Several products or methods claim to rid the body of “waste” or “toxins”, but are they really beneficial?
The “true” reality
First, let’s debunk an important point: very few measures allow us to attain better health instantly or miraculously. A person’s health usually results from a number of complex and intimately interrelated factors, such as age, heredity, environment, lifestyle and habits. To remain in good health it is important to adopt daily healthy habits:
- eat well
- maintain a healthy weight
- get sufficient sleep
- avoid or reduce stress
- exercise regularly
- refrain from smoking
- avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- take your medication regularly
- follow your health professionals’ recommendations, and
- go to your follow-up medical appointments
Doing all of this may be less compelling than the thought of taking a miracle product that acts immediately, but these strategies are effective and usually cost less.
Should you be concerned about eliminating “toxins”?
The word “toxin” is often misused. The true sense of the word is as follows: a toxic substance developed by a living organism such as one of animal, plant or bacterium origin, whose general characteristics are to produce toxic effects (disease, disability or death). In light of this definition, a perfect example of a toxin would be snake venom. The good news is that, so far, the human body is not known to have the ability to produce toxins. Additionally, as you probably already know, the body is incredibly well made. It is able to absorb the substances it needs, such as water, vitamins and minerals, and to eliminate unneeded or harmful ones through various means: perspiration, the liver, kidneys, bile, intestines, etc. Rest assured, unless you suffer from a serious disease, your body is well-equipped to get rid of what is doesn’t need, through stool and urine, among other things. The concept of “getting rid of waste or toxins” has no medical basis. Moreover, we could wager that no doctor has ever spoken to you about the necessity of “detoxifying”, “purifying”, or “cleansing” your body. The popular belief that the body has to get rid of its toxins has persisted for hundreds of years, but it has no medical basis.
The flip side of the coin
It’s true that products advertised as miracle cures can be very appealing, since they are portrayed as having numerous virtues such as:
- stimulate metabolism
- improve digestion
- unclog the liver
- eliminate waste caused by overindulging
- strengthen the immune system, and
- promote weight loss
Once again, these assertions are generally not based on the results of actual scientific studies, but rather on past beliefs that no longer hold a place in current medical knowledge. It’s important to remember that before asserting that a substance, including medication, is effective in a certain context, it must first have undergone studies that lead to such conclusions. Would you take medication that has not been studied? Probably not, and you would have good reason not to.
Here are other aspects that must be taken into consideration when you are considering such an option:
- The use of such products is usually not formally approved by Health Canada.
- These products are not subject to the same manufacturing quality standards as are medications. Once again, you must be sure of the quality of the product you choose. Your pharmacist can help you with this.
- The effects of the use of these types of products may be many, but the most common one is diarrhea. This gives individuals the false impression that they are “emptying” or “cleansing” their intestine when in fact, causing diarrhea has no medical benefit, on the contrary.
- The ingredients contained in such formulations can interact with the medications you take. This is another reason to always ask the advice your pharmacist.
- These types of products are often costly.
Whatever health products you may be considering, it is always recommended to speak to your pharmacist to make informed choices. In the meantime, exercise and follow the recommendations of the Canada Food Guide!