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Detoxification (often shortened to detox and
sometimes called body cleansing) is a type of alternative-medicine treatment which aims
to rid the body of unspecified “toxins” – substances that proponents claim have accumulated in
the body and have undesirable short-term or long-term effects on individual health. Activities commonly associated with detoxification
include dieting, fasting, consuming exclusively or avoiding specific foods (such as fats,
carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, juices, herbs, or water), colon cleansing, chelation
therapy, and the removal of dental fillings containing amalgam. Scientists and health organizations have criticized
the concept of detoxification for its unsound scientific basis and for the lack of evidence
for claims made. The “toxins” usually remain undefined, with
little to no evidence of toxic accumulation in the patient. The British organisation Sense About Science
has described some detox diets and commercial products as “a waste of time and money”, while
the British Dietetic Association called the idea “nonsense” and a “marketing myth”. Dara Mohammadi summarizes “detoxing” as “a
scam […] a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things”.==Background==
Suspicions of the inefficacy of purging became widespread by the 1830s. Biochemistry and microbiology appeared to
support auto-intoxication theory in the 19th century, but by the early twentieth century
detoxification-based approaches quickly fell out of favour. Even though abandoned by mainstream medicine,
the idea has persisted in the popular imagination and amongst alternative medicine practitioners. Notions of internal cleansing had resurgence
along with the rise of alternative medicine in the 1970s and following; it remains unscientific
and anachronistic. With the rise of the environmentalist movement,
many detox diets use the diet format as a political platform to advocate for environmental
ideas about pollution and toxic contamination.==Types=====
Detox diets===Detox diets are dietary plans that claim to
have detoxifying effects. The general idea suggests that most food contains
contaminants: ingredients deemed unnecessary for human life, such as flavor enhancers,
food colorings, pesticides, and preservatives. Scientists, dietitians, and doctors, while
generally viewing “detox diets” as harmless (unless nutritional deficiency results), often
dispute the value and need of “detox diets”, due to lack of supporting factual evidence
or coherent rationale. In cases where a person suffers from a disease,
belief in the efficacy of a detox diet can result in delay or failure to seek effective
treatment.Detox diets can involve consuming extremely limited sets of foods (only water
or juice, for example, a form of fasting known as juice fasting), eliminating certain foods
(such as fats) from the diet, or eliminating processed foods and alleged irritants. Detox diets are often high in fiber. Proponents claim that this causes the body
to burn accumulated stored fats, releasing fat-stored “toxins” into the blood, which
can then be eliminated through the blood, skin, urine, feces and breath. Proponents claim that things such as an altered
body-odor support the notion that detox diets have an effect. The mainstream medical view is that the body
has mechanisms to rid itself of toxins, and a healthy diet is best for the body. Although a brief fast of a single day is unlikely
to cause harm, prolonged fasting (as recommended by certain detox diets) can have dangerous
health consequences or can even be fatal.===Colon cleansing===Colon cleansing involves giving an enema (colonic)
containing some salt, and sometimes coffee or herbs to remove food that, according to
proponents, remains in the colon, producing nonspecific symptoms and general ill-health. However, the colon usually does not require
any help cleaning itself. The practice can be potentially dangerous
if incorrectly practised.===Heavy metals===Practitioners may recommend detoxification
as a treatment to address the notion that mercury poisoning arises from consumption
of contaminated fish and from dental amalgam fillings – Quackwatch states: “Removing
good fillings is not merely a waste of money. In some cases, it results in tooth loss because
when fillings are drilled out, some of the surrounding tooth structure will be removed
with it.”===”Detoxification” devices===Certain devices are promoted to allegedly
remove toxins from the body. One version involves a foot-bath using a mild
electric current, while another involves small adhesive pads applied to the skin (usually
the foot). In both cases, the production of an alleged
brown “toxin” appears after a brief delay. In the case of the foot bath, the “toxin”
is actually small amounts of rusted iron leaching from the electrodes. The adhesive pads change color due to oxidation
of the pads’ ingredients in response to the skin’s moisture. In both cases, the same color-changes occur
irrespective of whether the water or patch even make contact with the skin (they merely
require water—thus proving the color-change does not result from any body-detoxification
process).==Unsound scientific basis==
A 2015 review of clinical evidence about detox diets concluded: “At present, there is no
compelling evidence to support the use of detox diets for weight management or toxin
elimination. Considering the financial costs to consumers,
unsubstantiated claims and potential health risks of detox products, they should be discouraged
by health professionals and subject to independent regulatory review and monitoring.”Detoxification
and body cleansing products and diets have been criticized for their unsound scientific
basis, in particular their premise of nonexistent “toxins” and their appropriation of the legitimate
medical concept of detoxification. According to the Mayo Clinic, the “toxins”
typically remain unspecified and there is little to no evidence of toxic accumulation
in patients treated. According to a British Dietetic Association
(BDA) Fact Sheet, “The whole idea of detox is nonsense. The body is a well-developed system that has
its own builtin mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste and toxins.” It went on to characterize the idea as a “marketing
myth”, while other critics have called the idea a “scam” and a “hoax”. The organization Sense about Science investigated
“detox” products, calling them a waste of time and money”. resulting in a report that concluded the term
is used differently by different companies, most offered no evidence to support their
claims, and in most cases its use was the simple renaming of “mundane things, like cleaning
or brushing”.The human body is naturally capable of maintaining itself, with several organs
dedicated to cleansing the blood and the gut. Alan Boobis, a professor and toxicologist
at Imperial College London, states: The body’s 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. Scientific skeptic author Brian Dunning investigated
the subject in 2008 and concluded that “Anyone interested in detoxifying their body might
think about paying a little more attention to their body and less attention to the people
trying to get their money… Why is it that so many people are more comfortable
self-medicating for conditions that exist only in advertisements, than they are simply
taking their doctor’s advice? It’s because doctors are burdened with the
need to actually practice medicine. They won’t hide bad news from you or make
up easy answers to please you.”Despite unsound scientific basis, detoxification is popular,
and detoxification products and regimes have become a profitable health trend. As with some other alternative medicine treatments,
efficacy has been attributed to astroturfing, the placebo effect, psychosomatic improvements,
or natural recovery from illness that would have occurred without use of the product.==See also==
List of diets

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