Get vegan health facts, vegan health tips, nutrition facts, nutritional data, as well as learn what it takes to be a healthy vegan in our column, Ask Anya, written by registered dietitian Anya Todd.  Anya specializes in vegan nutrition and covers hot topics along with commonly asked questions about how to live healthier and more fulfilling lives.

Drinking Clay Detox

Question: Are there nutritional benefits to consuming clay as an ingested tonic?  Does drinking clay detox the body?

Honestly, I was lost at the idea of consuming clay. Sure, I have read many anecdotal stories & blogs praising the many internal and external benefits of clay (usually bentonite); however, I am not convinced it is a magic elixir.

Searching thru PubMed for any human studies addressing the use of clay wasn’t very fruitful. There was a study or two showing that clay masks can be an effective treatment for mild acne and lesioned skin. If I recall correctly, I used a clay-based mask from The Body Shop twenty-some years ago – I probably saw it featured in Sassy magazine. What I don’t recall is if it made any difference in my blemished pubescent skin. There were a few more studies looking at the possible gastrointestinal benefits to individuals with conditions like IBS. So, could there be some promise? Sure; however, I certainly don’t feel comfortable recommending dosages based on safely consumed amounts because, well, we don’t have them.

And when we talk about supplements, remember there is no regulation. A few years ago, the UK issued a warning against some clay supplements due to high levels of arsenic and lead. Some detractors said this wasn’t a worry because the clay will take these hazardous compounds out of the body, along with everything else “toxic” within your system. Maybe I am crazy, but I really would prefer not to put additional things like lead and arsenic into my body.

Much of the buzz behind drinking clay concoctions relates back to this misguided idea of a “detox.” I don’t know that there is a more annoying “health” term than that one! When I hear the word, I automatically think of “gimmick.” Y’all, we have organs designed specifically to detox the crap out of us – literally and figuratively. Additionally, if you are eating a whole foods vegan diet, why the heck do you need to detox? And if you are eating animals foods and or heavily processed foods day in/out, the best thing I feel that you can do is change your diet rather than rely on some clay dirt to save your health.

Lastly, as a former anthropology major, I certainly am aware of the concept in cultures to practice clay eating, or geophagia. Cited reasons for this practice include easing nausea symptoms and preventing nutritional deficiencies, especially during pregnancy. It is indeed fascinating, but as a healthcare professional in the United States (and not in, say, sub-Sahara Africa), I will encourage nutrient-dense foods to stave off possible deficiencies to my clients.

Photo credit: Treasach Capnerhurst via Flickr

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Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  All information is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions.  Anya Todd is a licensed registered dietitian and a healthcare professional, however, she cannot answer any specific questions related to individual medical conditions, treatments, or similar.  Questions and topics should be limited to nutrition and/or vegan diets.