Cleansing has become quite the rage these days. Who?d have ever thought, right? It seems every health food store has shelves full of products intended to help people cleanse internally, and just about every gym, yoga studio, health coach (myself included), massage therapist, and natural health practitioner has a program specifically designed to help you clear out the junk and start your healthier diet and lifestyle with a clean slate.

What about the yucky detox symptoms??

It seems that there are as many detox horror stories as there are products on the shelf, doesn?t it? Most detox product labels don?t tell you that part. I remember that the first ?cleanse? I did was not a great experience. I had to take a bunch of pills and drink more water than I thought my body could physically handle and I felt ill almost the whole time. I was lightheaded, tired, achy, and had serious agita. I was feeling so lousy that I took to the Internet and went to the manufacturer?s website and Facebook page for answers. After reading the articles and posts, I learned that my symptoms were probably normal?however it would have been nice to have the information before I started! My bad. Keep in mind I did this program before I knew half of what I know now about health, nutrition, or detoxification.

When you do a rapid detox program, whether it is with juicing, herbs, essential oils, or even a 100% whole foods-based detox diet, you are bound to feel certain ?healing crisis? symptoms. Ah the healing crisis?it?s a funny term isn?t it? First the word ?healing? which makes you feel like you are getting better?it even has a soothing quality. I remember when I was a kid and had a nasty cut or scrape?it often looked worse several days after the injury happened, and when I would complain about it to my mom she?d say ?It?s OK?it?s healing?.
Then we have the word ?crisis??nothing soothing about that! It kind of has a doomsday connotation?completely opposite from ?healing?. So when I first heard the term ?healing crisis? during a detox certification program I completed, thought it was quite the oxymoron.
However, I guess that oxymoron does somewhat accurately describe what people may feel?especially if they don?t know what to expect. You feel an unpleasant or unfamiliar symptom which puts you into total freak out mode (crisis)?then you go to the Internet and find that it?s actually part of the ?healing? process so you feel better. Crisis averted.

Why does the healing crisis happen?

When certain foods, herbs, or other detox supplements are introduced into the body, toxins that have accumulated in the body and have been stored get stirred up. Many people also have an overgrowth of Candida albicans (a very unfriendly strain yeast) in the digestive tract, and these supplements start to weaken and kill it (way more effectively than over-the-counter and prescription antifungal drugs too just FYI), which also causes a bit of mayhem. This often (but not always) results in physical and even emotional symptoms?fatigue, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, rashes, body aches, fever, anxiety, depression?the severity of the symptoms vary per person.

Most of the time, the symptoms are tolerable if the person is drinking enough water to flush out the dislodged toxins and is eliminating regularly (and by regularly I mean at LEAST once a day?twice to three times a day is actually considered normal). However if there is too much matter encrusted in the colon and the person is unable to eliminate properly, the toxins are not able to escape as easily.

Now, the skin is also a detoxifying organ, but if the liver, kidneys, colon are overloaded with toxins that aren?t eliminated regularly by going to the bathroom, then the skin also gets overloaded and cannot perform its functions.

If the toxins are not eliminated fast enough, they will just get reabsorbed into the tissues and organs. Once the majority of the dislodged toxins are flushed out, the symptoms subside and most people feel better than they?ve felt in years. If that wasn?t the case, people wouldn?t detox at all!

How can we minimize the healing crisis?

The best way to minimize detox symptoms is to be as prepared as possible for the cleanse. What does this mean?

First and foremost, don?t do what I did and just pick something out at the health food store and start taking it without having any information about it ahead of time. That?s huge.

Second, I HIGHLY recommend working with a coach or other holistic or natural health practitioner who is specifically trained in detoxification. The herbs used for detox can be very strong and sometimes their dosages need to be adjusted for different people?these adjustments are not written on the product labels or on their websites?only a trained professional would have the knowledge to make these adjustments. Certain herbs or supplements also might not right for every person?a coach would recommend products based on their knowledge of the herbs as well as your health history. Furthermore, a coach can help you with your preparations by letting you know exactly what to expect, what foods and drinks will best support your goals, and will also offer you support during the process so that your questions are answers and you feel supported the whole time. Many times people who go it alone give up because they are having a symptom they don?t understand or they fall ?off the wagon??a coach can guide you through these obstacles and help you get the best results possible.

Third, clean up your diet BEFORE you start with the cleanse. Most cleanses include some kind of elimination diet and focus on fresh plant-based foods. The longer you are able to eat a clean diet that is free of processed foods and other common toxin-producing, yeast-feeding foods like sugar and dairy, the lesser your symptoms will be.

Fourth, stay hydrated and rest! Your body needs to heal while you are detoxing just as it needs to heal if you are sick. It cannot do that if you do not drink enough water and give yourself time to rest. It is best to schedule around your detox, not to detox around your schedule.

Is it worth it?

So after all this talk about healing crisis symptoms, I?m sure you?re stoked to start your detox program, right?

Crickets?

In all seriousness, it?s not that bad. Really. In most cleanses, the symptoms subside after the first several days to a week or so and then you start feeling absolutely amazing. You feel light, energized, and happy. You might see an improvement in your health like better digestion with less discomfort, clearer skin, or weight loss. You will likely also notice a reduction in junk food cravings and start to naturally crave healthier fresh foods. The results look and feel great, which is why many people tend to do a detox several times a year. So yes?it is worth it!

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*Image 1 from The NY Times, Image 3 from the Global Healing Center

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