August 18, 2022

Are These Health Drinks Actually Healthy?

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Shanthi Appelö, registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they explore the latest health drink trends on social media and uncover whether or not they’re actually healthy for you.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

  • What’s the appeal of juice cleanses and health drinks that draws us to them.
  • What you need to consider before trying a juice cleanse or detox
  • TikTok drink trends including:
    • Liquid chlorophyll
    • “Healthy” coke
    • Internal shower
    • Aloe vera juice
  • What you need to be on the lookout for when trying a health trend found on social media

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 112. Is there such a thing as a healthier Diet Coke? Or what about Aloe Vera Juice and the internal shower? Huh? What are these things? Have you heard of them? Coming up, we discussed some trending drinks that have been touted as healthy on social media. But, are they really?
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can start implementing right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week we sit down with a certified expert to discover things about nutrition and fitness and a whole lot more. On this episode, we’re diving in head first into healthy drink trends or at least that’s what we’re told. These things are popping up on the internet. We’re finding people who have talked about them for years. But are they really beneficial for you? For me? With us again today as registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Shanthi Appelo. Hi Shanthi.

Shanthi Appelö:
Hello. I’m so excited about this topic.

Chuck Gaidica:
Are you really? Come on, it’s me. You can tell me.

Shanthi Appelö:
I am.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Shanthi Appelö:
I am. Because I feel like social media has just taken health by, I don’t know, the seat of its pants.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, well, but you’re passionate about nutrition and behavior. Part of this is behavior that we’re now getting from other sources. I wouldn’t call it peer pressure, but we do have these inputs that say, “Hey, put some vinegar in some water and drink that. You’ll live longer.” I don’t know, my grandma made it to 89. I don’t think she ever did a shot of vinegar every day. You know what I’m saying?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, exactly. I think as humans we all just want kind of quick fixes to our problems. I mean, I know I do. I wish I could eat one cookie or drink one drink and be healthy forever. If you can drink one drink and it solves a lot of your health problems, makes you more energized, makes you lose weight, all these things and it takes five minutes to drink it versus spending an hour to exercise, preparing your healthy meals, eating things that maybe don’t taste as good as fried chicken. I don’t know. These things are so simplified and that’s why they’re so easy to catch onto. It’s like, “Yes, if I can drink this one thing, it’s going to be great.” That’s, I think, why a lot of people want to believe in them.

Chuck Gaidica:
But I use my grandmother as an example. For me, one of the tests I have is if this has been so good for so long … I don’t mean some new invention … I’m all for new science and discovering new things that we haven’t known for eons … But if this has really been around for a long time, I don’t know if I heard a lot of old-timers ever saying that they really should do a shot of vinegar or drink Aloe Vera Juice. So we’re going to double back on that because there is no such thing as a lack, to your point, of new health trends.
As of late, whether it’s on social media, wherever you’re finding this stuff, there are these claims that frankly aren’t even new. I’ve heard these things … Drink pickle juice … That’s got to go back forever, 10, 20 years. So let’s talk about this idea of are some of these things healthy or not or is it hype. Health or hype? Where do you come down generally on a lot of these things?

Shanthi Appelö:
Generally, there are not many benefits to a lot of these detox drinks, juice cleanses. Now, if there are any benefits, I usually say that they’re adding nutrients to your diet. It’s not that their goal is to detox, to cleanse. We have body parts that do that. Our body was designed to do that, and I’ll talk more about it. But for example, Jamba Juice. It’s this Indonesian drink basically. It just is made out of all these kind of traditional medicine, bark and kinds of juices and herbs and things like that. Anyways, it’s just like an umbrella term.
But a really popular Jamba Juice is going to be made up of turmeric, ginger, citrus, like lime or lemon, maple syrup or honey, and then black pepper. So a drink like that to me makes sense because you’re adding some nutrients to your life. For example, the ginger could help with some motility in the gut. It can help with digestion. The turmeric in it has some antiinflammatory properties. The black pepper helps boost the action of turmeric. Then of course citrus has got your vitamin C and things like that. So the point of a drink like that is to add nutrients. But a lot of the goal of different kinds of juice cleanses and detoxes are not. So they claim that they can remove toxins in your life. They can make you feel overall better. They might show, “Oh my gosh, this is how many toxins you got rid of by doing this cleanse.” So the downside of it is, of course, oftentimes to make them palatable, they’re going to be adding a lot of sugar to a lot of these things.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, yeah. Maple syrup on anything. I mean, come on. I’ll take cardboard and eat it if it has bacon on it. I mean, if you add something great to a concoction, you may want to palate it easier.

Shanthi Appelö:
Exactly. I mean, if you add a scoop of ice cream to your herbal tea, I’m here for it. But the truth is a lot of these can do more harm than good. That’s really what it comes down to. A lot of detoxes have laxatives, and oftentimes laxatives are going to often obviously make you have to go to the bathroom. But if that causes diarrhea, especially for long periods of time, if you keep taking this drink that causes you to have diarrhea, you can get electrolyte imbalances, you can become dehydrated. Oftentimes too there are some people that are more vulnerable to these types of drinks. So think, for example, they’re on this juice cleanse and the juice hasn’t been pasteurized, and then people who are elderly or maybe people who have a compromised immune system could get severely ill.
You also think of having the same herbal tea every day, only drinking liquids or the cayenne pepper drink or whatever it was about 20 years ago. That can also lead to those electrolyte imbalances and not make you feel good. Finally, when you think about a lot of these products that are on the market, they’re not regulated by the FDA. The FDA has even removed some of these products because they have either illegal ingredients or some of their ingredients could be potentially harmful, or they’re just false claims saying that they can do something medically that they really can’t. So I guess that’s the downside.

Chuck Gaidica:
So you know this from your extensive training, that there’s going to be a counterculture to what should be wagging the tail when it comes to our health. I was on a 10-day expedition to the rainforest in Peru and I met a shaman, and this guy’s cutting open the bark of a tree and out comes some red liquid, and he rubs it on my hand and it turned white. He said, “This is our version of antibiotic cream.” I’m like, “Wow.” My mind is blown by this whole thing.
Well, they’re kind of on the leading edge of bringing stuff out of the jungle, out of the rainforest. What they can’t do is figure out how to package it right. So there probably is something in there. But one of the things that I see with all these TikTok videos, these products, there’s a threat of acid, acidity that runs through lemon juice, vinegar, anything that seems sour, even juices. You drink too much orange juice, you’re getting a lot of acid. I look at that, and I think to your point about not knowing what you may not know yet, you may not know you’ve got a stomach issue with acid. If you know you’ve got some kind of problem, well, you probably are going to avoid it. But you drink a bunch of vinegar, it may be upsetting to your stomach for a while or even worse.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah, exactly. It is interesting when we think about the shaman that you were mentioning, the antibiotic properties. A lot of these, before we had modern medicine, people had to rely on these measures. I remember being in Australia, and we were going on a tour. They had so many different types of eucalyptus, so many different types of tea tree. They were talking about how these tea tree oils were basically antifungal, antibacterial. They just kind of deter some of those things. So they had to rely on those kind of things back in the day.
But the way I like to look at it is we’ve come so far from that. Maybe they do play a good role in ingredients for some topical things, but we just need to get to our doctor and to the experts with the most efficient way to get you cured and that actually is going to be healthy for you because we were talking about some of these ingredients. We don’t know if they’re going to interact with your body. We don’t know if they’re going to interact with medications that you’re taking. Say you have some kind of medication that you take daily, and one of these components could be interfering with the medication, whether it is not making it work as it should, it’s decreasing the power of it or increasing the power of it to where it can be potentially dangerous. So definitely important to get the doctor’s point of view.

Chuck Gaidica:
Before we jump into some of these specifics that these “healthy drinks” that we’re finding on TikTok and other social media, there is something to be said for, I don’t know … I look at this and I compare, if I’m going to go on a juicing detox, I kind of get the phrase. It makes sense to me if I’m looking to detox, I’m not sure why I would need to do it. But I personally would rather eat an orange than I would squeeze 10 of them and then put that with some other concoction of sprinkling in nutmeg or whatever somebody’s going to tell me. I think I’m getting more value out of the apple or the orange or the berries that I’m eating than just taking the juice and using that. Am I off on that for nutritionally?

Shanthi Appelö:
No, you’re absolutely right. Yes, because the fiber, exactly, you’re missing out on so much of that unless of course you include the pulp, you’re getting a little bit of fiber, but even then you’re missing out on a lot of those benefits. The fiber kind of interacting with the juice drink itself. So definitely a good point there.
I think if I’m talking to someone and they’re interested in starting a juice cleanse, if they want to do a detox, the first thing I like to do is ask them kind of what the goal is. Maybe they say, “Well, I just need to detox. I’m feeling like crap. I just have been drinking a lot of alcohol,” or whatever it is. They’re like, “I just need a reset. I need to get rid of all the toxins.” That might be an answer. Someone might be just saying, “I just need to jumpstart my weight loss.”
So I think there are a lot of different ways to go about having a conversation with someone like that. So, first of all, if it’s for weight loss, of course, we can talk about evidence-based ways to lose weight that’s going to fit their lifestyle. Talk about what their experience is with weight loss in the past to find a way that’s going to work for them.
But if it is to get rid of toxins, I think it’s so important to understand the fundamentals of how our body works. For example, our liver helps process all of the nutrients, and it kind of changes these toxins so that the kidneys then can help eliminate it. Our lungs, when we breathe things in, it’s going to remove these airborne toxins. Our colon, as food and waste moves through our body, it’s going to help remove the waste in the toxins by just going to the bathroom. Then finally, the kidneys. The kidneys are really the treasure here in our body and are doing all the work that these detoxes and juice cleanses are claiming to do, but they filter our blood and they remove all the toxins that need to be removed in our urine, something that I promise these juice cleanses cannot do.
So if you’re looking to help your body out, to help your kidneys, to help your liver, to help your whole body do the processes that it’s supposed to do, you don’t need to drink anything special. Some things you can just do is avoid smoking, don’t drink as much alcohol, hydrate your body so that your organs can function the way that they’re supposed to and eat healthy so that again, these organs can function the way that they’re supposed to so they’re getting the nutrients they need for all the enzymatic functions and all the reactions and everything to really happen in the body.

Chuck Gaidica:
Again, coming back to this part of the hat that you wear about behavior, let’s be fair … If I’m living a life where my diet or let’s say my lifestyle is healthy and for some reason I think taking a shot of pomegranate juice every other day is helping me, if I think it is and I’m actually feeling great, well, I don’t know, it’s not like I’m eating dessert 10 times a day. I mean, there’s a certain balance. We’ve talked about that in previous episodes. There’s a balance that you can have where if you do stumble across something where you think it’s helping, or maybe it actually is, well, it’s not a crazy thing. But I can see if someone said to you as a … You’re trying to guide them or coach them, and they said, “I really am looking to go on a fast to detox, to jumpstart my diet,” what they’re kind of saying is they want to go on a fast and that’s maybe a different topic. So it’s very intriguing what the underlying motivation or behavior is for some of these things.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. I think that’s something we can explore within ourselves. I think weight loss is one of the biggest reasons that people want to do or catch on to some of these trends. It’s like they’ve tried so many things. It really is hard to lose weight. I know that it’s hard, and that’s why we want to jump at these opportunities, these trends. But at the end of the day, I think we just need to get back to our brain that checks things, that kind of doubts maybe the too good to be true aspects of some of these things and just kind of read what the experts are saying and everything like that.

Chuck Gaidica:
So I’m not an expert in this field, maybe in any field, but I am going to make this statement. When I was a kid and I got a cut on my finger and my dad or mom would put the old-fashioned merthiolater, Mercurochrome on, it would burn. Oh my gosh, would it burn. There was something in your brain that said it had to hurt to make you think you were healing better. It’s like you couldn’t just put on the little antibiotic ointment and it didn’t hurt. It had to hurt. I think there’s a thread in all of these where somehow I’ve got to wince and go, “Ugh,” when I drink vinegar and seltzer water and then somehow my brain is saying, “Well, you really do have to wince and suck it up, Chuck because it’s just making you feel good.” Do you think behaviorally there’s something to that?

Shanthi Appelö:
I don’t know the best way to answer that question, but-

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, it’s not a trial. I’m not trying to put you on trial. I just think that I’m onto something because I just remember-

Shanthi Appelö:
You may be.

Chuck Gaidica:
Maybe if it hurts, it’ll make you feel better. I don’t think you have to hurt to feel better.

Shanthi Appelö:
I know that with some skincare products, my dermatologist did say, “If you feel something happening on your face, you know it’s working.”

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh, interesting. If it tingles, then it’s worth the $40. Is that what you mean?

Shanthi Appelö:
Maybe.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. All right. So let’s talk about a couple of these. So the healthy Diet Coke or the healthy Coke, which is what? Is that balsamic vinegar and what?

Shanthi Appelö:
It’s balsamic vinegar and soda water, seltzer water. I believe it was the guava flavor.

Chuck Gaidica:
I just put a little balsamic on my salad yesterday. No oil. I like it, but I can tell you, I don’t think in a million years I would do a shot of that in water. I just don’t see why.

Shanthi Appelö:
So the key to this is, I think the person who came up with this TikTok trend makes the balsamic vinegar with this guava flavored seltzer water and they claim that it tastes almost exactly like a Coke, but a healthier Coke. Now, I don’t foresee that this is too big of an issue. I don’t think that it’s going to cure any … They’re not really claiming it’s going to cure any health problems per se. I mean, of course some smaller studies have suggested that vinegar can be helpful for people with diabetes or people who want to lose weight and things like that. But with this, I think they’re trying to think of it as a healthier option to a Diet Coke. But when it comes down to it, our teeth are probably not going to be very thankful if you are drinking this all day.

Chuck Gaidica:
A lot of acid, right?

Shanthi Appelö:
A lot of acid. The pH for this must be around three or so, depending on how much of that balsamic vinegar you use. Because in contrast, when you think of adding balsamic vinegar to your salad, you’re tossing it with a little bit of oil, you’re having it with your salad, a lot of that acid is neutralized by other components in the food. So it’s not as much of an issue as just having the straight up drink with that balsamic vinegar.

Chuck Gaidica:
All right. So then there’s one about liquid chlorophyll. Can’t I just eat green plants? Why do I have to mainline this stuff right in in green fluid?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. So the liquid chlorophyll, this was one of the more popular ones in 2021. They claim that it can be this great skincare hack in that it can be a stress reliever. Just a little back to eighth grade lesson on chlorophyll, it’s that green pigment in plants, in algae. It lets them absorb energy from the sun with photosynthesis. They were saying that this is going to be great for your skin and relieving that stress.
But the thing about this one is there’s really no benefits. There’s no research that suggests there are any benefits to it. If anything, it’s going to maybe make your poop green. That could be kind of fun science experiment, I guess. I don’t know. But there’s no really toxic effects. There’s not really anything to worry about with the liquid chlorophyll, but why waste your money if it doesn’t give you any benefits?

Chuck Gaidica:
So as a … I don’t know how to put this … As a skeptic, I would say that if I’m going to ingest anything, even if you told me an apple a day makes my skin better, it’s a stretch for me to think that I’m going to eat it, chew it, digest it, get rid of most of it, and then somehow it’s going to double back and make my skin better. Overall, if I’m hydrating and eating apples and a half bag of spinach every week … I mean, I just think if I’m eating the right stuff, it’s going to kind of work its way out unless I’ve got a particular medical issue, eczema or something that could lead me down a path. So I just don’t know the drinking this stuff in my gut and then expelling it some … You’ve got to give it back somehow, it’s somehow going to make my skin shiny. I don’t get it.

Shanthi Appelö:
If anything, it might actually make your skin burn from the sun because it can make you more sensitive to sunburn.

Chuck Gaidica:
No kidding. That’s one of those downsides.

Shanthi Appelö:
Case closed.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yes. Boom. Okay. So what is this thing called the internal shower drink?

Shanthi Appelö:
Oh goodness. So this is a mix of water, chia seeds and a little bit of lemon juice. How does that sound for breakfast?

Chuck Gaidica:
No, it just sounds … I mean, it just sounds like I don’t even want to drink it.

Shanthi Appelö:
Fibery glass of water?

Chuck Gaidica:
Right.

Shanthi Appelö:
Well, when chia seeds get in contact with water, they kind of get bigger. They puff up a little bit. So it’s not even like these seeds are just kind of going down. They’re a little puffy-

Chuck Gaidica:
Kind of slimy.

Shanthi Appelö:
Puffy when you’re … Yeah. Slimy and puffy. A slimy, puffy drink.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh, come on. What is the point? What are they saying this is good for?

Shanthi Appelö:
So really it’s supposed to be, like they say, an internal shower. It’s supposed to clean your gut a little bit. In some ways it is true because the chia seeds, they’re going to have a lot of fiber. They’re kind of going to sweep … The action of the type of fiber that we get from chia seeds are almost like a broom in your gut kind of sweeping it clean. So in that way it’s true. One of the things about us Americans is that we don’t get enough fiber as a society. You think about men, they should get up to a 38 grams of fiber in a day, between 30 to 38, and women 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day. So with that, on average we’re only getting about 10 to 15 grams a day as a society.
So we’re really lacking in that fiber. So if you’re really lacking and you’re getting a good stamp of health from your doctor and you want to get in some extra fiber and this helps you, I mean, sure. I think there are other ways to get fiber. If you wanted to have your chia seed pudding, little Greek yogurt and things like that for breakfast, it’s probably a better choice. But overall, when you mix fiber with a lot of fluid like in this drink, it is going to cause you to get to go to the bathroom because you need fiber and water together, otherwise it has the opposite effect.

Chuck Gaidica:
But the folks that may need that, because we hear about the natural laxative … what are the husks? Psyllium? What is that? There’s stuff like that you can buy. It’s not the chemical, but you can mix it in a glass of water, swig it, so this is kind of a version of that that does seem maybe a little less harmless than others as long as you’ve got a purpose for it.

Shanthi Appelö:
Right. Yeah, exactly. If you’re naturally constipated and you’re needing a little bit more fiber in your life, sure, try it. But I definitely would prefer to throw some of my chia seeds in my morning smoothie personally.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Eat your fruits and veggies during the week, and you may be on your road to happiness. Here’s one. Now forever, since I’ve been a kid, Aloe Vera was one of those things like low fat that you would see on everything from suntan oil to gosh knows what, skincare products and now a new one to ingest … It’s maybe not that new … Aloe Vera Juice. For what?

Shanthi Appelö:
For helping with digestion, skin and overall well-being. Apparently it’s supposed to make you feel amazing, make you feel like you’re getting an amazing night of sleep, feeling stress free.

Chuck Gaidica:
Really.

Shanthi Appelö:
Yep. It does it all apparently.

Chuck Gaidica:
Okay. So have you ever tried that?

Shanthi Appelö:
I have not. To be honest, I wouldn’t. One of the things about this is that Aloe Vera Juice, it actually used to be in laxatives back in the early 2000s. So it does tout that it helps with digestion. So it was in laxatives, but the FDA actually removed it from the shelves because they weren’t sure about the safety. This was also a few years back, but there have been reports of hepatitis, liver failure, so some things that aren’t necessarily safe. Another thing to consider with this too, and a lot of experts, a lot of physicians are recommending against using this Aloe Vera Juice because it can interfere with different medications, especially diuretics. So something to pay attention to, especially if you have heart problems,

Chuck Gaidica:
But using it in my wife’s hand lotion that I did swipe this morning, I’m okay with that?

Shanthi Appelö:
Topical-

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, I shouldn’t have said I did it. A friend of mine took his wife’s hand lotion and used it this morning and it said it has Aloe Vera in it. That’s okay, right?

Shanthi Appelö:
Topical application of this is just fine is what dermatologists say so we’re covered.

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s good to know. So overall health trends that you’re looking at. Talk to our listeners about this idea in particular. What are we on the lookout for? What are some of the litmus tests that we should be running in our own mind when we see these things pop up on social media? Lose weight fast because you drink vinegar, that kind of thing. What are we looking for?

Shanthi Appelö:
Yeah. I think one of the first things to just tell yourself is if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. The thing is is our primary care physicians are experts. They want the best for us. They want us to be in good health so if there was this magical solution, it would be everywhere. It wouldn’t be a secret. I often see the ads that say, “The component that your doctor doesn’t want you to know about.” It’s like, “Well, why wouldn’t I want my doctor to know about it? I would really like my doctor to know about the health things I’m doing.” So I think those are red flags.
Look at who came up with the health trend. Do they have any certifications? Do they have the right qualifications? Are they, for example, a physician with the right qualifications? Are they a registered dietitian? Or do they just have a weird nutrition certificate from some online website? There are so many different ways that people can appear as experts when they’re really not. So I think taking a look at someone’s credentials is vitally important here.
Then you want to look at what the experts are really saying on the matter. Do some crosschecking here. If you just see it on TikTok, probably not a good idea. I also see a lot of stuff on TikTok where there are doctors … I don’t know if they’re posing as doctors or if they’re not responsible doctors, but they are standing there in front of the screen. They’re pointing at this person losing weight or a graphic of a person losing weight, and it’s just coffee, lemon juice and water. They’re like, “Yeah. That’s how you lose weight.” So I think just crosschecking, making sure you’re listening to someone you trust. But oftentimes the best thing to do is just to talk to your doctor if you’re interested in making one of these changes in your life.

Chuck Gaidica:
I think you and I have talked about this before and I’ll kind of wrap it up with this. There are some natural things that, if you’re looking for your gut health to brain health connection or any of those things, having we’ve talked about pickled things, beets or pickles or sauerkraut. There are things you can do that are naturally fermented that can maybe help your gut health where it’s not weird. It may taste weird at first, but maybe it’s that you love having a pickle with your sandwich. Well, knock yourself out. It’s probably not hurting and maybe it’s even helping.

Shanthi Appelö:
Exactly. There are so many things we know that are good for our gut, like eating probiotics and prebiotics and things like yogurt and these fibery foods. Load up on those. It doesn’t have to be in drink form either. All these vegetables, all these good foods, they’re just fine in your home cooking, and you can incorporate them without adding extra calories in a sugary drink.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well someday we’ll get together … I don’t mean to impose any peer pressure, but we’ll do some shots of vinegar and seltzer water and see how that goes for us. That’s about as wild as I get, Shanthi.

Shanthi Appelö:
I’ll take that wild, Chuck.

Chuck Gaidica:
Okay, good. Well, take good care. It’s great to have you back.

Shanthi Appelö:
Thanks. Have a great one.

Chuck Gaidica:
Shanthi Appelo with us, who’s a registered dietitian for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Always lots of good stuff from her. Hey, thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show, you want to know more, check us out online, ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. Leave us reviews or ratings on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher and get new episodes on your smartphone or tablet. Make sure you do that. You can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Be well.