What’s the Difference Between a Detox and Cleanse?

by Head Health Nutter on September 10, 2010

If you heard, “I’m detoxing” a few years ago you’d probably assume I had quit using a substance and my body was naturally removing it from my system. Now there’s a new kind of detoxing; and what’s the skinny on cleansing? This post aims to differentiate the two.

There’s the Master Cleanse, colon cleanses, kidney cleanses, heavy metal cleanses, parasite cleanses and even Candida cleanses. Then we have liver detoxes, detox diets, herbal detoxes, detox baths and the Acai Berry detox. It’s so confusing!

The answer to this question isn’t easy because most people use the terms interchangeably. Perhaps it’s because the differences are so subtle? That’s what I’d like to clarify.

When I began my research into detoxing and cleansing a few years ago, I found a difference between `detoxification’ and `cleansing’ and used an analogy to help explain it.

I had assumed that `detox’ was short for `detoxification’ but that would make it a verb. When someone does a `detox,’ it’s a noun. Verb… noun… I’ve been using `detox’ and `cleanse’ synonymously, too, but now I’m questioning my interpretation and wonder if there’s a difference. Argh!

Dr. Derek Lee seems to know the answer and attempts to share it with us in his article, “What exactly is the difference between a cleanse and a detox? And, Why Do One?” but I’m left unsatisfied. He explains a cleanse well enough (it eliminates the waste and build up in your gut) but totally drops the ball in defining a detox.

Between Dr. Lee and all the literature I’ve come across so far on the topic, my understanding is this:

  • A detox focuses solely on eliminating toxins (which can include heavy metals, chemicals found in cleaning products, cigarette smoke, etc.) from the body, sometimes specific organs and/or the blood stream.
  • A cleanse focuses mainly on clearing out and cleaning up the digestive tract (from mouth to anus), which includes eliminating toxic, compacted fecal matter from the bowels, parasites and fungi (like Candida).

Based on these definitions, there does seem to be a big difference between a detox and a cleanse. But you can cleanse by increasing your fiber through fruits & veggies, which also have antioxidants and phytonutrients that remove toxins…

To tell you the truth, though, I’m still befuddled! Can anyone shed some light here?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steph a.k.a. Head Health Nutter September 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Nicks J talks about detoxifying during a cleanse: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/cleanse-your-body-naturally.html

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Wendy December 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Hi Steph,

I have read a lot of articles where they suggest people should do either an enema or colonic during and after their clease to eliminate all toxins/waste from the colon. If enema/colonic is not done, we are likely to reobsorb these toxins. I would like to hear your opinion on this. Thanks and happy holidays!

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Head Health Nutter January 1, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Hey Wendy – Happy Holidays, to you, too!

Yes, I’ve heard that enemas or colonics are recommended during or after a cleanse and it makes sense, I have yet to try an enema and I did get a colonic done when I visited Grail Springs for a juice-fast weekend.

However, I find I don’t need additional assistance like this with my homemade cleanse using blended veggies. Between the fiber in my meals, a light laxative tea in the evening, as well as psyillium fiber mixed with water during the day when I need it, I’m good to go!

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anwar December 14, 2012 at 5:16 am

Thanks Wendy..
After reading your article, it is now clear for me the different between detoxing and cleansing.
All this time i think the both words are like a synonym.

This is important to me because i will write an article about detox plan. So i need to change my title… :)

See my blog please..

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