Does your liver need a cleanse?

“With exposure to environmental toxins, toxic body care products and processed foods, most people are in desperate need of a serious detox!” proclaims draxe.com, the website of chiropractor Josh Axe. “A liver cleanse is a great way to do this.”

Your liver doesn’t need supplements, juices, or coffee enemas to stay in shape.

Axe is talking about coffee enemas, juice-only or other restrictive diets, and liver cleanse supplements with ingredients like milk thistle, turmeric, and dandelion root.

Do you need them?

“The liver is the metabolic powerhouse of the body,” says Monica Tincopa, director of the Michigan Medicine Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Clinic. “It processes nutrients and metabolizes medications. It also plays a vital role in clearing toxins.”

“But unless you have severe liver disease or are exposed to a high dose of a toxic chemical, your body has a natural capacity to process whatever you ingest as well as the waste products your body makes.”

Tincopa’s bottom line: “There’s no evidence that these supplements help boost the liver’s ability to clear toxins.” And although most liver cleanse supplements appear to be safe, “a few cases of liver damage have been linked to supplements like turmeric, so I emphasize to patients that there’s no benefit in trying them.”

What’s more, when researchers tested roughly 100 milk thistle supplements, 60 percent were contaminated with yeast or mold.

And Axe’s enthusiasm notwithstanding, there are no grounds for thinking that coffee enemas do anything.

What’s the evidence that they have “a stimulating effect that increases bile flow, helping to jump-start both your gallbladder and your liver,” as Axe claims?

Zilch. And coffee enemas don’t end well for some people.

“In one case, a woman developed severe inflammation of the colon and rectum after a coffee enema,” notes Tincopa. “And three deaths have been linked to coffee enemas, possibly due to a bacterial infection or electrolyte imbalances.”

The information in this article first appeared in the November 2019 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


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