If you’re considering trying a cleanse, you’ve probably already encountered conflicting information about how to cleanse. Is confusion keeping you from giving it a try? We’re here to help.
Cleansing is nothing new – it's an ancient, ritualistic practice that's present in almost every major religion. For many modern people, the choice to cleanse has more to do with health concerns than with spiritual practice. Still, many of us approach cleansing with a holistic mindset – that the right cleanse might be good for the spirit and mind as well as the body.
Whatever your motivation for learning how to cleanse, you need the information that will help you make the right choice for your lifestyle and goals. For example, what's the difference between a cleanse and a detox? Also, what are the most popular types of cleanses today and why? Finally, it's important to know how to cleanse safely.
Where Cleansing Comes From
We can trace the current health cleanse craze to Peter Glickman, an entrepreneur who popularized the concept in the ‘90s.
Glickman actually used a diet from the 1940s called the Master Cleanse as the basis for his modern cleansing concept. Ever heard of a cleanse concoction involving cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and maple syrup?
This 10-day treatment is the Master Cleanse, and it quickly caught on with celebrities, who touted its potential for energy and weight loss.
Since then, the cleanse concept has grown to encompass a wide variety of treatments. From oral cleanses similar to Glickman’s Master Cleanse, to physical treatments administered by a trained professional, you have countless options.
Drinking lemon juice with cayenne pepper for 10 days probably doesn’t sound like much fun. Fortunately, most newer types of cleanses are less strict. But why put yourself through it in the first place?
Our bodies aren’t sink drains – you can’t just pour a cleanser into them when things don’t seem right and get immediate results. The body is a complex system of tissues and organs with different functions. And yes, sometimes the system breaks down. You might feel a lack of energy, start experiencing digestive issues, or just feel a mysterious malaise. People cleanse to fix these nebulous problems.
The Concept Behind Cleansing
Cleansing operates on a simple premise: toxins, allergens, waste, and other problematic substances build up in our bodies over time. People believe that these substances contribute to weight gain, low energy levels, and more.
Cleanses promise to get rid of these substances, purify your organs, get rid of waste, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion. They’re also said to help with weight loss, energy, and more.
In addition to more specific instructions, cleansing almost always involves cutting out alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and processed or refined foods. Some cleanses involve strictly raw foods, while others reduce you to a liquid diet for a matter of days or weeks. Depending on the type of cleanse, the whole process can last anywhere from a few days to a month or more.
The “toxins” that cleansing is meant to get rid of are often discussed in vague terms. What are these toxins really? They can include heavy metals like arsenic from the soil or mercury in fish, pesticides, airborne pollutants, and more. Foods themselves – even refined sugar – aren’t really “toxic,” but there can certainly be benefits to cutting back on some things. Cleanses are meant to both help you cut down on problematic food choices, and remove the actual toxins from your body.
But Doesn’t the Body Detox Itself?
Thanks to millions of years of evolution, our body has developed natural ways to get rid of toxins. For the most part, your kidneys and liver are responsible for this work.
However, when you’re consuming a lot of environmental toxins, and you’re not getting enough nutrients or staying properly hydrated, your body’s natural detoxifiers can’t keep up with their job. Adding more toxins without supporting your detox systems creates a toxic buildup.
Cleansing is meant to help reduce this pressure on your organs. It doesn’t take over for them; it just allows them to do their job better.
Cleanse vs. Detox
People use the terms detox” and “cleanse” interchangeably. However, there are some key differences between the two approaches. Let’s take a look so you can make the best choice for your body.
Diet-focused cleanses typically work by getting rid of your unhealthy choices and replacing them with better ones. When your body has the right fuel, your organs can do what they need to do.
Cleansing takes your dietary choices down to just the essentials. You might lose some weight, but more importantly, you’ll get a nutritional boost while cutting back on sources of toxins. This can help you recover from some unhealthy choices, and kickstart a new outlook on taking care of yourself.
Detoxing generally looks more like that Master Cleanse craze from the ‘90s. It also eliminates the bad stuff from your diet, but detoxes tend to focus more on being restrictive, limiting you to foods that will “detox” you.
However, this is something of a misconception. Foods and supplements can’t really detox your body. Rather, they support your body’s natural systems. If a detox restricts your diet too much, your body may actually lack the nutrients needed to do this work. And after the temporary restrictions of a detox are over, you might find yourself running back to your old, unhealthy habits.
Although the words “cleanse” and “detox” are often used to refer to the same thing, it’s worthwhile to do your research before you start a program or technique. If a detox too restrictive and doesn’t offer enough nutrients or calories, it’s probably not right for you.
How to Cleanse
So how exactly do people cleanse? In addition to the well-known dietary cleanses, there are other methods said to help get those toxins out. Here are a few of the most popular cleansing concepts.
Fasting is one of the oldest ways to cleanse. People have fasted for both physical and spiritual reasons for centuries.
It’s said to heal your body, slow the signs of aging, and more. Many modern studies support the benefits of fasting, when it’s done right and not taken to extremes. It can help you lose weight, and fight diseases like diabetes and heart disease, for example.
Fasting works because the body uses glucose, or sugar, to keep the metabolic functions running. When you fast, those reserves of glucose get depleted from both the stores in your liver and your digestive tract. To get fuel, your body starts metabolizing fat instead. This helps to jump-start your metabolism and clear out stored toxins.
After fasting, you’ll see healthier fat levels in the blood, more controlled blood sugar levels, and a reduction in inflammation. People may use intermittent fasting and low-carb, low-calorie, or high-fat diets as part of their cleansing technique.
We evolved as hunter-gatherers. Throughout much of our history, we didn’t often have high-calorie foods available and subsisted with a limited, plant-based diet most of the time. Fasting taps into that history by reducing your intake of high-calorie modern foods. This helps you gain a healthier metabolism that can ward off disease and weight gain.
Another approach to how to cleanse involves using a certain ingredient or supplement to get results. This tactic has become popular because people love the idea of a cure-all ingredient for their weight and health woes. But it’s not that simple.
Unfortunately, no supplement is ever going to remove toxins from your body magically. You need to keep your organs in proper working order since they’re the ones that are really responsible for toxin removal.
However, although detox supplements can’t completely take over, they can add another layer of support to a cleanse. For example, if you take charcoal within an hour after consuming food with toxins in it, the charcoal can bind with the toxins in your gastrointestinal tract to prevent them from causing damage.
Infrared saunas are a hot new treatment that claims to get rid of heavy metals in the body. The experience is supposed to simulate the effects of exercise by inducing sweat, a higher heart rate, and dilated blood vessels.
Although these saunas certainly will make you sweat, no studies have yet shown that they have any benefits beyond an ordinary exercise session. And sitting in a sauna doesn’t work your muscles or organs as a workout does. When it comes to sweat, exercise is still your best bet. There's no better way to remove toxins.
Risks of Cleansing
Diet-based, nutrition-focused cleanses can effectively help your body rid itself of toxins. Other techniques may help support this approach, although they can’t quite replace them. But are there any risks inherent in cleansing?
If you do it the healthy way, the answer is no. You should always consult with your doctor before changing your diet or approach to health. But cutting back on unhealthy food and adding in nutrient-rich, calorie-restricted choices is basically safe for everyone. Avoid extreme detoxing, such as extended liquid diets, and you shouldn't have any issues with a cleanse.
How to Cleanse the Right Way For You
When it comes to cleansing, you have options. Knowing how to cleanse isn’t as simple as choosing a single, mystical ingredient or supplement to turn your life around. Instead, it’s all about knowing how to use these tools as part of a holistic approach to helping your body remove toxins.
Talk to your doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional to decide which cleanse method will be best for you. With the proper approach, you’ll feel the benefits of your cleanse fast.
Does knowing how to cleanse make you more likely to try it? What kind of cleanse sounds most appealing to you? Let us know in the comments!