On Detox, Smoothie and Gorilla Tales

Manuela Heider de Jahnsen is a medical therapist of the Traditional Chinese and Ayurveda Medicine.  She is the author of the standard reference Das große Handbuch der chinesischen Ernährungslehre“ (The Big Manual of Chinese Dietetics). Besides being a lecturer, she runs a surgery in Berlin, specialized in nutritional advice, yoga therapy and acupuncture. For us, she considers common health opinions, starting with detox. How good are self-prescribed cures really?


There’s no day I’m not being advised to: DETOX!

But there’s a catch. If you look close, different detox suggestions not only vary, but actually contradict each other. From calorie free diets to fresh grain porridge to smoothie-snacks: basically everything that we already consider to be healthy gets re-labeled nowadays. Depending on one’s standpoint, a simple hazelnut can either become the silver bullet against cellular aging or the reason for a hay fever attack after your morning cereal. Here, it’s quietly resting in the vegan corner, hidden in antioxidential chocolate, there, it’s gracing paleolithic diets as its only original ingredient.

So what is detox? It seems like I have to go on a search for its real meaning to understand and pursue it. But before I begin, there’s a question bugging me: is detox one of these phenomenons that dissolves more and more the closer you get to its core, like a new religion or the right tax computation?

The basic concept is clear: detox is supposed to remove all of the unnecessary, poisonous substances from one’s body. This can either happen through ingestion or the refusal of it. But soon we encounter the first problem of definition: what exactly is poison? The attempts of explanation almost seem medieval. The „poison“ changes like a chameleon, depending on whoever wants to remove it from me. Free radicals, toxins, acids, the gut flora are to blame, and so your liver needs a douche. Kidneys get flushed like old bottles, teeth become obsolete. Pardon my amusement!

All of the different types of detox treatments at least share one common ground: the person who wants to engage in it realises that something has to change. It’s all about change. And that goal should be approached in self-confidence, guided by a professional, after checking the facts.

Experts tend to suggest different approaches. So today, let’s take a look at the green smoothie and see if we can challenge its glory.

Western lowland gorilla, France

Even though it is proven that man and ape share mutual relatives, but seperated ways earlier than thought, it is widely believed that the gorilla’s alimentation is also approriate for the modern human being. That’s how the green smoothie evolved. Interestingly the chimpanzee, who occasionally eats meat and different kinds of insects, is not to be considered a role model when it comes to a healthy diet.

The green smoothie contains a very high amount of raw and indigestive leaves, such as mangold, spinach and wheatgrass, with a bitter tendency. And because our behaviour bares certain similarities towards gorillas in terms of social life, while running a zero-tolerance policy on flatulences of all kinds, some inventive smart guys came up with the production of juicers in the price range of used cars. Juicers actually do shred the indigestible fibers into microscopic pieces, but this doesn’t change the fact that the enterobacteria still has to deal with them as soon as they reach the stomach. The inventors of the shredding machines seemed to have forgotten about a natural, totally free and accurate way of predigesting: chewing! During careful chewing the first digestive liquids mix with the food. Whilst chewing, the parotid gland excretes digestive enzymes, dissociating carbohyrates and proteins. Also, the salivation is good for the teeth as it hardens them, while protecting the enamel.


Concerning the ingrediantial composition of the smoothie, meaning substance and biological mass, it actually counts as a substantial meal. A meal that has neither been chewed nor predigested that is. This way, substances can get to deeper regions of the digestive system, without being farely dissociated in previous parts of the system. Then, the inevitable happens. The gut flora is overburdened with tasks it’s usually not prepared to deal with.

While we’re at it, we should take a closer look at the principle of the gut flora itself. Over the years, we have tried to rear and stabilize flora by selecting the food we eat. So a sudden change in alimentation does not create wellness, but stress the body has to cope with. But the goal of a detox treatment is supposed to be the opposite, to decrease stress.

There’s another topic we can’t forget: the juices and press substratums have a bitter aftertaste. And because they’re so bitter, they are sweetened for the sake of business. The sweeteners, for example aloe syrup, contain high amounts of carbohydrates.


Sweet is settling and satisfying. The bad conscience? That nothing has changed after all in these fast modern times?

Maybe I should pass on the whole detox thing…until I have the time…?


Text(DE): Manuela Heider de Jahnsen
Images: nourishingmealscoogeecatvanityfair


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