Highlighting the case of a 47-year-old woman who was treated last year, they revealed that the patient became critically ill and needed intensive care at Milton Keynes hospital after taking herbal medicines and drinking too much water.
The patient recovered with treatment, but her story serves as a reminder of the dangers of drastic detoxing, the medics say.
While it may be tempting to cleanse the body of the excesses of the holidays, the concept is not necessarily healthy and is not backed by medical science, the doctors report.
The woman they treated had taken a cocktail of herbs and alternative remedies including: milk thistle, molkosan, I-theanine, glutamine, vitamin B compound, vervain, and valerian root.
Her partner said she had also been drinking lots of water, green tea and sage tea over the few days before she became ill.Shortly before being admitted to the hospital, the woman collapsed and had a seizure.
Medical tests revealed she had dangerously low levels of salt (sodium) in her body.
Researching the herbal remedies used by the patient, her doctors discovered the case of a man with a history of anxiety who had had seizures due to a low sodium level.
His symptoms developed after consuming a large amount of a herbal remedy that contained: valerian root, lemon balm, passion flower, hops, and chamomile.
“The complementary medicine market is very popular in the UK and the concept of the new-year ‘detox’ with all-natural products is appealing to those less concerned with evidence-based medicine and more with complementary medicine,” say the medics in their write-up.
“Excessive water intake as a way of ‘purifying and cleansing’ the body is also a popular regime with the belief that harmful waste products can thus be washed from the body.”
However, they warn that “despite marketing suggesting otherwise, all-natural products are not without side-effects”.
The British Dietetic Association says the whole idea of detoxing is nonsense. A representative said there are no pills or specific drinks, lotions or patches that can do a “magic job”.
The representative also noted that the body already has numerous organs – such as the skin, kidney, liver and gut – that continually “detoxify” the body from head to toe. Although being well-hydrated is a sensible strategy, they warned that consuming too much water can also be as dangerous as not drinking enough.
“It sounds predictable, but for the vast majority of people, a sensible diet and regular physical activity really are the only ways to properly maintain and maximize your health,” the representative said.