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Cleanses Compared

Melissa Villamizar September 23, 2011 Health, Lifestyle 2 Comments on Cleanses Compared

Key Factors

There are three key factors that differentiate cleanses from one another. (4)

  1. How intensely (consider speed and side effects) does the cleanse switch the body into detox mode?
  2. How much nutritional support does it offer while the detox process is taking place? (Will it remove toxins from circulation?)
  3. Does the program create the conditions for the repair of the gut?

In the previous blog post, Why Cleanse? we discussed the reasons why it is important to not only release toxins, but to neutralize and eliminate them as well. Some of the cleanses listed below will release toxins quickly, others more slowly, but they vary in how successfully they neutralize and eliminate those toxins from the body. The safety of the cleanse is determined by how fast/slow and the amount of side effects that are encountered when the body enters detox mode as well as the intensity of liver detoxification. Please note, you should always consult your doctor before initiating a cleanse on your own. I recommend finding a doctor in your area that practices Functional Medicine.

Water Fasting

Definitely the most intense and least pleasant form of detoxification, this is usually done for spiritual reasons, and in my opinion is pretty unsafe. You just drink water. That’s it. Note, I am not a doctor, but I think most would agree with me here. Back when this cleanse was used more widely, there weren’t as many chemicals or toxins in the environment and in the body, so maybe it wasn’t so bad back then. However, many more toxins are released from our bodies today, and with minimal nutrient support for liver detoxification, this becomes a dangerous cleanse.

Alejandro Junger, M.D., author of CLEAN notes, “I witnessed many people try this method (water fasting) over the years. They all got very weak and sleepy and could not go on for long. Many water fasters suffered nausea, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes and other symptoms.”

The Master Cleanse

You may have heard of this one before, this is a liquid-only detox program where only drink this one specific “cocktail” of water with lemon, grade-B maple syrup and cayenne pepper, for as long as you can. “This method enhances elimination of toxins by the irritation that the cayenne pepper causes on the intestinal mucosa, not by “binding” fiber to the toxins to prevent reabsorption and pulling them out.” – Dr. Junger. This cleanse probably better suits people cleansing for spiritual reasons rather than physical. The Master Cleanse is not one of the best options in terms of a nutritionally-supportive cleanse goes, since it does not do a good job of eliminating toxins from circulation.

Juice Fasting

The juice fast is exactly what it sounds like. You consume only fresh fruit and vegetable juices, water and/or herbal teas. This fast is not as intense as the water fast, but it’s still tough mentally because you’re not consuming any food. You’d be amazed how much you miss chewing after just one day! Juice fasting is good because the juices provide the nutrients the liver requires for detoxification, but the juices should be mostly green (ie: kale, spinach, celery, etc.). Since liquids digest faster than solid foods, detoxification happens quickly with this cleanse. 

You’ll need to include supplements (for mineral intake) as well as an herbal or fiber laxative, as there is no fiber in the juices. Also, unless you add them in yourself, the juice fast cleanse doesn’t include any antimicrobials or probiotics to rebuild your intestinal flora.

Blended Fasting

This cleanse is slightly “easier” than the juice fast. Here you are blending the fruits and vegetables instead of only extracting the juice from them. You feel fuller on this cleanse because you are getting the fiber from the fruits and veggies, as they are pureed instead of juiced. Since you are doing a combination of liquid and solid foods with a blended fast, you are slowing the detoxification process down some (compared to juicing), but the process is faster than if you were eating solid foods.

You are less hungry during a blended fast (compared to juicing). Also, the fiber is able to grab the toxins that are circulating in your body and carries them out, preventing them from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream. This is an important component to any cleanse.

Raw Food

With a raw foods cleanse, you eat a combination of blended and solid foods, but the foods must all be raw. To be considered raw, a food must not be cooked. Cooking foods over 118° Fahrenheit destroys the enzymes contained in it, which are important for digestion. Raw foods (such as raw veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds) contain the enzymes needed for their own digestion, which means your body doesn’t have to work as hard. Without those enzymes, your body would have to manufacture the enzymes from scratch, which takes a lot of energy. Enzyme-rich raw foods aid in the release of toxins and supports the liver in processing. I love eating raw, it’s truly delicious, but it can be time-consuming to prepare at times. This seems like a silly statement, since you’re not cooking anything, but if you want to make any type of “bread” or “pizza crust”, these things are made out of food that is dehydrated instead of cooked, which can take around 6 hours in a food dehydrator. If you don’t have the time or the tools to make some of these delicious raw foods, I highly recommend checking out some local raw food restaurants, the food is amazing!

Nutritional Cleanses

These are at the top of the list for me, because they contain everything you need for a safe, healthy and effective cleanse. With a nutritional cleanse you drink shakes that have been specifically designed to deliver the protein, fat and some carbs in liquid form along with all the nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals needed by the liver. You also eat a reduced number of solid foods as to not irritate or tax your digestive system. (4) One of my favorite products is a superfood powder made by the company Amazing Grass, which contains the above-mentioned elements. I have one of these smoothies for breakfast every morning. Read here for more info on the Amazing Grass Cleanse.

The Elimination Diet

This is specific to the CLEAN Program, and involves eliminating certain foods from your diet for a specific amount of time. This is also something I currently follow. CLEAN removes foods that people are commonly allergic to, as well as ones that are difficult to digest. When your body doesn’t have to work as hard digesting food, it has energy available for other necessary processes, like detoxification. People have claimed some amazing results from the CLEAN Program, please read here for more information on the program as a whole. It basically is a combination of the Elimination Diet and the Nutritional Cleanse. Read more about the CLEAN Program


The more solid foods you eat on a cleanse, the longer and slower the detoxification process will take, but your side effects will likely be much milder. Also, the results of these cleanses as well as the side effects and their intensities will vary by individual. Again, please make sure you first consult a doctor before embarking on any of these cleansing journeys. Certain cleanses can negatively affect the way prescription medications interact in our bodies, and that’s not something you want to mess around with!


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  1. […] In short, we are human. We accumulate stress, we are active, we eat in excess and we build up waste. With that, we also need to ensure that we alleviate that stress at some point, because if we don’t, that’s when things like fatigue and illness come knocking down our defense-wall doors. For a comparison of today’s most popular cleanses, please read Cleanses Compared. […]