Juicing. The Master Cleanse. Saltwater flush. Colonics.
Chances are you’ve come across at least one or two methods focused on detoxing and cleansing your body.
These methods typically claim to improve your digestive health, increase your energy levels, improve your mental state, remove toxins and impurities from your body, and maybe even help you drop a few pounds.
But the question remains… are detoxes and cleanses actually necessary? Are they beneficial?
Well… it depends.
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CLEANSE VS. DETOX: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The terms “cleanse” and “detox” are often used interchangeably but by definition, there is a difference.
What is a cleanse?
A cleanse is typically used as a “digestive reset.” Usually, a cleanse involves some sort of method for quickly clearing your digestive tract of built-up waste, like a colonic irrigation or a saltwater flush. Cleansing can also be done by utilizing a method of fasting that gives your body a break from incoming food, allowing it to “catch up” on all that backed-up waste and eliminate it (like the Master Cleanse or a juice fast).
What is a detox?
Detox is short for detoxification and is typically used in an attempt to rid the kidneys and liver of unwanted toxins and impurities. Typically, during a detox an individual will eliminate all processed foods, sugar, and alcohol. They may also incorporate foods that are thought to be good for liver and kidney health, such as dark, leafy greens or garlic.
Some methods overlap – for example, a juice fast might be done for cleansing or detoxing benefits.
ARE THEY BENEFICIAL?
Here’s the thing – with a healthy diet, your body will perform all of the detoxing and cleansing for you. You won’t have to lift a finger!
That being said, a vast majority of people today live extremely unhealthy lifestyles. They consume the typical American diet full of animal products and processed foods. They live sedentary lifestyles and may even be overweight or obese.
Over time, this type of lifestyle overwhelms the body and prevents it from being able to complete the natural processes that it so desperately needs.
For example, cleanses are often touted for their digestive benefits. When you eat whole, healthy foods your body knows what to do. It can process those foods and digest them easily. But if someone is constantly consuming heavily processed hard-to-digest foods, the body can have a hard time processing it all in a timely manner and it can begin to “build-up.”
This can cause some serious stress to the digestive system. And since all of our systems work together, an issue with one system can start leading to problems elsewhere in the body!
If your body is not given the tools it needs to complete its natural processes, it can eventually lead to illness and disease.
This is why some people think that cleanses and detoxes are beneficial. The idea is that cleanses and detoxes rid the body of unwanted waste and toxins, allowing it to run more efficiently.
And they absolutely will. Temporarily.
But all of the cleanses and detoxes in the world are not going to improve your overall health long-term unless you change your lifestyle as well.
IS THERE EVER A REASON TO DETOX OR CLEANSE?
Cleanses may have some short-term benefits, while detoxes are likely not beneficial at all.
The “point” of a detox is to rid your liver and kidneys of unwanted toxins. But unless you are planning to completely overhaul your entire diet and lifestyle as well, the short-lived break for these organs is not going to improve your long-term health.
And if you are planning to overhaul your lifestyle and consume a healthier diet, then a detox still is not necessary. The diet and lifestyle changes alone would be enough to allow your body to easily resume its natural processes.
On that same note, if you aren’t planning to change your lifestyle, a cleanse also won’t do anything for your long-term health.
That being said, if you have consumed a consistently unhealthy diet for a period of time and are attempting to get your health back on track, partaking in a cleanse may be just the boost of motivation you need to get started.
A cleanse could provide quick improvements in mood and energy levels, as well as a few pounds of quick weight loss, that could definitely motivate you to continue with your new healthy lifestyle goals.
A cleanse can also be helpful for someone who has gone “off track” with their diet temporarily (like during the holiday season!) and is experiencing the unfavorable symptoms of a poor diet like sluggishness and a slowed digestive system.
A quick cleanse could help them feel better and get back on track quickly.
In addition, a regular cleansing regimen may be helpful for those with chronic digestive issues.
But overall, cleanses and detoxes will do nothing for your long-term health, especially if you plan to go right back to your unhealthy lifestyle afterwards. And if you already lead a healthy lifestyle, your body already has the tools it needs to complete all of your “detoxing” and “cleansing” naturally!
*Aways check with your healthcare provider before engaging in any sort of detox or cleanse. There can be health risks associated with many detoxing and cleansing methods, especially for individuals with certain medical conditions. The medical/health information above is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals.