Practised by different cultures around the world and for many centuries, detoxes and cleanses have been used as a powerful way to rest, cleanse and nourish the body from the inside out. Commonly practised in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, detoxes are now being used more and more in Western cultures due to their ability to remove and eliminate toxins from the body effectively. And you don’t need an expert to tell you that the Westernized world of living is in desperate need of a good detox, as it’s infused with toxins, chemicals, preservatives and all kinds of other junk and in every aspect. It’s in your food, the clothes you wear, the air you breathe, the cleaning products you use – and that’s only to name a few. Toxins are taking over westernized lifestyles. So, more and more people are adapting the Ayurveda and Chinese medicine ways to rid the toxins from their bodies and replenish themselves with healthy nutrients. This is said to help improve health, promote weight loss, protect you from disease and maintain optimum health. But here’s the thing: not all cleanses and detoxes are created equal. In fact, some can do far more harm than good, so it’s imperative to understand the details of a good, healthy detox vs. the quick fad fixes that should almost certainly be avoided.
What Are Detoxes and Cleanses?
Detoxes aren’t new by any means, but they have certainly taken on a more modern approach recently. Detoxes date back thousands of years, and many of the detox programs and cleanses you see on the market today are inspired mainly by naturopathic origins1Allen, J., Montalto, M., Lovejoy, J., & Weber, W. (2011). Detoxification in naturopathic medicine: a survey. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 17(12), 1175–1180. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2010.0572. The only difference is that the general public no longer sees them as “woo-woo” or some medical jargon for treating serious health conditions, such as addiction, alcohol poisoning or kidney failure. Instead, detoxes and cleanses are now seen as an easy way to purify the body and flush out toxins, be it toxins from environmental pollution, nonorganic and fast foods, or household cleaning products2Waldbieser, J. (2018). Detox Cleanses: The Most Popular Types and What to Know. EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved 24 December 2021, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition/diet/detox-cleanses-most-popular-types-what-know/.. These detoxes or cleanses are plans that are designed to remove harmful chemicals and toxins from the body.
Types of Body Detoxes and Cleanses
Typically, detoxes and cleanses fall within three main categories:
- those that replace foods with liquids for cleansing
- those that support your body’s natural detoxification process
- those that “cleanse” your digestive tract through your colon
Detoxes typically work in one of the three ways mentioned previously. However, there is still a plethora of different types of detoxes and cleanses that fall within each category, such as:
- Drinking only juices, smoothies, soups or other liquids to detox the body
- Eating only certain foods to boost the liver and kidney function and amplify the natural detoxification process
- Using dietary supplements or other commercial products
- Using herbs
- Cleansing the colon with enemas, laxatives, or colon hydrotherapy to cleanse the digestive system
- Reducing environmental exposures
- Using a sauna to sweat out the toxins through the skin
How Does Body Detox Work?
Body detox works differently depending on the type, as seen from the three categories mentioned above. However, they can all generally be summed up as a process that cleanses the blood of any impurities. A healthy detox focuses on removing these impurities in the blood in the liver, which is where toxins are processed for elimination. While toxins can also be eliminated through the intestines, lungs, kidneys, lymphatic system and skin, if these systems are compromised in any way, the toxins aren’t able to be properly filtered out of the body, which can cause adverse effects.
Assuming you’re using a good healthy detox program, it helps:
- Rest your organs
- Stimulate your liver to release toxins from the body
- Encourage elimination through the intestines, kidneys and skin
- Improves blood circulation
- Refuels the body with healthy nutrients
Signs it is Time For a Detoxifying Body Cleanse
It can be challenging to spot the signs that a detox is needed, especially if the symptoms are so common for you that they just seem like a normal part of your everyday health. However, even if your symptoms are being chalked up as something else, it’s critical to detox as any of the following symptoms can be a clear sign that your body is harbouring one too many toxins:
- Brain fog or confusion
- Low-grade infections
- Menstrual problems
- Puffy eyes
- Skin irritation
- Unexplained fatigue
Choosing the Right Detox Program
There are many detoxification programs to choose from, depending on your individual needs and desires. However, you’ll find that many detox programs follow a 7-day plan, at minimum, as it takes time for the body to get to work and clean the blood. So, if you’re considering one of those “quick fix” detoxes, it is doubtful that they will provide you with the results you’re looking for.
The good news is that a detox cleansing program doesn’t have to last for weeks on end, nor does it have to consist of extreme dieting and spending way too much time in the bathroom than you would ever want to. But it does come down to the specific detox program you choose to do.
Here are the most popular types of detox programs to consider:
- Fruit and Veggie Detox
- Smoothie Cleanse
- Juice Cleanse
- Sugar Detox
Now that you have narrowed in on the type of detox cleanse you want to do, it’s time to prep your body and sharpen up on your cleansing skills. Here are some tips to help you prepare and maximize the detox:
- Eliminate obstacles to your detox and healing, such as alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined sugars, and saturated fats
- Minimize the use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal health care products and use natural alternatives instead
- Reduce stress to speed up detoxification enzymes
- Use yoga, tai chi or meditation to keep stress levels low
- Eat foods high in fiber, such as brown rice and fresh fruits and vegetables
- Add more detoxifying goods into your diet, such as beets, radishes, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, and seaweed
- Take herbs, such as milk thistle, green tea and dandelion root to cleanse and protect the liver
- Increase your vitamin C intake to help the body produce glutathione, a compound in the liver that drives away toxins
- Stay hydrated (at least 8 cups of water a day)
- Practice taking long, slow deep breaths to increase oxygen flow throughout your system
- Don’t forget that detoxification occurs through your skin too. Scrub your skin and open up pores to make it easier for the toxins to release
- Use detoxifying exercises, such as yoga and martial arts
- Enjoy some yummy food-based laxatives, such as prunes, to keep your bowels moving
Your body will thank you after a good, healthy detox, as it will no longer be bogged down by all the processed foods and toxins that are rampant in the westernized lifestyle. Just be sure to consult with your doctor if you experience any symptoms, have any concerns, or have an underlying health conditioning. As mentioned at the beginning, not all detoxes are created equal, and it’s important to use the right ones.
- 1Allen, J., Montalto, M., Lovejoy, J., & Weber, W. (2011). Detoxification in naturopathic medicine: a survey. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 17(12), 1175–1180. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2010.0572
- 2Waldbieser, J. (2018). Detox Cleanses: The Most Popular Types and What to Know. EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved 24 December 2021, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition/diet/detox-cleanses-most-popular-types-what-know/.