London: After a heavy Saturday night, many of us vow to start a month-long detox come Monday. We console ourselves by buying potions and pills that promise to cleanse the liver. But are detox products beneficial – or are they simply a marketing hype?
Dr Nick Fuller, of the University of Sydney, says complementary medicines are one of the largest growing markets in the world. Writing for The Conversation, he says there is scant evidence popular detox remedies like milk thistle and dandelion actually work.
The liver naturally eliminates unwanted substances in the body through our faeces and urine. Taking expensive alternative medicines will do little to aid the liver in its work, he says.
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Below, he argues that simply avoiding alcohol and eating a healthy diet is the best remedy for keeping the organ in peak condition…
THE LIVER: THE BODY’S NATURAL DETOXIFIER
The human adult liver weighs about one-and-a-half kilograms, making it one of the largest organs in the body.
It is responsible for a range of functions.
It helps break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into substances the body can utilise.
The liver acts as a storage unit for these substances (including vitamins and minerals) and supplies the body with them when they need it.
For example, when your blood sugar level drops, the liver will release stored carbohydrates (glycogen) to rectify the problem.
It also acts by metabolizing toxins into harmless substances or by eliminating toxic substances from the body.
Clever marketing has led us to believe it is the food that contains toxins and, hence, following a diet that eliminates certain foods and taking over-the-counter products that ‘cleanse’ your liver of ‘toxins’ will detoxify the liver.
CAN THE LIVER BE ‘CLEANSED’?
We have a misconception we can ‘cleanse’ the body by following a ‘detox’ diet.
This is a complete fallacy.
To explain this process one must first understand exactly what a toxin is.
A toxin is a harmful substance that enters your body from the environment.
Examples include carbon monoxide from motor vehicles, bisphenol A (BPA) from consumer plastics, and heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Toxins can also include drugs and poisons.
However, substances are only toxic based on the quantities in which we ingest them.
The situation in which ‘detoxification’ is required is when someone is being treated in a hospital for a dangerous level of a substance that is life-threatening.
The liver is otherwise working to eliminate unwanted substances in the body through our feces and urine.
These are the toxic byproducts from the metabolization of foods. For example, excessive amounts of protein can be dangerous to the liver. (dailymail)