Aaron Rodgers’s Panchakarma ‘Cleanse’ Is a Dangerous Play
March 1, 2022 — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently made headlines when he said he completed a 12-day detox process that is said to cleanse the body from the inside out. But experts warn that this process, known as the purification of Panchakarma, could have dangerous consequences if fans follow in his footsteps.
“There is no scientific evidence to support a cleanse,” says Jessica DeGore, registered dietitian and owner of Jess Nutritionist in Pittsburgh. “Our kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and liver work to keep us healthy and rid us of toxins.”
Panchakarma cleansing has its roots in the ancient Indian alternative medicine known as Ayurveda. His 12-day approach includes activities such as self-induced vomiting, enemas, “Nasya,” which means the elimination of toxins through the nose, and even bloodletting in an attempt to “neutralize” the blood.
It’s all wrong, says Alyssa Pike, a registered dietitian and senior nutrition communications manager at International Food Information Council.
In fact, the notion that our bodies are full of “toxins” is simply not true.
“There is no real medical definition of the word ‘toxins’,” says DeGore. “If you really had toxins in your body, you would need a medical emergency, not a cleanse.”
The whole idea of cleansing, be it Rogers’ favorite method or otherwise, has gained momentum over the past few decades, with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow selling their favorite health methods.
“It’s easy for people to believe these ideas when they see beautiful celebrities advertising their grooming practices,” says DeGore. “But behind the scenes, they’re getting the support that we can’t see or get to keep them healthy.”
It’s easy for fans of Rogers, Paltrow, and the like to forget that these public figures have no medical evidence to back up what they’re promoting. And celebrities often profit from their claims in the form of books and related products, leaving them anything but an unbiased resource.
In the case of Rogers’ panchakarma cleanse, following its principles comes with real health risks, says registered dietitian Tiffany Godwin, director of nutrition and wellness at Connections Wellness Group.
“Medically, activities such as induced vomiting, forced diarrhea, and enema use pose a high risk of severe dehydration,” she says. “When we vomit or have diarrhea, we don’t just lose massive amounts of fluid from our body, but we also lose essential electrolytes and minerals.”
Also, a cleanse designed to rid your body of toxins can introduce them into your body if you use herbal medicines.
“Some of the products used in Ayurvedic medicine contain herbs, metals, minerals, or other materials that can be harmful if used incorrectly,” Pike explains. “Ayurvedic medicines are regulated as dietary supplements, not medicines in the United States, so they are not required to meet the safety and efficacy standards of conventional medicines.”
When it comes to Ayurveda, which is based on ancient scriptures based on a “natural” or holistic approach to physical and mental health, there is little research or clinical trials in Western medical journals to support this approach. Thus, people interested in following the practices should always consult a doctor before trying them.
Rogers’ approach includes, for example, “herbal medicine for the nose.”
“Be very careful with herbs and supplements,” DeGore advises. “We have the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doing a lot of drug testing before they approve it. These additives are not regulated and do not go through the same processes.”
Another danger is that during the “cleansing,” you deprive your body of the nutrients it needs.
“When we vomit or have diarrhea, we not only lose large amounts of fluid from our body, but we also lose essential electrolytes and minerals,” says Godwin. “Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and dizziness at best. In the worst case, it can lead to convulsions, kidney failure, coma, and death.”
Instead, as nutritionists say, you can help your body by giving it what it really needs.
“Eating plenty of fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains, for example, keeps our gastrointestinal tract moving and moving, creating the perfect environment for our intestines to use nutrients and get rid of not that useful,” says Godwin. “These systems can be disrupted in a variety of disease states such as liver disease, kidney disease, and other gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. However, in these disease states, purification can be even more harmful.”
Cleansing practices can also be a very slippery slope for people struggling with an eating disorder.
“When celebrities advertise these cleansers, they often attract impressionable people,” says DeGore. “These approaches deprive your body of its nutritional needs and cause destructive behavior. Ironically, they will slow down your metabolism, which will eventually lead to weight gain when you return to normal eating.”
According to DeGore, the 12-day duration of a panchakarma cleanse is particularly troubling.
“Even after five days, you won’t be able to think clearly, and you will have unpleasant side effects,” she says.
After all, whether it’s Rogers, Paltrow, or another celebrity, all nutritionists recommend avoiding their advice when it comes to health and nutrition.
“Beware of celebrities, influencers, or anyone who tries to convince you to try extreme cleansing or the ‘too good to be true’ diet,” Pike says. “It can be dangerous to your health, physical and mental.”