Weighing In: Use caution to evaluate 'toxin' claims

Published on Saturday, 25 January 2014 18:07 - Written by By Coshandra Dillard, cdillard@tylerpaper.com

Every day I listen to a popular syndicated radio show and on occasion, the hosts have a guest who promotes his herbs as a detoxifying and weight-loss solution.

Taking these herbs will help you drop about 20 pounds or more, the herbalist says, because we're carrying around all this toxic waste. So I researched the company. I found that the Food and Drug Administration had sent them a warning letter in 2008 because they boasted health claims on its website, which states that the mixtures of herbs prevent or cure disease. Many claims are still on the website.

The supplements range from a few dollars up to $160 for complete systems.

It’s not to say that all herbs and supplements are bad for you — but you don’t have to spend a lot of money when you can buy herbs at your grocery store. You also have to examine ingredients closely. Some detox pills and solutions have uncomfortable side effects such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration. You may drop a few pounds, but it’s mostly water weight, so you're susceptible to gaining it back. Hence the need to keep buying the products.  

When manufacturers try to sell these products, they use the term “toxin” loosely. So what exactly are these toxins that we need to get rid of? We come in contact with toxic stuff each day. It’s in our air, water, food and in synthetic chemicals. Anything in excess can be toxic. And some things we don’t need to do, such as smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, is taxing on our bodies. Toxins are everywhere and are inevitable.

The silver lining is that when junk is being dumped into our bodies, it has a way of eliminating it. It starts with the skin, which is our body’s first defense against harmful germs and environmental toxins. The liver is our body’s primary filter, flushing out harmful metals, chemicals and other impurities. The kidneys are remarkably efficient in eliminating waste. So are the intestines. The key is to take care of these organs so that they do work properly, i.e. eat real food and drink plenty of water.

I’ve written a couple of articles that referenced detoxing, and depending on whom you ask, it’s either very essential or completely unnecessary.

This debate probably won’t be settled anytime soon. Doctors and dietitians will insist that you don’t need to fast or use supplements to get toxins out of the body because the body does that anyway. Meanwhile, naturalists, herbalists and alternative medicine enthusiasts will assert that it is crucial for this toxic world.

My humble guess is that if you eat correctly most of the time and drink clean water, then you won’t have to be beholden to a house all day because you're taking diuretic-inducing supplements or drinking nothing but liquids.

If something promises amazing things, it probably isn't worth the box or bottle it comes in. But if you do decide to try a detox program, read the ingredients, find out about possible side effects, and/or consult with a doctor. And then think about little ways you can "detox" your body, such as deep breathing, eating more fiber and exercising. It's what we were designed to do.