While many detoxification programs seem to make up for the lack of research to back up their claims with great packaging, testimonials and marketing, this does not mean that all detoxification programs are bogus as some experts are claiming.
In fact, the benefits and effectiveness of cleanses are well-documented.
In this article, I highlight only a few of the studies that suggest the effectiveness and the need for cleansing.
Some experts believe that the body’s natural ability to detoxify is perfect and cannot be improved upon. (3)
I would agree that the body has a natural ability to detoxify even the most harmful toxins, such as heavy metals, but the science shows that with toxic environmental exposure and a stressed nervous system that results in weakened digestive/detox function, these toxins find their way into the fat cells and brain tissue. (4)
In a world where mercury has found its way to each leaf of organic spinach from the coal mine plumes that cover most of America and some 4 billion pounds of toxins are being dumped into the American environment each year (10), it is essential to have a strong digestive system and well-functioning detox pathways. This can be achieved with intelligent cleansing techniques that are backed by science.
The Science behind Ayurvedic Detox: Lipophilic-Mediated Detox
Environmental toxins such as pesticides, preservatives, heavy metals and industrial toxicants are all fat-soluble or “lipophilic” (lipo = fat, philic = like). Chronic exposure to lipophilic toxins has been associated with hormone disruption, immune system suppression, reproductive disorders, several types of cancer, and other diseases. (6,7)
Ayurvedic cleanses, such as our Colorado Cleanse and our Short Home Cleanse, detoxify these fat-soluble toxins using a “lipophilic-mediated” detoxification procedure. This is where ingested fats actually pull or chelate fat-soluble toxins from the body. While more studies need to be done on lipophilic-mediated detox methods, there are several studies that support this method of detox. (8,9)
Based on the Ayurvedic approach of using ingested fats to detoxify environmental toxins, there are studies that have shown impressive results. In one study with 88 subjects, 48 of them underwent a 7-day detox of ingesting ghee (clarified butter) to pull or detox fat-soluble toxins while on a no- fat, meat or dairy diet. The researchers measured 9 different environmental PCB toxins and 8 pesticide toxins.
They saw a 46% decrease of the PCBs measured, and a 56% decrease of the pesticides measured. (6,7)
These results suggest that lipophilic-mediated detoxification may be effective in reducing body burdens of fat-soluble toxicants. (6,7)
In addition to ghee cleansing, there many Ayurvedic practices including daily oil massage (Abhyanga), mouth swishing with oil (oil pulling), ear oil and other techniques that are based on the idea of lipophilic-mediated detoxification that demand further investigation.
Turmeric for Detox
In one study, turmeric was found to have a protective effect against the free radical damage from mercury. Turmeric was shown to boost the body’s production of detoxifiers, glutathione and super oxide dismutase levels, which protect the liver from mercury. Turmeric also boosted enzymes like catalase in the liver, kidneys and brain, supporting optimal function of these organs in the presence of mercury. In the study, mercury concentrations were reduced as a result of turmeric supplementation before and after mercury exposure. (5)
Sweat it Out
In many parts of Northern Europe, a sauna is considered to be an essential component of one’s well-being. In one study, they concluded that:
“Saunas can be used very effectively for certain cardiovascular problems and as a means to enhance the mobilization of fat-soluble xenobiotics. When saunas are used to reduce blood pressure and enhance blood flow and cardiac functioning, only short sauna (15 minutes) are necessary. When one wants to enhance the mobilization of heavy metals and chemical xenobiotics, longer sessions are needed and those should be medically monitored. But, for either use, saunas are safe and effective and should be used more frequently to benefit the health of our patients and ourselves.” (1)
In another study, saunas were found to support the endothelial health, which is the lining of the arterial wall. Many experts believe that the health and elasticity of the endothelial wall is an indicator of the overall health of the body. (2)
While this is just a brief foray into the research on detoxification methods that are backed by science, I do agree with the fact that many detox procedures require much more investigation before they should be marketed as detox programs. But to say there is no science to back up the practice of detoxification is just simply false.
My firm belief regarding detox is that the body can only do it successfully when the digestive system is functioning optimally.
Our ability to detox well depends on our ability to digest well. Cleansing without first resetting digestive and detox function can result in detox reactions.
To avoid this, we should always re-boot digestive strength and detox pathways, and focus particularly on lymph and liver function, before we cleanse the toxins out of the fat cells.