Living in a hectic world of processed foods and fast-paced lifestyles, regular detoxifying is essential to keep the body system functioning properly for overall health and well-being. Because of this, an increasing number of quick-fix detox products are gracing the shelves of health food stores, with advertisements making all sorts of claims about their benefits and celebrities endorsing them.
Most detox formulas are herbal blends touted as “natural,” “effective” and “harmless.” They usually come in the form of teas, powder, drinks and capsules. While a lot of consumers are reporting desirable results from these products, few are aware of certain harmful ingredients they contained. These ingredients may not have any immediate adverse effects, but could cause more harm to the body in the long run if continually used.
Dangers of Detox Products
The most effective way for the body to eliminate toxins is through healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. Commercial detox products claimed to use herbal formulas to relief constipation and cleanse the colon to restore its proper functioning.
What most consumers are unaware of is that a lot of these products contain harsh laxatives to stimulate the colon muscles and induce bowel movement. Frequent use can cause a condition known as “cathartic colon,” which is long-term damage of colon muscles. This leads to a dependency on laxatives.
What to Look Out for Before You Buy
Some colon cleansing products make inflated claims that are not are not backed up by solid scientific research. Since such products are not strictly regulated, manufacturers might not disclose the full list of ingredients. This is dangerous, since some herbs that interact with prescription medication can be fatal.
As a rule of thumb, go for mild organic herbal products that work gently, usually taking more than 12 hours for bowel movement to occur. Always read the label, avoid purchasing products that do not list the ingredients and always consult a qualified health care professional, especially when taking medication or if you have any allergies.
Remember that the whole purpose of detoxifying is to flush out toxins in the body to restore its normal functions. No matter how safe these products claim to be, most gastroenterologists do not advise long-term usage because it can impair one’s overall health in the long run. One should also discontinue usage if experiencing side effects like headache, diarrhea, low energy, dehydration and lightheadedness.
The following ingredients are commonly used in commercial detox products. They are best avoided or used responsibly, temporarily and moderately.
- Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana) – This is an alternate name for aged bark of several buckthorn shrubs. It is sometimes listed as “buckthorn bark.” The FDA has determined that Cascara Sagrada is generally safe and effective for short term use to relieve constipation, recommended for less than seven days. Continuous use can lead to bowel dependency.
- Senna – Produced from a tropical plant, it is a potent laxative that works with intestinal bacteria to cause bowel contraction. It should not be used by anyone with chronic gastrointestinal conditions such as hemorrhoids, ulcers or colitis. Side effects include diarrhea, nausea and severe cramps. Because of its strength, taking Senna has a high risk of bowel dependency.
- Bentonite Clay – This substance is actually an aluminum phyllosilicate with strong absorptive properties. Detox product manufacturers claimed that the clay absorbs toxins in the body system to be expelled through normal bowel movement. While there are no known harmful side effects to ingesting organic bentonite clay, there hasn’t been a concrete study on its effectiveness and long-term dangers on the health either.
This is a bulk laxative that is actually considered safe for long-term use to maintain healthy bowel movements. Because bulk laxatives need to absorb water and make stools softer, it could have the opposite effect when used to treat severe constipation if one does not drink enough water. Psyllium can also interact with blood thinning medications like wafarin and could have an adverse effect on blood sugar for diabetics.