The terms ‘cleansing’ and ‘detoxing’ both have the same end result; removing toxins from your body. As a consequence, they are sometimes used interchangeably which is a significant mistake because they involve very different processes.
When you embark on a cleanse diet, for example, you’re attempting to clear out the digestive tract. To achieve this goal you need to make dietary and lifestyle changes. When you try a detox diet on the other hand, you’re trying to improve the health of your kidneys and liver. Although either one could help your general health, they are best utilized under different circumstances.
For instance, you could try a natural detox after binge drinking or a 3-day detox to remove traces of THC from your system. If you’re hoping to lose weight, a thorough cleanse of your system is the better option. In this article, we dig into the finer details of each term to try and steer you towards the best detox and cleanse options for your specific needs.
What is Detox?
Short for ‘detoxification’, detox is the process of neutralizing and eliminating toxins from the body, and it is a natural occurrence. Toxins have the potential to damage body tissue, and our organs work in concert to turn toxins into less harmful compounds before removing them from the body.
What is Detox Diet?
A detox diet is a method of assisting the body in the natural detox process by reducing the number of toxins we ingest and are exposed to. Those who believe in the effectiveness of these diets suggest that we require a break from the immense overload of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis.
As well as trying to avoid pollution (which is difficult when you live in a city) and cigarette smoke, a detox diet is used to speed up the process. For example, a typical detox diet would involve avoiding processed food, alcohol, nicotine, salt, and sugar. There are dozens of detox diets ranging from the apple cider vinegar detox to fruit fasts. Although these methods are sometimes weird and wacky, they normally follow a similar set of principles:
- Reduce the level of chemicals ingested.
- Focus on the consumption of water and foods high in fiber (this combination should increase urination and bowel movements which are prime ways to remove toxins from the body).
- Focus on foods that are rich in nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants.
However, the foods and beverages you can and can’t consume vary from diet to diet.
Is a Detox Diet Effective?
First and foremost, it is crucial to note that there are very few clinical trials that support the efficacy of detox diets. Although there is research that shows the ‘detoxing’ potential of certain foods and drinks (we get asked all the time for instance does cranberry juice clean your system), most of these studies are lab-based and have taken place on animals, not humans.
That said, those who champion detox diets claim that the lifestyle change has boosted their immune levels, focus, and reduced their stress levels. Frankly, reducing junk food, consuming more water, quitting smoking and exercising more often will have physical and mental benefits for just about everybody!
Reasons to Detox
- You Feel Fatigued: If you wake up most days and feel tired, have brain fog and suffer from headaches, a detox diet could help boost your energy and general ‘feel good’ factor.
- You Want to Lose Weight: Losing weight is not always as easy as calories in vs. calories out. For instance, sugar spikes inflammation and insulin, which subsequently increases your store of belly fat and reduces your capacity to feel full. When you detox, you eliminate this issue and help your body go back to being a fat-burning machine.
- You’ve Never Detoxed: If you have never managed 7-10 days of eating and drinking clean and wholesome items, a detox diet could have surprising effects on a variety of different levels. You are probably not operating at your optimal state at present, and a relatively quick detox could supercharge your system.
Why Shouldn’t I Try a Detox Diet?
If you are considering a detox diet, it is wise to speak with your healthcare provider first and look at the pros and cons. Pregnant women should not attempt a detox diet, and it is also a bad idea for people with certain health conditions such as diabetes. If you are looking for a nicotine or alcohol detox, a cleanse diet is a far better option.
It is also a fact that some diets are more restrictive than others. For instance, you may simply clean up your diet significantly – starting the day with a detox smoothie instead of cereal for example. However, there are stricter detoxes that require an immense level of discipline. Due to the sudden absence of compounds and nutrients that your body has become used to, these may lead to side effects such as:
- Tiredness & Lightheadedness.
- Caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
- Dehydration and diarrhea.
- Low blood sugar.
When learning how to detox your body with detox tea and detox drinks, it should be understood that it is only a short-term solution. If you’re one of these people who has read some literature and is wondering, for instance, “does vinegar clean your system,” it’s worth it to point out that such a stringent diet for weeks on end may result in you suffering nutrient deficiencies and low body weight. Therefore, when considering a detox diet, make sure you follow one of the more sensible options that are outlined below.
What is a Cleanse?
The purpose of a cleanse is to remove junk food from your diet and replace it with food rich in nutrients. However, please note that no single food will detoxify or cleanse your body. What healthy foods CAN do is help your kidneys and liver perform their jobs more effectively. These organs flush toxins out of your system, so the best lifestyle is one which helps keep these organs in perfect working order.
What is a Body Cleanse?
There are several well-known body cleanses, including the 3-day Refresh Cleanse and the more challenging 21-day cleanse. As well as removing junk food from your diet, they add nutrient-rich food to aid the body’s detoxification process (also known as a natural cleanse).
One of the most positive effects of a standard process cleanse is the amount of weight you will lose. In reality, the main reason you’re losing weight is that you’re consuming far less calories than usual. Water is stored in the body’s muscles with glycogen, but when you’re on a low-calorie diet, as you will be when you cleanse, these glycogen stores are used up along with water weight. Once you return to your normal diet, you can expect to gain a few kilograms in a short space of time.
How Will I Feel on a Full-body Cleanse?
Even a 3-day juice cleanse is challenging for a newcomer; on the first day, everything goes relatively smoothly because you’re not likely to feel any symptoms for several hours. The speed at which a cleanse works depends on a variety of factors, including how many toxins are in your body and how quickly the body releases them.
On a juice cleanse diet for example, you’ll begin with cold pressed juice and a glass of water with lemon. If you’re not a big breakfast eater, this won’t seem like a problem (breakfast lovers may feel a bit sluggish on the other hand). Beware, though, that cleanse symptoms can be brutal and can include things like headaches and sweating – particularly if you drink a lot of coffee or soda and suddenly stop (it results in a caffeine withdrawal).
Also, you will probably miss ‘chewing’ and by the end of the first day, your energy levels will noticeably drop. If you normally go the gym at this point, it might be a good idea to choose a brisk walk instead, if the weather allows it. If you like a pre-bedtime snack, you will certainly begin feeling the psychological impact of the cleanse. However, the juice and glass of lemon water you have instead should help keep hunger pangs at bay.
Day two of any cleanse diet is typically the most difficult because you’ll probably start experiencing symptoms such as headaches, anxiousness and irritability. You’ll have to drink a lot of water to help flush out your system, so be prepared for multiple bathroom visits. If you feel severe hunger pangs during the day, munch on a handful of raw almonds to get you through it.
For many people on a cleanse diet, day three feels like Utopia! Your digestive system will have gotten used to the new “normal,” so hunger pangs should be less noticeable. Also, assuming that you have rested well over the previous couple of days, you should feel much more energized. By the evening, the lack of a normal dinner will be a lot more palatable than it was the previous day.
As we mentioned above, there are various types of cleanse and cleansing strategies, some that are more difficult than others. Here we outline them below.
Different Types of Cleanse
For some people, it appears as if the words ‘cleanse’ and ‘detox’ have replaced the word ‘diet’. As a result, there are dozens of cleansing options out there. Here we look at several of the most popular ones.
This form of cleansing focuses on the digestive system, and with good reason; the majority of toxins are eliminated from the body through urine and feces. Aside from colonic irrigation, there is a multitude of products available to help your colon expel its contents. Products for this purpose include laxatives, enemas, enzymes, magnesium, and herbal teas.
The goal of colon cleansing is to remove significant quantities of stagnant and toxic waste that reside on our colon’s walls. When you expel these toxins from the system, you should feel healthier and more energetic — not to mention experiencing some weight loss.
Readers frequently ask us, “does cranberry juice clean out your system?” Since this seems like such a common DIY-method, we figured it’d be worth it to take some time to go over natural juice cleanses.
Juice cleansing is actually an intense process because you are consuming nothing but fruit and vegetable juices, herbal teas, and water for a specified period. Although it helps to give your digestive system a rest (and offers nutrients for the detox process), it is high in sugar and lacks healthy fats and proteins.
Overall it is an exceedingly difficult process, and should not be attempted for more than a few days at a time. Any longer and you risk illness because you’re depriving the body of many essential nutrients. Also, if your aim is to avoid sugar, then you’ll want to eliminate fruit juices as well.
This is arguably the most intense cleanse of them all, and it is certainly one of the most famous. The master cleanse recipe is comprised of maple syrup, water, and cayenne pepper. You have to drink 6-12 glasses a day instead of eating meals, and you are supposed to take a laxative before bed. (And rather than taking another laxative in the morning, you can try a salt water flush instead).
While the Master Cleanse does a great good of cleaning out your bowels, the sugar in the syrup can cause insulin spikes and gut flora imbalances. The result is that you store fat and suffer from increased insulin resistance. While you could lose 10 pounds over ten days (sometimes even more), it is very likely that you will return to your old habits and regain the weight because this cleanse does not give you the tools needed to embark on a healthier lifestyle.
The idea behind the parasite cleanse is to get rid of the variety of parasites that can infect your intestinal tract. Before you begin to panic, though, there are symptoms of a parasitic infection you can look out for. These include things like insatiable hunger, abdominal pain, fever, and gut inflammation.
Also, it’s important to note that not everyone has parasites in their system, although some “internet doctors” might claim up to 50% of Americans carry them (we would take such hysterical ideas with a large pinch of salt).
In terms of where you get parasites, you can acquire them from consuming contaminated water and/or food, and you are more susceptible if you have a weakened immune system. Additional symptoms of a possible parasite infection (other than the ones we have just mentioned) include Anemia, Joint & Muscle Aches, Diarrhea or Constipation, and Teeth Grinding.
There are a variety of natural supplements purported to assist you in a parasite cleanse, including Wormwood, Oregano Oil, Black Walnut, Clove Oil, and Grapefruit Seed Extract. Other anti-parasitic foods include:
- Coconut Oil
- Papaya Juice
- Garlic & Onions
- Probiotic foods (such as yogurt and sauerkraut)
Lastly, if you do embark on a parasite cleanse you are supposed to avoid Alcohol, Pork, Wheat, and Processed Foods. Several vendors sell ‘parasite cleansing products,’ but they typically contain nothing more than a variation of the ingredients mentioned above.
Providers of alternative medicine blame symptoms of poor memory, fatigue and headaches on the overgrowth of Candida albicans microbes in the intestine. This fungus-like organism is also known as yeast syndrome. The Candida cleanse diet is designed to cure the syndrome and involves eliminating white flour, sugar, cheese, and yeast from your diet. The theory is that these foods result in the overgrowth of candida.
When you eliminate the foods mentioned above, you should see improvements in symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases; mainly because they are processed foods which are unhealthy in any case. While there is no scientific evidence that the candida cleanse does what it claims, it should result in a feeling of improved general health.
This is another form of alternative therapy, with the (obvious) goal being to remove gallstones. The cleanse involves eating/drinking a combination of herbs, olive oil and fruit juice over a 2-3-day period, and you are not supposed to eat anything else. Even with such a limited list of ingredients, though, there are several different recipes available online.
The idea behind the cleanse is to break up gallstones and stimulate the gallbladder into releasing them via feces – the large doses of olive oil you consume will doubtless have a laxative effect. Proponents and successful users of the cleanse claim that they have found lumps that look like gallstones in their stool. However, most of these lumps are nothing more than a combination of juice, oil and other matter.
Side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. There is no scientific data to back the effectiveness of the cleanse and in reality, you will need to have your gallstones surgically removed.
The “It Works!” Cleanse
The “It Works” cleanse comes from the It Works! brand, and involves consuming four bottles of the company’s special formula over a two-day period. You are supposed to follow the cleanse once a month to see the best results. The brand apparently sold 700,000 units within a few months of the product’s release date, which makes it one of the most popular detox cleanses in the world.
Moreover, the drink contains a mix of special herbal and nutritional cleanse blends with ingredients including:
- Beet Root Extract
- Cranberry Fruit Concentrate
- Grape Skin Concentrate
- Dandelion Root Extract
- Cherry Fruit
All you have to do is drink one bottle in the morning and another before dinner, and unlike other cleanses, you are still allowed to eat your meals — although they should be of the healthy and balanced variety. According to It Works!, the cleanse is successful because of the array of herbs and nutrients in the drink, which all work together to help your body reset and rebalance without the side effects of other, more strict cleanses.
You are also supposed to use other It Works! products including something called “That Crazy Wrap Thing.” To use this contraption, you apply the wrap to any part of the body (most people choose the midsection) for 45 minutes once every three days. Finally, you have to take a combination of Greens Berry and Thermofight every day to ‘reboot’ your system. The cleansing concoction alone costs $36 a month, so this cleanse is rather expensive in the long term.
Of all the cleanse methods mentioned on this list, the kidney cleanse is probably the most sensible. After all, the kidneys are our major detoxification organs and help remove waste from the body. They also create urine (which also expels toxins) and balance body fluids.
A kidney cleanse normally lasts for up to five days, and you can either perform a juice fast for the five days or eat a raw vegetable and fruit diet for days one and five, with a juice fast on the three days in between. There are several recipes including the Radish Kidney Detox:
- 6-8 radishes.
- Eight celery sticks.
- One lemon.
- One-inch ginger root.
- Half a head of purple cabbage.
Another example is carrot and cucumber juice which consists of the following ingredients:
- Two green apples.
- Eight carrots.
- Half a lemon.
- One large cucumber.
Other useful foods include:
- Herbs and spices
When you perform the kidney cleanse, what you’re actually doing is minimizing bloating and inflammation that is associated with “backed up” waste and toxins. Other positive aspects of a kidney cleanse include reducing the risk of kidney infections, preventing fatigue, and correcting bladder problems.
How to Detox Your Body
Up until the early part of this century, ‘detoxing’ was considered a medical phrase relating to the treatment of serious issues such as kidney failure or alcohol poisoning. In the homeopathic world, detoxing is the notion that we can purify the body and flush out toxins by changing our diet and lifestyle.
A full body detox typically involves eliminating specific foods and replacing them with healthier options. Here are several ‘detox foods’ you should acquaint yourself with, along with a snippet of what they do:
- Green Tea: Helps eliminate free radicals.
- Garlic, Apples, Asparagus & Onions: All of them help detox the liver.
- Pineapple: Cleanses the stomach.
- Kale: Detoxes and flushes out the kidneys.
- Ginger: Detoxes liver and helps digestion.
Detoxing has become marketed as a quick, albeit NOT easy, way to remove toxins from our system. When you detox your body correctly, you should receive the following benefits:
- Resting your organs because of the fasting process.
- Eliminating toxins via the kidneys, skin, and intestines.
- Stimulating the liver so it becomes more effective at removing toxins.
- Improving blood circulation.
- Infusing the body with healthy nutrients.
Even if you are otherwise healthy, there are likely major benefits to performing a short detox (one to three days) once a year. If you are pregnant, a nursing mother, or suffer from an illness such as cancer, tuberculosis, or a chronic neurodegenerative disease, however, you should avoid a detox diet. As well as eating less healthy diets, we are exposed nowadays to a greater degree of environmental toxins than ever before. You should consider a detox diet if you are suffering from one of the following symptoms, as long as it is not related to an existing medical condition:
- Low-grade infection.
- Mental confusion.
- Menstrual problems.
- Irritated skin.
- Unexplained fatigue.
Also, you should begin any detox program by looking to reduce your intake of toxins. This means eliminating the following from your diet:
- Saturated fats.
- Refined sugars.
You should also try to reduce your use of household cleaners and personal care items that contain toxins.
What Are the Best Ways to Detox?
There are an incredible number of detox programs and recipes out there to choose from – many of which are more “home remedy” style than actual scientifically-proven methods. Does vinegar clean out your system, for instance? What about cranberry juice, or dandelion root?
Unfortunately, most people assume that you can detox in a day or less by simply chugging down one of these “home remedies.” The reality, however, is that it takes time for the body to cleanse the blood, and most successful programs last at least seven days.
A simple program involves implementing a liquid diet for two days, followed by five days of eating carefully-selected organic foods. Here are some of the most popular detox plans:
- Sugar Detox: Most nutritionists and health experts now believe that if sugar were just released today, it would be on the controlled substances list! After all, it ticks all the boxes: addictive, harmful, and with no recognized nutritional value. The sugar detox plan is simple: Steer clear of all products with added sugar, though you are allowed to eat fruit as it has natural sugar. You should feel the benefits after a hard few days and hopefully, you can stay away from it for good.
- Juice Cleanse: As the name suggests, this detox method involves drinking lots of fresh juice! You drink juice from fruit and vegetables 6-8 times a day instead of meals. You should also prepare in the seven days before the cleanse by reducing caffeine, cigarette, alcohol and processed food intake.
- Hypoallergenic Diet: This detox method helps you identify the food triggers of chronic disease. It involves eliminating foods such as wheat and dairy that are known to cause allergies, and includes the likes of Tofu, Green Tea, Lentils, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, and Brown Rice in your diet.
As a general rule, you can detox by implementing the following steps:
- Eat lots of fibrous foods such as radishes, beets, brown rice, cabbage, chlorella, and broccoli.
- Use herbs such as burdock, dandelion root, and milk thistle to cleanse and protect your liver.
- Drink at least two liters of water a day (although you may benefit by consuming closer to three liters).
- Practice hydrotherapy, which involves taking an extremely hot shower for five minutes and following it up with 30 seconds of cold water. Repeat two times and then lie in bed for half an hour.
- Go to a sauna and sweat the toxins out. However, it is important to note that only a relatively small amount of toxins are excreted via sweat.
- Increase your Vitamin C intake. Not only is it almost impossible to overdose on, but Vitamin C also helps your body produce glutathione which is a liver compound that helps expel toxins.
Toxins – What Are They and Why Are They Worth Worrying About?
As incredible as the Internet is, it has also spawned a legion of know-nothings who peddle nonsense and try to separate you from your cash — usually by using vague language to suggest you are in mortal danger if you don’t purchase their products! The issue of ‘toxins’ is a golden money-making opportunity for schemers, primarily because most people don’t know what they are!
In science, toxins are associated with things that enter the body – not things that leave it. Whether you’re watching TV or browsing the Internet, you’ll be faced with adverts that claim their products will “detoxify” your body.
According to Dr. Don Smith of UC Santa Cruz, for example, at least some of these buzzwords have an element of truth about them. He suggests that ‘toxins’ are harmful agents found in the environment, and indeed there is an official list of 689 of them (common toxins include mercury and bisphenol A).
The urine and feces we excrete daily help to expel such toxins from our body, and are more effective at doing so than sweat. Smith says the toxins that leave the body via healthy living are the same ones that go in via trace amounts found in air, water, and food.
However, Professor Tom Brenna of Cornell University believes there is no single toxins definition. In his opinion, it is a word that seems like it has meaning, but doesn’t. In his field (biology), Brenna says a popular phrase is “the dose makes the poison.” This means that while the lead in lead paint is harmful, so is water if you drink too much of it in a short space of time.
Likewise, while exposure to a certain level of plutonium is fatal, a single atom of the radioactive substance will not harm you. According to Brenna, we can only measure toxicity by the level which it is found in the body; not the kind of substance it is. As such, he believes that toxin, generally speaking, means ‘poison’.
Types of Toxins
Even if we use Brenna’s definition and not Smith’s, the exposure to harmful toxins is sufficient enough in modern life to suggest that they are a real problem. Unbeknownst to most of the population, we are being exposed to potentially harmful substances in doses high enough to negatively impact our health. Here is a list of toxins to avoid whenever possible:
- Pesticides: Unfortunately, these poisons are prevalent in the treatment of crops and other products. In severe cases, pesticide exposure can result in congenital disabilities and cancer. Read product information carefully and reject anything that contains pesticides.
- Bisphenol A (BPA): This toxin is found in food and drink linings, so it is best to avoid canned food and choose fresh, frozen or dried options instead. BPA has been linked with promoting prostate and breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems.
- Phthalates: These are used to help chemicals bind together, and they also soften plastics. You will find them in body sprays, conditioners, shampoos, IV bags, perfumes, colognes, and soap. Studies have linked phthalate exposure to lower IQ levels.
- Lead: This naturally occurring metal was banned from gasoline 40 years ago, but unfortunately you will find lead paint in some older houses. It also makes its way into the water due to corrosion of the pipes, and is still used for various products including car batteries and industrial paints. Babies and toddlers are at risk of lead poisoning because they put their hands in their mouths after playing with toys that could be exposed to lead dust.
- Mercury: This is another naturally occurring element, but it is also released into the atmosphere via oil and coal burning. It is widely found in household items such as washing machines and light bulbs. Perhaps most famously, it is present in relatively large quantities in various types of fish such as tuna. The EPA says that exposure to excessive levels of mercury could lead to a reduction in attention, memory, and cognitive skills.
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls: From the moment this chemical was introduced in 1929, it was used by the ton all around the world for almost half a century. While the EPA banned production of it in 1977, it has been lingering for decades and has made its way into our food chain. Polychlorinated Biphenyls are also found in meat and fish, and the Environmental Defense Fund suggests that you should remove the skin, fat and internal organs of meat before cooking, as those are the areas where the chemical tends to accumulate.
- Air Pollutants: President Trump’s suggestion that America would begin using ‘clean coal’ was not based on reality. The burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coil causes air pollution and leads to respiratory problems. To make matters worse, these pollutants can also contain benzene, formaldehyde and nitrogen dioxide. High exposure to such pollutants has led to an increase in congenital heart defects, lower birth weights and preterm deliveries.
Sadly, the above is a very small percentage of the number of toxins we are exposed to daily. Although there is no way to avoid them all, we can help our cause by making a few changes. Eating fresh food, especially fruit & vegetables, and drinking filtered water will particularly help matters.
We also need to make some changes around the house. Purchase furniture that is formaldehyde-free, and steer clear of items made from plywood or particleboard. It is also important to ensure your water is lead-free. Contact your local water supplier or purchase a home test kit if needed. Also, if your home was built before 1978, test your paint for lead. If the lead is in your paint, contact a lead-safe certified professional for assistance.
Final Conclusion: Which is Best, Detox or Cleanse?
In conclusion, there is no best option, only the ‘right’ one for your needs. If you try both, you may be very happy with the outcome. For example, detox is better if you need a fast recovery after a night of heaving drinking. This is because your bloodstream is hit with large amounts of chemicals such as ethanol and its metabolites. As these toxins are lethal in large enough doses, it is possible to die from alcohol poisoning. A detox helps filter the harmful chemicals from your body via the liver and kidneys in this instance.
Detox is also the better option if you’re looking to improve liver and kidney function, as a detox diet helps prevent your liver from breakdown and boosts its efficiency. As a result, its ability to remove toxins and their metabolites from your system is enhanced. A detox is also a superior option for the kidneys because it helps increase urination, reduces the risk of urinary tract infections, and increases the speed of chemical expulsion from the body.
You should go cleanse if you want to lose weight quickly. As most programs of this nature involve high fiber intake, they increase bowel movement and the higher protein intake will enable you to retain more muscle mass (making it better for body composition too). A significant carbohydrate reduction also sees you lose water weight at a rapid rate.
Ultimately, you could benefit from improvements in body and mind if you adopt a sensible detox or cleansing approach. Whether or not you believe in the idea that detoxing/cleansing helps removes toxins from the body faster, there is no doubt that we are exposed to far too many harmful chemicals that damage our health. While plenty of claims are based on dubious foundations, it is clear that reducing our intake of sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and nicotine can only do good things for our bodies. Try our program and see what clean living can do for you.