Detox: you constantly see it mentioned but what does it mean? Actually — nothing; it’s a nebulous term used by snake oil-salesmen to sell products cloaked in pseudoscientific babble on late night television and throughout the Internet. Untold numbers of believers swear by detoxes and cleanses — a group that includes such celebrities as Dr. Oz, Donna Karan, the Kardashian klan and Gwyneth Paltrow, who recently launched her own $425 goop cleanse. Yet, it’s all a money-driven myth.
But what about Ryan Shelton’s Zenith Detox supplements? He tries to convince consumers to buy a $45 bottle of pills that will supposedly “detoxify” you. One bottle lasts about 30 days. Sadly, there is a big difference between these cons and healthful diets, like that popularized by former President Bill Clinton, which focus on healthy eating. Lifestyle changes work — detox/cleanses simply don’t. So why is Shelton pushing his pills?
Toxin Cleanses Are Bogus
Marketing materials for detox treatments typically describe an array of symptoms and diseases linked to toxin buildup: A few that are general enough to apply to anyone (e.g., headache, fatigue, insomnia, hunger) with a few specifics to frighten you (cancer, etc.) Which toxins cause which disease is missing, and how the toxins cause the symptoms is never actually explained. There’s absolutely no scientific support for most of the “detox systems” and “cleanses” marketed by various companies. The British organisation Sense About Science has described some detox diets and commercial products as “a waste of time and money
Despite the variety of toxins that are claimed to be causing your illness, marketing claims for detox treatments cannot specific toxins to specific symptoms or illnesses. Some detoxification proponents claim that intestinal sluggishness causes intestinal contents to putrefy, toxins are absorbed, and chronic poisoning of the body results. This “autointoxication” theory was popular around the turn of the century but was abandoned by the scientific community during the 1930s. No such “toxins” have ever been found, and careful observations have shown that individuals in good health can vary greatly in bowel habits.
The reality is that our bodies are constantly being exposed to a huge variety of natural and synthetic chemicals. The presence of any chemical in the body, (natural or synthetic) does not mean that it is doing harm. Many naturally-derived substances can be exceptionally toxic, and consequently the human body has evolved a remarkable system of defenses and mechanisms to defend against, and remove unwanted substances.
The skin, kidneys, lymphatic system, our gastrointestinal system, and most importantly, the liver make up our astoundingly complex and sophisticated detoxification system. The idea that you can wash away your calorific sins is the perfect antidote to our fast-food lifestyles and alcohol-lubricated social lives. But before you splurge to buy Shelton’s supplements, there’s something you should know. Detoxing; the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go just isn’t a thing. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things. If toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention.
“Detox” is a legitimate medical term that’s been hijacked by marketers to treat a nonexistent conditions. Medically speaking, detox is just the removal of a dangerous substance from the body. For example, a drug addict may require detox to rid their body of the drug and then teach their body how to function without the drug. Detoxification treatments are medical procedures that are not casually selected from a menu of alternative health treatments, or pulled off the shelf in the pharmacy. Real detoxification is provided in hospitals when there are life-threatening circumstances. The “toxins” that alternative health providers claim to eliminate are entirely fabricated threats that can’t be identified with any specificity because they don’t exist.
Your Body Actually Cleans Itself
You’ve got a liver for a reason. It breaks down alcohol in a two-step process. Enzymes in the liver first convert alcohol to acetaldehyde, a very toxic substance that damages liver cells. It is then almost immediately converted into carbon dioxide and water which the body gets rid of. A healthy liver receives all the blood that flows away from the stomach and intestines. Then it sorts through and picks out the good stuff to keep and the bad stuff to excrete. You can see this at work in the case of alcohol. Alcohol is a drug like any other drug, and has the potential to cause some serious damage if it hangs out in your bloodstream for too long, so it gets sent to the liver, where it’s metabolized and ultimately excreted.
The same goes for other poisons or toxins. If necessary, they’re first transformed from fat-soluble (lipophilic) forms into water-soluble forms that can be easily excreted. Then they’re passed out of the liver into urine or feces, and flushed down the toilet where they won’t do you any harm. Your liver uses a two-phase process to break down chemicals and toxins. During phase 1, toxins are neutralized and broken into smaller fragments. Then, in phase 2 they are bound to other molecules, creating a new non-toxic molecule that can be excreted in your bile, urine or stool.
Your kidneys also help by filtering out more waste products from the blood and passing them into the urine. Your liver and kidneys are very good at detox: that’s their job. This doesn’t make toxins healthy to eat: if you can avoid causing stress to your body, avoid it. If you eat foods that support your liver and kidneys, or avoid foods that stress your liver and kidneys, you’re already detoxing every day — and unless you’ve gone through something like a serious bout of alcoholism or heavy metal toxicity, you don’t really need any fancy herbal blends or colonic cleanses
The myth of the “autointoxication” from the colon deserves to die a quick and painful death. There’s no evidence that toxins get stuck in your colon, start putrefying in there, and need to be “cleansed” away with any kind of special diet or therapy. That’s just scare tactics. If they accumulate in your body at all, toxins accumulate in the liver and the fat cells, not the colon.Your colon is equipped with several natural mechanisms to keep toxins from building up. The colon is, quite literally, a waste removal system. It’s specifically designed to handle large amounts of toxic fecal matter. It’s “dirty” just like the inside of your garbage can is dirty. It’s supposed to be dirty! It’s built to hold all that dirt and keep it from ending up where it doesn’t belong. Sure, people have problems with their colons from time to time, but ripping it asunder with a bunch of fiber and regularly shooting it with a powerful stream of water won’t help you there.For example:
- Natural bacteria in the colon can detoxify food waste.
- Mucus membranes in the colon can keep unwanted substances from reentering the blood and tissues.
- The colon sheds old cells about every three days, preventing a buildup of harmful material, and even allowing for expulsion of parasites
What Need to Know About Ryan Shelton’s Zenith Labs
We’ve investigated Shelton and have found that he engages in shady sales practices. Zenith Labs describes Shelton as a licensed primary care physician and a physician. He’s not. We’ve also established that he’s not a medical doctor. Zenith claims that Shelton has “best selling books” that have helped hundreds of thousands of people. We’ve documented that Amazon Books finds no book authored or sold by Ryan Shelton. Similarly, a search of the Library of Congress shows no book by Shelton. Even Google comes up snake eyes. Not only has Shelton not published any books, but whatever ebooks he has sold on the Internet can hardly be called “best selling”. Why is Zenith Labs lying about Shelton?
There’s good reason to lie. Our investigation found that over the past decade, Shelton has been developing an Internet marketing machine to sell overpriced supplements that purport to cure obesity, tinnitus, vision impairment, premature aging, diabetes, joint health, heart disease and digestive diseases. Ever hear about the now-discredited Spark Health Media? Shelton was involved in that. If you’ve stumbled across Zenith Labs, you’ll find a host of cure-alls for just about anything that ills you. While some of what Shelton preaches is scientifically-validated common sense, his sites are really all about trying to sell you overpriced pills that will likely not cure you any better than a placebo.
Here’s Why You Don’t Need Shelton’s Detox Pills
Ryan Shelton wants to sell you pills that he promises will rid the liver of toxins through some “targeted” treatment, but never mentions a specific toxin. Instead he focuses on an “all-in-one” solution that “eliminates free radicals” and “supports healthy liver function”. What does he use to do this? He lists 5 ingredients:
- N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC)
- Schisandra Berry Extract
- Picrorhiza Root Powder
- Folic Acid
This combination of ingredients is nothing new. A number of other labs offer similar combinations. But what should be essential reading before you order anything from “Dr. Shelton” is an article by a naturopath who confesses to scamming her patients with detox regimens. Britt Hermes concedes that she creates a detox regimen, not unlike that of Shelton, which was essentially a scam. She admitted that many of these supplements also work as diuretics and laxatives to make people “feel” like they’re flushing out extra toxins (when in fact they’re just pooping or peeing more than necessary). So its of little surprise that L-Methoionine is known to cause diarrhea. In fact, it has been known to be toxic, if not fatal, if ingested in high doses. A side effect of N-acetyl-l-systeine is also diarrhea. According to Medical News Today: “It is crucial to note, however, that most research into NAC supplementation has taken place on a small scale. Determining the extent of the supplement’s benefits will require further research.”
Even if you believed that pills can detoxify you, are Shelton’s supplements reasonably priced? At Vitacost (a reputable source for supplements) you can buy 60 N-acetyl-l-systeine (NAC) pills for about $5. And 30 L-Methoionine pills will run you about $6. A year’s supply of Folic Acid pills sells for about $4. And if want an all-in-one supplement you can buy Liver Detox pills for less than $18. But for an extra $24 a month, you can get Shelton’s formulation that includes Schisandra Berry Extract and Picrorhiza Root. Is it really worth paying more than double for two dubious ingredients? Just a note: Picrorhiza Root is an Ayurvedic herb used largely for treating asthma. You can buy a bottle of it in extract form from Banyan Botanicals for about $12, if you are into Ayurdevic healing, but beware that too much of it can have undesireable side-effects. Schisandra Berry is avilable for about $7.
The bottom line is that you can buy all of the primary ingredients in Shelton’s formulation for much less than the $45 per month that he is demanding. Is $45 a reasonable asking price for a dubious formulation that no one else is offering? We think not.
We take the findings of the Harvard University findings on “detox” very seriously: “The human body can defend itself very well against most environmental insults and the effects of occasional indulgence. If you’re generally healthy, concentrate on giving your body what it needs to maintain its robust self-cleaning system — a healthful diet, adequate fluid intake, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and all recommended medical check-ups. If you experience fatigue, pallor, unexplained weight gain or loss, changes in bowel function, or breathing difficulties that persist for days or weeks, visit your doctor instead of a detox spa.”
Any supplements with the words “detox” or “cleanse” in the name is only truly effective at cleansing your wallet of cash. Alternative medicine’s ideas of detoxification and cleansing are delusional. There’s no published evidence to suggest that detox treatments, kits or rituals have any effect on our body’s ability to eliminate waste products effectively. They do have the ability to harm however – not only direct effects, like coffee enemas and purgatives, but the broader distraction away from the reality of how the body actually works and what we need to do to keep it healthy.
“Detox” focuses attention on irrelevant issues, and gives consumers the impression that they can undo lifestyle decisions with quick fixes. Improved health isn’t found in a box of herbs. The lifestyle implications of a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, lack of sleep, and alcohol or drug use cannot simply be flushed or purged away. Our kidneys and liver don’t need a detox treatment.
Our advice is if anyone suggests a detox or cleanse to you, you’d do well to ignore the suggestion, and question any other health advice they may offer. To the extent they reduce your intake of processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol, candy, soda, commercial meat and snack foods, you are giving your liver and kidneys a chance to step up and do their normal detoxification duties, since they’re no longer overburdened with bad food and not enough micronutrients and minerals to support their normal function. But you already know that…..and you didn’t have to pay us a penny to get reminded about what you already know.
If You Need to Know More About Shelton’s Scams
Check out our other investigations into Ryan Shelton: