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To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse: Is it all bunk? Do You Panchakarma?

in YD News

Being yogis we’re familiar with the idea of detoxification or cleansing the body of toxins – we feel like we do it every time we practice – and everyone should be familiar with it each time they go to the bathroom! (sorry to get a little gross there). Obviously there are natural cleansing procedures doing their thing throughout the body, every day, but once in a while you may feel the urge to refresh the system with a little outside help. There are tons of cleansing products and recipes out there to help you rid your body of toxins and it’s a huge business (more than $27 million from Dec. 2, 2007, to Nov. 29, 2008).

But are you really “cleansing” your body? Or is it all fraudulent bunk?

The NY Times Style section investigates the subject and has some very interesting views from either side of the road:

“It is the opinion of mainstream and state-of-the-art medicine and physiology that these claims are not only ludicrous but tantamount to fraud,” said Dr. Peter Pressman, an internist with the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., and a critic of detoxification. “The contents of what ends up being consumed during a ‘detox’ are essentially stimulants, laxatives and diuretics.”


“There is absolutely no scientific basis for the assertion that the regimens popularly defined as ‘detox’ will augment the body’s own capacity for identifying and eliminating your own metabolic wastes or doing the same for environmental toxins,” Dr. Pressman said. “I advise patients that these detox programs amount to a large quantity of excrement, both literally and figuratively.”

And what does the other side say?

“Western medicine is treating the symptoms instead of addressing the root cause,” said Edward F. Group III, a Houston-based naturopath with theholisticoption.com, an online resource for the alternative wellness community. “We basically have a world that’s constipated. It’s like if you change your oil in your car but never change the oil filter. Ultimately it gets so full of sludge the engine’s going to break down.”

We’re sort of neutral on this argument, being supporters of taking breaks from alcohol, caffeine, sugar, meat and nicotine consumption as a means of giving your hardworking body a rest. It makes sense. But, we’ve never actually gone for the Master Cleanse, and frankly haven’t been all that interested in it until recently. And even now we’re not totally sold on the idea (ok, truthfully it sounds freaking scary – we get cranky when we don’t eat for 2 hours, how can we go a week??). And you can forget about us getting near colonics.

So what about Panchakarma? The ancient Indian ritual of Ayurvedic cleansing, a lengthy process which can last weeks and includes such pleasantries as nasal cleansing, enemas, laxatives, emesis (vomiting), and blood-letting? (obviously those last 2 are often omitted by the pansy North Americans). Sounds like good times! Maybe we’ll wait on this one and stick to the dosha-balancing kitchari for now (a bean ‘stew’ with lots of spices that, admittedly, can be more delicious than it sounds).

What do you think…Is it BS or should we be starting our pre-cleanse diet stat?

Flush Those Toxins. Eh, Not So Fast! [NYTimes via Gawker]

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