Have you ever wondered if a trendy detox cleanse is worth trying or if it even works? Well, you’re not alone.
The truth is, the body naturally “detoxifies” itself every day, but the detox cleanses that you find online, in stores, or health-food restaurants may have added benefits—if they are part of an overall upgrade to your nutrition and lifestyle.
To help you sort out fact from fiction, this article offers experts’ insights into detox cleanses and detox programs. Nutrition counselor Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, has said that a buildup of toxins in the body can lead to many different health problems and liver damage. “The best way to reduce the body’s load of toxins is with a healing and cleansing program,” she reported.
What is a Detox Cleanse?
Typically, a detox cleanse involves fasting, followed by a period of strict dieting that restricts you to consuming only raw fruits and vegetables and water. There are many products on the market that claim to detox the body. We even see detoxing recipes, advice across social media platforms, and detox items on our favorite smoothie shop or juice bar menus. But, what does it all mean?
How to Find the Right Detox for You
There is a lot of detox cleanses on the market. When you’re deciding on the right cleanse for you, it’s best to determine what aspects of the cleanse will help you the most.
The first question to ask yourself is, “Why do I want to do a cleanse?” Understanding your goals will help you figure out what your needs are. Some possible reasons to do a cleanse include feeling sluggish or fatigued, having a hard time maintaining regular bowel movements, and lack of focus.
Consult with your primary care practitioner or a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician to decide what type of cleanse you need and will benefit from. You should also discuss making long-term upgrades to your lifestyle habits, including nutrition, physical activity, sleep patterns, and stress management. This is how to create an effective detox program.
Benefits of a Detox Cleanse
Some clinical studies suggest that detox cleanses enhance the natural, daily detoxification process of the liver. A healthy detox method can also aid in eliminating pollutants from the body.
8 Detox Methods that Cleanse
Balch believed that the best type of cleanse is achieved through complete dietary wellness. Instead of the popular cleanses we see today, she advocated an overall lifestyle change that included a healthy diet. She felt this is the best way to maintain optimal gut health over time.
In TCM, there are some key recommendations and products that can become part of a detox program. TCM practitioner in Singapore, physician Lim Sock Ling offers the following insights.
Physician Lim suggests eight detox methods:
“These are safe when used appropriately according to one’s body constitution,” says physician Ling. “For example, should there be food stagnation leading to abdominal discomforts, poor appetite, or constipation, using herbs with the purgative effect would be appropriate and safe.”
Physician Lim also suggests some TCM treatments and herbs that can help you eliminate toxins. Herbs that support the liver in its natural detoxification process are ginger, saffron flower, turmeric, dandelion root, and Chinese barley. These herbs also work to detox the lungs and kidneys.
In Western medicine, herbs like coriander, nori, and olestra are known to have detoxification properties.
TCM Practices that Help Eliminate Toxins
From a TCM perspective, the purpose of the liver is to help regulate the movement of energy, or qi, in the body. Some practices to help this process along and aid in detoxing the body are acupuncture and acupressure.
Acupuncture and acupressure: When done along the liver meridian they do not directly affect the elimination of toxins, but they do help stimulate the area to allow it to function properly.
Cupping: physician Lim also suggests cupping. “Cupping helps to alleviate blood stagnation by promoting circulation, removing coldness and dampness,” she says. From TCM’s perspective, blood stasis, build-up of coldness, and water retention are considered toxic for the body.
Scraping or Gua Sha: A TCM practice that is becoming increasingly popular here in the U.S. is scraping, or Gua Sha. Gua Sha involves scraping the skin to produce light petechiae, tiny round spots that appear as a result of bleeding. It is believed Gua Sha releases unhealthy bodily matter from blood stasis within sore, tired, stiff, or injured muscle areas and stimulates new oxygenated blood flow to the areas. This promotes metabolic cell repair, regeneration, healing, and recovery.
Nutritionist Lifestyle Tips for Detox Cleanses
Balch was a top nutrition counselor and consultant. Her many books have enormous value when it comes to cultivating healthy and positive wellbeing through diet and nutrition. For short-term cleanses, she advocated a combination of fasting and water, continued by adding in fruits and vegetables. But she also emphasized the importance of making long-term nutritional changes and adopting healthy lifestyle habits to achieve optimal cleansing.
Foods to avoid: When trying to eliminate excess waste and toxins, you want to stop eating foods high in fat and oil. Instead, try to eat predominately lean meats or white fish, fresh beans, leafy greens, and fresh fruits and vegetables. A general rule is to enjoy everything in moderation, while limiting processed, fatty, and oily foods as much as possible.
Helpful habits: Other lifestyle habits that will help cleanse the body include drinking a cup of warm water first thing in the morning and getting good quality sleep.
The warm water will help gently wake up your organs and flush out any toxins from the previous night. Then, during the day, stay well-hydrated with water. Staying hydrated helps the kidney flush toxins out of the body. Drinking water also helps regulate bowel movements.
Getting good quality rest is important because it allows the body to function properly, helps dispel stress, and increases both your focus and energy level naturally.
Also, try to avoid unnecessary stress and anger which can impact the liver detox process. Always practice positive coping mechanisms.
Overall, your diet should consist of whole foods and ingredients, with as few processed items as possible. A nutritionist or TCM physician may be able to provide you with a list of healthy foods or recipes that will leave you feeling full of energy, rather than drained or heavy.
Do What Feels Right for Your Body
The important thing to know moving forward is that a short-term detox cleanse and a long-term detox program should be about what feels good for your body. It’s also important to consult with your doctor first before making any drastic dietary changes because intense detoxes can be more damaging than helpful.
If your goal is weight loss: A detox program should involve healthy, balanced habits, rather than crash diets and extreme fasting.
If you have a medical condition: A detox cleanse should be undertaken only after talking with your doctor to make sure it helps you launch a healthier approach to day-to-day living.
Tip: Some over-the-counter detoxes may help you lose weight fast, but you might gain back the weight you lost (or more) and they can cause intense bloating when introducing foods back into your system. Moderate, slow, steady weight loss over time will help cleanse your body effectively and allow you to maintain a healthier weight.
Anyone interested in doing a detox cleanse should remain open-minded to the idea of what a detox really is. For a long-term detox program, natural teas, herbs, and supplements can be taken on a daily basis and will help balance the body. If combined with a diet of grains, nuts, legumes, lean meats, veggies, and fruits, you’re sure to reap significant benefits.
On the other hand, when you’re at your favorite smoothie bar, enjoy your fresh juice for what they are! Tasty, bright, and refreshing drinks filled with fresh ingredients will make you feel great.
True detox is a commitment to a life-long upgrade in your nutrition and other lifestyle habits. It isn’t some regimen of deprivation that lasts only a few days. A detox program should feel fun, effortless, and all-around healthy and nutritious.
- J Hum Nutr Diet. 2015. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. [Accessed 9 November 2021]
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. n.d. “Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What you need to know. [Accessed 9 November 2021]