Detox and Cleanses: the Basics

by Stacy

Detox and cleansing

I know, detoxing and cleansing is sooooo January, but I’ve been getting questions lately, so here we go! I’ve put off this post because I kept thinking of more information to include, so I’m breaking it up into parts. If you have questions, please leave a comment or email me so I can make sure to answer it in a subsequent post!


What’s the point of a detox or cleanse?

In my last post, I mentioned detoxing. Your kidneys and liver are constantly clearing out toxins from your system. These could be environmental chemicals, excess vitamins, alcohol, food additives, or anything else your body doesn’t process.

We’re exposed to so many toxins that our bodies get overwhelmed. Many toxins then get dumped back into our systems and stored in our fat cells. It’s our bodies’ equivalent of shoving the mess in the closet to deal with it later.

A detox or cleanse is like spring cleaning. You have to stop bringing junk in, throw extra junk out, and organize the rest. And just like cleaning out an overly full closet, sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.

simple green smoothie

What does a detox do? Does it work?

Normally I don’t recommend any restrictive dietary plans, but detoxing or cleansing can help “reset” your body and give your digestive system a break in a structured, short-term way. They’re not for everyone, and they’re not necessary, but they’re a tool in the toolbox of health.

Possible awesome effects include:

  • Weight loss
  • Better sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved mood
  • Clearer thinking

Possible side effects during the detox period are:

  • Irregular digestion
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Many people already have these issues – which is why a detox is in order.

Whether or not it “works” depends on why you want to detox. Some weight loss is water weight, so it’s not a sustainable weight loss solution. However, it can help kickstart you to lose more weight afterward if you don’t simply revert to unhealthy eating patterns after the cleanse. (Note: men will often lose more weight than women while detoxing.)

Kale Aid

What does a detox entail? Is it just that crazy lemon and maple syrup thing?


While the MasterCleanse (a cocktail of lemonade, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper) is well-known, detox methods range from simple dietary changes to a total juice fast. You can incorporate detox elements in small ways each day, focus on one day a week, or set a short time frame.

Clean Eating: Simple cut out inflammatory foods and front-load your diet with nutrient-dense choices. You still get to eat food, and the fiber ensures you feel full and satisfied. This method can even work while eating out.

What can trip people up: meal preparation takes planning, may be a steeper learning curve for those who don’t normally cook, shopping may feel overwhelming, and can be a shift for some palates depending on current diet.

Smoothies and Blending: Smoothies and blended or liquid foods (like soups) give your digestion a break by delivering high-nutrient foods that have already been broken down. You still have plenty of fiber and volume to fill you up, but the blending basically “pre-chews” the food for you.

What can trip people up: Not chewing can seem strange and take some adjustment, boredom can set in from the lack of textural variety, and washing the blender can get old fast.

Juicing: Extracting only the nutritious juice from fresh produce means you can consume more nutrients than usual. Several pounds of fibrous veggies may yield mere ounces of juice. While blending leaves more bulky fiber, juicing is an extremely efficient method of dousing yourself with vitamins and minerals.

What can trip people up: Making juice at home requires a juicer or good blender, buying pre-made juices is costly, making juice can be time-consuming, the lack of fiber and chewing makes it hard to feel satisfied or full, and too much fruit or starchy vegetables can cause blood sugar crashes.

roasted delicata squash with kale

What type of detox is best for me?

Choose the type of detox that best fits your lifestyle and personality, and know that you don’t have to start with a 30-day juice fast.

Simple ways to incorporate detox methods into your day:

  • Drink a glass of room temperature (or warm) water with lemon first thing in the morning.
  • Add a big green salad before lunch and dinner.
  • Start each day with a green smoothie or green juice.
  • Drink only juice or smoothies until dinner, then eat a healthy meal.
  • Go vegan for a week. Focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

Right before a stressful time at work, during the holidays, or before an athletic event is not the best times to detox. Detoxes and cleanses are not recommended when pregnant or nursing. Juicing can be problematic for Type 1 diabetics and people on certain medications.

While the above steps are likely fine for most people, check with your doctor if you’re on any medications or have any medical conditions. These are all things I have done personally that have worked for me.

Know yourself. If you usually eat until over-stuffed, a juice fast might be a stretch for you. If you don’t cook, juicing (or purchasing juice) might actually be more approachable.

What do you think about detoxes? Would you ever do one? What other questions do you have?

Coming up: My juice fast experience, resources, budgeting, recipes, and other tips.


Stacy Spensley is a healthy life coach, recovering stage manager, lover of the Oxford comma, and vegetarian. She's bossy because she loves you.

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