The Weekly Woo: Toxins. Toxins Everywhere

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It’s our three month-a-versary, #sciencebabeshills! Everyone knows that’s a special one, that’s the cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and maple syrup anniversary, right?

Wait, what?

In all of my weekly woo blogs, I still haven’t covered detoxing. My first rule of bullshit detection is that, if it mentions toxins or a cleanse, it’s probably bullshit. In this internet age of readily available information and, sometimes, misinformation, there’s a myriad of statements from people telling you to eat clean, drink only juice, fast, or to take certain supplements to help detox different organ systems. The above is a reference to the ‘master cleanse,’ in which you drink this vile combination to allegedly detox your colon, kidneys, adrenals, medulla oblongata or whatever bullshit they’re claiming it works on this week.

So is there any scientific veracity to this?

No.

Goodnight ladies and gentlemen!

Oh, shit, you wanted some snark with your science? Okay, let’s take a few big contenders in the juice cleanse world and see what the experts have to say about their claims. For the record, I’m drinking a diet coke while doing this. And a coffee. Just to be on the safe side.

The premise behind most of these programs is that there is a build up of toxins in your body, generally from diet (vaccines, smoking, pick your poison), and of course, you can drastically improve your health by cleansing your body of all these toxins by drinking organic juice, taking a few supplements, (Jillian Michaels wouldn’t give you a supplement that’s both potentially harmful and ineffective, right?) and even curing yourself of all that ails you from gallstones to cancer with drinking fresh juice and taking… coffee enemas.

 

*sips pumpkin spice latte*

Well who wouldn’t want that (um, the health, not the… hose, unless you’re um… moving on). We all want better health, nobody wants poison in their body, right?

The question with detoxes isn’t even “what’s wrong with this,” it’s more like “is anything right?” For this blog entry, I’m going to focus on juicing. Otherwise, we’d be here for a while.

The latest trendy detox is a modified fast or a juice cleanse. I’m using the term juice cleanse to include everything from the Master Cleanse diet to living on homemade fruit and vegetable juice. Most of these advocate living on organic, homemade juices. They advocate buying a high priced juicer (generally in the $300-$500 range, sometimes a lot more), claim the enzymes in the juice need to be ‘living’ in order for you to get the maximum health benefits, and that you can better adsorb all the nutrients from the fruits and vegetables when they’re in juice form. They tell you that you’re giving your body a break from all that work of digestion, you’ll lose weight effortlessly, and of course, you’ll rid your body of toxins!

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Some of these programs are…

-The Master Cleanse, the lemon/cayenne pepper/maple syrup combo. They also recommend drinking a liter of a prepared salt water solution to go along with your fast. The website is founded by Mike Olaski, an entrepreneur. From his site:

“Mike’s latest project, a Make Money Online Community called Passion Profits which teaches how to Have Fun Making Money, has just released it’s first coaching program Zero To Money Making Website which provides a system for creating wealth with Content Website Businesses just like this one.”

That background? He doesn’t sound like he has a profit motive at all and he’s only in the diet industry for your health.

*ahem*

-The Suja Juice cleanse, a sponsor of my favorite pseudoscientist, the Food Babe. For a mere $6.99 per bottle, you can have… juice. And they recommend six bottles per day. They even offer pre-bottled version of the master cleanse for, you guessed it… $6.99 per bottle.

Blueprint Cleanse. Read all that stuff about Suja? Same stuff (they, likewise, have their own master cleanse- could they at least do something original? Put a funny hat on it?) only they don’t give the Food Babe money. And they do seem to have a sense of humor about themselves. Well, as funny as you can get when you’re talking about giving someone fancier poop.

-And Reboot with Joe, which is more of a diet with juice included. I include this partially to show that not everything ‘juicing’ is a cleanse. They have guided juice fasts, juice recipes, and some plans that include eating and juice mixed in. You may recognize Joe from his documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”  (there are never documentaries called “Eat And Exercise,” huh). This is probably the least ‘woo’ of the group, advocating eating a lower calorie diet more heavily focused on plant based nutrition. They don’t sell the juice, they advocate that you make it and they don’t necessarily advocate organic.

So where to start? What’s real and what’s bullshit?

Unfortunately, a more accurate question with detoxing would be ‘what isn’t bullshit?’

  • These toxins that you’re allegedly flushing out of your system are rarely defined by the bullshit peddlers. Sometimes they’re defined as pesticides or heavy metals, but the actual symptoms of toxicity or poisoning from these substances? Nowhere near close to what a cleanse is designed to help. As hinted at earlier, generally a cleanse is designed to make both you and your wallet a little lighter.

  • As I do try to keep pointing out, marketing does not make it true. A lot of these cleanses recommend going organic to rid yourself of pesticides, but the organic produce they recommend juicing? They almost always contain pesticides as well. So why did you just pay $6.99 (plus tax) ?Looks like organic sugar water is great for cleansing the bank account.

  • Speaking of sugar water, the source of the sugar does not make a difference, at least not to your pancreas. I’ve pointed out several times that sugar is sugar, and is that suitable for everyone? Not if you’re a diabetic, and Suja is at least responsible enough to point that out on their website. Does that mean that diabetics just have to stay filled with toxins, or more than likely, they just didn’t have all those toxins to begin with?
  • A lot of people say they feel better after detoxing. During the cleanses, however, the websites claim that you’ll experience a myriad of symptoms, including headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and bad breath. The claim is that this is because you’re detoxing. The bad breath is possibly because you’re undergoing ketosis because of the lack of calories in your diet, a similar symptom occurs in people on a ketogenic diet. Headache can be from a myriad of reasons (more than likely caffeine withdrawal), but the other symptoms? Caloric deprivation. Most of these diets restrict you to around 1,200 calories, which is irresponsibly low. Most of them also tell you to continue to work out. Yep, the dizziness is just the “dis-ease” leaving your body. Mmmhmmm. It’s your body saying “feed me, you prick.”

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  • Feeling better after the cleanse? You’ve probably stopped eating heavily processed foods for a week, deprived yourself miserably of caffeine (instead of weaning off of it slowly and not being a terrible person to your co-workers for a few days), and lost a few pounds. Of course you feel better afterwards. Did you rid yourself of toxins? No. You rid yourself of four pounds that are going to come right back and $150 on sugar water that you’re never going to see again.

Is there any good to these? Am I saying to throw out your juicer? Not necessarily. I make homemade juice myself for breakfast or for a pre-workout snack sometimes and I really like adding in some spinach and other vegetables in with some homemade apple and pineapple juice. It tastes delicious and it’s a drinkable vitamin pill and a bit of sugar before heading to the gym. But remember, it does have sugar in it, it’s not a balanced source of protein, and it’s not a balanced diet long term. Joe Cross’s site probably did the best out of all of these and some of the guided reboots recommend adding protein powder. He also consulted with physicians when going through his “reboot” and recommends people check with a physician before trying their programs. He wisely doesn’t treat it as a detox, because…

It does absolutely nothing for scrubbing toxins out of your system. As I’ve mentioned before, your body is taking care of that on your own.

My citation for this? You buy toilet cleanser. There’s your citation that your body has been ridding itself of toxins.

My incredibly sexy friend Kate, a redheaded professional chef who pole dances for exercise (and she’s my friend, I’m keeping her, you can’t have her), recommends this for a cleanse. I don’t know if it’s science or not. But I’ll experiment. I might even test for repeatability.

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/healthy/article/complete-one-page-menu-plan-food-lovers-cleanse-2014

It has as much veracity as the other cleanses (i.e. none) in terms of taking toxins out of your system. But unlike the rest? This is the diet of someone who’s detoxed their life of bullshit.

-Science Babe

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9 Comments

  1. While I actually love your site and your mission to educate the masses I must say that ripping apart the ridiculous juice/detox/weight loss fad whilst advertising ‘lose 7lbs in 7days juice diet’ is a bit hypocritical don’t you think? Please don’t post this on your site as I don’t want to damage your credibility just thought you should know.

    • I have minimal control on what comes up on google adsense and those ads do bother me. I’ve tried to re-configure those and unfortunately I haven’t found the exact algorithm to get rid of the diet ads. I’ll keep working with it.

      Thanks for the honest feedback. And I will post your comment to the site because… I’m not the foodbabe 🙂

  2. Nice. But not all sugars are created equal. Fructose is processed primarily by the liver and produces more ghrelin and less insulin/leptin, leaving you more hungry and not doing jack for increasing your metabolic rate. Its basically the worst of both worlds. I believe it was also shown to make you fatter. I avoid fruit preworkout and stick with Caffeine and loud music.
    Source:
    Teff, KL; Elliott SS; Tschöp M; Kieffer TJ; Rader D; Heiman M; Townsend RR; Keim NL; D’Alessio D; Havel PJ (June 2004). “Dietary fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, attenuates postprandial suppression of ghrelin, and increases triglycerides in women”. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 89 (6): 2963–72. doi:10.1210/jc.2003-031855. PMID 15181085.

    • Thanks for the honest feedback. At some point I’m going to do a blog just on sugar because there is a LOT of information in different directions on the “sugar is sugar” debate (and I know some are processed slightly differently), but I appreciate that you posted this one. My point was more from a caloric standpoint than a processing standpoint.

  3. well, unlike the others, i am not getting diet ads.

    [FLUORIDE IN WATER IS BAD]
    [Little-known device kills vicious contaminants in your water supply.]

    does the device… add fluoride? or take it out? maybe it puts it in, then takes it out, and adds chlorine? i am so confused.

    anyway. i’m pretty sure the mindset behind the ‘cleanse’ fad distills to something along the lines of, ’embarrassing bodily functions like pooping and farting prove your body is full of evil’. i’m not sure what would change that cultural attitude, but as long as people feel that way they aren’t going to give up the quest for the magical cleanse that reduces all bodily emissions to those of a lethargic glade plug-in.

  4. My roommates and gf are currently doing the Reboot with Joe one, i think. At least they are doing the “best” of the three and they are planning on going to a solid food diet in a few days.

    It’s gonna be a long weekend.

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