I am often asked about the difference between cleansing and detoxification and indeed there are many misconceptions out there about detoxification and cleanse programs. It doesn’t help that these two terms are often used interchangeably. On top of this, there are many different programs out there to choose from and it is hard to know which to choose.

I want to explore the term cleansing and detoxification a bit and allow you to understand why I think cleansing could be a healthy part of everyone’s routine.

As an Ayurveda Practitioner, I have been asked many times, which “cleanse” or “detox” programs I recommend. In an effort to answer this question, I will emphasize what I believe cleansing and detoxification mean.

The definition of the word cleanse is “to free from dirt, defilement or guilt; purge or cleanse”. This is exactly how I look at cleansing. Cleansing is giving the body the opportunity to work at its highest potential and clean out or purge excess “dirt”, while also giving the body a break from the many toxic chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis.

The definition of the word detoxification is “the metabolic process by which the toxic qualities of a poison or toxin are reduced by the body.” In other words, your body has its own innate ability to detoxify. Through many different pathways in the body, harmful chemicals, drugs, foods, etc are broken down so that they can be excreted from the body. When these pathways are supported and nourished, a body should be able to get rid of excess toxicity and find balance.

For me any program that works to slowly and effectively give the body a chance to reduce the amount of toxins it carries, while promoting avoidance, is a CLEANSE that promotes DETOXIFICATION.


1.      I don’t have toxins in my environment, so I don’t need to cleanse. In truth, everyone can benefit from “cleansing.” Cleansing is a broad term. Simply choosing to start eating natural, whole foods will give the body a break from toxicity and slowly “cleanse” your system. We often don’t realize how many toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis. Toxins now reside in almost all of our foods, beverages and household products. Our bodies often can’t keep up, so it’s important to give our bodies a break from time to time. It’s important to become aware of where we may be exposed to harmful toxins and most importantly, in the end, find a healthy lifestyle that promotes toxin avoidance.

2.      I will be hungry during a cleanse. A proper cleanse should not make you feel lightheaded, hungry, or weak. Extreme calorie restriction can put your body into starvation mode. Any kind of restriction diet ultimately does not work. If you are doing it for weight loss, I have seen that the weight lost will be gained back after the program.

3.      Cleanses consist of just supplements. Just focusing on the supplements puts you at risk of overworking your already strained organs, such as your liver and your GI tract and misses a key part of the story, healthy eating. A proper cleanse may include supplements but most importantly will address proper eating, and toxin avoidance first.


During a cleanse program, a patient will be guided in the addition of healthy foods that promote overall health and stimulate the natural detoxification pathways, while removing foods that can be common sensitivities, promote inflammation, impede detoxification or are toxic themselves. A cleanse may also include supplements or at home tools that naturally promote gentle detoxification, while also promoting education on toxin avoidance in the environment.

The diet should promote slow and healthy weight loss. It is important to remember that when we lose weight, fat-soluble toxins that are stored in our fat cells are dumped into our blood stream. The organs of detoxification must then be supported and ready to deal with these toxins and remove them properly from the body. By finding a program that not only promotes slow and healthy weight loss, but also helps to restore balance in the organs that aid in detoxification, you can safely cleanse your body and lose weight for good.

The results include more energy, better sleep, better mental clarity, and in general, overall increased health.

There are many great cleansing programs available. If you feel you are ready to start a cleanse, The Holistic Highway offers a group online cleanse that you can do from home and includes guidance on proper eating, recipes, the inclusion of foods, and other techniques that promote healthy detoxification and education on toxin avoidance.