Detoxification is actually a series of built-in self-cleaning processes that your body is constantly undergoing. These are part of the jobs done by the liver, kidneys, colon, skin and lungs. When people are taking about the popular trend of "cleansing", they are often referring to a plan chosen to optimize those natural functions, especially of liver and colon.
These organs are constantly dealing not only with naturally occurring "waste" in our bodies, (such as stool, hormone by-products, carbon dioxide) but also with the synthetic chemicals, caffeine, drugs, and stress by-products that are so prevalent these days.
It is easy to see why cleansing is probably a helpful concept, but I would like to draw attention to some of the myths and dangers that surround this potentially beneficial practice.
Myth 1: Cleansing has to be intense
In my office, I hear about all sorts of radical, and possibly life-threatening, detox programs that patients put themselves on, and it really doesn't need to be that way. Your body is already cleaning itself, you can help it simply by lowering the chemical burden you put into it. These are daily choices you make in stress management, hygiene products, and food production for example.
Myth 2: You can cleanse without changing your diet at all
Any cleanse that promises to clean your body while not requiring an avoidance of sweets, alcohol, or caffeine, at minimum, should be scrutinized. Again, the point of these programs is to clean -would you clean your carpet while wearing dirty shoes? In fact, it is my belief that the diet component is more important than the supplement regime and that most people can feel dramatic results just by making simple dietary changes for 10-14 days.
Myth 3: Cleansing is safe for anyone
It is best to seek advice before starting a cleanse, especially if you are on meds or have existing health concerns. I see many patients too depleted to get any benefit from a cleanse, which takes a certain amount of energy to complete. These are the people that feel worse on a cleanse. There are also many patients that believe it is a cure for constipation but really that should be addressed before cleansing. Cleansing is not recommended for those pregnant or breastfeeding, and may aggravate pre-existing conditions, such as acne.
Myth 4: All you need is a liver or colon cleanse
Since detoxification is a group effort by the lungs, colon, skin, kidneys, and liver, all these organs should be included in a cleanse, so as not to simply shift the burden from the liver to the skin, for example, in a liver cleanse. Again, a registered healthcare provider should be consulted for the best advice to safely detoxify and how often.