Over the last year or so, I’ve expressed my . . . displeasure with detox culture. I particularly took issue with the belief that someone could eliminate “toxins” from their body by ingesting weird herbs and other unlikely ingredients (like literal silver and gold). When talk of these practices spilled over into my tea life (in the form of “teatoxing”), I grew more vocal in my vehemence.
I made the same counter claims as many other tea friends did. Examples: (1) Unless you had overdosed on a drug or were exposed to an actual poison, detoxing wasn’t necessary. (2) Anything in trace amounts wasn’t overly harmful. (3) “Toxins”—as a malicious, invisible entity—were as mythical as fairy dust. And finally, (4) if someone had a workable liver and kidney(s), their body had all it needed to do the natural detoxing for them. If they didn’t have those . . . they were probably dead already.
Of course, my online ravings fell squarely on deaf ears. My corner of the tea Internet was way below the radar of the twentysomethings, fashionistas, health food folks, and . . . well . . . pretty much everyone, really. I even had to distance myself from a tea shop I loved because they started hocking detox drinks.
The only way I could get through to people was to finally come clean. For you see? When I was in my twenties, I was one of them. This is . . .
It all started around 2006. I had only recently discovered tea as a hobby a year prior, and I confess I wasn’t enjoying it for its own sake. I consumed it for the purported health properties and caffeine. In addition to that, I also radically changed my diet. Almost everything in my mini-fridge was organic, free range, and purchased from New Seasons or Whole Foods. Yes, I “detoxed” my wallet when grocery shopping.
Shortly into this dietary paradigm shift, though, I made the mistake of eating some free range, organic deli ham that’d gone . . . off. The result? Food poisoning and a near-constant stomach ache for the next two months. I also developed a food allergy to all pork and most soy products.
Instead of scaling back on the radical health changes, I dove even deeper. I cut regular tea out almost entirely, opting for herbal infusions as a substitute. My tea cupboard resembled a budget holistic pharmacy. This all came to a head a few months later when I felt I needed a “tea” to help me lose weight.
I found one; it wasn’t that hard of a search. There were several on the market, even back then. I just didn’t have the foresight to further study the ingredients list. I drank it twice—twice!—and I was on the toilet.
And I didn’t leave it for two days.
Following that, I had the exact opposite problem. For two weeks; my entire metabolism was on some sort of lockdown. It took a half a bottle of Milk of Magnesia to pry the “gates” open. And when the wall was breached . . . it was blackness. “What” was black, you may ask? Oh, don’t make me spell it out. It! The stuff that you “Number 2”. I pooped black bile, okay! No, not Pepto Bismol black; “end-of-the-word”, Neverending Story’s Nothing darkness.
I went to my doctor.
His response was similar to mine. “Yeah, your body shouldn’t be doing that. What have you been taking?”
I told him.
“You know that probably has a stimulant laxative in it, right?” he asked, rhetorically.
I was half-aware of that. Senna, a laxative herb, was one of the ingredients, but I shrugged it off. The doc told me I needed to go in for more tests. Whatever I had done to myself made me excrete blood. That’s what the blackness was . . . cauterized blood. I was horrified.
No more diet teas for me. But then I started wondering why my body had rejected certain foods and/or herbs. Only a couple of years prior, my body was a tank. Why was it a one-speed moped, now?
Amidst that pondering, I was also suffering from other minor (but annoying) ailments. Prostatitis, IBS symptoms, the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome, and so on and so forth. I felt like I was falling apart. Working the night shift wasn’t helping, either.
It was on those late work hours I started researching systemic candidiasis. For those that haven’t perused the homeopathic Internet lately, systemic candidiasis is the belief—yes, belief, not a proven condition—that candida (aka. yeast) can infect the body if there is an overgrowth. This, in turn, leads to a host of chronic conditions, like some of the ones I listed above. Unlike actual yeast infections (regular candidiasis), which are a real concern, systemic candidiasis was a murkier subject. And I was thoroughly convinced that I had it.
One of the leading recommendations for combating it, besides doing a round of probiotics, was to go on a no-carb diet (or close to it). I did just that, cutting out as many extraneous carbs from my diet as I could. Sure, there were some “safe” carbs I could still ingest, but for the most part, nothing else.
I lasted a week . . . and it was the worst week of my life. I felt hungover all the time. My stomach ached constantly; not from hunger. A perma-headache settled in by Day 2. The coup de grace? Vertigo. Dizziness that wouldn’t abate, even as I slept.
Further reading turned up what I was going through. Apparently, I had entered into a state of ketosis. No-carb diet sites stated that, “This is a good thing. It means your body is flushing out the toxins and bringing itself back into alignment.” Screw alignment! I thought to myself at the end of Day 7 . . . as I pulled into a Subway. Normalcy returned immediately after biting into a sandwich.
Okay, that didn’t work. What else was there for systemic candidiasis? Well, one “doctor” on YouTube inferred that a way to bring yeast in the body under control was to flush it with oxygen. There were many ways to do this, but I was nowhere near budgety enough to afford regular visits to an oxygen bar. A stop at a Whole Foods turned up a possible solution.
Yes, plant blood.
I bought a vial of green-blue . . . stuff. The chlorophyll tincture label said to take it twice daily—once in the morn, once at night. Y’know, like actual medicine.
For the first couple of days, everything went according to plan. No blood-poops, stomach aches, or other random “-itises” occurred. That is, until the third day.
Not sure if it was a result of the supplement, or something else entirely. But on a family drive into the woods, my stomach turned in on itself. My vision tunneled, and my breathing quickened.
“Mom . . . pull over,” I managed.
She did so, and I rushed out of the car . . . and puked a stream of blue.
No other way to describe it. I vomited pure blue, as if the essence of the very color was actively trying to escape my body. When we returned home, I did that two more times. By the following morning, I was fine. No residual nausea.
But that was it, I was done. No more supplements, no more diets, no more New Age-y Internet diagnoses. It was around then that I discovered that there was a word for what I put myself through over the last couple of years. Detox.
In 2005, I remember talking with a teashop owner with an epic head of dreadlocked hair. He told me of this herbal regimen he was on, and how it made him puke every day.
“That sounds horrifying,” I said without any hint of candor.
“No, man,” he said with a dopey smile. “I swear to you, it feels soooo good.”
“Whatever floats your boat,” I said, pushing my yet-to-be-rung-up oolongs in front of him.
I had turned into that man—sans dreadlocks—puking a spectral color while literally hugging a tree! All because I thought some plant juice tincture would cure me of a condition that hadn’t even been proven to exist. And I wasn’t the only one who said that, either.
Back then, I was also a regular reader of Dr. Andrew Weil. Yes, the integrative medicine specialist/media personality. My love of loose leaf white tea was thanks to his various recommendations; same with matcha. And even he didn’t think detoxing was a thing.
If integrative medicine’s Guru Santa Clause doesn’t think it’s a thing; it’s not a thing!
It’s been eight years since I attempted to do anything weird to my body. Sure, I’m still a hypochondriac, but I go to an actual doctor for a proper diagnosis. I don’t go for the weirder cure-alls unless (a) there’s some science to back it up, or (b) if my doc recommends it. As for diets?
The one on the left is me six months ago; the one on the right, me six hours ago (at the time of writing).
I lost fifty pounds in that period of time. What was my secret? Self-control. That and trusting in my body. For you see? The human body is a pretty remarkable instrument. It knows what it needs, and it has ways of telling you whether or not you need it. Your insecurities have nothing to do with that process.
I’m here to tell you, as a recovering neurotic, that you—fair reader—are excellent. Just as you are. No, I’m not kidding. You’re awesome. And no diet or detox program is going to change that. Just be the best YOU . . . that you can be. Stay away from snake oil salesmen (and women). Drink tea that is actually tea, and only because you like it. Not because you need it.
Steer clear of anyone who tells you otherwise. Those friendships are . . . well . . . toxic.