We all want a detox nowadays. Like flushing your liver will jumpstart your healthy lifestyle. But beware of marketing that follows this little myth.
I heard a recommendation the other day—it spins off the “detox” hype that proliferates on product claims. A client read that “it’s a good idea to take a bunch of niacin—to promote the niacin flush—and thereby enhance liver detox during a sauna.”
My first response is, “Why f*#*-up a good sauna?”
But on reflection, I’m compelled to provide some clarity. First, a niacin flush is not a liver flush. Period. The niacin flush, a surge of blood that occurs on the upper body, especially the face, following a high dose of vitamin B-3 as niacin is not liver induced, it is in fact due to an inflammatory reaction in the blood vessels [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2779993/] —especially those superficial small vessels (capillaries). Thus the superficial flush of blood flow felt on the skin. Anti-inflammatory medications reduce this flush, again, because it is induced by inflammatory mediators. It is short lived and does not appear to have long term negative consequences for supplemental niacin, but taking it to enhance liver detox prior to a lot of perspiration is misguided.
Why would I want to screw up a sauna? Something that is pure to what my ancestors likely did thousands of years ago to improve their lives, health and survival. The only non-ancestral thing, I might add to a sauna is some electrolytes mixed into water. Liver flushing and the detox claims that abound on the internet are impressively misleading. Traditional methods of promoting liver activity and bile flow—like hydration, sauna, exercise, ferments in the diet, low carb and high fat intake and soluble vegetable fiber—provide us with a body that easily burns and does not store excessively. This life-behavior balances toxic storage with daily detox. A capsule to promote detox is not merely a short-cut, it is entirely misleading. So why are we hearing so much about liver detox?
Religion has historically been the mechanism to absolve our sins. Allowing us to live the life we want—and then simply pray and pay to gain favor and less time in purgatory. (Pardon my inaccurate Catholic reference.) I believe the “liver detox” myth is, in part, a transfer of absolution from religiosity to healthism.
Let’s find the life we were meant to live, one that has habits that ar
e ancestrally grounded and scientifically valid. Perhaps the “toxicity” in our body is equally in every tissue—including our mind. Perhaps the liver is not the center of our woe’s. And certainly, niacin is not part of my religion or life-health. Before my sauna I will have a glass of water – And give thanks for the ability and environment to perspire into the wood-driven heat of my ancestral kin.