In today’s world, cleanses and detoxes have become increasingly popular as a way to remove toxins, improve health, and promote weight loss. But with so many different cleanses out there, how do you know which one is right for you? And, importantly, how often should you actually do a cleanse?
What is a Cleanse?
A cleanse is a short-term dietary intervention designed to remove toxins from the body and improve health. Cleanses typically involve restricting your diet to juices, water, tea, smoothies, vegetables, and other whole foods for anywhere from 1-30 days. There are many different types of cleanses:
- Juice cleanses: Consume only fresh fruit and vegetable juices
- Smoothie cleanses: Blend fresh fruit and veggies into smoothies
- Detox cleanses: Emphasize foods that support liver health and detoxification
- Intermittent fasting cleanses: Alternate between fasting and eating windows
- Mono-diet cleanses: Eat only one food like apples or potatoes
- Master cleanses: Drink a lemonade-like concoction of water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper
The goal of these cleanses is to give your body’s digestive system a rest while flooding it with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This process aims to eliminate toxins, reduce inflammation, improve energy, support weight loss, and stimulate healthy changes.
Potential Benefits of Cleansing
There are many touted benefits to doing regular cleanses. Here are some of the top potential benefits:
- Removes toxins: Cleanses may help remove built-up toxins, heavy metals, environmental pollutants, and chemicals from the body.
- Aids weight loss: By consuming only low-calorie juices or smoothies for a period, cleanses create a calorie deficit that can lead to weight loss.
- Resets digestion: Give your GI tract a break by abstaining from heavy, processed, and high-fat foods.
- Boosts energy: Fresh juices provide nutrients that can help improve energy levels.
- Improves skin health: Hydration and an influx of antioxidants can improve skin clarity and glow.
- Reduces inflammation: The antioxidants in fresh produce may help lower inflammation throughout the body.
- Stimulates healthy changes: Cleanses can motivate people to make healthier diet and lifestyle changes long-term.
Potential Risks of Frequent Cleansing
However, there are also some potential downsides to doing too many cleanses. Here are some risks associated with frequent cleansing:
- Nutrient deficiencies: Extreme limitations for extended periods can lead to deficiencies in protein, healthy fats, iron, calcium, and other important nutrients.
- Metabolic issues: Drastically lowering calorie intake can slow the metabolism as the body adapts to perceived starvation.
- Weight regain: Cleanses rarely lead to long-term weight loss. Most people regain weight when resuming normal eating afterwards.
- Blood sugar swings: Juice-only diets can cause blood sugar highs and crashes without protein and healthy fats.
- Dehydration: Some cleanses strictly limit water intake, which can be dangerous.
- Digestive issues: Suddenly eliminating whole food groups can disrupt digestion and gut health.
- Fatigue: Calorie restriction can lead to tiredness, irritability, and problems concentrating.
If cleanses are done too frequently, these risks may begin to outweigh the benefits gained from each individual cleanse.
Types of People Who May Benefit from Frequent Cleansing
While too much cleansing can be problematic, certain groups may benefit more from doing cleanses regularly:
- People with poor diets high in processed foods
- Those with digestive issues like bloating, constipation, or irregularity
- Individuals looking to jumpstart weight loss or break through a plateau
- People frequently exposed to toxins or pollutants
- Those with chronic inflammation or autoimmune conditions
- Anyone with symptoms of heavy metal toxicity
- Those living in big cities with high pollution levels
For these people, the benefits of routinely flushing out toxins and giving their GI system a fresh start may outweigh potential risks.
How Often Should the Average Person Cleanse?
So how often should you actually do a full cleanse? Here are some general guidelines based on your goals:
|Goal||Recommended Cleansing Frequency|
|General health maintenance||1-2 times per year|
|Improving digestive issues||Start with 1 cleanse, then as needed|
|Boosting weight loss||No more than 1 cleanse per month|
|Toxin removal||2-4 times per year if exposure is high|
|Managing autoimmune conditions||Begin with 1 cleanse, then see how body responds|
As a general rule, the average healthy person only needs to do a full cleanse once or twice a year. You can continue cleansing more frequently than that if your individual health needs demand it. But take care not to overdo it.
Signs You May Be Cleansing Too Much
How can you tell if you might be overdoing it with cleansing? Watch out for these signs:
- Fatigue, dizziness, or brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating
- Constant hunger
- Irritability or mood swings
- Disrupted menstrual cycle
- Inability to exercise as normal
- Brittle nails and hair
- Cold extremities
- Frequent headaches
- Unintentional weight loss
Any of these could indicate it’s time to take a break and resume normal eating for a while before cleansing again.
Healthy Habits for Between Cleanses
To continue reaping benefits between cleanses, focus on these healthy habits:
- Eat more whole, unprocessed foods – Especially fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day.
- Support detox pathways – Eat sulfur-rich foods like garlic, onions, and cruciferous veggies to support liver detoxification.
- Exercise regularly – Sweating helps eliminate toxins and keeps circulation and metabolism up.
- Reduce toxin exposure – Limit processed foods, alcohol, cigarettes, pollutants, chemicals from home and beauty products, and pharmaceuticals when possible.
Adopting healthy everyday habits is just as important as the deep cleanses for reducing toxin exposure and supporting your body’s natural detoxification systems.
Cleansing too frequently can cause health problems, but the occasional cleanse may confer benefits by giving your digestion a reset and flushing out toxins. For general health, limit full cleanses to 1-2 times per year, but increase frequency if you have specific health goals. Listen to your body’s signals, adopt healthy habits between cleanses, and talk to a healthcare professional if you have concerns.
With a thoughtful, moderate approach, cleansing can be an effective component of an overall healthy lifestyle.