As natural health enthusiasts, we all love the idea of total-body cleansing and detox, right? But not all detox therapies are safe — or even effective. In fact, while the popularity of detox programs has skyrocketed, their inflated promises fall short for many people. Instead of greater energy, vitality, and weight loss, many people end up feeling worse than before they started the detox.
Why Detoxing Can Make You Feel Sick
“Healing Crisis.” “Detox Reaction.” “Herxheimer Reaction.” These are just a few of the terms used to describe the uncomfortable side effects associated with a detox, including headaches, aches and pain, fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, constipation, digestive issues, cold and flu symptoms, and the list goes on. Why does this happen? When you start a detox program, the body immediately begins working overtime to eliminate chemicals, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and other accumulated wastes from your tissues and cells. Reactions can range from mild to serious.
Unfortunately, the most common advice is to continue with your detox program, and at some point, you should feel better. But more often than not, the side effects become too much to handle for many people — especially those who are extra sensitive. Think about it: Toxins may have been stored in your body for years, so you can’t expect them to easily be eliminated with a quick-fix program.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You might be shocked to learn that painful, debilitating reactions are not part of a healthy, gentle, and supportive cleanse. In fact, these reactions can actually do more harm than good, particularly for people with long-term health issues, chronic infections, and other challenges.
The Benefits of a Gentle Cleanse
The good news is you can largely avoid unpleasant detox symptoms by gradually pacing yourself and adopting a handful of key principles. When you take your time and use gentle, effective detox strategies, you can safely remove heavy metals, mycotoxins, and environmental toxins, as well as other waste from your body. A healthy cleanse can be an enjoyable and uplifting experience on all levels, free of discomfort or the dreaded “detox crises.” The benefits are practically endless, including:
- Better digestion
- Stronger immunity
- Robust circulation
- Pain-free joints and muscles
- Greater energy and vitality
- Improved mental clarity and emotional balance
- Increased sense of wellbeing
Here are some common obstacles that can get in the way of a successful cleanse — and the best strategies to overcome them.
Obstacle #1: Detoxing Too Quickly
This is the most common problem when it comes to detoxifying. Toxins are “quick-released” into the circulation and the body’s elimination systems become overburdened, causing reactions such as headaches, fatigue, and digestive discomfort. Certain extreme cleansing supplements and treatments, as well as rapid weight loss, can cause the release of too many toxins from organs and tissues at one time. The resulting discomfort can lead many people to discontinue the detox process, leaving many pollutants to freely circulate in the bloodstream (this is especially bad for your health).
How to Avoid It: Detox gradually. Slowly transition your diet away from processed foods, sugar, white flour, cooked oils, alcohol, and caffeine. Emphasize alkaline vegetables and nutrient-dense whole foods. Dark leafy greens are highly alkalinizing to the body. Spinach tops the list, followed by kale, arugula, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, and watercress.
Once you’ve cleaned up your diet, you can introduce detoxification supplements into the mix — these help clear toxins from the digestive tract and circulation. In my practice, I rely on clinically proven modified citrus pectin, along with other targeted detox ingredients, to remove pesticides and environmental toxins from the digestive tract and circulation. These gentle internal cleansers do not disrupt essential mineral levels or cause uncomfortable side effects. As a star ingredient for detox and healing, modified citrus pectin acts as much more than just a detox binder, delivering additional benefits to combat the harmful effects of toxins. Specifically, modified citrus pectin blocks the body’s master alarm protein, galectin-3 , and in doing so, controls inflammation and tissue damage, breaks up biofilms, and reduces hypersensitivity to toxins.1
For additional liver detox support, consider incorporating powerful liver detoxification ingredients after roughly 2–3 weeks. Potent detox nutrients and extracts, such as alpha lipoic acid, dandelion leaf, milk thistle seed, goldenrod, N-acetyl-cysteine, Oregon grape and root, help pull toxins from organs and tissues, support the liver and other systems of elimination, increase energy, and protect against inflammation and free radicals.
Obstacle #2: Dehydration
Even the most health-conscious people can become easily dehydrated. This situation can drastically worsen if you are following a detox plan. Your body needs mega doses of hydration to flush out toxins and keep the bowels moving efficiently. Otherwise, waste products can get stuck in transit, causing numerous uncomfortable symptoms and increasing your body’s toxic burden.
The Best Solution: Drink plenty of filtered water (or herbal teas) daily, throughout the duration of your detox. Aim for at least half your body weight, in ounces (e.g., a 140 lb person would drink 70 oz of water). Vegetable broths that are free of additional salt can also help hydrate and nourish. Hot water with lemon is an excellent cleansing and hydrating beverage to support numerous areas of health. Avoid regular table salt and foods that have been dehydrated, as both have a drying effect on the system.
Obstacle #3: Cravings
Finding the discipline to follow a detox program is often the biggest hurdle. Even the most diligent health-conscious people can succumb to the unending list of food temptations. But remember this: If you stray from your detox program, don’t be hard on yourself. You can always start again.
How to Break the Craving Cycle: In general, it only takes a few days of following a whole-foods detox diet for the body and mind to start craving healthier foods. Having said that, sometimes your sweet tooth may rear its ugly head. Fear not. Certain botanicals and nutrients can help balance blood sugar and curb cravings — top picks include chromium picolinate, alpha lipoic acid, L-glutamine, fenugreek seed, astragalus, and ginseng.
It’s also very important during a cleanse to get regular exercise and practice stress relief techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, to help detoxify any mental or emotional roadblocks that can surface during a cleanse. Specific meditation practices can help you connect with the transformative, detoxifying power of your heart. Did you know the heart is the only organ that takes in toxin-filled blood, purifies it with oxygen from the lungs, and distributes fresh, clean blood to the entire body without discrimination? Connecting with this healing power of the heart can be a transformative detoxification practice.
Above all, take it slow and nourish yourself with time, space, and gentle loving support. Together, these simple guidelines help guarantee the best results with your cleanse, deepen your mind-body connection, and exceed your health goals, naturally.
- Eliaz I, Raz A. Pleiotropic Effects of Modified Citrus Pectin. Nutrients. 2019 Nov 1;11(11):2619.