What’s the Difference Between Detox and Cleanse?

By Andrea Nakayama
Andrea Nakayama
Andrea Nakayama
April 3, 2015 Updated: June 28, 2015

I know many people use the terms detox and cleanse interchangeably. But in my practice, I’ve created a distinction between the two. It’s that distinction that will help you to make the appropriate investment of your time and resources to reach your optimal health goals.

 In a detox, my main objective is to remove the foods and food categories that are “muddying the waters.” We’re taking out the most common substances that slow you down, make you sick, clog your sinuses, cause gas and bloating, make you retain unnecessary weight and leave you feeling tired and foggy. Who wants any of that?

Sometimes the things we’re removing are foods and sometimes they’re more than foods … behaviors or beliefs, patterns and habits that are holding us back. The protocol all depends on the intent of the detox. As a practice, I never remove without replacing. That way you know exactly what to eat and what to do to help you feel great.

So What’s a Cleanse?

A cleanse is all that and more. You’re definitely removing the substances that leave you feeling high and dry in the ways I mentioned above. Yet you’re also going in a bit deeper. In a cleanse we’re delving into a certain organ of detoxification and actually working to clean it so that it can perform better for you.

Because many of our organs are so easily regenerated, the healing you bring through these intense cleanses serves you well throughout the entire year.

With my clients, I use foods, supplements, and herbs, as well as specific lifestyle practices to get those internal organs functioning top notch. And because many of our organs are so easily regenerated, the healing you bring through these intense cleanses serves you well throughout the entire year.

Spring and Your Liver

In Chinese Five Elements, where each season is associated with a set of organs, spring is the season of the liver. Each year, when spring rolls around, I find this hardworking organ of mine calling my name. You may not find yourself in tune with your liver and able to hear it’s cries, but giving it a little love right now will serve you well!

Your liver is a powerhouse of activity. It’s the biggest internal organ in your body and has hundreds of functions. One key role is acting as the gatekeeper for your entire system, filtering all toxins and foreign substances from the bloodstream, breaking them down, and excreting them.

Some of the toxic substances that your liver has to contend with are produced right within your body! These include excess hormones, neurotransmitters and byproducts of your internal bacterial milieu. Other substances come from your external environment—what you eat, what you breathe, and even what you put on your skin.

There are both voluntary and involuntary invaders in your body that the liver encounters every second. It’s working overtime, all the time, all day, every day, without much gratitude or payback.

Hey, your liver deserves a break every so often too!

Unfortunately your liver won’t appreciate a simple Hallmark card.

What it will most appreciate is a vacation …

A vacation that includes time away from some of its usual workload (enter a detox or cleanse), as well as a little massage!

 Doesn’t that sound good?

STUDIO GRAND OUEST/iStock/Thinkstock
Castor oil—massaged on the liver region increase circulation and promote elimination (STUDIO GRAND OUEST/iStock/Thinkstock)

I love the idea of liver massage as much as my liver appreciates the loving. It’s gentle and effective and anyone, any age, can do it. This protocol of massaging and oiling the liver is called a castor oil pack. It’s a great way to love your liver and boost its productivity, inviting that cleansing action whether you decide to make dietary changes or not.

Castor oil—massaged on the liver region, located beneath the right rib cage—can penetrate the skin to increase circulation, promote elimination and enhance the healing and rejuvenation of the cells beneath the surface. It’s remarkably effective, if not a little sticky.

As we move into spring I invite you to give it a try. All you need is some castor oil, an old washcloth and a hot water bottle. It’s a perfect way to love your liver and yourself.

You both deserve to get a little wrapped up in the love this spring.

With a career born of a personal family health crisis, functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama takes the idea of food as personalized medicine beyond a clinical practice. Her online programs at ReplenishPDX.com and HolisticNutritionLab.com guide her clients in taking ownership over their health. Info@replenishpdx.com.