It’s cleanse season again! Spring is the time of the Liver in Chinese medicine, which makes it the perfect time to do a little spring cleaning in your body. The liver is a major organ in the body that helps to detoxify and clean the blood. It relies on the kidneys, urinary bladder, intestines and skin to take the waste products out. Most cleanses are designed to take stress off these organs so that they can do their jobs better. Many also include supplements to support these organs to help speed the detoxification process. By modifying the diet during a cleanse, energy is freed up to focus on cleaning. It’s like taking the weekend off, gathering the right cleaning supplies, and focusing only on cleaning your house. Think of how much you’d get done! Imagine having a whole week to do it!
Here at the YinOva Center, we like to practice what we preach, so the cleanse reviews below are from some of our lovely acupuncturists who have either personally gone through the cleanse or use it frequently for their patients. Our honest reviews of these programs are designed to help you choose the right one for you. Keep in mind that it is always best to consult a physician before undergoing a cleanse.
5 Day Blessed Herb Colon Cleanse – Amanda Silver
This cleanse is one of the more intense cleanses I’ve tried. It involves drinking a fiber powder made of Psyllium seed husks, Bentonite clay and Apple pectin mixed with apple juice 5 times a day and bowel stimulator at bedtime to insure a bowel movement. The purpose is to give the entire digestive system a rest and expel harmful & unwanted toxins, debris, and excess waste.
I think this cleanse is an excellent choice for anyone who needs a serious re-boot. It is recommended for the individual who’s eating habits are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and excess fatty foods (i.e., just about everybody). Because this cleanse is liquid based and clears the colon, it can be beneficial to undertake this cleanse prior to starting any subsequent food based cleanse. It may be challenging to go without food and chewing for 5 days, however, this liquid-only cleanse can have profound positive effects on ones habits and beliefs about food.
Blessed Herbs Cleanse Kit – Dara Barr
I’ve done this cleanse a few times and I like it because it comes with clear instructions and nice packaging which makes it very user friendly. The larger kit comes with the colon cleanse which is an 8 day program, five of which are liquids only, as Amanda explained above. There are other options that are less extreme but the experience was interesting and worth it. My sense of smell was heightened and it really does clean out your gut which always benefits sleep, morning fog, fatigue and all sorts of things. After 5 days the idea of chewing is incredibly exciting. I couldn’t wait for a different texture in my mouth as the psyllium/clay shake consistency gets old pretty quickly. I liked the mint flavor and used about half of the juice recommended to avoid a sugar spike but do not recommend exclusively using water.
The second ‘internal cleanse’ part is 3 weeks and consists of continuing to keep the gut clean, following a strict elimination diet, and focusing on detoxifying other organ systems with herbs. It starts with a parasite cleanse which often is a rough week. This can trigger headaches and all sorts of side effects. It’s still worth pushing through as the system is comprehensive and addresses all the body systems involved in detoxification including the liver and gallbladder, lungs, skin, lymph and kidneys. Like any cleanse, it can bring up lingering or chronic issues, as happened for me. I found acupuncture was helpful for the detoxification side effects. In short, if you can handle of month of lots of pills and liquids, then this is a great cleanse that can be tailored by how strict you are with following the elimination diet.
Candida Cleanse – Kymberly Kelly
This cleanse is beneficial if you have had a stool test reveal elevated levels of yeast, or if you are experiencing a combination of symptoms such as digestive distress, constipation orloose stools, bloating, headaches, brain fog, skin rashes or itchiness, fatigue, recurrent vaginal infections, or chronic sinus congestion. During the cleanse, you eliminate all potential food sources for yeast in the gut including all sugars, starches, alcohol, grains, nuts, mushrooms, vinegars, and fruits (berries are OK.) Anti-fungal agents (medications or herbs) are rotated every two weeks during the length of the cleanse, which can last up to 12 weeks. Other supplements such as enzymes to destroy the biofilm matrix that protects yeast and probiotics to reintroduced proper intestinal flora are also used.
This cleanse takes diligence and commitment. You need to eat frequently, so you don’t let yourself get too hungry. During the first few weeks, you may experience some “die off” symptoms, which often feel like you have a cold or flu.
I didn’t notice too many improvements in the first weeks of this cleanse, but was determined to see it through. As I continued into the 2nd and 3rd month, I noticed many benefits including improved sleep, energy, digestion, moods and skin. By the end I had dropped some accumulated pounds, all systems were working perfectly and all tests came back clear. Success!
Clean Gut – Dara Barr
I’m a fan of this cleanse because it focuses on repairing the digestive system, which can be the root cause of many health problems today. It cuts out most starches/grains/sugars from the diet. A supplement protocol is used to target killing off any yeast or lingering pathogens in the gut and replenishing beneficial flora. I tend to lean towards the “Pi Wei Lun” or Spleen/Stomach school of thought in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which states that the digestive system is the root of most imbalance. While this cleanse does include a good amount of raw food, which isn’t the best from a Chinese medical perspective, I like that it gives the body a break from the sugars that can feed gut imbalance and impact the immune system. Alejandro Junger (author of the book Clean Gut) also has a great support team behind his cleanses. There are larger group cleanses that take place with a Facebook support group and a whole staff to answer questions that come up. As with most cleanses, tailoring the supplements to your body is important, so it is a great idea to work with an experienced health care profession when undertaking a cleanse. I’m planning to do this a second time because I liked it so much the first time. I find each cleanse is a good learning experience especially when it comes to reintroducing foods that have been eliminated during the cleanse as it can reveal hidden food sensitivities.
Dr. Junger also wrote a book called Clean, which focuses on systemic cleansing, emphasizing the liver, and is a 21 day cleanse. The Clean program is an excellent introductory cleanse involving supplements, smoothies for breakfast and dinner (the Xymogen powder reviewed below works great in this cleanse), and probiotics.
The Fat Flush Plan – Klara Kadar
After forgiving its hooky name, I embarked on this cleanse last year to hopefully mimic the wonderful results (of losing 18 pounds) a friend of mine had experienced. What I discovered was that the Fat Flush is a very thorough process of cleansing and detoxifying an over-burdened liver. Ann Louise Gittlemen’s well-developed plan addresses the many hormonal, digestive, mood, and cardiovascular imbalances that develop when the liver isn’t functioning well. In the meantime, the cleanse helps your body flush out extra fat while revving up your metabolism, hence the weight loss. The main part of diet is 2 weeks of a very restrictive, protein and vegetable focused menu. A large focus of this cleanse is using the right kind of fat to stimulates the body’s metabolism of burning accumulated fat.
Some of the challenge of this cleanse for me was the time needed for preparation. I pretty much had to pack lunch for work daily and cook all my dinners, due to the restrictions of no salt, pepper or any oil – limiting my ability to eat out. In the long run, this was actually a very nice daily ritual, but one that demands time and lots of patience. Overall I was very happy with the weight loss plus the major improvement in digestion. Being on this cleanse took away all the bloating I’d been experiencing prior, my energy levels were stellar, and my skin became very clear. Reading the book, The Fat Flush Plan is an absolute necessity before starting to truly understand the reasoning behind it and prepare for a very strict dietary journey.
Juice Cleansing – Mary Sabo
Juice Cleanses are all the rage right now and can be a nice way to reboot your dietary habits. The idea is to drink mostly fresh organic vegetable juices that concentrate and deliver nutrients to the body without the need for energy expenditure on digestion. Most people do juice cleanses for 1-3 days, but I think the real benefits start to show up on day 3 or 4, so I like to do them for 5 days at least. Some people even juice cleanse for up to 40 days. Like the Master Cleanse and Blessed Herbs Colon cleanse discussed above, it can be challenging to go for days without chewing or feeling really full. Juices should be freshly made, so it’s cheapest to buy a good juicer and make your own. There are some great juice bars popping up all over, but they can be expensive if that is all you are having ($50-80 a day). I sometimes use a clean protein powder (like the Metagenics UltraClear discussed below) to stabilize my blood sugar as even though the juices are mostly vegetables, there is still a lot of sugar that can spike blood sugar. The thing I like best about juice cleansing is how it helps me let go of unnecessary dietary habits that accumulate over time like the piece of chocolate after every meal, the glass of wine in the evenings, the cup of coffee in the morning, the French fries I just couldn’t resist, etc. Those things are all fine to enjoy, but when they start to become every day habits instead of treats, it’s nice to remind myself that I don’t absolutely need them to feel satisfied.
The Master Cleanse – Klara Kadar
This cleanse has been around since the 1940’s when it was created by Stanley Burroughs as a way to heal ulcers and other disease. The Master Cleanse, or Lemonade Diet is an all juice fast that requires drinking 6-12 glasses of the lemonade throughout the day. The special concoction is made with fresh squeezed lemon juice, organic dark grade maple syrup, and cayenne pepper, mixed into purified water. The natural sources of vitamins and minerals from the lemon and maple syrup are supposed to provide the body enough sustenance to get you through the cleansing process.
Having done this cleanse several times in the past 10 years, (the longest for 18 days) I can attest to having plenty of energy throughout the cleanse (once I made it past the first 3-4 days of detox related fatigue and headaches), I was able to function fairly well at work and even continue a moderate yoga practice a few times a week. As I was shedding a gratifying amount of weight, my friends and coworkers also noticed the clarity of my skin and brightness of my eyes. Now, there are some not so fun aspects to all this. In order to facilitate regular bowel movements an evening laxative and morning salt water flush is also required during cleansing. This part takes some custom tailoring to find the most effective routine, and also devoting a few morning hours to your restroom. Overall it’s a very simple approach and fairly easy to plan for and follow since it doesn’t require making or buying various types of veggie juices to consume each day. In that regard it’s also very cost effective. The Master Cleanse is an extreme one; I wouldn’t advise it for anyone that is not already in robust health, and it is not recommended if you are taking any prescription medications. This is probably not the cleanse to try if you’ve never done one before.
For anyone interested in attempting this cleanse, I highly recommend reading The Master Cleanse book.
Metagenics Clear Change Kit – Mary Sabo
The Metagenics Clear Change kit is comprehensive and easy to use. It’s gentle, yet effective and focused on Liver detoxification. My patients who feel irritable for no reason, have intense PMS symptoms, get headaches, are addicted to coffee, indulge in too much alcohol, and sweets – tend to love (and at first hate) this cleanse. The plan is gentle and for 10 days. It starts the detox process slowly to minimize side effects and it’s flexible. It consists of an elimination diet, a rice protein medical powder, and a liver support supplement called Advaclear. I usually have my patients incorporate a probiotic and we custom tailor the diet as the one accompanying the cleanse doesn’t give enough time to test for food sensitivities. Since it is short, it’s a nice introductory cleanse. If you suffer from constipation, you should do a different cleanse first before undergoing this cleanse as daily elimination is crucial in any cleanse. I sometimes use this powder to supplement juice cleanses, which I reviewed earlier, or as part of the Clean Gut program (see review above). It tastes pretty good and provides protein so the blood sugar stays more stable.
Standard Process – Carla Kreft
Standard Process is an excellent company. They have been around for 85 years and have a lot of experience using supplements. Their supplements are made of dehydrated whole foods and are gentle on the stomach. This is a 21 day cleanse that involves dietary modification (mostly vegetables and fruit with lean meats and fish added back in after the first 10 days), rice protein shakes, supplements to support detoxification (kidney, gallbladder, and liver) and a fiber powder to bulk up the stool. Check the labels for potential allergens as Standard Process is not the most hypoallergenic company.
Some people say the shake tastes vile and had a hard time drinking it. Most people were fine with it but it doesn’t have any sweeteners like stevia or flavors like vanilla etc. so it doesn’t taste like food, or neutral. For some, that’s a good thing. For others, who want their shake to taste like mango, berry, supreme chocolate, etc. it will be disappointing.
People feel great on this cleanse. In fact, they feel great after the first week. The first 3 days are usually rocky and then people start losing weight and feeling energetic. I’ve had people tell me that they feel 10 years younger. They have more energy, more clarity, they feel more grounded, they sleep better, their skin clears up, and they lose weight. As a bonus, the whole family starts eating better. Some people feel so much better that they actually quit their jobs and find the motivation to change things that are not working for them. I’ve seen people have life-changing experiences on this cleanse. I’m not making this up – I was as surprised as you are!
Whole Body Cleanse from Enzymatic Therapy – Mary Sabo
This is one of my favorite introductory cleanses. It consists of a few dietary changes (reducing or eliminating processed foods, sugar, caffeine and alcohol), combined with a gentle stool softener, fiber supplements, and a gentle liver detox herbal formula. The idea is to stimulate the liver to detoxify, while ensuring the toxins are eliminated through good bowel movements. It lasts 10 days and requires no fasting or juicing. The better you are with the diet, the more results you’ll see, but even minor dietary and lifestyle modifications along with the supplements will help people feel more energized, clear headed, have better bowel movements, sleep more soundly and possibly shed a little extra weight. If you’ve never done a cleanse before, this is a great way to ease into it.
Xymogen Cleanse – Mary Sabo
This is an easy, straightforward, yet effective cleanse consisting of a medical protein powder specially formulated to cleanse and repair the gut and liver, while decreasing systemic inflammation. It involves making shakes or smoothies with the powder for breakfast and dinner, while having healthy snacks and lunch from an elimination diet (which avoids potential food sensitivities like gluten, soy, dairy, and corn). The shakes come in multiple flavors like chocolate, vanilla and chai and can be quite tasty when combined with nut milks. It can get a bit monotonous, but the product does it’s job and can take care of mild symptoms like bloating, gas, PMS, joint pain, moodiness, insomnia, constipation or diarrhea. Some of my patients experience constipation initially on this cleanse, so I have them add a teaspoon or two of chia seeds to the smoothie and a probiotic in the evening, which usually does the trick. Like with most cleanses, it’s also important to eliminate alcohol and caffeine and drink more water than usual. This cleanse is usually done for 6 weeks. I like to use this cleanse with the Clean Gut program reviewed above.