10 Types of Cleanses and Their Health Risks

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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In the past, detoxification was a medical procedure to remove life-threatening toxins. Now detoxing at home has become more common, and you can buy “detox” cleanses at the local market that claim to fix a range of issues from inflammation to excess weight. Cleanses can include fasting, taking supplements, special diets, or specialty treatments. Some health cleanses have more risks than others, so it’s smart to do your homework before starting a cleanse. While many cleanses will make you feel great, you want to avoid ones that don’t provide enough nutrition or make you feel worse when you’re done.

1. Food Restriction and Fasting

A simple and popular way to give your body a rest and let it flush out toxins is to restrict certain foods or stop eating entirely. This type of cleanse is usually intended for a short period of time. For example, you might cut out sugar, soda, or carbohydrates for 21 days or fast every 2 to 3 days. The goal is to remove one thing that could be irritating your system and see if you feel better when it’s gone. The main drawback to this type of health cleanse is restriction can be hard to sustain over time.

2. Liver Cleanse

Liver cleanses are designed to enhance your liver function, so it can do a better job of filtering toxins from your body. There have not been any conclusive studies that show a short-term liver cleanse helps. However, research does show that eating whole foods naturally support your liver and the body’s natural detoxification process. If you do try liver cleanse supplements or another method to detox your liver, make sure you’re also getting enough nutrition and monitor how your body feels. If you experience any side effects, stop the cleanse and ramp up your healthy eating instead.

3. Juice Cleanse

Juice is more than a kids’ snack these days. It’s serious business and there are many delicious juice cleanses on the market. Drinking only high quality, cold-pressed juice for a day or a week can deliver a shot of antioxidants and vitamins to your body, though your juice cleanse may be lacking complete nutrition. That’s why it’s important to limit juice cleanses to a few consecutive days or just one day a week. Juices can also contain a lot of sugar, which can lead to noticeable blood sugar level spikes and dips.

4. Master Cleanse

The Master Cleanse is legendary. There are a few different recipes floating around, but the basics include drinking a mixture of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. Some people suggest doing this cleanse for at least 10 days to feel the effects of increased energy, weight loss, and reduced inflammation. You’ll definitely lose water weight, but this cleanse can slow your metabolism. This means you’ll run the risk of gaining more weight when your Master Cleanse is over and you resume normal eating. It’s also missing out on complete nutrition, so limit this cleanse to a few days.

5. Supplements and Herbs

There are many detox herbs and supplements available that target different areas of your body, like your liver, colon, or immune system. Most recommend taking supplements for several weeks to get the full effect. Like most cleanses, the risks are that your body doesn’t get enough nutrition and your symptoms may return after your detox. With supplements, you could also experience side effects if you’re allergic to the herbs and ingredients, or if they interact with your medications. It’s best to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements and quit taking them if you feel worse after a few days or have a negative reaction.

6. Colon Cleanse

Cleansing your lower digestive tract has become popular and the main methods are laxatives, enemas, or a literal colon flush with a colonic irrigation. All of these promote bowel movements that are said to push waste buildup out of your system. Studies have shown that cleaning out your colon isn’t necessary and could actually be harmful. Overusing colon cleanses may remove the healthy bacteria that help your gut work properly and maintain your immune system. You may also experience diarrhea, nausea and dehydration. If you’re having digestive problems, talk to your doctor about options other than a cleanse.

7. Parasite Cleanse

Having parasites in your digestive system is more common than you may think. These parasites include tapeworms, roundworms, pinworms, hookworms and rope worms. These little critters can cause brain fog, fatigue, and other symptoms that leave you feeling sluggish. Store-bought cleanses claim to get rid of them, but the key is knowing whether you actually have parasites or not. Before you try a parasite cleanse, talk to your doctor and get tested. If you do have a parasite, you may be able to clear out parasites by simply adjusting your diet to reduce the sugar that feeds them.

8. Foot Detox

Have you seen the fascinating foot detox pads that attach to the bottom of your feet and draw out dirty toxins? This quick fix product has a lot of wow factor, but there’s no scientific evidence that these methods actually work in your feet or any part of your body. The foot pads or ionic foot baths may look dirty, but that could be from ingredients in the products like wood vinegar. The good news is that no health risks have been reported for foot detoxes. So, keep doing them if you find them relaxing or just fun to watch.

9. Nasal Irrigation

Using a neti pot to flush your sinuses with water is a yogic health cleanse that has been used for centuries. Some people report that it helps remove environmental irritants that cause allergy symptoms and sinus infections. It can also help flush out mucus if you have a cold. The process is simple: You pour a saline solution in one nostril and it flows out of the other nostril or the mouth. Then you repeat on the other side. Just be sure to use distilled water, so you don’t introduce new bacteria into your sinuses.

10. Oxygen Detox

This unique detox method could help relieve headaches, boost brain function, improve your immune system, and increase energy. An oxygen detox is done by delivering air with a high concentration of oxygen into your system through a mask or nasal tube. This procedure is a common treatment for people with respiratory conditions, but has been used as a spa-like health experience since the late 1990s. There’s little danger in trying this clean air cleanse, but keep in mind that it’s illegal to administer oxygen without a prescription and scented oxygen could irritate the lungs.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 7
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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