with insulin problems even in the absence of weight gain.

Carbohydrate restriction (which greatly reduces insulin levels) is probably the best way to reverse insulin resistance. Calorie restriction in general can do the same, although simply cutting back on calories is not as effective.

Given the complexity of the situation, we cannot describe with 100% certainty what causes diabetes, and there may be different patterns in different groups of people. But there is a large body of evidence that supports the idea that high insulin levels over time can lead to insulin resistance, as this article notes:

"Dietary carbohydrate restriction in the treatment of diabetes and metabolic syndrome is based on an underlying principle of control of insulin secretion and the theory that insulin resistance is a response to chronic hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia. ... As such, the theory is intuitive and has substantial experimental support. ... We emphasize the ability of low carbohydrate diets to improve glycemic control, hemoglobin A1C and to reduce medication. We review evidence that such diets are effective even in the absence of weight loss." (from article cited below)

Here is a link that might be useful: Carbohydrate restriction as the default treatment for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

"Diabetologia" journal published research that 40% of Type 2 diabetic adults demonstrate one of the 100 entero-virus histology in pancreatic tissue.
This suggests that Beta-cell insulin production is affected, which coexistent with obesity demand for high insulin triggers Type 2 diabetes.
However, it does seem improbable that any cleansing diet is capable of removing entero-virus from Beta-cells.
If interested, the rate of entero-virus pancreatic exposure was 60% for children developing Type 1 diabetes. Doing a de-tox for those unfortunate kids would probably only make their parents feel good, about themselves.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Found another great article on the mania for cleanses, and why some people are paying $450 for a six-day fast while drinking green goop (the "Blueprint Cleanse").

"Not everybody is convinced that not eating food is good for you. In fact, the general consensus among health experts is that eating food provides ones body with nutrients one needs to live. Dr. Lisa Sasson, a Clinical Associate Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU, is one of many medical professionals who views these quick-fix cleanses with a mixture of concern and contempt. The Blueprint cleanse "is just rhetoric," she says. "Its a lot of hype." The secret to good health, insists Sasson, does not lie in cramming your body full of ground chuck and whisky for 25 days and then "flushing" it out with juice for three. Bodies dont work that way.
"These cleanses are over-simplistic," says Sasson. "Having a healthy diet, lifestyleincluding adequate sleep and physical activityis what is most important to cleanse the body."

The article also notes that the developer of the "Master Cleanse" (Stanley Burroughs) was convicted of second-degree murder in 1984, relating to his claim that abdominal massage could cure cancer (it didn't).

Quackery can kill.

For anyone wondering about apollog's confused belief that insulin causes type II diabetes, here's good information on the real causes:

"Type 2 diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood. It begins when the body does not respond correctly to insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas...Insulin resistance means that fat, liver and muscle cells do not respond normally to insulin. As a result they do not store sugar for energy. Since the tissues do not respond well to insulin, the pancreas produces more and more insulin (in other words, the increased insulin is a consequence of the disease, not the cause, and represents the body's attempt to normalize glucose metabolism).

Because sugar is not getting into the tissues, abnormally high levels of sugar build up in the blood. This is called hyperglycemia. Many people with insulin resistance have hyperglycemia and high blood insulin levels at the same time. People who are overweight have a higher risk of insulin resistance, because fat interferes with the body's ability to use insulin...Family history and genetics play a large role in type 2 diabetes. Low activity level, poor diet, and excess body weight (especially around the waist) significantly increase your risk for type 2 diabetes."

Nothing there about "toxic" insulin causing diabetes. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: The Dirty World of Cleanses


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

I agree, a child who has type I diabetes would not generally be advised to engage in various cleanses or detoxes (depending on what is meant by a detox or cleanse - it might be something as simple as consuming psyllium fiber, which I don't think would generally be a problem under those circumstances, and might have some incidental benefit depending on the circumstances).

We know that a child with type I diabetes has serious damage to the insulin production tissues, which could be from a virus and/or an autoimmune condition. That damage is pretty much irreversible. Type II diabetes is very different and can often benefit from changes in lifestyle.


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further

Eric, part of what you are saying is true, but your attempts to make sweeping statements and exclude other mechanisms lead you to make a cartoon representation of diabetes. It's more complicated - what you presented is one approximate representation, along with misinterpretation.

There is a large body of work on chemicals called adipokines, which link obesity, insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, and type 2 diabetes. There is also a large body of work that shows a high carb diet increases insulin levels, which increases adipokines (which feeds directly into insulin resistance, obesity and ultimately type 2 diabetes).

To present a simple, linear representation of a complex disease is pseudoscience. There are multiple models of diabetes, and those that have 'substantial experimental support' cannot be dismissed out of hand, as you would like to do.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia: is hyperinsulinemia the cart or the horse?

Insulin resistance, recently recognized as a strong predictor of disease in adults, has become the leading element of the metabolic syndrome and renewed as a focus of research. The condition exists when insulin levels are higher than expected relative to the level of glucose. Thus, insulin resistance is by definition tethered to hyperinsulinemia. The rising prevalence of medical conditions where insulin resistance is common has energized research into the causes. Many causes and consequences have been identified, but the direct contributions of insulin itself in causing or sustaining insulin resistance have received little sustained attention. We examine situations where insulin itself appears to be a proximate and important quantitative contributor to insulin resistance. 1) Mice transfected with extra copies of the insulin gene produce basal and stimulated insulin levels that are two to four times elevated. The mice are of normal weight but show insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and hypertriglyceridemia. 2) Somogyi described patients with unusually high doses of insulin and hyperglycemia. Episodes of hypoglycemia with release of glucose-raising hormones, postulated as the culprits in early studies, have largely been excluded by studies including continuous glucose monitoring. 3) Rats and humans treated with escalating doses of insulin show both hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. 4) The pulsatile administration of insulin (rather than continuous) results in reduced requirements for insulin. 5) Many patients with insulinoma who have elevated basal levels of insulin have reduced (but not absent) responsiveness to administered insulin. In summary, hyperinsulinemia is often both a result and a driver of insulin resistance.

Here is a link that might be useful: Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia: is hyperinsulinemia the cart or the horse?


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

A couple more comprehensive and entertaining articles on cleanse/flush mania, starting with the colon:

"The problem all boils down to an altie obsession with "toxins," "waste," and "putrefaction." These colon cleansing alties seem to view their own waste products as somehow inherently "harmful," obsessing about them in much the same way as General Jack T. Ripper obsessed about his "purity of essence." Indeed, if you hang around on enough altie discussion forums, you will get the distinct sense that they find the very thought that they have feces accumulating in them all the time, loaded with bacteria, to be hateful. This attitude is, of course, odd, to say the least, given that the very function the colon evolved to have is to remove our digestive wastes safely and efficiently, extracting water, electrolytes, and what little other nutrients are left over, before depositing the waste into whatever receptical the body sees fit to sit on. For the vast majority of people, whether it does it three times a day or once every three days does not matter much. Worse, in the cases of people who do have a real parasitic infection, all the purging in the world won't get rid of the critters causing the disease, no matter how many times a day one drives oneself to go. Only appropriate drugs to kill the parasites will."

There's a great followup on "gallbladder flushes" as well (another subject previously discussed at length in this forum).

Oh, and to return briefly to the distraction du jour, here's what some more nasty bullies (in this case the knowledgeable folks at WebMD and emedicineHealth) have to say about the causes of diabetes. Note that among all the potential risk factors (including genetics, diet and lifestyle), "toxic insulin" gets zero blame. Isn't it odd how the experts in the field have it wrong, while apollog knows the Truth?


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> In fact, the general consensus among health experts is that eating food provides ones body with nutrients one needs to live.

Amazing!! And they get paid to come up with such profound statements??

The real question is not whether food provides essential nutrients (which is obvious, and relevant to deficiency diseases), it is whether periodically restricting the diet (including fasting or cleansing) can beneficially change the metabolism - this question is more relevant to modern, affluent society where chronic diseases are usually linked to excess, not deficiency.

>> The secret to good health, insists Sasson, does not lie in cramming your body full of ground chuck and whisky for 25 days and then "flushing" it out with juice for three.

I'm not aware that anyone really said that good health can be maintained by going on a whiskey binge for a month and then doing a 3 day program. Maybe there are alcoholics that hope to do that, but it really doesn't represent the common idea of a cleanse/fast/detox. That statement is an obvious distortion; I suspect it is something that the author just made up (and which eric is happy to repeat)... another attempt to mis-characterize and ridicule, not intelligently discuss the variety of practices and evaluate each fairly.

There is a fair body of research on calorie restriction and life extension. Most is in animals, but the initial work on humans is generally consistent with the animal research. What if we looked at some of the detox/cleanse/fasting practices in terms of the calorie restriction research?? Well, here is a study that found that short term, repeated fasting (4 days every 2 weeks) extended the life of lab animals by 33%! How, Mr. Great Scientist eric, can you tell us that there is no possibility that occasional fasts in humans (perhaps as practiced in cleanses or detoxes) could ever possibly have a beneficial effect on people? I'm not saying that a cleanse or detox will extend life by a third in humans, but an open mind would consider the possibility it might have some real benefits. Instead of being logical, open-minded, and truly scientific, you merely generalize and belittle. But that's ok - people are on to your game, and they know to discount heavily anything you type.

Here is a link that might be useful: Influence of short-term repeated fasting on the longevity of female (NZB x NZW)F1 mice.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

I am familiar with the health benefits seen in mice and rats from fasting, Does this mean that they are removing "toxins"?


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Toxins? It depends on how you want to semantically structure your world. What I have done in this thread is show that cholesterol, insulin, and other molecules can sometimes be at unhealthy levels, and fasting and other practices can improve this. Some might contend that insulin is always non-toxic, in spite of the fact that injecting too much insulin can kill a person (it happened to a daughter's classmate). Some would deny that that the body could secrete unhealthy ('toxic') levels of LDL cholesterol or insulin, even when there is abundant experimental evidence to disprove such claims.

Fasting also up-regulates or turns-on certain genes while turning others down. I have several times used phrases like 'improve the metabolism.' I am not wed to the phraseology of 'toxin,' although I have shown it is sometimes appropriate.

Some of the herbalist/altmed ideas about toxins are flat out wrong. Some are theoretically wrong, but might be right in practice - they work, even when the wording or theory is not correct. The 'alkaline diet' is an example of something that is wanting in theory, but can be beneficial in practice. By focusing on natural dietary sources of 'alkaline' foods (those containing potassium, magnesium, and calcium, especially vegetables and fruits), it prescribes a course that would help most people. It is not 100% copacetic with modern semantics about acidity being the negative log of hydrogen ion concentrations, but it has a definition of alkaline that is internally consistent and useful if put in practice. And self-appointed quackbusters love to ridicule it, even though the net effect of eating an 'alkaline' diet is in line with much well researched advice. Apparently, to such quackbusters, results are less important than orthodox vocabulary patterns.

Ideas in herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and other ways of thinking outside of modern western science sometimes carry extra baggage. I don't agree with everything such systems assert. But I do think they contain far more valuable information than could be expected by chance ... although not as systematic as a modern experiment in controlling for the effects of a treatment, such cultural practices are embedded with centuries of observations.

The Mediterranean Diet is a good example. Several researchers have described it as "the only dietary intervention that has been shown to reduce mortality from all causes." This was developed very gradually, by dirt-poor peasants. Maybe some of the ideas were simply put down to 'common sense' or 'tradition', maybe there were other beliefs which explain various components of the Med-Diet which may not make sense to crackers in Georgia. Ok, lets try to figure out what is real, what is essential, and not merely ridicule and denounce the Med-Diet because my grandmother who promoted it talked about spinach 'putting color in my cheeks' or the fact that we are 'supposed to refrain from meats and sweets for a month in the spring.' Not scientific according to some ways of thinking, but that's independent of whether it works. And if it does work, is it not true?

While there is obvious interest in factors like olive oil, little red meat, fruits and veggies (etc), it should be noted that this diet also includes what many would consider a very large amount of some herbs, as well as dietary restrictions in Lent, and for the devout, religious fasting. Which of these is most important? I dunno. Does it work? Overall, yes.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

"Some of the herbalist/altmed ideas about toxins are flat out wrong."

Hallelujah! Got examples (for inspiration, look at the posts and linked articles in this thread)? Which do you think are flat out wrong? Let's start with the gallbladder flush, which practitioners think is removing gallstones, but in practice yields floating globs of gunk made up of the fatty stuff consumed in the "flushes". Thoughts?

" The 'alkaline diet' is an example of something that is wanting in theory, but can be beneficial in practice. By focusing on natural dietary sources of 'alkaline' foods (those containing potassium, magnesium, and calcium, especially vegetables and fruits), it prescribes a course that would help most people."

In reality, a lot of foods that are good for you (including fruits and vegetables are relatively neutral as far as pH goes, or actually somewhat acidic (for example, tomatoes and citrus fruits). The concept of what you eat causing marked swings in body pH and that "body acidity" is the root cause of many health problems is one of the central false tenets of alt med. We've discussed on other occasions the body's excellent and very tight control of acid-base balance (mainly through the lungs and kidneys), which is essential since our metabolic reactions depend on blood staying in a limited pH range. Drastic alterations in pH only occur in such settings as poisoning, or in cases of serious illness. People in relatively good health don't need to worry about "acidity" in their diet causing wide-ranging health problems and avoiding good food as a result (note - I am not here referring to limited complaints like mouth sores or sensitive stomachs that can't handle much acidity, but to systemwide acid-base balance).

"Toxins? It depends on how you want to semantically structure your world."

Yes - if you want to be fearful of everything, including substances made in your body that are essential for life, and waste money and risk your health for useless "cleanses" and "flushes", you'll buy into the idea of dread "toxins" pervading our bodies.

"Ideas in herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and other ways of thinking outside of modern western science sometimes carry extra baggage. I don't agree with everything such systems assert."

What specific purges/cleanses/flushes popular in alt med circles do you feel are unnecessary and inadvisable?


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

"What specific purges/cleanses/flushes popular in alt med circles do you feel are unnecessary and inadvisable?"

Several of the alt med's use meditation and the few I attended all had chants or prayers to specific gods/goddesses. I know to a believer it is important to address the proper thing but to insist on the exact wording rather than an exact sound seems a little unnecessary. I will admit most of my study in this type of medication is over 10 years old but I have read what younger friends are investigating now. There seems to be not much different.

Some practices are great to cleanse the lungs of material by vibration along with certain herbal preps.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

I would like to hear more about vibration and the lung.

Here's a site that tells us to use a mini-trampoline to help cleanse our lymphatic systems (also supposed to be good for tired livers). Maybe vibration is the key to that one.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Eric, you can use your voice to cause vibrations in your lungs. If you have colds or sinus congestion try humming both with your nose and voice. If the material is loose you will see and perhaps feel the congestion breaking up. I just do not feel that chanting to a specific god of any kind is necessary.

In hospitals and elder care facilities they use a machine applied to the chest cavity to cause vibrations. The vibrations can range from a gentle hum to what one tech called a thumper. The thumper does vibrations with an additional thump to release additional mucus from parts of the lungs. Usually the patient is given abuterol treatments then the vibrations.

I think the mini-trampoline would cause a jerking rather than vibration.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

My sister is under doctors orders to use a particular vibrating device on her chest when she gets pneumonia (she has a muscle disease). Helps clear the mucus.

We had a TB incident at work, and the state health department official said that singing is the single practice that makes a person most contagious - it generates aerosols in the lungs containing the mycobacteria. Seems to me that such a practice would 'exercise' the lungs in a way that other activities do not.

Vibration is used to treat a variety of pulmonary diseases, including COPD.

Humming increases nitric oxide in the nasal cavity and can lead to the improvement of sinusitis. Chanting Om has a similar effect that starts lower in the breathing system - it is a type of hum that starts deep, and rolls up the windpipe.

I met a person who treated their trigeminal neuralgia by striking a tuning fork (A minor) and applying the vibration to the bone near the pain. I don't believe that would work for everyone, but it worked for him.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Exercise, chest physical therapy, medications, and mechanical devices that cause vibration are all means of loosening mucus in the airways for people with some pulmonary disorders, yes. All of these modalities were developed by practitioners of mainstream medicine and are part of evidence-based therapy for lung disease.

None of this relates to "cleanses" or "toxins" (unless we are again trying to label most every substance, including ones naturally produced in the body, as a "toxin).

I thank maifleur for providing an answer to my question "What specific purges/cleanses/flushes popular in alt med circles do you feel are unnecessary and inadvisable?" I would like to hear apollog's answer to this as well. I know it must be difficult for someone who regards himself as a "scientific herbalist" to resist challenging at least a portion of this quackery.

For an example of scientific herbalists who are willing to take on unproven and/or dangerous therapies, take Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine in the U.K. who's perhaps his country's most authoritative source on alternative and complementary therapies. Recently Ernst went on record against a "detox" supplement being marketed by a company in which Prince Charles* is involved.

"Professor Edzard Ernst branded the 10 detox tincture, part of the prince's Duchy range, "a dangerous waste of money" and said Charles was misleading people and ignoring science.

The leading academic, professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, said detox went against the "tablet of medical history" and there was no evidence such products worked.

The body was more than capable of detoxing itself, he said, adding that the prince was financially exploiting "a gullible public in a time of financial hardship"...
The (supplement company's) website says the tincture, which contains dandelion and artichoke, is "a food supplement to help eliminate toxins and aid digestion".

Users are advised to take the tincture twice a day as a 2.5ml dose in a glass of water.

"It is important to follow a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle," the website adds.

(this last part actually is good advice. It is reminiscent of those diet ad scams where the fine print urges you, in addition to taking their supplement, to diet and exercise at the same time.;)

Prof Ernst said there was no evidence detox programmes worked, and he accused the prince of presiding over "Dodgy Originals".

He went on: "The body has a powerful mechanism to deal with itself and there's no evidence that dandelion or artichoke will improve these functions. If a patient has a diseased kidney and cannot eliminate toxins via their kidney, then they need serious medical help. "Products like this are a dangerous waste of money. Charles is exploiting people during hard times."

Prof Ernst said the word "detox" undermined the treatment of people with drug addiction getting them off narcotics represented a "real detox".

He said: "It also gives a bad name to the respectable side of herbal medicine, which has a lot of good in it. (bolding added)***

"If people are led to believe they can overindulge on food and drink and put that all right with a Duchy detox tincture, then that, to me, is endangering public health...

Earlier this year a study complied by Voice of Young Science, part of the Sense About Science group, said consumers were being misled into believing that detox products worked.

No two companies used the same definition of detox and their claims were "meaningless", the report said.

The scientists found that, while manufacturers used the word detox to "promote everything from foot patches to hair straighteners", they were unable to provide reliable evidence or consistent explanations of what the detox process actually means.

That study came soon after the British Dietetic Association, which represents 6,000 dieticians across Britain, said there was no "potion or lotion" which could "magically" rid the body of chemicals.

The idea that dangerous toxins build up in the body was dismissed by the health experts, who said the body was capable of cleaning itself.

* Prince Charles has also been criticized for touting coffee enemas and other quackery as treatment for cancer patients.

***This is a reason why advocates for herbalism need to speak out against quackery in the field. Instead of feeling obliged to defend every "dodgy" treatment, they would increase the field's credibility and gain public respect by speaking out against foolish and unscientific practices.


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>> Let's start with the gallbladder flush, which practitioners think is removing gallstones, but in practice yields floating globs of gunk made up of the fatty stuff consumed in the "flushes". Thoughts?

Well, there are documented cases of people passing gallstones after intentionally ingesting olive oil (one such case is linked to below). There is no question that consuming fat can stimulate the gallbladder to contract.

Olive oil is probably the most common ingredient in such flushes. And monosaturated fats (like olive oil) are much less likely to cause stones to form than most other types of fat.

Organic acids (including citric or malic, from lemon juice and apple juice, commonly in a flush) have been shown to reduce the tendency of calcium and oxalate to precipitate in crystals in bile, which is one mechanism that causes gallstones to form.

Dietary pectin (present in cider and apple sauce but not apple juice) is a bile acid binder ("sequestrant") that has also been shown to promote regression of gallstones. A single glass of cider is unlikely to have an effect, but doing a 3 day cleanse based on cider or raw apples, followed by a gallbladder flush, followed by eating apple sauce regularly just might help someone.

Are most of the globs that people think of as 'gallstones' the fat they consumed for a flush? Sure. Does spotting that error in their thinking prove that a flush cannot be beneficial for people with gallstones? Not at all. These globs are typically green because the process increases the flow of bile, which then binds to the fat and is then excreted. Even the quackbusters pages notes that the gallstones that are not gallstones are the fat, 'saponified' to bile. Which can be a good thing if someone has too much bile that forms gallstones. Flush it out!!

And how did the gallstones form in the first place, if the body is so good at handling bile on its own? You keep dodging that one, eric ... I know it goes against one of your central dogmas ("the body doesn't need any help") ... but the simple fact is that poor dietary practices (or genetics, or some other factor) can lead to disease conditions, while other dietary practices can sometimes prevent or reverse the problem.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spontaneous passage of gallstones after ingestion of olive oil: a case report.


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Even this liver/gallbladder flush quackery has to be defended, I see.

It is possible (although unlikely) for a person to pass a gallstone after eating any kind of fatty meal. This kind of food can also cause painful gallbladder contractions. The problem with the "flush" is that it creates pseudo-gallstones that make people think they are eliminating the problem.

"We conclude, therefore, that these green "stones" (the kind passed by people using the "gallbladder flush" containing olive oil) resulted from the action of gastric lipases on the simple and mixed triacylglycerols that make up olive oil, yielding long chain carboxylic acids (mainly oleic acid). This process was followed by saponification into large insoluble micelles of potassium carboxylates (lemon juice contains a high concentration of potassium) or "soap stones". (in other words, the "green stones" found by the patient in her stool are not stones at all, but soapy green gunk made up of the very material consumed in the "flush") The (patient's actual) cholesterol stones noted on ultrasound were removed by surgery.

A search of the internet reveals many health websites promoting so-called "gall-bladder flushing" or "liver cleansing" regimes. Some quote a Correspondence letter published in The Lancet3 on the subject. The 1-day purge usually consists of an overnight fast, then eating apples in the morning, taking only herbal tea through the day, and then in the evening a warm mixture of olive oil (2/3 cup) and fresh lemon juice (1/3 cup). Patients are instructed to then lie on the right side (although some say the left). It is claimed that the next morning the gallstones will pass in the stool.

We have shown that these flushing regimes for expelling gallstones are a myth, and that the claims made by some are misleading."

Even if people do rarely pass a gallstone, whether or not as a result of eating a fatty meal, they typically go on to form more stones. Eliminating painful gallbladder attacks may involve dietary modification to eat less fat, taking medications to dissolve gallstones, or surgically removing the gallbladder. The gallbladder "flushes" are a prime example of quackery, as noted in the earlier link provided.

As to your continuing to misquote me, what I've said in this forum is that people in general good health (i.e. without severe liver or kidney disease) do not need artificial help removing "toxins" from their bodies. These and other organs do a fine job removing actual toxins from the body (note that gallstones are not "toxins"). The "flushes" and "cleanses" promoted by various sources are useless and potentially harmful (in the case of the common "gallbladder flush", useless because they do not yield real gallstones, and harmful because they may stimulate painful gallbladder contractions of the type the patient is trying to avoid).

Here is a link that might be useful: Gallbladder flush quackery


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>> As to your continuing to misquote me, what I've said in this forum is that people in general good health (i.e. without severe liver or kidney disease) do not need artificial help removing "toxins" from their bodies.

Most estimates put the number of people with gallstones at 10-20% of the population, and of these, most are silent (they aren't painful, and the person often doesn't know they have them). These people seem to be 'healthy' according to your definition, yet they are accumulating gallstones that may some day cause noticeable dis-ease.

You can say that these people are healthy, and that nothing needs to be done until the stones become painful (at which time they are surgically removed). An alternative to your way of thinking is the idea of periodic action to try to prevent this. Olive oil, pectin from apples or psyllium fiber, and lemon juice really don't seem drastic or unsafe.

Even the quackwatch page opines "In patients with reasonable health and no complicating factors, flushes are generally safe." They compare the risk to eating a fatty meal. But you treat it like a public health crisis, primarily because the word 'toxin' is used imprecisely, or because people mistakenly believe that the green globs are gallstones! You are welcome to your hysteria, but don't expect most people at this forum to share it.

>> "Professor Edzard Ernst branded the 10 detox tincture, part of the prince's Duchy range, "a dangerous waste of money"

Please explain the danger to us. How many people have suffered life-threatening complications from this product? Should we also stop consuming artichokes and dandelions as foods?

>> "If people are led to believe they can overindulge on food and drink and put that all right with a Duchy detox tincture, then that, to me, is endangering public health...

Has Prince Charles or anyone else associated with the product actually said that people can overindulge in food and drink and then make up for it with dandelion and artichoke? If so, he deserves criticism. But I have not seen any evidence that he actually said that - I suggest that this is innuendo, if not an outright fabrication. Where is the evidence for this charge that you have published here?? I suspect it is like the anecdote you provided about living on ground chuck and whiskey for a month, and then believing it possible to erase the damage with a 3 day program - it is an invention meant to tarnish others unfairly.

Provide evidence that Prince Charles actually encouraged people to overindulge and then put all right with an herbal product and I will agree with you; otherwise, admit to your libel.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Treating an asymptomatic non-problem with a high-fat "cleanse" that is extremely unlikely to do anything beyond creating colorful wads of fatty goop in the stool, should seem illogical to a scientific herbalist - or to anyone who thinks medical interventions should be evidence-based.

"Even the quackwatch page opines "In patients with reasonable health and no complicating factors, flushes are generally safe." They compare the risk to eating a fatty meal. But you treat it like a public health crisis, primarily because the word 'toxin' is used imprecisely, or because people mistakenly believe that the green globs are gallstones!"

The Quackwatch page (good to see you citing this source!) also highlights the general uselessness of this "flush".
Nowhere have I compared it to a "public health crisis" by accurately terming it ineffective and potentially painful (you now owe me two separate retractions for claims you falsely attributed to me in this thread).

As to Prince Charles "detox tincture", you said:

Please explain the danger to us.

I can't believe you missed the explanation in your very next quote.

"If people are led to believe they can overindulge on food and drink and put that all right with a Duchy detox tincture, then that, to me, is endangering public health...

Professor Ernst is on target when he notes that sale of these products encourages people to overindulge, with the idea that "detoxification" can prevent health consequences of bad diet and other poor lifestyle choices. People who are already consuming healthy diets, exercising, and avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol have no reason to think they must "detox".
By the way, this "detox" tincture costs nearly $130 for a six-month supply. I highly doubt many people in the current economic climate would pay that much for a simple "digestive aid". It's the magic word "detox" that they'll shell out for - and it's that false promise that Prof. Ernst is also upset about.

Just this morning I saw a big ad in my local newspaper for a supplement that supposed to perform "brain detox". Yessireebob, this stuff is supposed to clean out all those mysterious environmental "toxins" and get your brain working again so you can balance your checkbook, understand nuclear physics etc.
And there are actual MDs promoting this product and they use the magic word "research"! (except I don't see a link to a single published study on their website).

We're apparently a very toxic people who'll pay through the nose for anything ballyhooed as flushing our toxins away.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>>>> Please explain the danger to us.

>> I can't believe you missed the explanation in your very next quote: "If people are led to believe they can overindulge on food and drink and put that all right with a Duchy detox tincture, then that, to me, is endangering public health...

Yes, and my point was: were they really told to go out and overindulge or otherwise live an unhealthy life, because the dandelion would protect them from all the possible consequences? Where is the evidence that Prince Charles or his company actually said that? That sentence contains an conditional clause ('if they are led to believe'); this condition is not proven, but then is assumed to be true and used to impeach the prince.

Ordinarily, if I said that a food or herb product was dangerous, I would mean that if a person consumed it, it might somehow make them ill. But apparently to you, a dangerous herbal product is one that has no ill effects what so ever. If someone sold pure water as a magic elixir that is purported to cure appendicitis, the water itself would not be dangerous ... it would be the untrue claims made for the product. In this case, you have not shown us that Prince Charles in fact promoting overindulgence, or that this artichoke and dandelion product is being recommended in a way that could injure anyone. But he does use the word toxin as a metaphor in a way that gets you wound up!!


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So that you may be less wrought up over the plight of the supplement company in this case, consider these similar instances of dubious promotion:

1) Some years back the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. took some heat from anti-smoking groups over their "Joe Camel" ad campaign, on the grounds that using a cartoon character was an attempt to appeal to young potential smokers. R.J. Reynolds, of course, piously noted that it discouraged underaged smoking. But it was legitimate to raise the issue.

2) Those ads for "fat burners" and other unproven weight loss supplements arguably promote the idea that you can eat your normal (excess) amount of food and still lose weight thanks to their pills/potions. They're counting on customers missing or ignoring the fine print recommendation for people to use their product along with diet and exercise.

The company Prince Charles is associated with also does the "eat healthy" disclaimer (along with the typical dodge about how their product(s) are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease). But one would have to be naive to think that they're not encouraging people to think they can get away with poor habits but escape the consequences through use of a "detox" supplement (that hasn't been shown to "detoxify" anything).

This is where we differ - I'm concerned about consumers being deceived by the makers of a pricey supplement, You're indignant on behalf of the supplement maker.

"Ordinarily, if I said that a food or herb product was dangerous, I would mean that if a person consumed it, it might somehow make them ill. But apparently to you, a dangerous herbal product is one that has no ill effects what so ever.

Such products certainly can be dangerous in more than this instance. Prince Charles, for example, has promoted coffee enemas as a way to treat cancer. Apart from being unpleasant this procedure is not very risky in itself, but is very hazardous for people who are deceived into using it as a substitute for genuine, effective anticancer therapy.

Despite your repeated attempts to personalize this discussion and leave the impression it is only I that feels this way about quack therapies, remember that this latest turn in the discussion relates to Professor Ernst's criticisms of a "detox" supplement. And there have been many other knowledgeable and distinguished sources quoted and linked to in this thread with regard to the subject of phony flushes/cleanses/toxins. This information has value for the health and financial well-being of consumers, and it cannot be dismissed under the pretense that it's being conjured up by a single poster.


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>> But one would have to be naive to think that they're not encouraging people to think they can get away with poor habits but escape the consequences through use of a "detox" supplement (that hasn't been shown to "detoxify" anything).

That is your OPINION. You have not shown that the prince has promoted any unhealthy behaviors. You can call people here naive (or whatever name you like) if they don't believe what you assert (but have not demonstrated).

>> Prince Charles, for example, has promoted coffee enemas as a way to treat cancer. Apart from being unpleasant this procedure is not very risky in itself, but is very hazardous for people who are deceived into using it as a substitute for genuine, effective anticancer therapy.

And tell, Sir Humpty, are we also using the word 'unpleasant' to describe the effects of several rounds of aggressive chemotherapy? All that vomiting and shaking and hair falling out? Or do you mean something altogether different when you use the word unpleasant? I would consider such chemotherapy if I there was a reasonable chance that it would take the cancer into remission. But in many types of advanced cancers, there is no good reason to subject people to aggressive chemo. This is the main group that declines standard treatment and tries the gerson method - part palliative, part prayer.

Coffee enemas have been used as part of the Gerson protocol for pancreatic and other cancers. In most cases, an objective voice would say the people with such cancers don't have long to live. There is some evidence that the Gerson protocol can in fact extend the life and improve the quality of life. Is that evidence massively strong? No. But that is all the information available to make a decision at this time, and questions don't get settled by dismissing ideas - only by testing them. And I don't see many of the skeptics wanting that method tested, because they have already made up their minds; they would not consider dignifying the idea by testing it when they can ridicule it instead.

Here's one report on the gershon protocol, which involves much more than enemas:

Of 14 patients with stages I and II (localized) melanoma, 100% survived for 5 years, compared with 79% of 15,798 reported by Balch. Of 17 with stage IIIA (regionally metastasized) melanoma, 82% were alive at 5 years, in contrast to 39% of 103 from Fachklinik Hornheide. Of 33 with combined stages IIIA + IIIB (regionally metastasized) melanoma, 70% lived 5 years, compared with 41% of 134 from Fachklinik Hornheide.

>>> This is where we differ - I'm concerned about consumers being deceived by the makers of a pricey supplement, You're indignant on behalf of the supplement maker.

If it makes you feel better, I have never recommended that product to any of my friends, although I do tell them to dig dandelions in the spring and eat them. I also love artichokes and frequently serve them to dinner guests. And I have been known to comment over the table about the hundreds of studies which show that artichokes (and their relatives the milk thistles) have a wide variety of effects on the liver, most of which seem to be quite beneficial.

I would say the real difference between us is your insistence on applying the same criteria for the use of dandelion in daily diet and health maintenance as is done for a new oral contraceptive or brain implant. For you, there needs to be a ton of proof before you will open the door to a possibility. I don't think the standards need to be the same to make tentative conclusions about how I order my daily routine, or how I mark the changing seasons, or whether we accept the notion that dandelion tea can increase the flow of bile.

Prince Charles has also been widely criticized for selling a tincture containing echinacea, and another containing St. Johns wort. All of this is standard fare for most herbalists. We accept the evidence that echinacea might knock a few days off the duration of a cold or benefit chronic allergies (try telling my wife that histamine is not a toxin produced by the body!) ... we also accept the idea that St. Johns wort can be good for a variety of conditions that include mild/moderate depression, neuralgia, and some types of viral infections. Herbalists knew this long before science validated or partially validated our observations.

This information has value for the health and financial well-being of consumers, and it cannot be dismissed under the pretense that it's being conjured up by a single poster.

Of course I'm not crediting you with single-handedly writing everything on the internet about this. There is an entire group of people out there who are genuinely wound-up over the imprecise use of the word toxin. You are merely the only one at this forum. You are the brave egg who has gone beyond preaching to the choir ... you are out mingling with the unwashed masses, attempting to convert the heathen.


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one other thing

>> Some years back the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. took some heat from anti-smoking groups over their "Joe Camel" ad campaign, on the grounds that using a cartoon character was an attempt to appeal to young potential smokers. R.J. Reynolds, of course, piously noted that it discouraged underaged smoking. But it was legitimate to raise the issue.

Very different situation, IMO. Tobacco is inherently dangerous, and public health organizations should criticize the promotion of smoking, whether for minors or adults. There is no indication that ads can be targeted to 18 year old who can legally consume tobacco, and not 16 or 17 year olds. And there was some compelling evidence that the ad campaigns were effective in targeting those underage.

Many herbalists believe both that a person should lead a healthy lifestyle, and also that herbs like dandelion and artichoke can promote health. That may be a strange concept to you; you may not agree with that. That's fine. But people really do believe that and live their own lives that way - it need not be part of a sinister plot.... Particularly when there was no attempt to hook people on a deadly, addictive product. The actions of Prince Charles cannot remotely be compared to the holocaust of tobacco promotion. You have violated a corollary of Godwin's law. You lose.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

There is an entire group of people out there who are genuinely wound-up over the imprecise use of the word toxin."

It's not a matter of "imprecise use of (a) word", or solely the promotion of pseudoscience. As demonstrated amply in this thread, physicians, nutritionists and people who respect evidence-based herbalism are repelled by the exploitation of consumers through promotion of useless and potentially hazardous flushes, purges and cleanses. They know that effective medical therapies (including some for serious diseases) are being ignored in favor of these quack programs. They also recognize that people are being scared away from valuable foods, medicines and vaccines by ludicrous and sometimes malicious hype over "toxins".

As to the Gerson "cure", feel free to start a new thread about why you think this offers anything but false hope to cancer patients. You can start with that unattributed "report" that compares Gerson to "Fachklinik Hornheide", whatever that's supposed to be. ;)

By the way, I apparently minimized the risks associated with coffee enemas. Problems go beyond unpleasantness.

"...the American Cancer Society warns that the (Gerson) therapy may be dangerous. On its website it states: 'Gerson Therapy can be very harmful to the body. Coffee enemas have been associated with serious infections, dehydration, constipation, colitis (inflammation of the colon), electrolyte (salt and mineral) imbalances, and even death."

British oncologists, who see the deadly results of patients giving up on potential cures for quackery, have denounced Prince Charles for promoting Gerson therapy.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> By the way, I apparently minimized the risks associated with coffee enemas. Problems go beyond unpleasantness. "...the American Cancer Society warns that the (Gerson) therapy may be dangerous. On its website it states: 'Gerson Therapy can be very harmful to the body. Coffee enemas have been associated with serious infections, dehydration, constipation, colitis (inflammation of the colon), electrolyte (salt and mineral) imbalances, and even death."

Yes, there have been a few cases of infection or other side effects, and those should be considered.

A friend's father went in for a routine colonoscopy two years ago, and was dead within 48 hours. The procedure was performed carelessly, or he had a weakness or malformation in his GI tract - in either case, the injury led to an infection that killed him. Such cases are rather rare, but can happen.

I saw on the BBC today that some doctors are pushing for a heart 'polypill' that combines statins, aspirin, blood pressure meds and folic acid. Seems that some want it routinely prescribed for everyone over 55, but others are up in arms that it "sends the wrong message" and will prevent heart disease while allowing people to continue to eat poorly and not exercise.

Critics say the problems of high blood pressure and cholesterol should be tackled with diet and exercise rather than by popping a pill. ... Mike Rich of UK charity the Blood Pressure Association said: "This study further stimulates the debate over whether a 'magic bullet' is the answer to the prevention of heart disease and strokes. "Eating healthily and taking regular exercise are proven ways to lower high blood pressure - and have many other health benefits too - and there is a danger that these lifestyle factors could be overlooked in favour of 'popping a pill'."

Here is a link that might be useful: Splenic injury as a rare complication of colonoscopy.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

One aspect of "cleanses" that we haven't covered much is the idea that the blood needs "cleansing". Here's a chiropractor/naturopath with a host of weird and unfounded ideas about "sluggish" blood which he claims needs cleansing (he is big into selling useless supplements to fix this and other nonexistent problems).
He also is implying that his featured supplement is a substitute for the discredited Hoxsey cancer formula, a notorious cancer fraud that is still promoted online. Note the cagey promotional language on the chiro/naturopath's website, evidently designed to keep him from running afoul of FDA regulations against promoting false cancer cures.

The fallacy of comparing colonoscopy and coffee enemas is highlighted by one simple fact: Colonoscopy is a highly useful evidence-based procedure which routinely diagnoses early stage cancers which are treated and cured, as well as other disease of the colon which can be successfully treated.
Gerson coffee enemas, on the other hand, are useless for treating anything.

We accept uncommon complications due to colonoscopy because it is such a useful and life-saving diagnostic procedure. There is no excuse for any serious complications that accompany quackery, and none should be tolerated.

I don't think we're going to see a heart "polypill" of the type you describe. Routinely treating people without evidence of disease with a medication cocktail sounds like a bad idea. If you were trying to imply that such an idea justifies the use of "detoxification" supplements and "cleanses", I do not follow your logic.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Oh, my! Duke University's Medical School/Health System has a health encyclopedia, and there is a listing for dandelion. It says that the herb is useful for liver detoxification. They not only talk about detoxification without piously ranting against the idea, but they also give an impression that there is actually scientific evidence supporting many of the traditional uses of the plant. Goodness, gracious! Someone is fairly describing the properties of dandelion ... better organize an inquisition to get them to change their tune, eric.

Most heretically, they suggest that the plant may actually improve gastrointestinal health. Where is the evidence that people who have not been diagnosed with a serious disease can, or need to improve their gastrointestinal health?? How many people will be killed by such misleading information?


Parts Used

Dandelion leaves produce a diuretic effect while the roots act as an antiviral agent, appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and may help promote gastrointestinal health. Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties. Dandelion may also help improve the immune system.

Health care providers clinically use dandelion root to promote liver detoxification and dandelion leaves to support kidney function.
Medicinal Uses and Indications

Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney. Dandelion may be used for a wide range of conditions requiring mild diuretic treatment, such as poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Dandelion is a source of potassium, a nutrient often lost through the use of other natural and synthetic diuretics.

Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach (such as feelings of fullness, flatulence, and constipation). The root of the dandelion plant is believed to have mild laxative effects and is often used to improve digestion. Research suggests that dandelion root may improve the health and function of natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have also reported that dandelion root may help improve liver and gallbladder function.

Some preliminary animal studies also suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and improve lipid profiles (lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL, "good," cholesterol) in diabetic mice. However, not all animal studies have shown the same positive effect on blood sugar. In addition, research needs to be done on people to determine if this traditional use for diabetes (see Overview) has modern-day merit.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dandelion at DukeHealth.org


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

"Duke University's Medical School/Health System has a health encyclopedia, and there is a listing for dandelion. It says that the herb is useful for liver detoxification.

Here's the line to which you're apparently referring:

"Health care providers clinically use dandelion root to promote liver detoxification and dandelion leaves to support kidney function."

What kind of "health care providers" they're talking about can be deduced from the author of the review - who's a naturopath. Most naturopaths utilize a lot of non-evidence based woo.
I see nothing in that list of references at the end of the article that supports using dandelion for "detoxification". The great majority of those articles deal with studies in rats, mice or the test tube - nothing apparent about clinically significant effects on liver function in humans.

I have a feeling this "encyclopedia" is not the best-supervised of Duke's online health education efforts.
If you polled Duke's medical staff on the question of whether they'd recommend any form of "detoxification" or "cleanses" for the liver, you'd get a very different answer.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

"If you polled Duke's medical staff on the question of whether they'd recommend any form of "detoxification" or "cleanses" for the liver, you'd get a very different answer."

Do you have a reference for that statement Eric, or is that personal opinion?


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> Most naturopaths utilize a lot of non-evidence based woo.

Glad to see you are above name calling, eric. This is from the Skepdic's Dictionary entry on Woo or Woo-Woo

When used by skeptics, woo-woo is a derogatory and dismissive term used to refer to beliefs one considers nonsense or to a person who holds such beliefs.

Sometimes woo-woo is used by skeptics as a synonym for pseudoscience, true-believer, or quackery. But mostly the term is used for its emotive content and is an emotive synonym for such terms as nonsense, irrational, nutter, nut, or crazy.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Woo-woo is redundant. :)

Woo is a nicely accurate term to describe "detoxification" and "cleansing", with their aura of pseudoreligion.

As you can tell from this thread, I am dismissive of this concept as commonly used in alternative medicine. I've posted a lot of information and evidence to back that opinion. What I haven't done is resort to calling other posters names when evidence is lacking.

Which is another example of where apollog and I differ.

Another good look at the world of "detox" and "cleansing" comes from Harriet Hall, a retired military surgeon who has written extensively on health quackery. Makes a very interesting read.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

This thread would not be complete without a look at this product.

"A clothing manufacturer is coming under fire for its self-massaging bra called the Brassage. The Brassage bra is said to "promote healthy breast tissue" by delivering a nonstop massage while its on. Its makers go as far as to claim regular bras could be harmful for your health because, without the massaging feature, they encourage toxins to build up in the breasts."*

After ABC's Good Morning America started asking questions about the product (designed by a chiropractor), the company stopped making and selling it.

Maybe the Kinoki people will market a substitute garment that turns dark colors when you wear it due to absorption of "toxins".

*I can imagine some sleazy guy trying to use this as a make-out line. :)


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

I'll ask again:

"If you polled Duke's medical staff on the question of whether they'd recommend any form of "detoxification" or "cleanses" for the liver, you'd get a very different answer."

Do you have a reference for that statement Eric, or is that personal opinion?

Also, what does this bra thing have to do with herbalism? It's actually rather offensive to me.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

I think it extremely likely that Duke's medical staff would not believe in "detoxification", based on both my contacts with other professionals in academic medicine, including the med school-based surgeon quoted earlier in this thread, plus all the other health professionals quoted and linked to in the thread. In general, solid training, a firm grounding in the scientific method and respect for evidence-based medicine do not lend themselves to embracing quackery (few exceptions of course exist, even among MDs and PhDs).
Knowledgeable health professionals as a whole do not subscribe to the theory of "cleansing" and "detox". If you can find evidence of med school faculty directly endorsing these ideas, or even just a chairman of gastroenterology or nephrology at a respected school that subscribes to the theory, that would be counter-evidence.

"Breast detox" is just as unfounded as other types of detox, and more relevant to this thread than heart "polypills", the risks of chemotherapy and colonoscopy and other subjects brought up here that are tangential to the thread topic, to say the least.

I would express my regret at your taking offense to the "breast detox" article, except I think your reaction is contrived. First, you yourself have posted many things more tangential to a subject (including in another thread posting a picture of shellfish, which are hardly herbal), not to mention starting threads which have nothing to do with herbalism (i.e. the supposed dangers of high-fructose corn syrup, and weighing in on the dangers of talcum powder and phthalates ("How Natural Is Your Bathroom"). Note that I am not protesting your posting these things, but it does seem odd that you're now revved up about a topic that's not directly herbal.

Secondly, I realize you are still miffed at my having pointed out to you when you began posting here, that your slinging insults wholesale was not appropriate to the forum. However, your now manufacturing outrage over imaginary slights does not contribute to civil discussion either.

If you have anything you'd like to say about "cleansing" and "detoxification" I'd be happy to discuss it with you.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Here's an interesting article that looked at some of the questions about whether coffee can prevent colon cancer (as dietary studies suggest), and if it does, how does it do so.

They concluded that while coffee didn't lower the rate at which cells divided (which might be one way it could prevent cancer), it did raise glutathione levels and "might increase the detoxification capacity." No firm conclusions, but they present the detox concept as a reasonable possibility, not as a some hare-brained magical bra farce.

Here is a link that might be useful: The effect of unfiltered coffee on potential biomarkers for colonic cancer


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Let's see what that article abstract actually tells us.

Apart from "whether" coffee drinking "might" have an anticancer effect which "remains to be established" (based on the small changes in glutathione observed), a couple of things stand out. One, the volunteers drank a liter of coffee daily. Wonder what all that caffeine does for "detoxification". Two - at least they had people drinking coffee, not taking it as enemas.

Most importantly, there's no good evidence that coffee drinking lowers colon cancer risk. For instance, here's data from two recent large prospective studies that did not find such a link.

Here are two more good articles, one debunking the Master Cleanse and myths about toxins.

The other piece (by physician and writer Ben Goldacre) looks at the role of "cleansing" in modern society, how it substitutes for rituals in other cultures, and what the consequences are for our health.

"Purification and redemption are recurring themes in religious rituals, as they are in our own rituals around detox, because we all do regrettable things as a result of our own circumstances, and new rituals are frequently invented in response to new circumstances. In Angola and Mozambique, for example, former child soldiers can be purged and purified of sin and guilt, of the "contamination" of war and death, with a public declaration of renewal, which protects them from the consequences of their previous actions and retaliation from the avenging spirits of those they have killed.

In our own country, we seek purification from material indulgence. We fill our faces with drink, bad food, drugs and more. We know its wrong, so we crave ritualistic protection from the consequences, performing public "transitional rituals", commemorating our return to healthier behavioural norms...

Ceremonial acts are being performed up and down the country (here he's referring to post-Xmas/New Year's holiday "detoxing") with pills, gadgets, rituals, fad diets and holy books filled with arbitrary instructions on how to live.

The tragedy is that, captivated by this distraction, we avoid the need to think about the real, lifelong changes we could make to our lifestyles, and continue to live the rest of the year as unhealthily as before."

The question may arise - why should we care whether people waste their time and money on useless "detox" and use it as a crutch to avoid thinking about genuine ways to a healthier lifestyle? Apart from looking out for our fellow man and discouraging exploitation by quacksters, a small selfish reason came to light this week. A USA Today article on maple syrup, reporting that prices of this commodity have been going through the roof, noted that one reason was demand for maple syrup from people using the Master Cleanse.

When this silliness starts affecting my pancake breakfast, you know things have gone too far. ;)


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

"I think it extremely likely that Duke's medical staff would not believe in "detoxification""

Eric, the only reason I questioned that is you come down so hard on others who "believe" or find things "extremely likely". What you are saying is that you are projecting your opinions on Duke's staff based on your hypothesis that they have "solid training...etc"

"Secondly, I realize you are still miffed at my having pointed out to you when you began posting here, that your slinging insults wholesale was not appropriate to the forum. However, your now manufacturing outrage over imaginary slights does not contribute to civil discussion either."

Now you are making even more assumptions. I am not "still miffed", nor was I "miffed". And, I am not "manufacturing outrage over imaginary slights" either.

I asked a question, it was a civil question. You make pointed comments to me and others, and the bra post was an obvious (to me, anyway) show of disdain for this thread, and detracted rather than added to the conversation. I did find your lecherous comments about massaging breasts to be offensive, although admittedly not as offensive as you accusing me of manufacturing outrage.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

Oh please. The "Brassage" was discussed on ABC's "Good Morning America". It was suitable content for major network television, and we're all adults here (I hope). It's also difficult to see what makes this example of "toxin removal" any more ridiculous than the other "cleansing" agents and programs previously discussed. I'm glad to see that at least this product has drawn some scorn, although I don't see you or apollog explicitly rejecting its premise.

And I think you're well aware that I was not making a conclusion about a herb's effectiveness or medical condition when I expressed an opinion about what Duke professionals are likely to believe about "detoxification". References are swell where they're relevant; demanding them in this instance sends a message that the poster is more interesting in provocation than education.

If there are any other misrepresentations of my remarks or other type of personal attack you feel obliged to make, I suggest you direct them to e-mail, as they are irrelevant to this discussion.

Back to "detox" - It's good to see that an organized campaign is underway in Great Britain to reach out to consumers being bamboozled by false detox claims. A group of young scientists has published their findings about various ineffective products being marketed there, and the group is handling out leaflets to consumers outside shops that sell this stuff:

"A group of over 300 young UK scientists and engineers who investigated the evidence behind claims made for products and diets, have started a public awareness campaign by publishing a dossier that shows the word "detox" has no meaning outside of the clinical treatment of drug addiction and poisoning.

Called the "Detox Dossier", the report describes the findings of the investigation by the Voice of Young Science (VoYS) network of over 300 early career researchers. They reviewed about 15 products, ranging from bottled water to face scrub, and found that many detox claims were "meaningless", said a BBC report...

According to a BBC report, the advertising regulators said they would look at such issues on a case by case basis. The Advertising Standards Authority said:

"If a product is making claims not substantiated by the evidence submitted by the company we would challenge that."

The Detox Dossier investigators found that:
No two companies had the same definition for "detox".

The word "detox" was used to promote a range of things from foot patches to hair straighteners, without consistent explanations of what the word means.

In most cases no evidence was presented to back up the "detox" claims on products.

In most cases, producers and retailers who the young scientists got in touch with were forced to admit that they were using the word "detox" instead of mundane things like "cleaning" or "brushing".

The prices ranged from about 2 pounds for a detox drink to over 36 pounds for detox bath products.
The scientists involved in the research include physiologists, biochemists, doctors and pharmacists and they will be launching their own leaflet titled "Debunking Detox" outside high street shops in central London.

The leaflet explains how the human body already has a fantastic detox system, called the liver and the kidneys, and that there is no need to spend money on expensive treatments and products. Eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep is a better investment."

This is an encouraging example of scientists getting involved in anti-quackery efforts on an organized basis. What we need in the U.S. is a similar effort to push regulators to hold manufacturers (and anyone who profits by pushing "cleansing" regimens) to accurate claims about their products/services.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

"And I think you're well aware that I was not making a conclusion about a herb's effectiveness or medical condition when I expressed an opinion about what Duke professionals are likely to believe about "detoxification". References are swell where they're relevant; demanding them in this instance sends a message that the poster is more interesting in provocation than education."

I asked a question Eric. I did not request a reference.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

This anthropological/psychological analysis is all very interesting, and may be true in some cases. However, it does not prove in any sense the generalized belief that all cleanses/detoxes are nonsensical and bad.

There's a link below to an interesting study on periodic ritual fasting, which was shown to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The researchers clearly state that smoking and drinking and other day to day lifestyle factors are of prime importance, but that above and beyond this, ritual fasting has a beneficial effect.

I have also seen a study from Ireland that suggested that people who were religious and who sobered up for one day a week for church had lower rates of liver disease when compared to those that drank 7 days a week. Obviously, that 1/7 rule alone does not lead to optimal health, but it is an example of risk reduction. Dare we call that a weekly detox?

>> A USA Today article on maple syrup, reporting that prices of this commodity have been going through the roof, noted that one reason was demand for maple syrup from people using the Master Cleanse...When this silliness starts affecting my pancake breakfast, you know things have gone too far. ;)

The price of any commodity boils down to supply and demand - and the biggest factor affecting maple syrup has been the drop in supply after unusual spring weather in Canada. Demand has risen in recent years, but the amount of maple syrup bought to cleanse is a drop in the bucket compared to the demand from other sources.

Maybe if you can convince the masses that maple syrup is no better than corn syrup, the demand (and price) will drop. Of course, if that is true, you would be better off simply freeing yourself from any ideas that 'natural is better' and use corn syrup yourself on your pancakes! I hear the food industry is doing some fantastic things with artificial flavors these days. Some may ask why I care if you waste your money on overpriced maple syrup - clearly, because I am a humanitarian trying to free you from your superstitions, and I care about you wasting money on irrational, unproven products like maple syrup. And because less maple syrup for you means more for me. ;)

Here is a link that might be useful: Usefulness of routine periodic fasting to lower risk of coronary artery disease


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

The current consensus on fasting seems to be that 1) there is relatively little research to support purported benefits, and 2) calorie restriction (i.e. sensible dieting) has just as much good effect and avoids many of the hazards of fasting, including rebound binge eating. The "detox" diets, which are essentially modified fasts, are problematic for a variety of reasons (besides the illogic behind them):

""The biggest danger is nutrient insufficiency from protracted starvation," (a public health expert) explains. "Americans have a tendency to believe that if some is good, then more is better. This is a very dangerous mindset," he adds, "when it comes to these types of diets. For example, if the diet is supposed to be followed for 10 days, someone might conclude that it would be even better to follow it for 40 days. That's when a serious medical situation could result."

Clemens further cautions, "These diets give you a false sense of security. People think they're doing something healthy, when they're actually doing something detrimental."

Other potential downsides of detox diets include:
weight can be lost too quickly (not only is this unhealthy, but weight lost rapidly is more likely to return)
muscle breakdown
blood-sugar problems
significant loss of electrolytes
fatigue
frequent, liquid bowel movements
nausea
vomiting
decreased ability to fight infections
a feeling of deprivation (which can lead to binge eating)

While Clemens is convinced that no one should jump on the detox bandwagon, he points out that these diets could prove particularly harmful to certain populations, including: children and adolescents; pregnant or breastfeeding women; individuals with impaired renal function, heart disease, diabetes, bowel disorders or chronic conditions; and those taking blood thinners.

Summing up his stance on detox diets, Clemens observes, "Humans have been endowed with extraordinary systems for eliminating waste and regulating body chemistry. Our lungs, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract and immune system are effective in removing or neutralizing toxic substances within hours of consumption. These detox regimens," he emphasizes, "just aren't necessary. Our bodies are wonderfully well made."

Fasting has also been linked to triple the risk of an unusual form of stroke.

If cultures that routinely practice periodic fasting were benefiting from concrete health benefits, we'd see it in the form of longer life spans compared to us sinful Westerners. It doesn't seem to have worked out that way.

And of course, clinical evidence that fasting/"detox" eliminates "toxins" remains zero.


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The teeth are connected to the liver, to the feet....

One article on the "detox" craze talks about how this functions as a gateway for con artists. Once they have people convinced that they have a nonexistent disease, they can be sold multiple supplements and treatments to "fix" the problem.

A good example is this come-on for "tooth and gum detoxification".

The sellers of this product go beyond the usual fear-mongering about amalgam fillings, to claim that a whole range of common conditions in the mouth make one prety to "toxins" (including sites of previous extractions, gold fillings, sore gums and even just sensitive teeth). After you use their wonder product to release these imaginary toxins, that's still not enough. Oh no - the mark...excuse me, customer...must buy additional products to help the poor liver, kidneys and intestines deal with this "toxic load", plus use a special foot bath to help draw out "toxins".
In addition to all this, there are six different herbal and non-herbal preparations that are recommended so that your helpless body can cope with all this trauma, plus three more products to "support" your teeth and gums.

There's lots of mystical terminology ladled out to cover these claims (including alleged deficiencies in kidney "jing" which make you feel listless, the tooth-body connection, the "piezoelectric" effect of their "detox" agent, and even kinesiological O-ring testing which is supposed to detect your mouth deficiencies (this is the same miraculous device referred to in the corn syrup-mercury discussion in this forum - the one which enabled its Japanese inventor to diagnose serious medical conditions over the telephone without ever seeing the patient).

None of this has any rational basis, but feeding beliefs about "toxins" adds a nice chunk of cash to the pot for the multibillion dollar supplement industry.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

>> "The biggest danger is nutrient insufficiency from protracted starvation," (a public health expert) explains. "Americans have a tendency to believe that if some is good, then more is better. This is a very dangerous mindset," he adds, "when it comes to these types of diets. For example, if the diet is supposed to be followed for 10 days, someone might conclude that it would be even better to follow it for 40 days. That's when a serious medical situation could result."

Duh. And excessive exercise can cause a number of problems, from soft tissue injuries to heart attack. The fact that something is dangerous in excess often has little relationship to that same thing in moderation.

Another case in point: alcohol. Many doctors recommend moderation consumption of alcohol for its tonic effects on the body. And drinking too much can cause lots of problems. Anyone with an iota of perspective understands the difference - one glass of wine with dinner is not problematic for the average adult, but those who are working on the assumption that more is better and drink a six-pack each night and even more on the weekend are overdoing it.

>>> Fasting has also been linked to triple the risk of an unusual form of stroke.

And that article states that dehydration may be the reason for the increase: "Coexistence of usual risk factors, such as oral contraceptive and coagulopathic disorders, along with dehydration in patients while prolonged fasting can be the reason for increased susceptibility to CVST."

Of course, the typical detox program that you are criticizing recommends drinking plenty of water, which is quite different from those interpret Ramadan fasting as a prohibition of any food or liquid between sunrise and sunset. In a warm climate, or when performing manual labor, that could easily lead to dehydration, with resulting negative health consequences.

More muddled thinking, faulty generalization, and an attempt to scare people. Standard fare from eric.


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"And that article states that dehydration may be the reason for the increase (in incidence of a type of stroke in people who've been fasting)."

No, that's not what the article says. It indicates that there's evidence that fasting is the trigger that precipitates this type of stroke in people who may have other risk factors. And of course there's that long list of additional problems associated with detox/fasting cited previously: muscle breakdown, weakness, nausea, susceptibility to infections etc.

The "if a little bit is good, more is better" attitude that some people apply to fasting does occur in other settings but it doesn't change the fact that people don't need to fast/detox in the first place, while other activities such as exercise are very beneficial in moderation.

Found another good article on "colon cleansing" and the myths that lead people to do it.

"...as one (supplement-selling) company puts it, certain foods "tend to stick and putrefy in the folds and pockets of the intestines. When your colon isn't eliminating wastes properly, toxins are reabsorbed into the blood, poisoning the entire system and weakening your other eliminative organs." More succinctly stated, "the colon walls are encrusted with stagnant waste."

"Things don't crust over" in your colon, says Robert Russell, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. "The business about putrefaction is all baloney. There are not pieces of food hanging around in there getting old."

In other words, you don't need a $20-to-$30 product to help nature do its job. The body is perfectly capable of eliminating toxins in a timely, efficient manner. Consider that the cells of your gastrointestinal tract turn over every three daysfast enough so that there's no "crust," or "putrefying" food in your colon. Also, bacteria in the colon naturally metabolize and thereby detoxify food wastes. And mucous membranes lining the intestinal wall block unwanted substances from entering the body's other tissues. The liver works to neutralize toxins as well."

Isn't it amazing that the many digestive specialists (and other physicians), dieticians and health experts quoted in this thread who say that detox/cleansing are useless and that our organs do a fine job without the aid of commercial "detox" products are all guilty of "muddled thinking" and are just out to "scare people". Wouldn't you think that if there was anything to this "detoxification" craze, mainstream medicine would be cashing in on it with prescription drugs and medical therapies? Instead, it's the province of quacks and their allies in the $23 billion a year supplement industry.

By the way, the New York Times reported today that even in the current recession, the supplement companies are reporting increased business. The article quoted one woman who said she'd cut back on fruits and vegetables in favor of buying a less expensive dietary supplement.

The quick fix will always have an appeal.


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>> "And that article states that dehydration may be the reason for the increase (in incidence of a type of stroke in people who've been fasting)."

>>>> No, that's not what the article says. It indicates that there's evidence that fasting is the trigger that precipitates this type of stroke in people who may have other risk factors.

Yes, it does say that fluid restriction from that particular practice is the issue. Muslim fasting in Ramadan involves fluid restriction, which results in a negative water balance for the body (see article below). According to that research, "During the daylight hours of Ramadan fasting, practising Muslims are undoubtedly dehydrating, but it is not clear whether they are chronically hypohydrated during the month of Ramadan."

Generally, this is not a problem, but apparently, in a small group of people with other factors, dehydration from Ramadan may increase the risk of a very rare type of stroke. This is very different from other practices that you are lumping it with. You are ignorant of what you speak.

>> By the way, the New York Times reported today that even in the current recession, the supplement companies are reporting increased business.

That's because so many people in the US are being disenfranchised from mainstream medicine. Get sick, lose your job, lose your insurance. Get laid off, lose your insurance. Keep fiddling while Rome burns. Ignore the systemic problems, while focusing on a minor sideshow, eric.

Here is a link that might be useful: Effects on health of fluid restriction during fasting in Ramadan


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"By the way, the New York Times reported today that even in the current recession, the supplement companies are reporting increased business. The article quoted one woman who said she'd cut back on fruits and vegetables in favor of buying a less expensive dietary supplement.

The quick fix will always have an appeal."

Interesting that herbs are considered the "quick fix". I tend to see people looking for a quick fix in many western medicines... they treat heartburn with a pill rather than with a diet change, they treat depression with a pill, they treat allergies with a pill... etc.

While any herbalist worth their dandelion fuzz will look at the cause of the problem and treat things more holistically. Herbs are not the cure-all, but when incorporated in a healthy lifestyle may prevent the need for pharmaceuticals.


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Yes, and reading the entire quote, the woman who said she was "cutting back on fruits and vegetables" was in a whole foods store and referring to organic produce. It is not clear whether she was planning on living on macaroni and cheese (not a good idea) or would be switching from organic to conventionally produced produce (which is not always a drop in quality).

Just had cod for lunch - delicious, but not cheap. For the price of a pound or two of cod fillets, a person can buy several months of cod liver oil ... they can get far more omega-3 in their diet for far less. Not a pleasant decision, but in tough times, that particular choice could be quite rational.


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Need some dandelion fuzz to keep me going since running out of money for medication and food.


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CVST strokes have been associated with fasting during Ramadan, and we still don't know what particular element of the fasting may be responsible (metabolic disturbances, protein wasting, dehydration etc.).

Bear in mind that we are only talking about fasting from dawn to dusk, and the "detox" fasts don't have such limitations. Maybe that's why the many detrimental effects from fasting (see above) has been reported more commonly in Western-type fasts than in the Ramadan ones (it could also be that their reporting of complications is deficient).

Here's a sad case of a woman who suffered brain damage through a fad type of fast and won 800,000 pounds in damages.

And Wikipedia's take on "cleansing/detox" (note that some people have been objecting to the article's "balance", even though passages like this reflect the overwhelming scientific and medical view about the practices in question):

Body cleansing and detoxification have been referred to as an elaborate hoax used by con artists to cure nonexistent illnesses. Most doctors contend that the 'toxins' in question do not even exist.[17][18] In response, alternative medicine proponents frequently cite heavy metals or pesticides as the source of toxification, however no evidence exists that detoxification approaches have a measurable effect on these or any other chemical levels. Medical experts state that body cleansing is unnecessary as the human body is naturally capable of maintaining itself, with several organs dedicated to cleansing the blood and gut.[19]

Professor Alan Boobis OBE, Toxicologist, Division of Medicine, Imperial College London states that "The bodys own detoxification systems are remarkably sophisticated and versatile. They have to be, as the natural environment that we evolved in is hostile. It is remarkable that people are prepared to risk seriously disrupting these systems with unproven detox diets, which could well do more harm than good."

After describing muscle wasting and hampering of weight loss efforts secondary to fasting, the article goes on to comment on the supposed health benefits fasting advocates describe:

Finally, while many testimonial and anecdotal accounts exist of health improvements following a "detox", these are more likely attributable to the placebo effect; where people actually believe that they are doing something good and healthy. Yet, there is a severe lack of quantitative data. Some changes recommended in certain "detox" lifestyles are also found in mainstream medical advice (such as consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables). These changes can often produce beneficial effects in and of themselves, and it is accordingly difficult to separate these effects from those caused by the more controversial detoxification recommendations.

Eat that healthy diet with lots of plants, get regular exercise, and lay off tobacco and excess alcohol, and the benefits will be far greater than anything one could hope to accomplish pummeling oneself with fad fasts and "cleanses".


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>> CVST strokes have been associated with fasting during Ramadan, and we still don't know what particular element of the fasting may be responsible (metabolic disturbances, protein wasting, dehydration etc.).

If you knew anything about fasting in Ramadan, you would not suggest that protein wasting was a possible explanation or a legitimate concern. But I guess you don't need to understand something before you try to authoritatively explain it to others. In Ramadan, people eat before sunrise and after sunset. The research shows that switching from 3 meals daily to 2 does not result in a drastic reduction in daily calories or protein - There is no protein wasting associated with the practice. Some people lose a little weight from this pattern of temporary diet restriction; many do not.

What is more common is to see improvements in insulin sensitivity and HDL, and reductions in CRP, homocysteine, LDL, and Hb1ac. These improvements occur independently of weight loss.

On the other hand, the potential for transient dehydration in Ramadan fasting is real; such dehydration has been documented and written about.


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One thing to be said for fasting during Ramadan - the participants are clear about it being for religious reasons - they are not doing it to purge themselves of imaginary "toxins". If proponents of "toxin cleansing" were upfront about the process, they'd acknowledge that while it may have some mystical/pseudoreligious function, there's no evidence it provides health benefits (while having a potential for harm).

In many of the articles cited in this thread, a constant theme of the health experts weighing in against "detoxification" has been that our organs do a fine job of removing deleterious substances without any help from "cleanses". Here's an article that provides basic information on how our organs accomplish this.

The same site also includes a piece on how the Gonzalez protocol for treating pancreatic cancer crashed and burned (this is the fellow who got federal funding for study of a plan which includes coffee enemas, a common "anti-toxin" treatment in alt med). Since apollog has promoted this guy's work, he may find details of its failure instructive.


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>> If proponents of "toxin cleansing" were upfront about the process, they'd acknowledge that while it may have some mystical/pseudoreligious function, there's no evidence it provides health benefits (while having a potential for harm).

Actually, there is evidence of health benefits associated with a variety of fasting practices. A review of the literature on Ramadan fasting shows improvements in insulin sensitivity and HDL, and reductions in CRP, homocysteine, LDL, and Hb1ac. Most of the risks have been linked to dehydration, or to those who are so devout that they refuse to take any medicine between sunrise and sunset, even when they need it.

I agree that most Muslims who do the fast would say it is for spiritual reasons, not practical ones. On the other hand, I have heard several Muslims say they looked forward to it while comparing it to athletic training ... although fasting and running initially make a person feel tired, in the long run, it has the opposite effect.

Here is a link that might be useful: Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of human and animal trials.


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>> Here's an article that provides basic information on how our organs accomplish this.

A mixture of very basic science, sweeping generalizations, and outright wrong conclusions. Consider this:

As mentioned above, acid-base balance is so tightly regulated, that even very small variations create a very ill patient. Enzymes, which are really biologic catalysts, only function well in a narrow pH range. Attempts to change your pH through diet are going to fail, as your lungs and kidneys will make up the differenceunless you do it so drastically that you succeed, leading to illness and death. Claims regarding pH and health are a bunch of hooey.

It is true that the blood itself does have to be within very narrow ranges of pH. To stay within those limits, the body will pull other minerals (calcium, magnesium, etc) from other tissues, including the bones. If the blood pH goes out of whack, it can be bad. But the pH and mineral levels of other parts of the body can slip to unhealthy levels long before the blood does. It is a simple fact that an excessive acid load increases the risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis, hypertension, and other diseases - in spite of eric's psuedoscientific dogma that the body is always fine.

A recent article in the British Journal of Nutrition states very clearly: "Mild metabolic acidosis, which can be caused by diet, may adversely affect cardiometabolic risk factors, possibly by increasing cortisol production." But eric and the anti-woos would rather worship the fuzzy notion that our organs always do a fine job of whatever it is that they do (and never need any consideration). No need to question whether the average diet is too acidic, or whether that is contributing to disease, when it is more fun to ridicule people who don't define pH the same way a chemist does.

Titles of a few other articles that support the idea that the pH of diet can affect health:
Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults.
Alkaline mineral water lowers bone resorption even in calcium sufficiency: alkaline mineral water and bone metabolism.
Urine pH is an indicator of dietary acid-base load, fruit and vegetables and meat intakes
Acid-base status affects renal magnesium losses in healthy, elderly persons.
Hypercalciuria from acid load: renal mechanisms.
Effect of potential renal acid load of foods on urinary citrate excretion in calcium renal stone formers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Association between dietary acid-base load and cardiometabolic risk factors in young Japanese women.


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You do realize that the article whose abstract you linked on alternate-day fasting acknowledges no significant evidence to support meaningful human health benefits? Maybe some lab rats are running their treadmills more efficiently, but as previously noted, we are not rodents.

As to the other link, there is no indication what sort of diet "free-living young Japanese women" were consuming in this study, but I see no evidence that a normal healthy diet (or even the average not-so-healthy American diet) causes metabolic acidosis.

The fixation on nonexistent pH imbalance supposedly caused by diet, ignores the body's excellent systems (primarily involving the lungs and kidneys) to keep acid-base balance regulated within a tight range. For these processes to fail, you have to be a very sick person.

Here's a good takedown of acid-base myths (and their relation to the alt med "toxin" theory of disease).

"The bottom line is that, in the absence of renal and lung disease, the homeostatic mechanisms controlling the pH of your blood are incredibly robust and tightly regulated."

And another by Dr. Gabe Mirkin:

"All foods that leave your stomach are acidic. Then they enter your intestines where secretions from your pancreas neutralize the stomach acids. So no matter what you eat, the food in stomach is acidic and the food in the intestines is alkaline.

Dietary modification cannot change the acidity of any part of your body except your urine. Your bloodstream and organs control acidity in a very narrow range. Anything that changed acidity in your body would make you very sick and could even kill you...

All chemical reactions in your body are started by chemicals called enzymes. For example, if you convert chemical A to chemical B and release energy, enzymes must start these reactions. All enzymes function in a very narrow range of acidity. (The degree of acidity or alkalinity is expressed as "pH."). If your blood changes its acidity or alkalinity for any reason, it is quickly changed back to the normal pH or these enzymes would not function and the necessary chemical reactions would not proceed in your body...

Certain foods can leave end-products called ash that can make your urine acid or alkaline, but urine is the only body fluid that can have its acidity changed by food or supplements. ALKALINE-ASH FOODS include fresh fruit and raw vegetables. ACID-ASH FOODS include ALL ANIMAL PRODUCTS, whole grains, beans and other seeds. These foods can change the acidity of your urine, but that's irrelevant since your urine is contained in your bladder and does not affect the pH of any other part of your body."

About the only thing apollog posted that has a sound physiologic basis is that extreme diets can cause trouble. For instance, (as Dr. Mirkin notes) a diet with excessive protein might predispose to osteoporosis because of acidic breakdown products that have to be neutralized.

Dr. Mirkin has it right - if you hear someone warning you that your body's too acidic and you need their product to make it alkaline, it's a tipoff they don't know what they're talking about. Likewise, dire warnings that all sorts of chronic diseases are caused by "body acidity" are nonsense not grounded in science.

I was hoping to hear a response from apollog about the failure of the coffee-enemas-for-pancreatic-cancer study, which he promoted in this thread. Any comments?


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>> I was hoping to hear a response from apollog about the failure of the coffee-enemas-for-pancreatic-cancer study, which he promoted in this thread. Any comments?

Sure. First, I did not "promote" the work of Gonzalez as you stated in error; I referred to work by Gerson and other work by Hildebrand. Second, I stand by my original statement - that standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer is generally ineffective, and often decreases the quality of life as well as length of life (partial response rates in 5 - 25% of patients, nasty side effects in a much larger percent, no hope of cure). Third, the fact that one person botched some research only reflects on the researcher, not the subject being researched.

I stand by my statements that the gerson therapy for pancreatic cancer is part palliative, part prayer. I'm not overselling it - and my comments were in response to you trying to get people excited over the fact that Prince Charles had said that coffee enemas might have some use in some types of cancer therapy. As squeamish as you may be about various parts of the body, there is real scientific interest in using suppositories or enemas for a variety of medicines because that mode of administration gets around "first pass metabolism" in the gut and can result in higher concentrations in the blood, better efficacy, and fewer side effects.

In addition to coffee enemas, one major component of the Gerson protocol is proteolytic enzymes (including bromelain, from pineapple). These have been used for decades and there is clear evidence these "increase the response rates, the duration of remissions, and the overall survival times" of some types of cancers. Not magic bullets, but perhaps a reasonable option for someone with some forms terminal cancer, or as an add-on to other types of therapy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Proteolytic enzyme therapy in evidence-based complementary oncology: fact or fiction?


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"First, I did not "promote" the work of Gonzalez as you stated in error"

Oops! you did, and here are your comments about Gonzalez's treatment protocol in that linked thread:

"...Columbia University has people (whose) preliminary findings are that it works better than the standard treatment for that type of cancer. The main problem according to the researchers? People are too squeamish about enemas...Doctors are not comfortable with the idea. So they don't even consider it. Instead, they route their patients to painful, debilitating treatments that they know are ineffective for pancreatic cancer. They would rather use innefective injections of toxic compounds or concentrated doses of radiation rather than have someone be touched in their dirty private parts.

"In the pilot study, Gonzalez's treatment more than tripled the 5-1/2 month life expectancy of pancreatic cancer patients on standard treatment."

The reality is that Gonzalez's trial of coffee enemas, dietary restrictions, "enzyme treatment" and the like was halted for ineffectiveness.

"The Gonzalez trial was stopped early, in 2005, after the (Data Safety and Monitoring Committee) found that the data convincingly demonstrated that the regimen was inferior to the standard treatment of cancer of the pancreas."

Now, is standard treatment for pancreatic cancer highly effective? No, apart from surgery which cures a low percentage of patients, it pretty much is either palliative (intended to reduce pain or complications like biliary obstruction) or in the case of chemotherapy can extend life, typically by a period of months. Those limited successes against pancreatic cancer still beat the heck out of failed treatments like coffee enemas.

As to "systemic enzyme therapy" and the linked paper from the naturopath - where's the clinical evidence showing that this is effective against any human cancer? All I see in the abstract is a bunch of unsubstantiated claims.

As to Gerson "therapy", it may be true that it's part prayer; it is also 100% quackery designed to get people to spend nearly $15,000 for three weeks of enemas and other useless potions at a Mexican clinic. The big selling point by Gerson promoters is a publication of 50 cases of allegedly successful treatment, claims which fall apart under scrutiny:

"A retired Australian surgeon, Peter Moran, has delved into the so-called 50 cases and completed a case by case review. The review points out that in most cases the cancer was not confirmed before the treatment. Having patients being cancer-free is a bit easier, when they never had cancer in the first place. The US National Cancer Institute has also reviewed 10 cases, selected by Dr. Gerson's patients, but they were unable to say if it was the Gerson therapy that was responsible for the improved health as the patients were also having regular cancer treatment.

This is also a popular way to claim success. Have the patient undergo chemotherapy and eat a carrot. If they are cured, it must have been the carrot, if they die, it's proof that chemo is a failure."

There's a new online article about "detox" regimes, written by a homeopath who decries "extreme" practices, but falls prey to many of the same delusions of other therapists, including the idea that we are currently are somehow deluged with "toxins" like never before. A good deconstruction of this and other nonsense can be found here.


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>> Oops! you did, and here are your comments about Gonzalez's treatment protocol in that linked thread

Oops, I did, in August of 2007. And if that study is shown to be flawed, it must be rejected as flawed. On the other hand, the link you provided for debunking it had some interesting comments - like "Yes We Can! We Can Abolish NCCAM" (the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) ... because researching herbs is by definition a waste of time and money??

>> As to "systemic enzyme therapy" and the linked paper from the naturopath - where's the clinical evidence showing that this is effective against any human cancer? All I see in the abstract is a bunch of unsubstantiated claims.

That is the genius of your game. First, you demand everything in the language of "evidence based medicine" (which is not the same as ordinary scientific evidence). Then, even when such information is provided, you say "that doesn't prove anything" (which is code for "I'm not convinced, and nothing you provide can convince me. I will take it out of context, ignore other information")

From the abstract you critiqued:

EBM (Evidence Based Medicine) level II clinical studies, which are accepted by the European Union to show safety and efficacy of medical treatments, were performed to evaluate the benefit of complementary systemic enzyme therapy in cancer patients suffering from breast and colorectal cancers and plasmacytoma. These studies demonstrated that systemic enzyme therapy significantly decreased tumor-induced and therapy-induced side effects and complaints such as nausea, gastrointestinal complaints, fatigue, weight loss, and restlessness and obviously stabilized the quality of life. For plasmacytoma patients, complementary systemic enzyme therapy was shown to increase the response rates, the duration of remissions, and the overall survival times. These promising data resulted in an "orphan drug status" designation for a systemic enzyme product, which should motivate further studies on this complementary treatment.

So there are EBM studies, and regulatory agencies have seen enough evidence to grant proteolytic enzymes orphan status for cancer therapy, but the omniscient eric won't budge an inch in discussing this ... nope, not convinced, doesn't prove anything.

Here is a link that might be useful: [Systemic enzymotherapy as a method of prophylaxis of postradiation complications in oncological patients]


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I was going to remark on your yet again posting an abstract without any reference or link to the actual article so that we could judge what's in it and what relevance it might have. But since the article (in an obscure journal) is in Ukrainian, most of us would have a tough time figuring it out anyway. :)

"That is the genius of your game. First, you demand everything in the language of "evidence based medicine" (which is not the same as ordinary scientific evidence). Then, even when such information is provided, you say "that doesn't prove anything" (which is code for "I'm not convinced, and nothing you provide can convince me. I will take it out of context, ignore other information")"

First, I don't regard debunking quackery and bad science as a "game". If it's a game, the losers are the people who shell out for these bad remedies. Secondly, abstracts such as the ones you continually link to are by definition taken out of context. It is reasonable to ask where the beef is (many papers are available in full online, as well as discussions of their significance, such as the one I provided for Gonzalez's failed work).

The Gonzalez experience is also a good example of what happens when one relies on preliminary pilot studies or work in lower animals/test tube studies as "proof" of a treatment's efficacy. The skeptics who wanted to see a more rigorous trial in this case were vindicated; the coffee enema advocates are stuck with using untrustworthy testimonials and whining about "prejudice" against their methods.

Thank you for acknowledging your error about promoting Gonzalez's work.

An example of how "detoxification" has become a major source of business for some practitioners can be found here.

"Dr. Forrest" and his associates have quite the operation going, offering a big line of supplements to cleanse your poor inefficient body (they want you to "detox" all the usual organs like kidneys and liver, plus some more unusual ones like the pancreas, spleen and "lymph system"). All of this is an ongoing, never-ending process, a marketing technique which is more understandable when you discover (it takes some searching to do so) that Dr. Forrest is a chiropractor who has branched out (as many of his colleagues have) into "nutrition" and pseudoscientific treatments (like "hologenesis mind and emotion transformation"). The website is a gold mine of nonsensical warnings about the usual gold mine of diseases alt practitioners cash in on (including Candida and "parasites" (you've got to cleanse yourself of the imaginary parasites right along with the imaginary toxins). From the "detoxification" section of the website:

"Imagine your car. Imagine always using the best gas, the best oil and keeping your car well washed and waxed. Pretty nice. Now imagine that you never change the oil or the oil filter. You have the picture, sooner or later you car will break down.

With our bodies it is the same. It is important to not only make sure we put the best foods into us but also to make sure that the oil filters of our body, the liver, kidneys and lymph and the oil, the blood, are working at their best. With most of us years of poor diet and incomplete elimineation, infectiions, lack of exercie has caused our body to function below its optimum. The liver, kidneys and lymph became congested. Other organs loose their potetncy and the body begins to break down producing lower energy and all the various illnesses we are so familliar with."

Love that analogy about the car's oil filter. Dr. Forrest has so little faith in (or apparently, knowledge about) our body's marvelous physiologic capacity for dealing with everyday functions and challenges - we're just a hunk of defective machinery to him that constantly has to be in the shop (his) to flush out the toxins that cause all those chronic diseases (not).
By the way, sorry about those spelling and grammar errors in Forrest's spiel - but they are faithfully reproduced from his website.

You wonder how much cash that clinic takes in from semilegitimate endeavors (treating musculoskeletal disorders) as compared to the business of selling worthless supplements, dubious testing and weird devices. It's the old story - convince the mark (sorry, patient) that he/she has a nonexistent malady, and sell him all sorts of stuff to fix/prevent the problem (on a never-ending basis).


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Hi eric,
Parasites can be real.
I had one that was easily as long as my shod foot come out from where the sun don't shine ( get to see some things clearly when living out in the bush).
Starved the thing as best I could with a fairly long fast ( fasting drink was ground psyllium seed & volcanic bentonite type of clay).
On 2nd day of resumed food ate a rough type of traditional cracker that apparently scraped it loose, head & tail intact.


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There's no question that parasites exist (especially in tropical countries with less developed medical systems like the Dominican Republic, where you're from).

In developed industrialized societies parasites have become much less common. However, there's been a resurgence in recent years of parasite fears. A Google search and a tour of alt med forums reveals that lots of people are needlessly worried about parasites (ranging from Candida, a normal commensal inhabitant of the body, to various worms and protozoans) and attempting "cleanses" to get rid of what they either don't have (in the vast majority of cases) or doesn't affect their health). Elements of the supplement industry profit off these fears with useless products and devices. One of the worst offenders is a practitioner who has convinced numerous followers that all cancers are caused by an exotic liver parasite and that they can "zap" the creatures away with an electrical device.


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Coming at this from my cellular and molecular biology background (not a medical perspective) I can say that the line between deadly parasite and Vital symbiont is a fuzzy one, Some organisms are necessary for the survival of others, but can kill those same said others. There is a strong correlation between a lack of H. pylori (which its self causes stomach ulcers) and childhood asthma. This doesn't mean H. pylori cures asthma but it does perhaps suggest that Parasites aren't all bad.

Bottom line is that the world was not designed perfectly for humans to inhabit.


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Hi brendan o/b,
2.5 oz. daily of broccoli sprouts inhibits, does not destroy, H. pylori in adult humans. (2.5 oz sprouts' sulforaphane content = 15 pounds fresh broccoli.)
Measured by stool marker HpSA dropping 40%; stop eating broccoli sprouts & HpSA level goes back up in 8 weeks.
Published Cancer Preventative Research journal, John Hopkins Univ. study


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Hygene is actually responsible for loss of H. pylori in children, sterile childhood environments etc..


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Microbial infections like that caused by Helicobacter pylori are not classified as parasitic, though it's interesting to hear about the effects of broccoli sprouts.
Maybe the compounds in broccoli that have an anti-Helicobacter effect could be worked with to create an effective drug that completely eradicates the organism (a subject of particular interest in Japan and other parts of Asia, where stomach cancer rates are notably higher than in the U.S. (Helicobacter in a small minority of cases is linked to formation of stomach carcinoma and lymphoma)).


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Not from a medical perspective no, but its probably more a matter of convention. Looking at what parasitic means in a biological sense they fit, which works for me and my explanation of how parasite and symbiont are fuzzy concepts. I've heard about some intestinal round worms and chron's disease but don't have enough information to be sure of myself there, so I used an example I was more sure of.


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Since this thread has been dredged up by a spammer I'll state my opinions on "detoxes".

I think if one's usual diet is "dairy, caffeine and processed foods" and "sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten and animal products" as some "famous people" report, then one probably needs a "detox". Or at least to eliminate those toxic substances from one's diet for a week or more.

If the usual diet is high in fresh and mostly raw veggies, some fruit, and some high quality protein with none of the unhealthy stuff then a "detox" will never be necessary.

The most I ever do to detox is to use raw garlic for a few days and ensure my water intake is sufficient. I expect there are some parasites attached to fresh imported produce which is why I like to use raw garlic occasionally. If I have no parasites the garlic probably won't hurt and I like the flavor anyhow.

I try to use "food as my medicine".


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If you're eating a poor and unhealthy diet, you don't need "detoxing" - you need to start eating a healthier diet.

"Lets say youve got this very important meting that you need to be at and just about the time you sat down, you had this terrible urge to go."

I've had that urge at lots of meetings, depending on the subject matter. Sometimes even before walking into the meeting. :)


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I suspect the word "detox" is to this forum what the word "marriage" is to those against homosexual marriage.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

The religious aspect was touched on earlier.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

If someone wants to be healthy, they're going to be better off eating healthily and avoiding foods that their body doesn't handle well (ex: if you can't handle gluten, avoid things that contain it) and exercising regularly than going on sudden "detox" diets and then going right back to eating junk food.


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RE: 'Detox', 'cleanses' and quick fixes

I agree that going right back to eating junk food is unwise - in fact, there is little reason to condone eating food if it is junk (although such empty calories are a problem only when consumed 'to excess' (however one wishes to define that)).

For some people, simply cutting the junk food and exercising is enough. But a 'sudden' detox can have effects not seen with a 'slow but steady' approach.

Consider the article linked to below. 18 diabetic patients were put on a very low calorie diet for a month (450 calories/day, no glucose lowering medicines). Not only did they lose weight, improve their blood sugar and blood lipids and reduce blood pressure - much of that effect was still evident 18 months later.

Most detoxes are based on a modified fast - other studies have shown that fasting can be of benefit to psoriasis, arthritis, high blood pressure, and a host of other conditions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sustained beneficial metabolic effects 18 months after a 30-day very low calorie diet ...


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