Debunking Detoxes

Dina Halegoua-De Marzio, MD

To demystify detoxes we turned to Dina Halegoua-De Marzio, MD, Director of the Fatty Liver Center at Jefferson.

Question:

From juice cleanses, to flat tummy teas, to probiotics, to herbs, to infrared saunas, to supplements, information on the best detoxes are abundant on the internet. When I searched “best liver detox” on Google, about 13,000,000 results were brought up in less than a second. Instagram models strike poses hugging mugs of warm teas and tout the amazing weight-loss and detoxifying effects. My yoga instructor coos that the supine twist we take at the end of the class is a gentle, natural way to detox the body. I wonder, what toxins are in my liver? Why do I want to supine twist them out of my system? And while we are on the subject, do any of these detox methods actually work?

Answer:

Widespread use of herbal and dietary supplements (HDS) has been reported both in the United States and Europe. Consumers utilize such products for the presumed benefits, such as enhanced physical athletic performance, nutrition, disease prevention, and weight reduction. Many users feel so strongly about the potential health benefits of supplement products, they report that they would continue to use them even if they were shown to be ineffective in scientifically conducted clinical studies.  These strong feelings about dietary supplements stem from patient’s hope of natural disease treatment with fewer side effects as compared to conventional medications.  This use of supplements is fueled by misleading direct-to-consumer advertising. Regulatory agencies like the FDA have almost no role in the purity and safety of dietary supplements.  Drug induced liver injury (DILI) is the most common cause of death from acute liver failure and accounts for approximately 13% of cases of acute liver failure in the United States. A large percentage of DILI cases are ultimately attributed to HDS ingestion.  Many HDS comprise complex mixtures with limited published literature available for most products.  The liver job of the liver is to detoxify chemicals and metabolizes drugs. The liver also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions. Although stretching can be a good form of stress release the liver is not an organ that can be “detoxed” or cleaned.  The best way to take care of your liver is to avoid potential toxic medications or herbal agents and eat a healthy diet full of leafy greens/low in sugar.

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