Millions of people in the United States are now following a new trend in natural healthcare: detoxification and cleansing. But, just how effective are detoxing and cleansing, and what is the difference between the two?
What is the difference between a detox and a cleanse? A detox often uses fasting or meal replacements to help support your body’s natural toxin-eliminating processes through the liver, kidneys, skin, and lungs, while a cleanse mainly uses liquids to eliminate toxins from the body directly.
Although many people believe that “detox” and “cleanse” are the same thing and use the terms interchangeably, they are not.
The remainder of this article will discuss both detoxes and cleanses, their similarities and differences, and whether or not a person should try these methods said to aid in improving health.
Detoxing vs. Cleansing: What Are the Key Differences?
There are only a few differences between detoxing and cleansing, but they are important to understand.
Cleansing focuses on the digestive tract by helping to remove waste from the colon; it removes irritating or allergenic foods to speed up digestion.
Detoxing, on the other hand, does more than clean out the digestive tract; it helps the human body with its natural detoxification process through the skin, lungs, kidneys, and liver.
The exact key differences between detoxing and cleansing are as follows:
Combining fasting and drinking homemade or commercially prepared mixes.
Drinking liquids such as juices and soups.
Depends on the type of detox; some are liquid-based, while others involve solely fruits and vegetables or fasting.
Liquids only, such as juices, smoothies, or soups.
Expect a moderate amount of increases for your bowel movements. You may experience more bathroom trips and even diarrhea.
Expect a serious amount of increases for your bowel movements. You will experience more bathroom trips, liquid pooping, and even diarrhea
Mainly liver and kidneys, as well as the skin and other natural detoxing centers of the body.
Digestive tract, esp. the colon
Detox programs (usu.) ranging from 2 to 10 days, depending on the types of detox programs. Sometimes, people use intermittent fasting as the detox method, which can be a relatively long-term detox plan.
Effective cleanse programs can be as short as 3 days to a week in length. It’s not suggested to do the cleansing for the long term.
Good in moderation; once a year is recommended.
Cleanses are recommended every 3 to 6 months, or as needed.
It can be safe with proper hydration and minimal to moderate activity. Intense exercise is not recommended.
It can be safe with proper hydration and minimal to moderate activity. Intense exercise is not recommended.
Not scientifically proven to remove toxins, but claims to leave the body feeling more energized. However, detox sometimes is used as an alternative treatment to rejuvenate the body.
Not scientifically proven to remove toxins, but claims to leave the body’s digestive system more regulated.
Now that you know the key differences between a detox and a cleanse, let’s dig a bit deeper to see what results each of them can bring.
Understanding Detoxes: What is it & What’re the Consequences?
Detoxification is all about resting and nourishing the human body from the inside out by removing and eliminating toxins that are reported to harm health.
A detoxing mixture usually is consumed between seven to ten days as a meal replacement. The mixture provides fiber and other nutrients that bind to the body’s toxins and encourages bowel movements to eliminate them.
Once the toxins are eliminated, more copious quantities of healthy nutrients are consumed through the detox supplement to compensate for any loss of fluids and to keep the body clean.
Pros of Detoxes
- Detox is supposed to help protect against disease and as well as renew the body.
- It stimulates the liver to remove toxins.
- The organs achieve rest through fasting during the detox period.
- Detoxes improve blood circulation.
- Some detoxes, such as juices, can help support the immune system.
- Detox programs are convenient; they use a pre-made commercial mix of fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients already ready for you to consume.
- Detox supplements help feed the body easy-to-absorb nutrients.
Cons of Detoxes
- Some detox programs can be quite expensive, depending on the type.
- The consumption of high-fiber fruit can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
- Detoxes have not been proven to remove toxins from the body.
- They are not recommended for teenagers, pregnant women, or anyone who needs more calories than a detox diet can afford.
- Detoxes are not a long-term weight loss solution.
- The ice involved in making detox smoothies can sometimes add negative stimulation to the stomach, leading to further issues.
- Not everyone can tolerate drinking detox supplements.
*Caution: It is highly recommended that you consult your physician if you are considering a detox program. Severe illnesses and conditions should be treated based on the recommendation of your doctor. Detoxing is not recommended for helping with dehydration.
Understanding Cleanses: What is it & What’re the Consequences?
Cleanses work similarly to detoxes; the main difference is that they target the digestive system rather than the entire body.
Pros of Cleanses
- A cleanse can lighten the work of the digestive system while speeding up your metabolism.
- Cleanses can also help regulate your bowel movements.
- Liquid cleanses can offer needed hydration to the body.
- Cleanses can help identify food sensitivities so you can remove them from your diet.
- Juice cleanses can provide the body with nutrients.
- They do not all rely on expensive commercial powders or pre-mixed drinks.
- Some cleansing diets allow the flexibility for you to use in-season fruits that are easily accessible at your local grocery store or farmers’ market.
Cons of Cleanses
- A cleanse can help you only temporarily lose weight, not permanently, because it does not directly affect fat, but rather bodily fluids and bowels.
- Consuming an insufficient number of calories may cause a person to have symptoms of low blood sugar.
- Drinking copious amounts of juices may be harmful to those with preexisting kidney diseases.
- Juice cleanses can cause diarrhea, leading to a significant loss of nutrients and fluids. Cold-pressed juices can help you avoid this loss of nutrients but typically cost much more.
*Consult a physician or nutritionist before starting a cleanse to see if it is right for you. Juice cleanses should not be considered a cure-all for any symptoms or health conditions you experience, and therefore should be used with caution. Also, research cleanses before you decide on a program. Juice cleanses high in carbs and low in fiber can create spikes in insulin and bring down energy and may lead to muscle loss, poor mood, and lack of an ability to focus.
Common Types of Detoxes & Cleanses: Find Out Which One is Right for You!
There are hundreds of different types of detox and cleanse programs available, but some of the more common types include:
- Smoothie Cleanse
- Juice Cleanse
- Fruit and Vegetable Detox/Cleanse
- Sugar Detox
- Hypoallergenic Detox
- Intermittent Fasting
After interviewed hundreds of people who experiences detox or/and cleansing program for at least once, we found out that juice cleanses, and detoxes, are the most common types of cleansing as their attributed programs are easy to follow and relatively inexpensive compared to other cleanse and detox methods.
Now let’s break down each of these common types and see what each type can do to your body.
1. Smoothie Cleanse
In a smoothie cleanse, fruits and vegetables are mixed with nutrition powders for consumption. The way a smoothie is prepared can alter the effectiveness of the vitamins that are introduced when drinking it.
With a 3 to 5 days program of smoothie cleansing, you would be able to effectively absorb a massive amount of nutrients. However, you are very likely to gain weight, especially after you finish the problem.
2. Juice Cleanse
A juice cleanse involves consuming only juiced vegetables and fruit between two to seven days to rid the body of toxins.
The beauty of the juice cleanse is there are no powders or other additives to buy. All one needs is a blender and fruits and vegetables from the grocery store.
Juice Cleanse can also guarantee some effective nutrient-intake. However, you are also at the risk of gaining weight afterward.
Besides, people with a weak digestion system may have more negative reactions towards juice cleansing.
3. Fruit & Vegetable Detox/Cleanse
Those who pawn fruit and vegetable detox diets claim that because of elevated levels of pollution, the human body has been susceptible to many toxins.
They claim that it is crucial to detoxify the body occasionally so that harmful toxins are flushed out to do many things, including:
- Improve metabolic function
- Beautify the skin
- Prevent illness
- Cause hair to become healthy
As the name implies, this diet uses seasonal fruits and vegetables that provide antioxidants, such as blueberries, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens, to fight free radicals caught in the bowels and negatively affecting the body.
Antioxidants are “molecules that fight free radicals in the human body.” Free radicals are compounds that cause harm when their levels become too high and have been linked to multiple illnesses.
While the human body has its own antioxidant warriors, these important molecules are found in fruits and vegetables.
The idea, therefore, is to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible to purge the body of free radicals to bring health and vitality.
It’s better to use organic fruits and vegetables because the non-organic agriculture process involves many chemicals that can re-introduce the very toxins you’re trying to eliminate from the body.
If organic fruits and vegetables are too expensive for your budget, alternatively, you can also use seasonal fruits and vegetables.
The directory on the Seasonal Food Guide website has a search function where you can find out what fruits or vegetables are in season in your area if you’re not sure what they are.
4. Sugar Detox
Sugar is an addictive substance: a fact that few people understand. In fact, sugar is probably the most insidious addictive material because it is socially acceptable to drink sugary drinks and eat sweets.
However, eating too much added sugar (any food containing sugar other than those containing natural sugars such as fruit) is responsible for many ailments in the United States, including:
- Heart disease
Contrary to popular belief, because so many foods already contain sugar, there is no need to add extra sugar in your diet at all.
As long as you eat a regular amount of vegetables, grains, and fruits, your body will naturally receive the proper amount of sugar it needs (and craves!).
For that reason (plus the fact that this diet is the easiest to maintain), the sugar detox is highly recommended.
The best way to detox from sugar is total abstinence for a brief time before adding back only healthy sugars such as fruits and vegetables.
Avoiding eating processed foods altogether also automatically decreases the amount of sugar in a diet.
5. Hypoallergenic Detox
The hypoallergenic diet is designed to aid in identifying food triggers and chronic diseases such as:
- Migraine headaches
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Autoimmune conditions, such as arthritis
This diet is also known as an elimination diet as foods are gradually eliminated to identify foods that are causing symptoms and diseases in affected people.
It works because sometimes disorders are the result of autoimmune reactions or result in functional changes and enzyme deficiencies.
The hypoallergenic detox diet follows a two-phase plan of elimination and reintroduction of suspected foods.
Doctors and nutritionists may recommend the hypoallergenic diet to diagnose food allergies and improve their patient’s overall health.
6. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight without having to worry about a crazy diet or calorie-counting. There are three main types of intermittent fasting:
- 16/8 periodic fasting schedule: you’ll be eating only during an eight-hour window during the day.
- Alternate day intermittent fasting schedule: Start a 24-hour fasting cycle every time after each a meal
- Weekly intermittent fasting schedule: fasting once per week or month
Tips to Remain Cleansed & Detoxified
After exerting so much time, effort, and money detoxing and cleansing the body, no one wants to end up back where they began before dieting.
There are a few things that can be done to improve the chances of remaining toxin-free.
1. Eat Well
To maintain a cleansed body, it is vital to remember that about 70% of the immune system lives in the human gut. Having a poor diet compromises the body by allowing toxins to build, and the body will not be capable of eliminating them properly.
To avoid this, eat foods rich in probiotics such as cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
2. Hydrate Well
Aim to drink two quarts of water per day. You can accomplish this easier by carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go. Remaining hydrated lessens fatigue and hunger, thus lowering the body’s exposure to toxins.
3. Create & Eat Energy Bars
Check online for homemade energy bar recipes that allow for increased nutritional value without adding sugars, fats, and carbohydrates like commercially available ones. These energy bars offer a healthy snack to keep you satisfied longer while lowering cravings that can lead to over or binge eating.
4. Drink Green Juice
Made from blended spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, and a touch of flavorful additions such as mint and lime juice, this beverage doesn’t look tasty but is generally liked by most people.
Green juice provides enormous amounts of necessary nutrients and continually detoxes the body as it can be drunk every day.
5. Other Tips to Remain Cleansed & Detoxified
The following are other methods you can use to remain cleansed after a detox or cleansing:
- Keep the liver cleansed and protected by drinking green tea laced with herbs such as milk thistle or dandelion root.
- Take vitamin C supplements to help the body produce a liver compound called glutathione to help drive away toxins.
- Eat lots of fiber, including foods such as brown rice, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables. Beats, cabbage, broccoli, artichokes, and seaweed are all wonderful foods to detoxify the body.
- Regularly practice deep breathing exercises to allow oxygen to circulate more efficiently, removing toxins that may be involved with the lungs or heart.
- Exercise regularly doing yoga for relaxation and cardiovascular workouts to increase energy and achieve more long-term weight loss.
- Go to the sauna to eliminate waste products through the pores via perspiration.
Do Detoxes & Cleanses Actually Work?
Many people claim to feel better after detoxing or cleansing, but does using either diet truly have health benefits? The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, because both plans eliminate the toxins that remain in the bowels from processed foods that have high fat and sugar content.
No, because these diet regimens severely limit protein intake or require a person to fast, both of which will cause fatigue, and if used long-term, will result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Although people report feeling more energetic and focused after detoxing and cleansing, there is no scientific evidence that proves these radical diets work.
In fact, The Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics claims that there has been no credible evidence that cleansing or detoxing the human body had any long-term positive health benefits.
The reasoning behind this proclamation is that the kidneys and liver already perform effective filtering, cleansing, and eliminating toxins when they’re healthy.
Is this reason strong enough to stop you from trying detox or cleanse? I'll let you decide for yourself 🙂
Understanding More About Detox & Cleanse: From Past to Now
While people would love to believe that completing detox or cleansing is something newly discovered in modern times, they are wrong.
The benefits of both have been known for thousands of years and have been passed down by word of mouth.
Today, people have rediscovered the secrets of the ancient world and have applied them to help them get and stay healthy.
The transformation from ancient ways of detox & cleanse to modern ways is fascinating. Here are three examples:
#Colonic Irrigation. This form of cleansing dates back to ancient Egypt included multiple water enemas to clean out the contents of the bowels. The Egyptians believed it helped people rid themselves of decomposing food.
We know today that eating foods rich in fiber will stick to feces and, since fiber cannot be digested in the human gut, will take excess fat and non-absorbed material with it on evacuation.
#Coffee Enemas. This cleansing technique hails from ancient Egypt and Greece. As with colonic irrigation, a coffee solution was inserted through the anus then held for approximately ten minutes before releasing it. The caffeine in the coffee was believed to open bile ducts and stimulate the liver, thus freeing up toxin.
Now we understand the stimulatory effect of caffeine, but this technique should not be utilized long-term as it can cause anal perforation and possibly infection.
#Lemon Detox. Ingesting fresh lemon juice has been a mainstay in many societies for detoxifying the body for centuries. It was believed to cleanse the body when added to water and drank first thing in the morning.
We now understand that lemon juice stimulates digestive enzymes to promote greater levels of hydrochloric acid that aids proper digestion. This action helps the elimination of toxins through the digestive tract.
Lemons are also high in ascorbic acid, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals that are responsible for cell damage and death.
Drinking lemon juice long-term, however, is not recommended and the liver requires a much wider range of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to perform large scales success in detoxification.
As you can see, people from all over the world still utilize these recipes for health in different forms, from smoothies to juices, from diet to fasting.
All the cleanses listed in this article have become a fad that has many people (especially those selling the diet books and products) raving about how well they work. However, as is often the case, the reality is much different than claims.
Because cleansing and detoxing are trendy and promise a quick fix to weight problems and to rid the body of nasty toxins, many people have tried one or the other.
What ties detoxing and cleansing diets together is a two-fold aim; the diets claim to cause a shift in the intestines from toxins that are killing people toward a new beginning that comes with many benefits.
The problem with this is that the myth has spread that these diets are cure-alls for all diseases and other health problems.
The reality is that while these diets certainly do cleanse the body, there is absolutely no evidence that these effects are long-lasting, and they may only safely be followed a few days a year.
In conclusion, while detoxification or cleansing the body has not proven to be beneficial scientifically, both can offer their share of short-term benefits beyond temporary weight loss, and the added energy and feeling of well-being gained by eliminating harmful foods and supplements from the human body makes trying these popular dieting methods worthwhile.