When we hear the words "cleanse" or "detox" these can often bring images of endless hours of juicing, starvation and terrible tasting concoctions. These are signs of an unhealthy program which is more likely to set you up for failure and end up exactly where you started, but with less money and more frustration. Some of these programs can be expensive, so here are some tips to help you find one that can actually help you reach your goals.
Why should you consider it?
A cleanse program can help you remove the natural toxins from your body's everyday metabolism and help maintain a healthy weight. We are also exposed to external toxins on a daily basis from pesticides and chemicals present in our food, air and water. Although our body is designed to rid itself of these toxins naturally, it can become overburdened over time and with lowered function from poor diet, lack of exercise and nutrient deficiencies. This can create chronic disease and symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, poor digestion, weight gain, brain fog, skin conditions, low libido or sex drive and even joint aches and pains.
What can't a cleanse or detox program do?
These programs can't usually change your health situation completely in a short time frame. Don't expect to lose more than about 5-10 lbs during the program, the more you have to lose the higher your loss will be. These programs can cause you to yo-yo in your weight, especially if you immediately revert back to your old eating habits. The changes in your health during the program will likely be subtle, as more of the changes in your health should continue to occur even after the program, when you've shifted to a new diet and lifestyle. The ideal weight-loss plan is not a quick fix but a long-term commitment. You will need to make lifestyle changes that will continue long after the program is completed.
What should a cleanse or detox program look like?
A good program will be longer than one week, as it's hard to have any lasting changes in your health in less than a week, and they shouldn't promote strenuous exercise or starving yourself by skipping meals or relying solely on mass-produced juices, shakes or powders. You want to be using this time to make diet and lifestyle changes which promote health, such as increasing whole foods, vegetables and decreasing sweets, caffeine and alcohol. You should never feel starved, and the program should educate you in healthy eating both during and after, when shifting to a new normal diet. This shift after the program should be gradual and controlled in the reintroduction of foods that were eliminated during the program. A good program will also offer adjustments for individual dietary needs, such as avoidance of food intolerances or sensitivities and offer additional nutrient support individualized to you. Support for the normal organs of detoxification, which will get a hefty amount of work during a cleanse program is also needed, that's the liver, kidneys and digestive system.
Aids the body in metabolizing fat, protein and carbohydrates
Helps transform many toxins into harmless agents
Filter waste and excess fluid from the blood
Regulate and release the right balance of sodium, phosphorus and potassium for the body to function properly
Digests food so that nutrients can be absorbed into the blood and transported to the liver
Provides a barrier that blocks toxins from the rest of the body
Absorbs water and electrolytes, forming waste that is excreted from the body
Produces antibodies for gastrointestinal health
Contains bacteria that create fatty acids and some vitamins for extra nutritional support
Eliminates toxins, excess hormones and fat through the stool
What are the side effects?
Two of the main effects should be an increase in urination and bowel movements. This is a natural effect of increasing metabolism and detoxification from the liver, GI and kidneys. In rare cases, you may experience a headache, generalized aches, rashes or fatigue. These are normal and are a result of the increased release of inflammatory and toxic substrates and will subside in a few days. Working with a physician who is knowledgeable can help monitor these symptoms to ensure what you're experiencing isn't something more serious, and treatments through homeopathic medicines and hydrotherapy can be wonderfully supportive in reducing these possible side effects.
After the program, you should feel more energy, have better sleep, clearer thought and have lost a few pounds of weight. You should also notice better, more complete bowel movements and less general aches and pains.
Which program do we recommend?
We generally recommend the Standard Process 21-Day Purification Program. We like it because it promotes a healthy, clean diet of whole foods, focused on lots of fresh vegetables. Although the program is tailored to each patient as an individual, some common support is offered with a protein powder for blending with fruits and veggies for shakes and detoxification support through whole food supplements.
We also recommend it because we just see good results from it. The 21 days seems to be enough time to set patients on a healthier eating track, and most patients notice more energy and better sleep within a week of starting.
We recommend six hydrotherapy treatments (two per week) during the program to help reduce adverse side effects and boost detoxification and digestive movement. We also notice that after the 21 days, patients are generally happy to continue the diet for the most part, and add a few of the eliminated items back into their regular eating.
So what do you eat during the program?
The program also offers a variety of delicious and healthy recipes for during and after the program and clear list of what foods are allowed and what aren't during the 21 days.
Recipes are FREE, and available in the Detoxing Made Delicious cookbook and Purification Cookbook. Additional recipes are also available in the Purification Guidebook, which we can provide free copies if you're interested in the program.
Want to see what you can eat? Here are some images from a patient who documented her journey on the program:
Want to learn more?
Schedule a consultation with one of our physicians to discuss if the program is right for you and getting started with an individualized plan. A medical history, physical exam and possible blood work will need to completed and ordered before starting the program to help ensure success.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of physicians at Pacific Clinic of Natural Medicine, unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of our physicians and their community to promote wellness . PCNM encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional and medical services. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care professional before using products based on this content.
If you want to use an article on your site please direct to and cite the original article page. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, contact, creation and information intact, without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format. If any other use is desired, permission in writing from PCNM and the original author is required.