A decade ago, if you told someone you were considering detoxifying your body with a full body cleanse, you would have received pitying glances and empathetic slaps on the back.
Back then, the term "detox" (which is just another term for a full body cleanse) was used solely in medical circles.
And it referred to the treatment of dangerous conditions, such as kidney failure or alcohol poisoning.
It's only recently that the idea of cleansing our bodies has come to be regarded as something that we should all do, and regularly.
Of course, not everyone agrees that detoxes are necessary, or indeed, even beneficial.
Some medical professionals believe that full body cleansing is nothing more than a bogus treatment invented by supplement companies, conniving entrepreneurs, and charlatans looking to profit from people's gullibility.
But that's not necessarily true.
The concept of body cleansing has been around for centuries.
Native Americans used a variety of herbs to heal the body and purify the spirit.
The ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans sweated out toxins in baths whereas the ancient Nordic people spent hours in saunas.
But that's not all:
Detoxification of the body is one of the central concepts of Ayurveda, the oldest healing system in the world, and is also mentioned in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
So unless our ancestors were all barking mad:
There's something to be said for body cleansing.
There Are No Rules to Using a Full Body Cleanse
The theory behind using a full body cleanse is pretty simple:
By eliminating solid foods or certain food groups from your diet, you are removing harmful toxins from your body.
This flushing out of toxins gives your digestive system a much-needed break. The only thing is, flushing out toxins from your body sounds pretty darn difficult, right?
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And in a way, it is.
But not in the way that you think.
There isn't just one definition of what a full body cleanse is.
For some, it's a designated period of fasting. For others, it's the restriction of certain foods (or indeed even all solid foods). And still, for others, it's the cleansing of the colon.
Toxins Are Everywhere
The term "toxin" is frustratingly broad. Technically, it can refer both to arsenic and cobra venom.
But in general:
Toxins are substances that can harm your body. Think things such as chemicals, metals, pesticides, artificial food ingredients, and pollutants.
In today's modern world, avoiding toxins is near impossible.
You can barricade yourself in a tiny log cabin in the middle of nowhere and yet you'll still be exposed to toxins.
That's because toxins are everywhere. They are in the air that we breathe, in the food that we eat, and in the water that we drink.
Many of our health issues are a direct result of toxin build-up.
But it's not all bad.
Our bodies can actually detoxify all by themselves. And they do it all the time. We're talking 24/7 here. So in theory, you don't need to do anything to flush out toxins from your body.
But in reality, poor diet choices and poorly functioning livers and kidneys mean that our bodies can't cope with all the toxins.
There's just too much going on. Which is why sometimes our bodies need a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Body Cleansing Will Probably Make You Look Better
One of the most significant benefits of using a full body cleanse is the staving off of disease.
When you detoxify your body, you improve your blood circulation and strengthen your immune system.
Frequent colds, clogged sinuses, lethargy, blemishes, urinary problems, and even cellulite become a thing of the past.
Your appearance is also likely to improve after a full body cleanse. Your skin will be clearer, your hair will be stronger, and your eyes will be brighter.
Something else you're likely to notice?
Amazing mental clarity and improved levels of concentration!
But there's more:
A full body cleanse is a fantastic way to rid yourself of toxic feelings such as anger or jealousy.
These feelings not only plague your mind but also cause serious health problems such as depression or inexplicable body aches.
That being said:
It's proponents of body cleansing that laud the above benefits.
Medical professionals are dubious whether using a full body cleanse is beneficial in any way. They tend to think that the risks far outweigh the benefits.
They do agree that doing a full body cleanse increases the intake of vital vitamins either through the consumption of fruits and veggies or supplements.
In addition, even the biggest cynics assent that the elimination of certain foods from your diet for several days can be beneficial in identifying potential food sensitivities.
Finally, the psychological and spiritual effects of body cleansing should not be discounted either for they too have a positive impact on health.
Telltale Signs You Need a Full Body Cleanse
You like the idea of a full body cleanse. But do you even need one?
Well, that depends.
You can probably do with a full body detox.
Choosing a Full Body Cleanse Is Not Easy
Most full body cleanses fall within one of three categories: liquid cleanse, liver cleanse, and colon cleanse.
The cleanses vary both in their intensity and duration.
When choosing a detox:
Consider factors such as your body type, health, season, time availability and work-life situation.
Let's start with liquid cleanses.
A juice cleanse is perhaps the most popular liquid cleanse out there.
As the name no doubt makes it quite clear, a juice cleanse involves the consumption of fresh (and preferably organic) fruit and vegetable juice for a short amount of time, usually one to three days.
Proponents claim that juice cleanses aid your body's natural detox processes. A juice cleanse clears your diet of refined foods, sugar, and caffeine.
A juice cleanse is an awesome way to jumpstart a healthier way of eating.
Smoothie cleanses, and soup cleanses are also popular. Since these type of cleanses incorporate more fiber and protein than juice cleanses, medical professionals deem them somewhat superior.
Other liquid cleanses involve the consumption of lemon water, apple cider vinegar, and brewed tea.
Regardless of how excited you are to begin a liquid diet, you should never jump right into it. Preparation is necessary and will take one to five days.
Use this time to eliminate refined sugar, meat, dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine from your diet to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms such as headaches.
Incorporate more fresh veggies and fruit into your meals and drink more fluids.
Something to keep in mind:
You don't have to give up solid food while on a liquid cleanse.
If you're new to the concept, want to take it easy, or need decent amounts of energy to do your job or carry out your daily tasks, you might want to consider incorporating vegan and gluten-free meals and snacks into your cleanse.
Take care of your liver
A liver cleanse is somewhat more approachable than a liquid cleanse because it typically involves eating a liver-friendly diet.
You want to eliminate highly processed foods, foods that contain gluten, dairy products, foods that are high in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol from your diet.
If you want to take your liver detox a bit further, you can try intermittent fasting. It sounds intimidating. But it isn't really.
During intermittent fasting, you consume all your meals within a specific time frame.
The 16-hour fast (also known as 16/8) is the most popular. You eat during eight hours of the day (say, between 12 PM and 8 PM).
And you fast for the remaining 16, which is when your body repairs and cleans itself out.
Now onto something a bit more controversial.
Ever heard of a liver flush?
It's a detox diet that involves drinking a few glasses of organic apple juice every few hours for two days and eating nothing else but fruits and veggies.
The diet ends with participants drinking Epsom salt water and olive oil with lemon juice.
Not enough research has been done into liver flushes, which is why most medical practitioners do not recommend them.
In addition, liver cleanses come with unpleasant side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.
Flush your colon
Colon cleansing involves the flushing of the colon with fluids to remove waste and is based on the idea that excrement is toxic to the body.
More often than not, a colonic cleanse is performed by a professional known as a colonic hygienist who uses a special tube to send around 60 liters of fluid through your rectum.
(Although it is possible to perform this procedure at home with at-home colon irrigation products.)
It sounds kind of awful.
Which is why you'd want to be sure that this procedure is genuinely useful before you put your buttocks through the ordeal.
So, is it effective?
Or is it a load of nonsense?
It's hard to know.
While a 2016 pilot study found that a colonic cleanse improved gastrointestinal symptoms in patients that had irritable bowel syndrome, further research is required before any definitive points can be made.
And of course:
There are plenty of risks associated with colon cleansing, including dehydration, bacterial imbalance, cramping, nausea, vomiting, and bowel perforation.
If the thought of tubes scares you, you could also try taking oral supplements that claim to deliver similar results (but talk to your doctor first!)
Let's Get More Specific
Here are some specific detox plans to get the gears turning!
The Megashift is a 30-day fruit and vegetable detox.
How it works:
Participants consume only raw fruits and veggies for a month, avoiding meat and dairy and even healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and beans.
Pros: Cleanses your palette and detoxifies your system.
Cons: Fatigue, extreme changes in energy levels, and digestive issues. In some cases, adding small amounts of oil, grains or protein is necessary.
If you don't usually eat a lot of fiber, it could take your body a few days to adjust to your new diet. Stimulate your digestive system by sipping herbal tea. Ginger tea and cinnamon tea are particularly useful.
About 10 percent of Americans are woefully addicted to sugar.
Even if you don't consider yourself an addict, a three-day sugar detox will do wonders for your body and mental health.
How it works:
Participants go cold turkey not only on added sugars and artificial sweeteners but also on fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy, grains, and alcohol. The whole detox lasts 31 days.
Pros: A recalibrated palette. An apple will suddenly taste like candy. You'll be freaked out by how sweet onions are. A trimmer waistline, clearer skin, brighter eyes, fewer mood swings, and higher energy levels are just some of the additional benefits.
Cons: Depending on how severe your addiction is, you might experience withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and irritability.
Watch the video below to understand how sugar affects our brains:
The Master Cleanse
The Master Cleanse, or the lemonade diet as it is also known, is a liquid diet that was created in the 1940s.
Beyonce used it to lose 20 pounds for her role in Dreamgirls and accidentally made it trendy.
How it works:
Participants drink 6 to 12 glasses of lemonade a day.
But don't get excited.
When we say "lemonade," what we actually mean is a lemonade concoction made from lemon juice, water, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper.
Herbal laxatives and saltwater drinks are also recommended. The cleanse usually lasts anywhere between 10 and 40 days.
Pros: Weight loss, increased energy levels, mental clarity.
Cons: Hunger pangs, dizziness, loose stools, diarrhea, the formation of gallstones, and lack of nutrients and proteins (not to mention calories).
Tip: If you're busy during the week, begin your detox on a Friday. That way, you'll have more downtime during the first few days of detoxing which are usually the hardest.
It's Not All Dieting
There's more to full body cleansing than just restricting your diet.
Clean your fridge
Ditching processed foods is hands down the easiest way to detoxify your body and improve your health.
In general, you want to avoid food products that contain the following ingredients:
Focus on whole foods, including veggies, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish, sustainably raised meats, and minimally processed oils (such as olive oil or coconut oil).
Consider giving up common food allergens, such as gluten, too.
Whenever possible, choose locally grown produce and foods that are raw.
By switching to healthier foods, you are helping your body heal your damaged gut.
Perhaps most importantly:
You are reducing the number of toxins entering your bloodstream.
Quick tip: Add sprouts to your salad or soup for a quick and easy way to boost your health. Sprouts improve digestion, lower the risk of heart disease, and help control blood sugar levels.
Sweat it out
If you've avoided exercise like the plague so far:
Start with something small, like walking.
Ideally, you want to do up to 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day.
Or, try Bikram yoga.
Bikram yoga is a series of 26 asanas, or postures, done in a heated room over 90 minutes. Its goal is to unify the body, mind and, spirit.
The main idea behind Bikram yoga is that sweating removes harmful toxins from the body.
Granted, according to the latest research, the number of toxins that we sweat out after a grueling workout is minuscule.
But that's not an excuse to stop exercising altogether.
Exercise is proven to reduce stress. And stress can be as toxic, if not more toxic, than chemicals.
Don't forget your mind
Stress contributes to autoimmune diseases and digestive issues.
It can even aggravate liver disease.
It is essential that you develop a good self-care routine.
Yoga, reading, walking your dog, taking an aromatherapy bath, journaling, or watching your favorite TV show on Netflix are just some of the things that you can do to quiet your mind and bring joy to your day to day life.
If you've been sleeping poorly, now's a good time to improve your bedtime routine.
There is no point in being squeaky clean on the inside if your thoughts are toxic.
So, practice mindfulness. Pause a few times a day and concentrate on your body and your mind. Everyone deserves 10 minutes of total calm each day.
On the same note, learn to deal with your feelings.
If you're too nice and if you can never say "no," maybe it's time for some gentle self-assertion. And if you're always angry for no apparent reason, perhaps it's time to seek some counseling.
You only have one body
Spending an hour on a skin care routine or having a long soak in the tub is by no means vain or selfish.
Taking good care of your body can improve your overall health.
So, take a look at incorporating detoxifying rituals into your daily or weekly routine as not something that you can do, but as something that you should do.
For example, dry body brushing, which is basically just the act of brushing your skin with a dry brush, takes only five minutes out of your day.
Do it every night, and you'll see benefits such as exfoliation, lymphatic support, increased energy levels, and the clearing of pores.
Next, we suggest oil pulling, which is just a fancy term for the act of swishing oil in your mouth to improve oral hygiene and remove bacteria.
If you want to take it a step further:
Try tongue scraping. It's an effective way to remove particles from your tongue. Best of all, tongue scraping has a myriad of benefits:
It improves your sense of taste, removes bacteria, boosts your overall health and reduces bad breath.
Infrared sauna is another thing that is praised by body cleansing enthusiasts in all four corners of the globe.
The light from infrared sauna purportedly penetrates the body thus helping with estrogen detoxification, skin health, fat loss, improved immune response, and circulation.
Finally, let's talk about personal care products and cosmetics.
Today, one in eight of 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are harmful industrial chemicals such as pesticides, carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
Ever noticed how when you're stressed or anxious you go from deep breathing to taking short, shallow breaths?
These short breaths reduce your lungs' ability to shift oxygen to all your bodily tissues.
An excellent way to improve your lung power is to practice diaphragmatic breathing daily.
Watch the video below to learn how:
Breathing exercises aside, there is something else we can do to help our lungs:
We can purify the air that we breathe! In some cases, the air at home is more polluted than the air outside.
Just think about it:
Smoke, fumes, and mold all contribute to toxic air.
If you have a poorly ventilated gas stove, you are probably breathing in compounds like carbon dioxide pretty much every single day.
And the cleaning products that you use to keep your home spotless?
Many of them contain chemicals linked to allergies, asthma and even cancer.
Even the scented candles that promise to make your home smell like cottage breeze or lavender vanilla use paraffin wax, a substance that releases cancer-causing chemicals.
But that's not all:
Some candles also use a wick where the cotton part is wrapped around metal (or similar material) which produces toxic soot linked to lung problems.
This is all very depressing.
But the solution is surprisingly simple:
Invest in a high-quality air purification device.
Just add water
As a rule of thumb:
Drink around 10 glasses of water every single day, including one immediately after waking.
Because tap water can sometimes be contaminated, it is a good idea to purify it before drinking it.
Not a big fan of water? Add some lemon or cucumber slices into your glass. It'll look fancier, and it'll taste marginally better.
And if you can't force yourself to down a large glass of cold water in the morning, consider drinking warm water instead.
Warm water might even be better than cold water!
Because it promotes optimal functioning of the lymphatic system and proper digestion, both of which support liver health, albeit indirectly.
Finally, as gross as it sounds, don't flush the toilet straight away.
Rather, cast a glance at your urine. If it's bright yellow, then you need to drink more water!
In an ideal world, we'd recommend unplugging from all technology for at least a day.
But to be perfectly honest:
In our hyper-connected world, this isn't a very realistic goal. Instead, try to turn off all electronics around 90 minutes before bed.
That way, you'll rest from the blue light emitted through the screen. Consequently, you'll probably sleep better.
As a bonus:
You'll also give your mind a break from all the social media clutter you're so used to.
Chicken Carcasses and Gone off Milk: Your New Body Odor
The side effects vary from detox to detox and from person to person.
Someone who substitutes all food for foul-smelling herbs for two weeks is likely to experience bad body odor (think chicken carcasses and gone-off milk), boredom, vivid dreams, obsession with food, chest pains, brain fog, and lethargy.
But in general:
Most detox diets are low in calories (and protein) which means that you will have little energy. Doing a full body cleanse may also disrupt your blood glucose levels and metabolic rate.
Gastrointestinal distress and frequent bowel movements are other potential side effects of a detox diet.
Also, even though it sounds counter-intuitive:
Eliminating too many foods over a long period can actually cause food intolerance.
The Cheater's Guide to Full Body Cleansing
Alright, so you want to do a full body cleanse. But you simply don't have the time.
Does that mean that you should give up altogether?
There are countless simple steps that you can take today that will help your health in the long run.
- Say no to caffeine after 12 PM. Need a little pick-me-up after lunch? Opt for green tea, matcha, or white tea instead.
- Chew slowly. Chew each mouthful around 10 times before swallowing to improve digestion, and feel fuller faster.
- Take a daily probiotic. Probiotics are said to encourage diversity in the microbiota that populates the intestine which consequently aids processing the nutrients in food. A balanced gut leads to better skin, weight regulation, improved mood, and overall better health. Cut down on your sugar and fat intake to get the most out of probiotics.
- If the thought of colon cleansing makes you shudder, try adding half a teaspoon of coconut oil to a glass of juice. Coconut oil acts as a natural laxative. It speeds up metabolism and consequently cleanses your body of excess waste.
- Drink two glasses of water for each alcoholic beverage that you consume.
No, the Kitchen Is Not Off-Limits
Unless the detox diet that you choose requires you to fast, chances are:
You'll have plenty of opportunities to experiment in the kitchen.
Green Protein Smoothie
- 1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 whole banana
- 2 cups greens such as kale, spinach, or chard
- Add all the ingredients to a blender.
- Blend for a few minutes until smooth.
Source: Lose Weight by Eating
Beet Detox Soup
- 3 beetroots
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 1 leek, diced
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 2 cups warm vegetable broth
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon seeds (chia, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds work well)
- 1 teaspoon coconut milk for garnish
- Bring the unpeeled beetroots to boil, then simmer for half an hour or so, until tender. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the coconut oil in a skillet. Then, add garlic, onion, carrot, and leek. Cook for around five minutes on low heat and transfer the veggies onto a plate.
- Peel and cube the beetroots. Place them in a blender alongside other vegetables and warm vegetable broth.
- Process until creamy smooth.
- Season with salt and garnish with seeds and coconut milk.
Source: The Awesome Green
Arugula Salad with Salmon
- 1 fillet of salmon (8-ounce)
- 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chives, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Squash fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle until they resemble a coarse powder. Sprinkle the fennel powder, salt, and pepper all over the salmon fillet. Then, grill it for a minute or two on each side on medium-high heat.
- While the salmon is cooking, make the dressing. Whisk together the ginger, lime and grapefruit juice, olive oil, chives, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Assemble the salad by tossing the arugula, avocado, and fennel with the dressing. Then, add the salmon on top.
- Garnish with grapefruit juice and sea salt.
Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Dangerous
Proponents of body cleansing recommend detoxifying your body at least once a year. It's a great way to reset your body, to increase your energy levels and to improve your digestion.
Of course, don't go over the top:
Too much of a good thing is sometimes bad for you.
Like, really, really bad.
To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse?
When done correctly, a full body cleanse can make you feel awesome.
But the thing is:
Detox diets are not for everyone.
Don't even think about detoxifying your body if you have a chronic health condition such as cancer, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, eating disorder, high blood pressure, and an active liver or gallbladder obstruction or irritation.
Avoid using a full body cleanse if you are an active athlete. Losing your carbohydrate stores is the same as losing your body's preferred source of fuel.
And, this probably goes without saying but:
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and seniors should also give full body detoxes a miss.
Make It a Lifestyle
A full body cleanse is not a magic bullet. What you want to do is take all the healthy detox practices and turn them into habits.
But let's be honest:
Habit building is hard.
Giving up tasty processed food, sugar and caffeine is kind of impossible. And juicing fruits and veggies every single day is more than a little impractical.
That's where cleanses and detoxes come in handy. A three day cleanse is unlikely to change your life.
It can help you gain greater awareness of what works for you -- what foods make you happy, what form of exercise helps you think more clearly, and what daily routines provide positivity.
We can't become health nuts overnight. But we can strive towards a healthier lifestyle. One cleanse at a time.
Have you used a full body cleanse? Tell us about your experience in the comment section!