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Body Cleanse Diets Are Pseudoscience

There is a new set of morality that has arising in various cultures around the world (especially the USA) that revolves around food and the idea of health. The cult of “health food” is rampant, and I can’t say how many times that I’ve listened to people making social status plays by bragging about their strange new diets.

The supposed health benefits of these diets are often counter-intuitive, and that’s where the attraction seems to lie: it’s trendy to jam your culture, it’s fashionable to believe the opposite of what you were acculturated to believe, it’s rebellious to think that you’re right established tradition is wrong, and it’s a status symbol to show yourself as being unique, different, or more informed than the people around you. When it comes to diet, this is often manifested in meal plans that are deficient of certain food groups, contain no cooked foods, only a certain type of food, or even no food at all.

I cringe when I hear the words “body cleansing.” To me, this is nothing more than a trendy buzz term invented by business people and pseudoscience wack jobs looking to make a quick buck off of insecure, fashionable, or otherwise impressionable people with money to spend.

Everybody cleanses their body every day. It’s called using the toilet. We are also naturally provisioned with our very own body cleansing kit. It’s called our kidneys and liver. Your body is built to clean itself, no additional, unbalanced diet that involves cutting out essential nutrients is going to help it along. If anything, it’s just going slow your metabolism and hinder the process.

Elizabeth Preston, a science blogger at Inkfish, decided to give one of those trendy juice diets a try:

The first few days of deprivation would, in theory, “cleanse the blood” and release toxins from my tissues that have been slowing me down and making me sick. I’d give my colon a break while “sweeping” it out. The latter days would boost my immune system and “fight off degenerative diseases.” After all that detoxifying and boosting, I would feel energized and restored. I might even have lost a few pounds—but it’s about health, not weight.

In the midst of my cleanse, I could experience unpleasant symptoms. “Don’t Panic,” the website for BluePrintCleanse would reassure me, “It’s Just A Healing Crisis!” Apparently, a body that’s becoming healthier looks a lot like one that’s unwell. Symptoms of detox may include fatigue, headaches, nausea, hives, decreased bowel movements, increased bowel movements, strangely colored bowel movements (“Did you just drink some of our beet juice?”), dry mouth, runny nose, and canker sores. I should ignore those symptoms, drink herbal tea, and be reassured that I’ll soon be skinnier. Sorry, healthier.

And as for losing weight:

If anything, it’s the opposite, because fasting slows your metabolism. BluePrintCleanse claims that the energy you save on digestion by not eating any real food gets diverted to “other metabolic processes.” But Swoap says this is false. Your whole metabolism will slow at once, not just the tasks attached to digesting food. This will make it harder to lose weight.

It’s a sign of a hyper-civilized, over-developed country when diets that are the exact opposite of what people have been socialized to believe are healthy are promoted as the next big thing in “health.” These diet schemes often work on the premise that we live in an inherently unhealthy, polluted environment, and we now need to take drastic measures to keep our bodies well. This is called marketing.

Cultures are accumulations of knowledge based on trial and error within a given landscape with available materials. If you want to eat healthy, look at the traditional foods of your culture. Mine consists of meat, starch, vegetables, fruit, poultry, and dairy. This is what is healthy for me to eat.

Leave the cleansing to the organs nature gave to for this purpose.

My sister’s family went on a body cleanse diet for a couple of weeks. Now they are sick. Go figure.

What’s your take? Do you think I’m wrong? Let me know.

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Filed under: Food, Health, Opinion

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3159 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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