What is a Detox or Cleanse and What You Should Know Before Taking One?

Written by Donna Patterson

what is a detox

 Is your body in a funk and you’re thinking about a detox cleanse?

 Lethargic? Feeling heavy? Bloating for days? Chronic constipation? Feeling ill? 

 Now yes, the human body can defend itself very well against the occasional pizza and most environmental assaults. You can see the main organs involved in   “The body’s own detox system” a bit later on. 

Generally,  you can maintain the body’s natural detox system by giving your body what it needs — fresh air, proper eating habits, adequate water, regular exercise and quality sleep.  

 However, occasionally the body’s cleaning machinery must be serviced by removing the build up of toxins. Even more so, in today’s fast paced lifestyle of dangerous chemicals, processed foods, GMOs, sleep deprivation, environmental pollution and stress, you need to regular cleanses.

What is a Detox or Cleanse and What You Should Know Before Taking One? 1

You can help your body maintain optimum performance by taking a detox or cleanse regularly.

 The body’s cleaning machinery is under constant stress and becomes susceptible to break down in the form of diseases. A detox is just what you need for a total body reset and tune up to keep you performing at your best.

What is a Detox? 

 Detox is the shortened form of detoxification or detoxication. It refers to the process of removing toxins from the body. (Wikipedia)

Is Detox and Cleanse the Same Thing?

 Yes and No.  Detox refers to the cleansing of the blood which is mainly carried out by the liver while a colon cleanses just removes backed up waste from the colon.   A total body detox is sometimes called a cleanse but a colon cleanse is not necessarily a detox. When doing a detox both the blood, liver and other detox organs should be targeted along with the colon for a complete detox.

Is Purging and Detoxing the Same Thing?

 Purging is an intermittent treatment to cleanse the colon usually for constipation and bloating. It focuses on the use of teas, drinks, foods or pills to create a laxative effect to stimulate bowel movement.

 When waste is in the colon for an extended period,  the food begins to rot or become putrid. At this point, the growth of bad bacteria explodes and this results in gas production and toxins being released into the blood.

 Due to the gas and waste build up plus the colon reabsorbs water. Then the stomach becomes swollen and bloated. When you take a purge or laxative, the waste is excreted which gives you a ‘light feeling’ but the toxins in the blood may remain to cause havoc in the rest of the body.

The truth about Purging

Laxatives can be extremely harsh on your digestive system. Moreover, it can upset the delicate balance of the microcosm gut bacteria. Each person’s intestinal flora is unique and is highly influenced by the food, lifestyle and other factors. Laxatives can cause diarrhoea severe enough to lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This can lead to cramps and even joint pain.

 Negative side effects of colon cleansing or purging are more likely in people with a history of gastrointestinal disease, colon surgery, severe haemorrhoids, kidney disease, or heart disease.

It is a good practice to use probiotics and prebiotics right after a laxative.  Don’t forget to drink lots of water.

 However, you need to remember that detoxification is mainly done by the liver converting harmful chemicals found in the blood into water soluble compounds that exit the body through the skin, intestines, lungs, kidney(urine) and faecal matter.

So when deciding to do a cleanse, the liver and kidney should be a priority.

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The Main Types of Detox

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health The following list the main processes used for detoxing the body. It may include a single or a combination of several processes.
These include:

  1. Fasting 
  1. Drinking only juices or similar beverages such as detox teas.
  1. Eating only certain foods  such as fruits.
  1. Using dietary supplements or other commercial products such as Liver Support.
  1. Using herbs such as milk thistle, ginger, turmeric and dandelion.
  1. Cleansing the colon (lower intestinal tract) with enemas, laxatives, or colon hydrotherapy (also called “colonic irrigation” or “colonics”).
  1. Reducing environmental exposures including social media detox
  1. Using a sauna.

How Do You Know It Is Time For A Cleansing or Detox?

 how do you know if you need a detox

 Every person has very different symptoms or none at all. Symptoms may include :

  • Headache
  • Bloating, 
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue, 
  • Depression.
  • Pallor
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Changes in bowel function  such as constipation
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Digestive issues
  • Water retention

 Do  Detox Cleanses Really Work?

 There is a lot of information out there about various types of detox cleanses. From my personal experience, some work and some don’t. It  will be based on the

  • Individual’s biochemistry.
  • The level of toxicity in your body 
  • The ingredients  used for the detox
  • Type of cleanse or detox
  • The length of detox
  •  What you eat during the detox.

But then again, the question is what is the purpose of your detox. 

For example, you may want a mild detox for bloating and gas, a liver detox, kidney cleanse, a detox for constipation-colon cleanse, a detox for skin issues or weight loss.

That will dictate the type of cleanse, ingredients and actions during the cleanse. Those factors, as well as the severity of the issue, will also determine how long detox lasts and the frequency of the cleanse.  On average is it good to a do a complete detox every 3 and 6 months.

  In terms of ingredients, several studies suggest that milk thistle, which is often included as a supportive supplement, may improve liver function with few side effects.( The Harvard Medical School)

  A 2013 study found that dandelion  can protect the liver against injury and suggests that it may help the liver rejuvenate and improve its function. Dandelion can also aid in digestive issues. 

I can personally vouch for milk thistle and dandelion when a  severe infection had me listed as critical in the hospital. I used a 30  day cleanse containing milk thistle, dandelion and other ingredients which improved my health issue considerably. Imagine, being so swollen, I could hardly walk to being able to run again.

Simply using lemon in warm water on an empty stomach in the morning has many positive effects on the body which includes flushing toxins from the body,  improving heart health and arthritis, reducing acne and boosting your immune system with its high vitamin C content.

 In fact, I know a gentleman that uses lemon water to deal with his gout and lower his blood pressure.

Herbal cleanses have little to no side effects but you should be mindful of the contents especially when using commercial brands. unfortunately, not all manufacturers are ethical and it could cost you your health or even your life. Here are some examples of where manufacturers got caught with false advertising:

Public Notification: GoLean Detox contains hidden drug ingredients  (FDA; 01/28/19)

Public Notification: Lingzhi Cleansed Slim Tea Contains Hidden Drug Ingredient  (FDA; 07/08/14)

Public Notification: Toxin Discharged Tea Contains Hidden Drug Ingredient  (FDA; 06/17/14)

At FTC’s Request, Judge Imposes Ban on Marketers of Detox Foot Pads  (FTC; 11/04/10)

Court Orders Internet Marketers of Acai Berry Weight-Loss Pills and “Colon Cleansers” to Stop Deceptive Advertising and Unfair Billing Practices  (FTC; 08/16/10)

A Detox Tea Brand, Teami Pushed by Celebs Has to Pay $1 Million for False Advertising

 Detox and Weightloss

detox and dieting

Please note that although most effective cleanses restrict certain foods, you can have a proper cleanse without dieting or starving yourself.

Personally, I prefer weight management to be a process of a lifestyle change rather than a diet that you can not maintain in the long run.  Yet I do agree that a detox can provide fresh slate for diet changes or alterations in your health regime.

A detox can jump start the weight loss process by eliminating the built up waste but without changes in the food intake and physical activity, the weight loss may only be temporary.

 According to the  Harvard Medical School suggests that many studies have shown that fasts and extremely low-calorie diets invariably lower the body’s basal metabolic rate as it struggles to conserve energy. Once the dieter resumes normal eating, rapid weight gain follows. 

The school went on to state that much of the weight loss achieved through this diet results from fluid loss related to extremely low carbohydrate intake and frequent bowel movements or diarrhoea produced by saltwater and laxative tea. When the dieter resumes normal fluid intake, this weight is quickly regained.

Potential Risks. The diet is lacking in protein, fatty acids, and other essential nutrients. Carbohydrates supply all the calories — an extremely low 600. The daily laxative regimen can cause dehydration, deplete electrolytes, and impair normal bowel function. It can also disrupt the native intestinal flora, microorganisms that perform useful digestive functions. A person who goes on this diet repeatedly may run the risk of developing metabolic acidosis, a disruption of the body’s acid-base balance, which results in excessive acidity in the blood. (The Harvard Medical Shcool)


Benefits of Detox Cleanse

 The benefits of a cleanse are endless. Here are just some of the benefits of a detox.

  • Restore energy
  • Restore balance
  • lose waste 
  • Relieve symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis and heart disease.
  • Improved skin conditions
  • Improved  digestion
  • Improved ageing
  • General good health and mood
  • Fluid balance
  • Relief from heartburn
  • Weightloss in some cases

Can Detox Make You Sick?

Can  detox make you sick

Certain health experts believe that some juices are made from foods that are high in oxalate, a naturally occurring substance. Two examples of high-oxalate foods are spinach and beets. Drinking large quantities of high-oxalate juice may increase the risk of kidney problems. As we mentioned before, a harsh colon cleanse can be sometimes problematic as it can disrupt the balance of good and ‘bad” bacteria in the gut and intestines that are essential for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.

However, in most cases,  there are no negative side effects of doing a herbal detox. You may feel a bit of fatigue or even flu like symptoms during a cleanse as the body removes toxins, parasites and other harmful compounds from the body. It is similar to when the body is fighting off the flu.

Does Detox Tea Really Make You Poop?

 This will definitely be dependent on the ingredients of the cleanse as some do have a laxative effect and the individual.   There are cleanses that may give you an extra bowel movement but you won’t have to live in the washroom.

The Body’s Detoxification System

This excerpt was taken from the  Harvard Medical School’s website. I thought it explained the body’s detoxification system clearly, which includes the following:

The skin. The main function of the body’s largest organ is to provide a barrier against harmful substances, from bacteria and viruses to heavy metals and chemical toxins. The skin is a one-way defence system; toxins are not eliminated in perspiration.

The respiratory system. Fine hairs inside the nose trap dirt and other large particles that may be inhaled. Smaller particles that make it to the lungs are expelled from the airways in mucus.

The immune system. This exquisitely orchestrated network of cells and molecules is designed to recognize foreign substances and eliminate them from the body. Components of the immune system are at work in blood plasma, in lymph, and even in the small spaces between cells.

The intestines. Peyer’s patches — lymph nodes in the small intestine — screen out parasites and other foreign substances before nutrients are absorbed into the blood from the colon.

The liver. Acting as the body’s principal filter, the liver produces a family of proteins called metallothioneins, which are also found in the kidneys. Metallothioneins not only metabolize dietary nutrients like copper and zinc but also neutralize harmful metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury to prepare for their elimination from the body. Liver cells also produce groups of enzymes that regulate the metabolism of drugs and are an important part of the body’s defence against harmful chemicals and other toxins.

The kidneys. The fact that urine tests are used to screen for drugs and toxins is a testament to the kidneys’ remarkable efficiency in filtering out waste substances and moving them out of the body.


Your body has a natural detoxification system that requires good nutrition and good living habits to eliminate waste and remove it daily but it also needs a cleanse or tune up from time to time. In cases of general ill health,  detox can help you recover from many illnesses and even some chronic ailments. There are several types of detox or cleanses and the effects will be dependent on the type, ingredients. Duration of the detox and you the individual.

 If you are looking for a  personalized health regime for your lifestyle and health goals, then do this health quiz to find out what is right for you.

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