What is the difference between a cleanse vs detox and what are their implications for gut healing?

I want to break it all down for you today….so hopefully it can help (not confuse you more).

Detoxes and Cleanses- Fact Vs. Myth

Click HERE to save this cleanse vs detox post for later.

In the gut-healing and wellness space, there can be a thin line between what is scientifically supported and what is not.

While I absolutely adore the world of holistic medicine, there are some practitioners who spread false messages that can be extremely unhelpful for proper healing. There are also some false ideas floating around this space that are rarely addressed and can be harmful for the human body overall.

Today I want to address two “detoxing” strategies and decide whether the claims around them are FACTS or MYTH.

Let’s get into it.

What is a Detox?

In the most classic terms, the process of detoxification is a method meant to encourage the discarding of toxins in your body. This can be any method that helps to secrete these toxins and “clean out your digestive tract.”

These include methods such as juice fasts, detox diets, and detox kits.

Oftentimes cleanses are often listed under this category although they are a bit different in theory.

Detox Kits

One common detox method is purchasing a detox kit. Many of these are herb based and include some sort of fiber supplement to help move along the GI tract.

While some of these ingredients can actually be helpful for parasitic or pathogenic removal, many have not been supported by any sort of scientific studies. The ones that have show the same efficacy as a placebo, meaning they probably do not work as well as we assume they do.

In addition, the fiber supplements can also be VERY hard on the gut and cause increased GI symptoms such as bloating, increased gas, and unusual bowel movements.

While it is meant to promote the flushing of toxins and aid in the detoxification process, detox kits can just lead to increased abdominal symptoms.


I would go with “myth” on this detox method, as it really is not super effective.

A better way to get some of the same results is to do an herbal protocol supported by research for removal of pathogens as well as finding a supplement that encourages daily elimination.

Individual herbs are better supported by clinical evidence and may not be as hard on the body as “detox products.”

Juice Cleanse

Honestly? Juice “cleanses” are one method that I really do find to be silly.

A juice cleanse consists of drinking only juice for a set period of time to “give your digestion a break” as well as improve micronutrient consumption.

The entire premise of a juice cleanse just does not make sense to me at all. How is consuming straight sugar for a set number of days going to do anything beneficial for the GI tract at all? If anything, this increase in sugar consumption will promote the growth of bad bacteria and pathogens. These critters FEED on sugar, so ramping up the sugar uptake truly is counterproductive.

On top of that, juice cleanses have several side effects that are fairly common in participants. This includes blood sugar spikes, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and kidney problems. Fruit does not offer the nutritional diversity we need for the maintenance of our body systems and can actually be quite harmful short term. (source)


This one is an obvious “myth” and I truly do not recommend anyone to try this method. I do understand that drinking certain juice concoctions can help people increase their micronutrient consumption, but I think this method takes it to the absolute extreme. If you want to improve nutrient absorption, you could add in a juice a day, but it does not need to be your entire diet.

Colon Cleansing

Colon cleanses are meant to flush out toxins from your large intestine with large volumes of liquids. It is also known as hydrotherapy, or a treatment involving water.

The thought is that by pumping more water into your colon, you will be able to excrete more waste that is sitting there. Colonics are often touted as a way to reset your colon and prevent bacterial build-up from occurring. While the health claims are convincing, improper colonics can result in several health issues.

It can alter colon function

Partaking in colonic hydrotherapy too often can actually effect the way your colon works. This can result in an inability to upkeep the body’s normal functions and the colon’s natural processes.

It disrupts fluid volumes in body

By significantly altering the amount of fluid within the body, you run the risk of moving your body out of its natural balance. In particular, for the colon, it maintains balanced levels of water in order to properly absorb nutrients and stool. If this is disrupted, your colon must compensate.

Actual colon damage

Some colonic hydrotherapy actually results in perforations, or holes, in the colon. This risk is especially increased for those with certain medical conditions such as IBD or Crohn’s.


This one may surprise you but it is somewhere in the middle. Colon cleanses are necessary for some operations such as colonoscopies, so they do have some positive benefits.

However, I do NOT recommend them for any purpose other than medical procedures. It can result in more harm than good.


Cleanse vs Detox (for gut healing)

Cleanse vs Detox (for gut healing) agutsygirl.com #detox #cleanse

Cleanses and detoxes are used fairly interchangeably in the wellness space, but there are a couple of differences to be aware of.

Cleanses are centered on improving digestive health and helping rebalance gut microbiome levels, while detoxes are focused on getting toxins out of the body.

Oftentimes both of these terms are used incorrectly and they truly do overlap quite a bit. Both seek to improve digestive health in some manner and it is really more important to look at the specific examples than the definition of these two terms overall.

For example, the term cleanse may be familiar to you, one example being a juice cleanse. This is an approach meant to clean the gut of bad bacteria by only consuming juices for a short period of time. But… this is also commonly referred to as a juice detox.

So how do you know the difference?

Unfortunately, you really don’t. Look at the specific details of that particular “cleanse” or “detox” in order to find out what aspect of gut health it focuses on.

Is it focusing on rebalancing the microbiome? Cleanse.

Is it focusing on getting harmful substances and toxins OUT? Detox.


The Best Thing

Tough love time.

The body’s natural detoxification system is prime. There are no detoxification programs for “cleaning out the gut” available on the market that are more sophisticated than your own body.

And those who are huge advocates of cleanses via the quick fix, paid program with kits and tools galore typically have a financial interest in it. Do your research.

I’m here to tell you (and scientific literature supports it) that the very best thing you can do for “cleansing the gut” is to focus on your whole body. This entire website gives hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to do this.

But here is where you might start today….

Gut Reset

Cleanse vs Detox (for gut healing) agutsygirl.com #detox #cleanse gut reset

As you can see, I really am not a huge fan of either traditional cleanses or detox diet programs.

I like to promote the idea of natural “detoxes” or “gut resets.” These methods differ from traditional detoxes because they focus on SUPPORTING the body’s natural detox processes.

The body’s main detoxing centers include: intestines, liver, kidneys, and our entire lymphatic system. By supporting these organs, we can help to improve our overall health for the long term without turning to potentially harmful methods.

Dr. Ruscio, a gut-focused healthcare practitioner, recommends two methods for a gut reset. These include intermittent fasting and a temporary elimination diet.

Both of these give your digestive system a slight break and have been found to be a good way to reduce inflammation and encourage natural cellular detoxification.

If you want to participate in either one of those as part of your gut-healing efforts, start here:

  1. Fasting for Gut Healing
  2. A Gutsy Girl’s Bible: a 21-day approach to healing the gut (this will take you through an elimination diet, essentially, and you can customize it for yourself based off my lists)
  3. Elimination Diet Food List {Phase 1}

Other supportive methods include:

  • liver support- castor oil packs and digestive bitters
  • intestinal support- supplements that help with elimination + nutrient deficiencies
  • opening sweat pathways- sauna

With these methods you should be able to naturally flush toxins through bowel movements as well as promote the good health of your gut microbiome.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of these detox methods and the misconceptions around them.

If you’re still wanting a template of sorts to follow, check out The First Three and get started today.

agg secrets The first three agutsygirl.com

Ready to see for yourself what can happen in The First Three?

P.S. It’s free.

Comment down below if you have any experience with detoxing and what it looked like for you,

If you liked this post on a cleanse vs detox, you might also enjoy:

  1. Gut Cleanse {and 22 Gut Healthy Foods}
  2. Does Apple Cider Vinegar Make You Poop?
  3. Green Juices


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *