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Detox effects

Updated on May 9, 2011

If you are serious about undertaking a detox diet you will definitely notice lots of positive effects. They won’t happen overnight, and ideally you will make changes to your diet and lifestyle for at least a month, but some of the benefits you will notice more quickly than others. Of course much depends on the reasons for your detox, the symptoms you wish to tackle, and the approach you take, but all detox plans have similar aims – to cleanse you, from the inside out.

You can expect to experience...

  • Weight-loss
  • Healthier/clearer skin
  • More energy
  • Less coated tongue, and better breath
  • Improvements in yeast infections
  • Better resistance to infection overall
  • Clearing of dark circles under the eyes
  • Less abdominal bloating

These detox side effects are worth a great deal, and important outcomes to work towards. However depending on how toxic your lifestyle is to start with, you may experience some negative effects of detox initially. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘healing crisis’, and if you start a very intense detoxification diet program such as Master Cleanse or juice fasting, they’ll be more severe. Symptoms can include...

  • Headaches
  • Muscular aches
  • Diarrhea and craps
  • Constipation
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea
  • Skin eruptions, rashes and spots
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Shivering and feeling cold
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Thirst
  • Loss of appetite

If you are undertaking a detox to tackle a long term health problem, such as migraine, skin problems or sinus pain, you may find that your symptoms actually worsen temporarily.  If you have loaded your body with toxins for years, that damage is not going to be undone overnight, and as the toxins leave your body they will make you suffer and pay!  Rest, keep warm, and drink lots of water – gradually in time your healthy state will be restored and even exceeded.  If you had a very high toxic load – for example, daily consumption of caffeine, alcohol or nicotine in addition to a highly refined and rich diet, your reaction may be more severe and prolonged, this also applies if you have been receiving toxic medical treatment.  Withdrawal takes time, you have been involved with addictive substances, and they are leaving your system the hard way.  If you look on your detox as a way to make permanent changes to your lifestyle, all of these effects are just withdrawal symptoms, from your old bad habits.

The detox effects you experience have been likened to pouring fresh water into a badly silted-up stream.  The stream probably slowed down gradually, and the water on the surface still ran clear, whatever murky depths lurked unseen below.  If you flood it with fresh water, all the settled-out silt gets stirred up, and it all gets cloudy and agitated… but keep the clean fresh stuff flowing through, and eventually the stream will run clear and clean again.  This is just like the toxins embedded in your body – which have been tucked away in cells where they can do least damage.  When only fresh clean foods and products are entering your body, osmotic potential causes these old buried toxins to leach out of those tired old cells, and join the body’s normal excretion pathways, via the blood and lymph system initially.  As they pass through your system on the way out, the negative effects get revisited.

In addition to waiting for your negative detox effects to pass, you can help yourself with a calm and patient approach.  Often effects are worst around the 3rd to 5th day of a cleansing program, so if you start your detox late in the working week you can at least plan for a quiet weekend, in case you feel like being antisocial for a few days. 

Even if your energy levels are low, try for some light exercise – walking, yoga, swimming… anything that gets you moving will stimulate the rapid lymphatic drainage of toxins from your system, and stimulate your body’s natural endorphins to raise your mood, making you feel energized and positive.  A walk in nature will connect you to fresh air and the outdoor world, as well as accelerating your detox weight loss.  Many people find more introverted activities such as journaling are also therapeutic and diverting – you could write about what you are feeling and going through, but also project into the future and remind yourself why you are doing this, what you hope to achieve, and all you will gain from thoroughly detoxing your body.

If you are worried about having a difficult and unmanageable detox reaction, do yourself a favor and ease in gradually – cut back on the booze and processed carbs in the few days running up to the main program perhaps.  If your detox symptoms are particularly severe and unpleasant, it might be worth decelerating your detox process a little – it’s better to slow down than just pack it all in, and one or two slightly heavier meals will probably be all it takes to level you out again.

It is important to remember that ALL of the symptoms above are also potentially signs and symptoms of serious illness.  If you have any doubts at all about the cause of your symptoms, see your primary care provider and get their all-clear  You need to make 100% sure that what you are experiencing is not being caused by, or masking the effects of, a medical condition that needs treatment.

Mostly though detox effects, whilst not always pleasant, are temporary, manageable, and worth it in the long run.


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