As a plant-based nutritionist, I get asked all the time about doing a vegan detox, so I thought I’d answer the most frequently asked questions I get in case you’re wondering the same things.
In this post I’ll be talking about:
- If you can really detox your body
- If detoxing is dangerous
- Common mistakes in detoxing
- Why you’d want to do a vegan detox
- What to look for in a good detox
- How to get started with detoxing
- How to do a vegan detox
If you’re interested in any of these topics, read on!
Can you really detox your body?
Yes, every day your natural detoxification system (which includes the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skin and lungs) helps rid your body of toxic substances.
That said, our bodies can accumulate excess toxins in our exposure to them in our daily lives.
Toxins can be found in the:
- air we breathe
- food we eat
- water & milk we drink
- personal care items we put on our bodies
- household products we use to clean our homes
Even our thoughts can be toxic to our health if we’re constantly worried, stressed or putting ourselves down.
So is a detox program necessary?
Well, our bodies have a pretty amazing system in place to detoxify themselves, however, there’s no way to actually “cleanse” the body of toxins. What we can do is help our body’s natural detoxification system do its job to eliminate any excess toxins.
Some people use a juice cleanse, soup, baths, teas or a foot soak to shed those toxins but honestly, that’s not enough to fully support your detoxification system the right way.
That’s where a good detox program comes in. It can help assist your body’s natural detoxification processes when we get overloaded with too many toxins.
Is Detoxing Dangerous?
If you’re doing a detox program with a health professional who understands your body’s biochemistry and is not just selling a quick weight-loss program, detoxing should not be dangerous.
Anyone that tells you that you’re actually cleansing your body, promises that you’ll lose X number of pounds, or is selling random pills with no explanation behind them is not someone you should trust. (More on that below)
Most well-made programs are basically a nutrient-rich food program to help support your body’s natural detoxification system.
When doing any detox program, be sure to:
- Get the approval from your doctor if you have any serious health problems
- Avoid shady supplements from unreliable companies (this includes Amazon)
- Reach out to the person running the detox if you experience any detox symptoms
What happens to your body when you detox?
As I mentioned before, doing a detox is not actually “cleansing” your body. While some might call these programs a vegan cleanse or plant based cleanse, a detox can only support your body’s natural.
In general, vegan detox programs put less stress on your detoxification system. They take out the excess burdens found in conventional foods, water, and products while adding in foods to aid your detox pathways as well as other support for the elimination of toxins.
Detox Symptoms & Benefits
Most detox programs eliminate certain items such as: caffeine, refined sugar, processed foods and gluten.
Because your body clears out excess toxins, you may experience some detox symptoms such as headaches from sugar or caffeine withdrawal. These are usually temporary and will subside after time.
After going through a detox program, you can experience benefits like:
- More energy
- Lowered brain fog
- Improved mental clarity and focus
- Better digestion
- Reduced inflammation in your body
- Improved skin
- Weight loss
- Mood boosts
- Better sleep
Common Mistakes in Detoxing
The number one mistake I see when people go into a detox is their mindset.
People think they’re going to do a detox program and come out 20lbs lighter and go right back to eating/doing things the way they did before. A detox should be a catalyst for a lifestyle change, not a quick way to lose weight.
A detox program should not be a diet, it should assist your body’s natural detoxication system as well as be a type of reset to get you back into healthy habits.
Other common mistakes in detoxing include:
- Not using a nutrition professional (see below)
- Limiting nutrients – detoxing should not take out whole nutrient groups like protein, fat or carbs.
- Focusing on the foods you can’t eat, rather than the ones you can.
- Thinking detoxing is all about the food – thoughts and mindset can play a part as well
- Using it as a quick way to lose weight
Why would you want to do a vegan detox?
A detox program can help our bodies’ natural detoxification systems by aiding the elimination of wastes and lowering the toxins we’re having our bodies eliminate.
The excess toxins from the sources I mentioned above can sometimes overload our detoxification system and put extra stress on our bodies. When this occurs, we can experience things such as: headaches, anxiety, weight gain, inflammation, depression, brain fog, fatigue, and other imbalances.
Too much stress on our bodies can lead to issues such as chronic disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and neurodegeneration (just to name a few). This is why it’s beneficial to optimize the body’s natural detoxification system and support it where we can.
As with most detoxes, a plant based detox will focus on nutrition and limit things like processed food, sugar, caffeine and gluten, however, a vegan detox will also take out all animal products (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy).
Some reasons to do a plant based detox are:
- Focusing on plants opens our eyes to new foods and their nutrition
- Dairy and eggs are 2 of the biggest allergens so taking these foods out for a while could let you know if they’re an issue for you
- Vegans need a detox program that will fully support them and keep them satisfied with tasty food (instead of those side dish types of meals often found in omnivore programs)
- It’s an easy way for beginners to try out a plant based diet
Before doing a vegan detox, my clients experienced breakouts, fatigue, brain fog, cravings for cheese and sugar, and reliance on coffee for energy.
After doing a 3 week vegan detox, they had more energy (without the caffeine), less cravings, reduced stress and their clothes even fit better. Those that weren’t vegan beforehand found ways of adding extra veggies and beans into their weekly routines and have even been freed from their dairy addiction.
Doing a vegan detox program a few times a year can be a way to:
- Support the body’s natural detoxification system & health
- Find out what foods and thoughts might be burdening your body
- Reduce cravings, inflammation, and brain fog
- Gain energy
A well-rounded detox program will also:
- Help you have a more positive mindset
- Give you tips for lifestyle changes and healthier habits
- Guide you through the ins and outs of low-tox beauty and personal care items
What to Look for in a Good Detox
When most people hear the word “detox” they think of juice cleansing, following an extremely restrictive diet, or using all sorts of shady products to “rid” toxins.
Before I got my master’s degree in nutrition, I didn’t realize everything that went into a good detox program.
When looking for a detox program (vegan or not), be sure that it is run by someone with a background in the nutritional sciences; who really understand the intricacies of biochemistry and how your detoxication system works.
You want someone with an advanced degree, who has been licensed or certified through a state (like a LDN, CNS or RD) – not someone who has a certificate from a 2-month online program that anyone could have purchased.
A good detox program will support our detoxification pathways through whole, unprocessed foods. Elimination, sleep, movement and hydration should also be addressed as these support our detoxification system.
Supplements can be added to a program to support your detox pathways for a short period of time as well. These supplements should be practitioner grade and an explanation as to why they were chosen should be included.
You want something designed to target the mind + body connection.
Food and nutrient choices are important to any detox. You want a diet plan that will give you easy, simple plant based meals (with lots of vegetables) including options for quick breakfasts in the morning, lunch and dinner options, as well as a few healthy sweets.
Lifestyle and mindset issues should also be addressed in a good program because our mind, body, and emotions all affect one another.
Negative thoughts and stress also play a part in our wellness (or lack there of). Our feelings are expressed biochemically through hormones, blood pressure, cellular responses, and neurotransmitters. These in turn can affect all aspects of our health; that is why I focus on both body & mindset when working with clients.
Ideally, you want a plan with meals and tips that you can use in your everyday life going forward.
Getting started with a Vegan Detox
I’ve put together the Vegan Detox Starter Kit: 6 Stress-Free Ways to Start Detoxing Your Body + Mind, which is a list of easy to implement habits that support detoxification. These habits can assist you in beginning your detoxification journey.
The detox kit also includes a weekly detox support worksheet that will help you keep track of how you’re supporting detoxification. You can print out the worksheet each week and keep on your fridge, by your bed, or anywhere else you’ll see it for easy access!
To get the Vegan Detox Starter Kit, fill out the form below!
Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who helps busy women minimize overwhelm and adopt a stress-free plant-based diet in order to thrive again.
By uniting her functional nutrition education with her passion for plants and mindfulness, Mary Ellen offers a completely holistic and science-based approach to designing a healthy, balanced life.