By now you’ve probably heard the term “cleanse,” whether you saw it advertised by a product on the shelf or heard someone saying they’re currently on one. What exactly are they talking about?
If you’re just getting into the natural medicine scene, you may not know that there is a large variety of “cleanses” and “detoxes.” In this article, my goal is to introduce you to not only the concept of cleansing and detoxing, but give you short descriptions on the types.
So, what is a cleanse? Generally speaking, a cleanse is a method of stimulating the body, medicinally or physically, to go into “cleaning mode.” Your body is constantly bombarded with environmental toxins in small doses. It’s believed that, over time, these micro-doses of poisons accumulate in the body, whether because the body is rendered incapable to process and get rid of them due to illness or disease, or it is otherwise occupied with other bodily tasks.
As for illness and disease, it is well documented by researchers that the immuno-compromised store environmental poisons in their tissues – it’s often found, for example, that small levels of pesticides reside in cancerous tissues. The pesticides found in breast cancer tissue are often substances that have been banned for use in the USA between 20 and 60 years ago. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), a quarter of the adult population in the USA has these banned pesticide residues in their fat tissues – that’s the entire population, not just the immuno-compromised. And that’s just one example of an environmental toxin accumulating in people’s bodies. We haven’t even begun to talk about the body’s own, natural cellular wastes, which can also lead to diseased conditions (eg, Uric Acid and Gout).
And so, to counteract the poisons stored in the body, people go through cleanses and detoxes. A proper cleanse will be thorough – including multiple methods of detox, physical and medicinal. There are a lot of fad cleanses out there, many of them extremely ineffective and uncomfortable. Today, I’m listing different types of cleanses – finding a good cleanse for your current health condition needs to be a personal matter, as everyone’s health condition is unique to them.
- Liver Cleanse: A liver cleanse is intended to stimulate the liver (cleaner of the blood and lymph, and detoxifier of the body) to begin its detoxification processes. Lymph fluid, bile and blood flow through this organ, and using the body’s own chemicals, environmental poisons and cellular waste are broken down into less harmful substances. Most liver cleanses will be herb-stimulated, with the most often seen ingredients being dandelion root and milk thistle seed extract, both of which are proven chemically to stimulate bile-flow and liver detoxification phases. This type of cleanse is excellent, owing to its wholesome, holistic nature.
- Lymph Cleanse: A lymph cleanse is intended to move the lymph through the channels and lymph nodes – the concept being that a stagnant lymph system allows cellular waste and environmental toxins to accumulate to higher degrees. The lymph system is a vast array of channels, much like the veins and arteries of the body. It doesn’t, however, have an organ like the heart to ‘pump’ the fluid through the channels. Because of this, we need movement of the body to move the lymph fluid. A lymph cleanse is more often than not going to require physical medicine to be effective. Some forms of lymph cleansing therapies include: sweat lodges (sauna therapy), comprehensive stretching, massage therapy, and cardiovascular exercise. Sometimes this type of cleanse includes herbal therapy as well, with the intention of assisting the body with the stress of detoxification. One very effective aid to lymphatic detoxification is using a rebounder (like this one). The simple bouncing action is really helpful in getting that lymphatic fluid moving again!
- Colon Cleanse: Probably the least comfortable, but very effective in some cases. A colon cleanse can come in two varieties. The most common colon cleanse introduces a substance to the digestive tract, with the goal of ‘soaking up’ or breaking down toxic build-up or acute toxicity. A good example of this, though its use is less common in natural medicine, is charcoal used by emergency professionals to soak up poisons a patient has consumed. There exists a large variety of substances said to perform the same action or similar that you will find in the average colon cleanse product. This type of cleanse is typically gentle, and will need to be performed over a longer period of time. The second, more effective and uncomfortable method, is what is known as a colon ‘purge.’ This is often simply called a colon ‘cleanse’ by some. In my opinion, it’s best not to confuse the two. A colon purge has the intention of removing the excess wastes of the digestive tract quickly and efficiently – meaning you will be best friends with the toilet for the duration of the purge. Because it’s so common for undigested wastes to build up into thick walls in the lower GI tract, this cleanse is effective for cleaning the digestive organs and renewing the digestive strength. More often than not, this cleanse will need to be repeated several times for full effectiveness. This action is achieved most commonly through the introduction of stimulants to the bowels, but is also achieved by physical medicine if the patient is willing to visit a medical practitioner who has colon irrigation equipment (a much more pleasant experience than doing it yourself).
- Water Cleanse / Kidney Cleanse: This type of cleanse focuses on the urinary tract, or moving water out of the body. This is most often achieved through diuretics, which are substances that stimulate the body to move water out. This type of cleanse can be very effective for certain ailments and health conditions, but it’s not recommended for the person looking to achieve a whole-body cleanup. A precaution: if you plan to do this type of cleanse, it’s exceedingly important that you drink large amounts of water throughout the process. If water goes out, you need to bring more in!
My advice is to avoid the ‘named’ cleanses. If it’s called something like “The 21 Day Cleanse,” or “The Beach Body Cleanse,” 9 times out of 10 it’s a waste of your money. The most effective cleanses I’ve undergone myself, that left me feeling stronger and healthier, have been cleanses achieved through use of the substances individually, not in a pre-made package. When looking for a cleanse that’s right for you, make sure to do your own research – some products out there aren’t the highest of quality. It’s up to you to find the best medicines available for your condition.
US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health
Center for Disease Control, National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals