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15 November 2009 @ 06:04 pm
People talk about "toxins" in the body a lot. For example, people who do herbal cleanses talk about how fiber helps carry toxins out of the body. I've heard for years that massage releases toxins and that's why it's so important to drink extra water afterwards.

What are these toxins? Are we talking about things like lead and mercury, or are they more like magical particles, or something else entirely? I know that bioaccumulation of, say, heavy metals is a real health issue for many people, but ...
shiny object detector: whammo!penk on November 15th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
My answer to this will likely piss a lot of people off, but my personal view is that the 'toxin releases' via herbal cleansing stuff is 99% bunk. Yes, there are toxins that can build up in the body, and occasionally the body needs help removing them, but Essence of Wood Bark and Deep Herbal Rinses aren't the ones to do it.

From a purely scientific view, you're on the money that heavy metals can accumulate, but that's what kidneys are for - they filter out the 'toxins' and hopefully break them down for removal.
A little nightnacht_musik on November 16th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
no argument with a quick scan of those three, but do any of them speak to the toxins many people refer to as being released by massage work?
tamidon on November 15th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
"toxins" refered to in cleanses etc.. I tend to think is bunk. For massage I was taught(licensed massage therapist) that deep tissue work released lactic acid that could make you feel sore, much like working out hard caused lactic acid buildup that makes you sore. Supposedly drinking water helps fluch some of it out.
barodarbarodar on November 15th, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC)
yeah, as far as massage goes, lactic acid, metabolic salts, and other cellular poop can be squished out of muscles. If you have inadequate exercise or are dehydrated, then this stuff can linger, not be flushed out naturally with the blood, and cause problems. but yeah, I think when people talk about toxins, they often talk about them like little demons in your body that will hang out and make you sick.
(no subject) - goat on November 15th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - barodar on November 16th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mzrowan on November 16th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - starphire on November 16th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mzrowan on November 16th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - starphire on November 24th, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - muffyjo on November 16th, 2009 06:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mzrowan on November 16th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - curioushamster on November 16th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
What do you think we are, Monkeys on Sticks???goat on November 15th, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)
I don't buy that massage cleanses out toxins. The toxins that are stored in your body are fat soluble, meaning that a massage is not going to magically release them into the blood stream. I know I've occasionally had weird reactions to massage where I feel achey if I don't take a hot shower and drink enough water afterwards, but my understanding of it is that it's a histamine reaction.

As for my recent cleanse, I don't totally understand how it was supposed to work (other than preventing common toxins from entering my system by eating very cleanly), but I believe part of it was to help the liver function at a higher level so it could process out some more of the toxins. I really wish I knew more about biochemistry so I could make heads or tails of it.
unintentionally intimidating: read or die: grumpycoraline on November 16th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
my impression about some deep tissue stuff is if you're causing bruising, then you're presumably putting a lot of chemicals signalling "OMG CELLULAR DAMAGE" into your bloodstream, and also getting stagnant blood in intracellular spaces, which then need to get removed by your liver and kidneys?
(no subject) - goat on November 16th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
Mouseketeer Stigmatatrom on November 15th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
Massage and cleansing releases toxins which are the output of toxites. Toxites are little known organisms who are a cross between viruses and bacteria. The latch onto the mitochondria which is where they get their energy from. Toxites are the actual cause of burps, flatulence and body odor. They are also responsible for freckles, ingrown hairs and overly bushy eyebrows.
Misanthropic extrovertdbang on November 16th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
I believe they've also been implicated in Male Answer Syndome.
(no subject) - catness on November 16th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - harimad on November 16th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - keyne on November 16th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
DancingWolfGrrldancingwolfgrrl on November 16th, 2009 12:55 am (UTC)
I have no dish on whether this is really true, but many cleanses allege that the specific thing they're trying to get rid of is stuff that was on its way out of your body and instead of being pooped out, got stuck in your digestive system (often specifically on the walls of your colon) and that's why you need all that fiber!
Misanthropic extrovertdbang on November 16th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
I have no references. But I do believe that toxins are stored in our bodies, because I know they are stored in the bodies of other living beings. (which is of concern when we eat animals, and carnivorous animals in particular, because the toxins concentrate on their way up the food chain.) Heavy metals...but also any fat soluble compound...pesticides, industrial chemicals, etc. I've read (in non-wifty settings) about how these can be released during extensive weight loss (because as the fat cells shrink they release their stored toxins) and that losing weight FAST can therefore overtax your kidneys and liver (whose job it is to filter these toxins.)

I have no opinion on whether there are herbal ways to trigger toxin release, but I'm fairly convinced that weight loss (and probably other metabolic processes) does it.
unintentional baitredheadedmuse on November 16th, 2009 06:36 am (UTC)
right. this is what I think people are doing when they do a cleanse. they're essentially dieting strictly enough to cause some fairly rapid weight loss, which lets loose all the fat soluble toxins you've been saving for a rainy day.

the herbal concoctions, I assume, are a cross between a marketing ploy, since you can't package "eat less garbage", and some kind of immune support to help the body process those toxins and flush them out as they're released. Whether any of them work or not, I have no idea.
"marketing ploy", FTW. - spike on November 16th, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: "marketing ploy", FTW. - redheadedmuse on November 16th, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ceelove on November 16th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC)
I think of the "toxins" that herbal cleanses are aimed at and the "toxins" released by massage as separate things. My understanding is that a cleanse is to remove things foreign to our bodies, i.e. chemicals introduced by the extremely unnatural foods we eat. A massage, on the other hand, restores blood flow to the muscle tissue, where inadequate circulation has decreased the natural flow of waste products away from the cells.
Renata Piperlyonesse on November 16th, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
well, i don't know about herbal cleanses or massage in general. but i had toxic levels of mercury at one point, and either a daily handful of cilantro (a traditional herbal medicine for this) cleared it up about 3x as fast as expected, or my exposure was to elemental rather than the more-commonly-found methylmercury compound.
born from jets!!!catness on November 16th, 2009 03:34 am (UTC)
Hi! I don't fucking know!
drwexdrwex on November 16th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
I don't either
But I totally love your response.
harimad on November 16th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
I'm going to call this $.01 since I don't have references. For the purposes of this conversation "toxins" means anything harmful that might accumulate in our system.

1. There are many different substances that can be called "toxins." There's no reason to believe that any one treatment will deal with all of them. In fact I'd run away fast from someone who said his solution removed all toxins.

2. I have never seen, read, or heard of a hard scientific study that supports herbal cleansers or starvation to flush toxins from the body. I therefore conclude that this is bunk unless and until I see Real Science on the subject. My conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the different cures all seem to describe different mechanisms and treat an overly broad range of problems.

3. Someone who is mindful of science told me that heavy metals that accumulate in fat aren't very dangerous until you release them into your system. IOW, the flushes and diets actually make the heavy metals more dangerous to you by causing you to unstore them.

4. I have heard, from people whom I know to be mindful of science, of studies that support the massage-releases-toxins theory - some are literally locked in by tensed muscle fibers - and that drinking liquids helps the body excrete them faster. I also know that massage increases blood flow (can't find the reference :-< ).

5. Massage feels awesome.

PS for Goat: my nose runs a little when I get a massage. While this study contains only one subject, it's a very long running one conducted in a myriad of conditions.
What do you think we are, Monkeys on Sticks???goat on November 16th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
Lots of people's nose run when they're face down getting a massage. :)

I mention my experience only because as a massage therapist and future Chinese doctor it makes me rather curious as to what the hell is going on. I've had clients who claim the same sort of thing has happened to them. It is all anecdotal, but I am not claiming I have the hard Science here. Also, it's good to be able to sufficiently answer client's/patient's questions about toxins, which I'm not yet able to do.
(no subject) - sweetbaboo on November 16th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Ees Meeimvfd on November 16th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
There are a lot of environmental toxins that are fat soluble. Things that leech out of plastics for example. What happens is that over time these molecules accumulate in our fat cells, since that's where they dissolve most easily. Now, (white) fat cells aren't the most metabolically active cells we have but they do serve functions other than food stores; they seem to directly control a number of hormones which we are only now starting to understand how far and wide they (the hormones) affect other biological systems.

So one decide to do a cleanse. Not surprisingly, most cleanses involve dropping the calorie intake below maintenance, sometimes approaching the zero calorie mark. What happens is that this increases fat store metabolism. As the fat gets released into the bloodstream, with it come the bioaccumulated toxins. This is where not only more water comes in handy because there's many ways in which you dispose of crude and they all rely on having water around (bowels, kidneys, skin; lungs, I believe, aren't so dependent on the water aspect). BUT the key thing here is that you'd also need soluble fiber in the gut. Because that can bind fat soluble molecules, when you dump out the PCBs (for example) into your bowels, you want them to stay there. If there's just empty space, your body will reabsorb them, along with the water, in an effort to conserve resources.

I'm not going to get into the liver portion of the detox. Things get complicated there and I'm still getting a handle on that system. The global picture there (for this topic) is that the liver tries to make fat soluble things more water soluble to make them easier to dispose of stuff. However some of the enzymes actually make semi benign molecules into more toxic one so, um, yeah, it's not that simple.

But the take home message for detox diets is that you are trying to get rid of fat soluble compounds that damage your body by burning off fat stores and then pooping out the toxins. And having appropriate support for the liver is probably a good but that's a whole other post.

Ees Meeimvfd on November 16th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
Also, I suspect that any time you do massage, you're increasing blood flow to all tissue in the area, which might increase fat cell metabolism and... well, you get the idea.

And I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the "toxic" feel after a massage is a mislabeling of "hey my blood pressure is way lower than it was before and I feel woozy" and here water helps to reverse that.
Rowan: Fallmzrowan on November 16th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
viellen on November 17th, 2009 12:05 am (UTC)
On the massage front. I'm a fairly new Muscular Therapy grad (graduated almost two years ago) and the program I was in was heavily based in the sciences. We were never taught that massage "releases toxins". In fact, my phys teacher showed us several primary research projects that debunked the lactic acid theories (there are several differing views on lactic acid buildup so it's pretty easy to find research studies that go either way).

The main theory behind muscle soreness post-massage (as mentioned by another commenter) is that when muscle tissue becomes tense (usually for under/over-exertion/repetitive stress issues) it often becomes ischemic, which means that it dries out and begins to stick to the fascia and tissues surrounding it. Adhesions ("knots") begin to form which can cause pain at first and, over time, numbness. Circulatory massage (aka Deep Tissue, Swedish, most western massage) increases blood flow. Reintroducing dry tissue to blood flow increases sensation, which can also bring pre-existing soreness to the forefront as the body is now more aware of the pain it's been holding. Soreness generated from massage should dissipate within 24-48 hours and then the muscle tissue should feel much better than it did prior to the massage. The exception to this would be if a therapist is using too much pressure, which can cause muscle tears. This is also why massage should not cause real pain during the session; if it does the therapist is working too deep.

Lymph Drainage is another massage-based modality that has gotten some great press for helping promote natural drainage in the lymphatic system, and I suppose one could call that "ridding the body of toxins". Lymph Drainage works by massaging lymph nodes and working with the flow of the lymphatic system to increase the rate of drainage. Since the lymphatic system's job is to collect waste in the body and process it accordingly, this can be a very effective type of massage and is commonly used in hospitals (i.e. my Mom, who has lymphoma, gets lymph drainage regularly to help reduce swelling in her legs caused by stress on her kidneys).

While any type of circulatory massage should effect the lymphatic system to some degree, without the intent and anatomical precision involved in Lymph Drainage I think it's a stretch to say that all circulatory massage "releases toxins". I have not seen enough scientific research to personally buy that theory.
Chris X: pharmacy and chemistrynminusone on November 17th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC)
Heavy anaerobic output makes too much pyruvic acid which is temporarily converted to lactic acid so glycolysis can continue. Lactic acid causes the burn from holding a heavy weight. When you let go the lactate is reconverted to pyruvate in seconds and the burn goes away. Delayed soreness is due to things like damage, inflammation and repair.

I don't like fuzzy talk but some bacteria release chemicals fairly called toxins. Search "bacterial pyrogens" or "tryptophan eosinophilia myalgia syndrome" for instance. In the latter case a bacterial contaminant got into tryptophan due to a poorly tested manufacturing change and caused big problems. The contaminant, identified on HPLC but afaik never isolated, caused a serious immune system reaction and muscle pain, even though no bacteria were present.

Not all gut bacteria are friendly. Some foods (e.g. red meat) and slower gut transit (possibly from low fiber) are linked to things like bowel cancer, possibly because they favor bacteria that generate less-fun chemicals or give them more time to generate those chemicals. Speculative, yes, but I think there is some truth there.

[Not that this is the only use of fiber. Many things are excreted into the gut and fiber keeps them there.]

The only cleanses I know about give you controlled diarrhea while fasting, presumably to flush everything out, then (hopefully) replete your gut with friendly bugs. Bad gut tenants can definitely cause non-GI symptoms such as headaches, pains etc and replacing them can definitely help you feel better. BTDT, had company.