Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


4 Comments

Detoxify yourself, for real

hipster-liver

Back to that sage magazine for blogspiration… There’s a two page ad for an “herbal cleanse” entitled: Why do we need to cleanse?

It follows a Q & A format. The first question:

Doesn’t my body cleanse itself?

It’s true that our bodies are meant to naturally cleanse themselves…

If only it could have stopped right there and been like, “and they do!” But, that wouldn’t make them any money. Instead, the ad goes on to say that we’re bombarded with so many “toxic chemicals” which can lead to a “toxic overload”. Clearly, our bodies need help removing those toxins from our bodies <insert eye roll here>.

The thing is, your body does cleanse itself. What do you think your kidneys and liver are up to all day? Of course, your body can’t rid itself of all toxins but a cleanse can’t improve upon what your body’s already doing for free.

The ad goes on to instil a little more fear into all of us…

Every second, 310 kilograms of toxic chemicals are released into our air, land and water by industrial factories worldwide. These wastes enter our body, where they undermine its ability to function effectively, leading to symptoms including: fatigue, headache, gas and bloating, body odour, constipation, skin irritation and rashes, and sleeplessness.

Conveniently, these are all conditions that are extremely common and most of us can probably identify with them. This is how they get people to think “I’m tired! It must be toxins! I’d better do a cleanse!” Never stopping to consider that the reason they’re so tired may be as simple as they don’t go to bed early enough or they get woken up during the night by a crying baby, snoring partner, or obnoxious lovely kitty. Far easier to splash out $16 (or whatever the cost is) on a bottle of herbal cleanse than to improve current habits.

How does this magical cleanse purport to work?

Using cleansing herbs helps counteract this accumulation of toxins and wastes… The following “great eight” herbs are excellent for cleansing: Blessed thistle, Burdock, Kelp, Sheep sorrel, Slippery elm, Turkish rhubarb, Red clover and Watercress

Ignoring the fact that these are not all technically herbs, this is still a load of bullshit. Unless you consider pooping to be cleansing, as many of these plants are known for their laxative properties. Others are known for their diuretic properties. I hate to break it to you, going to the bathroom more frequently doesn’t mean you’re expelling more toxins from your body than you otherwise would.

The really great thing about their product is that you don’t have to adjust your lifestyle at all to reap the benefits.

You’ll often hear people say that they’re doing a cleanse or a detox, and then complaining about the difficult meal plan or extreme food restrictions. Cleansing your body doesn’t have to be a chore or disrupt your daily life. It can be as simple as making it a part of a daily ritual of drinking tea.

That’s right, you don’t have to follow some ridiculous diet to “cleanse” or “detox”. You also don’t have to drink an expensive herbal laxative diuretic tea. Of course, you’ll be healthier and probably feel better if you do just make healthy choices like eating more vegetables, getting exercise, going outside, and getting more sleep.

Instead of buying into cleanses, detoxify your life by removing unnecessary products and ignoring false marketing tactics.

 


2 Comments

The dark green leafy truth about your kale smoothie

url-2

I’ve been slacking again, sorry! No post on Monday and I had plans to write a post debunking this article about how kale is killing us all that a friend sent me over the weekend. My immediate reaction was that if kale is accumulating these toxins then it stands to reason that many other vegetables are, as if people need any discouragement from eating their veggies. My friend responded that it would be best if everyone stuck to corn dogs. Of course, that’s no solution as corn dogs are full of GMOs and carbs which we all know cause “grain brain”. Anyway… I was going to dig a little deeper but before I did, I saw this article by Julia Belluz that did that for me so, please, go read her article about how faulty the “science” is behind the headlines that kale is a killer. Sure, alliteration is a great literary device (possibly my favourite), it makes for great headlines, but it doesn’t make bad science good.

There are just a couple of things I really want to emphasis that Julia just touched on. First, despite what the articles indicate, this was not a strong scientific study. There was no true control group. There was no randomization of participants. This was a very small “sample” of 20 self-selected individuals who went to Ernie Hubbard for “detoxes” for myriad inexplicable medical complaints. Ernie started with the assumption that kale was causing their problems, he didn’t seek out other causes. His finding that they were all kale consumers was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Second, Please, please, please don’t stop eating vegetables because of these sensational headlines. The benefits from eating vegetables far outweigh any real risks. Variety is an essential part of any healthy diet so be sure to consume a wide variety of vegetables, including leafy greens and members of the Brassica family, such as kale.


4 Comments

Let’s deactivate the activated charcoal detox trend

3436028377_721f666f72_z

Photo by Ken Fager on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

A friend recently alerted me to the latest detox trend: charcoal infused beverages. What?? I haven’t seen any around here (thankfully), it tends to take a little while for trends to make their way to Nova Scotia. All of my fingers are crossed that this will fizzle out before it can catch on here.

The argument for these activated charcoal containing beverages, made by beauty bloggers, good old vagina steaming Gwyneth, and the purveyors of these burnt beverages, is that the charcoal will bind any toxins in your body and remove them. Supposedly they’re great for avoiding hangovers and blessing you with glowing skin. Sandwiched in between these arguments in the article linked above is the sensible advice put forth by a registered dietitian:

She notes that adding charcoal to vegetable juice doesn’t make sense because the charcoal — not the drinker’s body — will absorb the juice’s nutrients.

“I don’t really see a purpose,” she says. “I think it’s going on the fad of ‘detox, detox, detox.’ ”

It’s important to be aware that the human body is designed to filter toxins using the liver and kidneys. Most of these detox beverages are a waste of money at best, some are dangerous at worst. Regular consumption of charcoal beverages could actually leave you nutrient deficient, not so great for your skin and other organs. It also won’t remove bacteria, as mentioned by one proponent.

Activated charcoal has been used for years in hospitals (and prior to that by indigenous populations) to help treat drug overdoses and poisonings. The activated charcoal binds to these substances, removing them from the body. Extremely useful in the case of an overdose. Not so useful on a regular basis. If you’re consuming any medication the charcoal will happily bind to that and remove it from your body. The charcoal will also only remove toxins and drugs that have not already been absorbed from the digestive system. Drinking one of these the morning after over-indulging will not cure your hangover. In fact, activated charcoal is not useful in treating alcohol poisoning, nor a number of other poisonings. There are also some medications that activated charcoal can interact with and cause electrolyte imbalances.

While this trend is quite new, it’s hard to say what many of the long-term effects of charcoal ingestion might be. As we know that burnt food, and foods cooked at high temperatures may increase the risk of some cancers, it’s quite possible that charcoal ingestion could pose a similar risk.

Novel idea: How about instead of trying to rid our bodies of toxins, we put nutritious nourishing foods into them in the first place.


Leave a comment

PHlavor leaves a bad taste in my mouth

supp_pHlavor2

I somehow stumbled across this blog Articles of Health the other day. I was a little baffled by this “research scientist” promoting the use of some sort of liquid salt obtained from the Great Salt Lake. According to this Robert O. Young, standard table salt is toxic and is putting the PH balance of our bodies in jeopardy. Instead, we should be consuming this liquid salt which provides many cures for common ailments such as ear infections, all sorts of imbalances, psoriasis, nasal congestion, etc. Interestingly enough, this liquid salt from the Great Lake is said to be superior to your regular sea salt or rock salt because “The oceans are being used as dumping grounds for harmful toxic poisons”. Funny, that the Great Salt Lake should be immune to pollutants. Not that Wikipedia is the be-all and end-all, but I found these statements about the Great Salt Lake quite interesting: “US Geological Survey and US Fish & Wildlife researchers, originally studying selenium levels in the lake, discovered some of the highest levels of methyl-mercury they had ever seen, at 25 nanograms per liter of water.” And: “Food-grade salt is not produced from the lake, as it would require further costly processing to ensure its purity.” The bottom of Young’s post contains a link to an online store for purchase of his magical salt.

I was curious about a research scientist who would blatantly promote such a product so I googled him. The second hit was a lovely in-depth article on Quack Watch: A Critical Look at “Dr.” Robert O. Young’s Theories and Credentials. Highlights include the fact that much of his alleged medical training is suspect. His views are not supported by any scientific research. In addition, as you (hopefully) already know, the notion of an alkaline diet is absolute hogwash.

The idea that dietary modification can change the acidity of the body is silly. Homeostatic mechanisms keep the acidity of the blood stream within a narrow range. Certain foods can leave end-products called ash. Alkaline-ash foods include fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Acid-ash foods include all animal products, whole grains, beans, and other seeds. These foods can change the acidity of the urine (but not the body as a whole), but that’s irrelevant since your urine is contained in your bladder and does not affect the pH elsewhere in the body [12]. Thus, even if “body pH” were a primary cause of disease, the strategies the Youngs propose would not influence it in the way they claim.

This liquid salt is not going to provide superior benefits to other forms of salt. In fact, if it is actually obtained from the Great Salt Lake as Young claims, it’s quite likely to provide more toxins than traditional forms of salt. Never trust a “doctor” who is going to receive financial benefit from providing you with a “cure”.


3 Comments

The perils of nutmeg

This time of year nutmeg is frequently used in baking and added to beverages such as eggnog and mulled cider. While fine in small quantities, nutmeg can actually be toxic in larger amounts (1). As a child I remember my mother insisting we only put a very small pinch of nutmeg on our eggnog as her father was a doctor and had warned her of the dangers of excessive consumption. I’m not sure if it’s widespread knowledge that over-consumption of nutmeg can lead to hallucinations, illness, and in some cases even death so I thought that I would bring it to your attention.

Nutmeg is the seed of the Myristica tree. The covering of the nutmeg seed is another spice “mace”. Despite many claims regarding the health benefits of nutmeg there is no evidence to support the use of nutmeg for treatment or prevention of any illnesses. Especially considering the risks associated with excess consumption of nutmeg, it’s probably best to limit your nutmeg consumption to the occasional treat.