Spring Cleaning: The Ins and Outs of Detoxing and Cleansing

The season of hope and possibilities is here! As nature renews herself and creates life in the plant and animal kingdoms, now is a great time to awaken,renew and shed what is no longer needed. A gentle spring detox can help us balance our hormones, release toxins and kickstart our metabolism coming out of the winter months.

In this 4 part mini series, we’ll explore the various reasons, ways, benefits and the dark side of detoxes. In this first part, we’ll learn about the nuts and bolts of a detox.

To Detox Or Not to Detox?

Many people cringe at the thought of doing a detox. We may have heard stories of friends starving themselves or drinking peculiar concoctions to cleanse themselves. Why do people put themselves through it?

The human body is designed to remove toxins and other invaders. Ideally, our liver, kidney and other detoxification organs work well to process and eliminate toxins and waste. 

So should we be “detoxing” then?

detox fruits vegetables juice cleanse on table

How Should We Decide If We Need a Detox?

Not only are our modern foods laden with toxic chemicals from pesticides to artificial coloring and preservatives but the water we drink is often laced with chemicals and our air quality, especially in big cities, is contaminated with pollutants (1)

Generally, when we start to feel like what Functional Medicine Expert Dr. Mark Hyman calls the FLC (Feel Like Crap) Syndrome (2), it could be an indication that our body is needing a reset and a break from the onslaught of processed, sugary foods and drinks.

The FLC Syndrome may consist of the following symptoms 

  • Fatigue

  • Bloating and fluid retention

  • Constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or reflux

  • Congestion, allergies, asthma, sinus issues

  • Brain fog

  • Depression, anxiety, trouble focusing

  • Headaches

  • Insomnia

  • Weight gain or trouble losing weight

  • Bad skin—acne, eczema, psoriasis

  • Joint or muscle pain or aching

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Any chronic disease

If you experience one or many of these symptoms, you may want to consider a gentle detox.

man has fatigue from toxins

What does it mean when someone does a Detox?

Essentially, when someone is on a detox, they are removing certain foods and intoxicants from their diet and lifestyle. Typically, foods that come in bags or boxes and have little nutritional value along with sugar, alcohol and cigarettes are removed during a detox. In addition to removing these foods, those who are going through a detox will add into their diet only certain foods or drinks that are in alignment with their detox plan.

Say for example, you are doing a detox where you only have juices. In this case, you would remove all processed foods and have only juices for the duration of the time that you’re doing a detox.

If however, you’re doing a whole foods detox, you may be removing all processed foods and add into your diet whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meat.

There aren’t enough scientific studies to show the benefits of doing detoxes yet it continues to be highly popular as fans of detoxes experience a multitude of benefits (discussed below).

How Should We Start a Detox?

If you think you may benefit from a detox regime a good rule of thumb is to prepare yourself for it so that you can slowly ease yourself into it.

This could mean starting to slowly be more aware of the artificial and processed foods that we are consuming and to start reducing those prior to starting on a detox. It may also mean we start cutting back on our sugar and alcohol intake. 

Preparing ourselves this way for a couple of weeks (or more) before we plan to start on a detox protocol will increase our odds of having a more successful detox which will allow us to reap the most amount of benefit while also not putting our body to a lot of stress.

In our following newsletters, we will explore in further detail how to embark on a detox plan safely.

What are some benefits of doing a detox?

Those who do a detox experience a variety of improvement in symptoms. While more research needs to be done in this area, some elimination diet detoxes have reported an improvement in IBS type symptoms (3). Benefits will be seen depending on the individual, the kind of detox that they embark on and the duration of the detox.

The very popular celery juice cleanse reported improvement in liver markers on blood tests and weight loss (4) Another low calorie detox diet showed improvement in weight (5) while another study that compared various types of “fad diets” showed that they had some short term benefits of weight loss however, many of these diets were not easily sustainable (6).

From clinical experience, when someone does a detox that includes an abundance of natural whole foods while eliminating common food allergens, they start to feel improvement in digestion, sleep, energy, mental clarity and allergies. They also often report confidence in their ability to make decisions that will be helpful to long term health.

Some commonly reported benefits include :

  • Abundance of more sustained energy throughout the day
  • Better Sleep
  • More stable and positive mood
  • Clearer Skin
  • Lighter feeling in the gut
  • Deeper understanding of your relationship with your body, food and hunger
  • Increased sense of taste
  • Less aches and pains
  • Fewer sugar cravings
  • Stronger immune system.

Can detoxes be harmful to us?

While detoxes are generally very safe and can be done by most people, people do report falling ill from doing a detox. Just like exercise, if done excessively or incorrectly can be harmful, detoxes too can be dangerous if we start on detox plans that require extreme food deprivation, low calories and drinking products that may contain harmful substances. 

Another reason people can get ill from detoxes is if they are medically unstable to begin with. If someone is very underweight or malnourished or has a severe chronic illness, it is advisable to consult with an integrative medical doctor to help decide on the best way to heal, rather than doing extreme detoxes. The side effects of a detox are usually transient and improve once we stop the detox.

To Detox or Not to Detox?

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of a detox diet, if you’re thinking of doing a detox this spring, start by assessing where your health is and what you would be willing to change. 

A simple detox could be eliminating alcohol for 3 weeks and increasing your vegetable intake during this time. This is often more sustainable and better for your overall health than crash diets and starvation plans.

If you’re more ambitious and want a deeper reset this spring, try eliminating sugar, dairy and all processed foods from your diet! Replace them with whole grains, a variety of colorful vegetables and clean protein sources like grass fed meats and antibiotic/hormone free chicken or tofu and lentils.

Next week, we will take a deeper dive into a few different ways we can start a detox plan that is gentle and sustainable.


Dr. Sumithra Nadarajah, a dedicated Functional Medicine/Holistic Healthcare Consultant, combines her medical expertise with a passion for holistic health practices. As a certified health coach, nutrition expert, and wellness advocate, Dr. Nadarajah is committed to helping individuals achieve their health goals through a balanced approach to nutrition, physical activity, and stress management. Her hobbies include playing the piano, meditation, exploring nature, and experimenting with healthy recipes, reflecting her belief in the importance of nurturing both the mind and body for a fulfilling life.


  1. Particulate Air Pollution EWG. Human Mortality, Pollution Sources, and the Case for Tougher Clean Air Standards


  1. Chey, William D (2019). Elimination Diets for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Approaching the End of the Beginning. https://journals.lww.com/ajg/abstract/2019/02000/elimination_diets_for_irritable_bowel_syndrome_.10.aspx

  1. Hyman, Mark. Feel Like Crap, Need a Detox?


4. Dosti, D. & Marku, K. (2023). Celery Detox 3-6-9-Effects For weight loss and liver cleanse

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5. Morrison, J.A. & Iannucci, A.L. (2012). Symptom Relief and Weight Loss From Adherence to a Meal Replacement–enhanced, Low-calorie Detoxification Diet


6. Tahreem, A. (2022). Fad Diets : Facts and Fiction https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2022.960922/full?s2=P1382050337_1683417609530718067