What is the Difference Between a Detox and Cleanse?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

The terms detox and cleanse are sometimes used in a nearly synonymous manner. This is because many of the methods that are used to detox the body can also be used to cleanse the body and vice verse. Fasting can help to detox the body and at the same time can cleanse the digestive system. To detox the body is to perform some sort of procedure or to follow a certain type of diet that helps to remove toxins from the body. A cleanse usually refers to a program or diet that helps to rid the body of waste, particularly from the digestive system.

Detoxing usually involves replacing sugary drinks with water.
Detoxing usually involves replacing sugary drinks with water.

Choosing between a detox and a cleanse means choosing what kinds of lifestyle changes one is willing to make. A detox can mean giving up favorite foods and beverages such as processed snacks, fast food, and soda. It can also mean sticking to a strict diet, such as a raw diet or an organic diet and drinking detox tonics and teas. A cleanse, on the other hand, may mean fewer lifestyle changes. A colon cleanse may be as simple as taking a fiber supplement daily for a week or two.

A detox can mean giving up favorite foods and beverages, including soda.
A detox can mean giving up favorite foods and beverages, including soda.

Many times people find that they detox and cleanse at the same time. By detoxing with a raw, organic diet, it is also likely that the colon will become cleansed by the increase in one's dietary fiber. Some detox drinks and teas also affect the digestive system, causing those who drink the tea to eliminate waste that has built up in their systems. Those who go on a cleanse will also find that they are eliminating toxins from their bodies simply by passing waste.

A person may engage in a detox from nicotine.
A person may engage in a detox from nicotine.

Those who want to detox and cleanse should consult with a doctor first, especially if the chosen process requires radical dietary changes. It is also smart to prepare the body for a detox and cleanse. Instead of going cold turkey on processed foods, nicotine, alcohol, and other toxins, wean the body for a few days. This way the body will be prepped and will be less shocked by the change. Finally, consider taking yoga classes and booking a massage that will help the process. This is a good way to reward oneself for going through a process that can be a bit harrowing.

A detox can consist of giving up fast food.
A detox can consist of giving up fast food.
A colon cleanse may be as simple as taking a fiber supplement daily for a week or two.
A colon cleanse may be as simple as taking a fiber supplement daily for a week or two.
Patients may be instructed to drink plenty of water prior to undergoing a colon cleanse.
Patients may be instructed to drink plenty of water prior to undergoing a colon cleanse.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

Phaedrus

If I ever start feeling sluggish or unfocused, the first thing I want to do is a detox. I want to make sure I'm getting all of the toxins and poisons out of my body first, so if I do a cleanse later, it will be more effective. I go on a detox and cleanse diet at least every three months, mostly because I'm prone to digestive problems and I need to keep my pancreas and liver in good shape.

Cageybird

I've done both a detox and a cleanse, and to me there is one main difference. When I do a detox, I'm trying to eliminate toxins that have built up in a system over time, like my liver or my digestive tract. It's all about eliminating poisonous or toxic substances that have the potential to cause harm, like heavy metals.

A cleanse, on the other hand, is more of an elimination of things that are blocking the natural flow of a system. Those things, like excess fat cells, are not necessarily toxic to my system, but they are preventing something from working as well as it could. When I go on a liver cleanse or a colon cleanse, I'm "cleaning out the pipes", so to speak.

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