Cleanse vs. Detox

While the terms are used interchangeably, there is a difference between a "cleanse" and a "detox." You will more than likely hear a lot of conflicting reports on cleanses and detoxes from users who have tried it before. A cleanse is a way to support and enhance the body’s natural detoxification pathways and systems. Cleanse or detox, what’s best for you?

If you are looking to begin either a detox or cleanse, it’s important to know what to expect from each process. This is because detoxes and cleanses are distinct diet protocols, with different aims and purposes.

Signs of Toxicity

How does toxicity manifest in the body? Signs that your body may be overwhelmed and may benefit from a cleanse or detox include:

  • Fatigue (general and chronic)
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Food sensitivities or allergies
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Headaches, muscle aches and muscle fatigue
  • Persistent skin conditions, including acne, eczema and rosacea
  • Hormonal imbalances and fertility issues
  • Weight gain and redistribution of weight (caused by overexposure to xenoestrogens). In women, this manifests as carrying more weight on the hips, buttocks and thighs); in men, think "man boobs" and more fat deposition around the hips.
  • Intolerance to caffeine
  • Intolerance to fragrance
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity, characterized by symptoms that a hyper-sensitive individual attribute to low-level chemical exposure to substances including fragrance, cigarette smoke, plastics, paint fumes, etc.



A cleanse or cleanse diet is best defined as a simple diet that is directed at cleansing the digestive tract.  A cleanse is a way to support and enhance the body’s natural detoxification pathways and systems. A cleanse also entails "cleaning up" your diet, modifying your lifestyle habits to include adequate rest and gentle exercise, and using herbal supplements if necessary (for example, in a candida cleanse), all of which allows the body to remove toxins more efficiently.

A typical cleanse will eliminate primary "trigger foods" that can cause allergies, sensitivities and digestive distress, including dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, corn, nightshade vegetables, citrus fruits, refined sugar, caffeine (coffee, soda), processed foods and alcohol. If you follow a simple, whole-foods-based cleanse, one that in particular omits common trigger foods, you won’t be subject to relentless hunger or rigid calorie counting, nor will you need to take special pills or shakes.




In contrast, a detox is aimed at improving the health of two main organs: the kidneys and the liver. It is noted that a detox is a metabolic process (taking place inside the body) that converts toxins into waste that can be eliminated from the body. The goal of a detox is to facilitate the release of toxins from fat storage cells and to enhance the body’s detoxification pathways, particularly, the liver, the main organ of detoxification located just beneath the right side of the rib cage.

A detox program typically incorporates dietary changes, lifestyle modifications and herbal supplements, as well as therapeutic sweating (saunas or steam baths). A detox might be recommended after chronic exposure to pesticides, certain medications, environmental toxins that we breathe (such as cleaning products), absorb (personal care products) or ingest (food and water), excessive alcohol consumption; or after the accumulation of heavy metals or xenoestrogens (synthetic compounds with estrogen-like effects) in the body.

It is recommended in doing a detox at least once or, ideally, twice a year. With stress and the toxins to which we are exposed to in our air, food, water, personal care products and home, it all can take a toll on the body. A detox is done to help improve overall health and well-being.

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