by Lauren Davies September 01, 2023 3 min read

You've likely come across the terms "Detox" and "Cleanse" in the natural health space. While often used interchangeably – it is important to understand they are not the same. So what is the difference between a detox vs. cleanse? Let's take a closer look at how they differ, why both are important and when it may be best for you to incorporate each to get the most benefit.

What is a Detox?

Detoxification (detox) is defined by "a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances". It is a continuous process that involves the digestive system and key organs including the liver, kidneys and skin that form part of the body's built-in detoxification system to support and maintain long-term health.

A detox is designed to bind to harmful toxins that have built up in the body and then safely and effectively remove them through the stool, urine, sweat and lungs (breath). It is a natural process but can also be assisted to provide additional support and benefit.

A Functional Medicine Detox is a science backed system that uses specific nutrients and Ayurvedic herbs that fully support phase 1 and phase 2 of liver detoxification. This supports liver function with the conversion of harmful fat soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins, which can then be safely eliminated. Doing one 21-day functional medicine detox each year, followed by a 7-day detox every 12 weeks (seasonally) dates back to Ayurvedic principles and is recommended as a long-term wellness strategy to support liver detoxification and rebalance the body at a deep cellular level for optimal health.

A Heavy Metal Detox targets the removal of metals that accumulate in the body from environmental exposure including aluminum, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead. It does this using natural based ingredients like cilantro, chlorella, vitamin C and a biofilm disruptor that expose, bind to and remove toxic metal build up. Other types of comprehensive and targeted detoxification programs can be used to remove additional harmful toxins including mold and parasites.

What is a Cleanse?

The definition of a cleanse is "to make thoroughly clean". It generally refers to a short-term dietary strategy that is used when you want to remove something from the body, for example clean out the skin, bowels, liver, bladder or kidneys. It uses specific herbs to facilitate the removal process more quickly.

An Intestinal Cleanse is designed to clear out the bowels using ingredients that bind to toxins, and draw water into the colon to flush out the gut with increased bowel regularity facilitating the removal of built-up fecal matter.

A skin cleanse may include a mud pack applied to the skin to draw out dirt, oils, impurities or environmental pollutants; or using a sauna can provide some skin-cleansing benefits as the heat can induce seating, which is a natural way the body eliminates toxins and impurities by pushing them through the skin.

A liver and gallbladder cleanse or "flush" dates back thousands of years and uses natural substances including herbs, citrus, Malic acid and Epsom salts in a specific way to stimulate bile flow and potentially promote the removal of gallstones.

When to Consider a Detox vs. Cleanse?

While it's true that our body was designed to detoxify naturally, increasing exposure to toxins and pollutants on a daily basis from our diet and lifestyle can accumulate creating an unmanageable burden on the liver and other organs and lead to a variety of unwanted health issues including difficulty losing weight, skin issues, low mood, hormone imbalances, cravings, and more.

If you are looking to remove specific substances or impurities from the body quickly, you might consider doing a cleanse, whereas a detox is generally a longer program designed to help the body function more effectively overall by binding to harmful toxins that get stored in the fat cells and even the brain.

Understanding the difference between a detox vs. a cleanse will enable you to consider which one may be appropriate for you and when to do it. While a cleanse aims to facilitate rapid cleaning out in the short-term, a Functional Medicine detox done on a quarterly basis can support longer-lasting health benefits and results including stubborn weight loss, increased energy and mood, clearer skin, stronger digestion, better sleep, and enhanced liver detoxification moving forward.

Did you know our ancestors used seasonal and annual cleansing methods to overcome health issues? Listen to this podcast to learn about 4 "cleanses" you can do each year to transform your body and optimize your long-term health that date back thousands of years from natural health principles.

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