Cleanse vs. Detox (Is There a Difference and Which is Better?)

You’ll hear a lot of conflicting reports on cleanses and detoxes from users who have attempted it before. Sure there are many debunked detox practices, but much of the confusion stems from mismatched expectations, or simply from people who don’t know the difference between a detox and cleanse.

If you’re looking to start either a detox or cleanse, it’s important to know what to expect from each. This is because detoxes and cleanses are distinct diet protocols, with different aims and purposes.

To clear up some of those common misconceptions, we have put together this short article on what exactly constitutes a detox and a cleanse, as well as scenarios where each could be better suited.

What Is A Cleanse?

A cleanse or cleanse diet is best defined as a simplified diet that is aimed at cleansing the digestive tract.

While there are many variations such as a detox water cleanse or juice cleanse, the diet is often rich in fiber and protein while also being low in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats.

This is all designed to improve digestion, boost nutrient absorption and make your overall health better. It can also be used to help fight issues like constipation.

What Is A Detox?

In contrast to a cleanse, a detox is aimed at improving the health of two main organs: the kidneys and the liver. A detox can be done through the use of detox drinks, detox diets, detox smoothies, detox waters, detox teas, and many more.

This is done to help improve the speed and effectiveness of the two organs in clearing the body of harmful chemicals that can cause harm if they build up in excessive amounts. It can also have a secondary function of breaking down chemicals directly, making it easier for the liver and kidneys to detox the body.

This is done to help improve overall health and well-being.

Which is Better – Detox or Cleanse?

As mentioned above, the different protocols used in detox and cleanse diets means they are best used under different circumstances or with different goals in mind. We’ve put together a list of the most commonly recommended uses for each type of diet and lay out why each should be preferred, depending on your aims.

Which is better after binge drinking? Detox.

A night of heavy drinking can cause a large accumulation of chemicals like ethanol and its metabolites in the blood stream. These chemicals are toxic in large enough doses, and are the reason you can die from alcohol poisoning if they aren’t filtered out of your system. (1)

This filtration is carried out by the liver and kidneys, so naturally, a detox diet works best here. This can be done through a detox water diet or through a convention detox type program.

Studies have actually shown that certain herbal ingredients not only helped increase the speed of alcohol excretion but also reduced the severity of a hangover. (2) So, to help you recover both physically and psychologically from a hangover, a morning alcohol detox could work wonders.

Which is better to lose weight fast? Cleanse.

This is a bit of a gray area, as both types of diets can be useful here. The low calories, high liquid content of detox diets can help you lose weight rapidly while keeping some hunger at bay. (3)

However, for best results, a cleanse would probably work better here. The high fiber intake would help increase bowel movements, while the protein intake would help you maintain as much muscle mass as possible. The reduction of carbohydrates can also help you lose further weight through a reduction in stored water in your body.

So, for quick and healthy weight loss regime, a cleanse diet works best.

Which is better to detox the liver? Detox.

This may seem obvious from the name of the scenario, but the truth is, because both programs can be healthier than the average western diet, both could help improve the health of your liver.

However, a detox diet is the clear winner here. The right detox diet will help protect your liver from breakdown and increase its efficiency to help it clear all the toxins and metabolites from your body. (4)

Which is better to detox the kidneys? Detox.

This is another scenario that, while seeming obvious, can benefit from either type of protocol.

However, kidney detoxification will benefit more from a detox water diet, which will increase urination, help decrease the risk of urinary tract infections and increase the speed at which chemicals are excreted from the body. (5)

Which is better to boost energy levels? Both.

This is a more difficult question to answer. While both diets can be beneficial for this aim, the detox diet may prove slightly more beneficial due to the low calorie and intermittent fasting style of the diet.

While the cleanse can be useful, some people may experience an initial period of low energy due to the reduction in carbohydrates. (6) For a more immediate boost in energy levels, a detox water diet may prove more useful.

Which is better to boost mental health? Depends.

Improving mental health is another area where both diets do a good job through different means.

While the detox water ingredients help deliver some essential and highly beneficial nutrients, cleanse diets help improve gut health, which has a surprisingly big effect on mental health.

However, the detox water diet can take the edge in this scenario too, due to its high nutrient content and low calories, both of which can encourage cell growth in the brain and may improve mental health and well-being. (7)

Which is better to improve athletic performance? Cleanse.

This is a broad scenario, one that will differ from athlete to athlete. But, in a general sense, the increase in fiber and protein from a cleanse diet will help boost strength, power, speed and aid weight loss. (8)

These are useful for a wide range of athletes, putting cleanse diets in the top spot for this goal set.


Detox and cleanse diets can be very beneficial for a wide range of goals, and they are both growing in popularity because of it.

However, to get the most benefit out of these diets, it’s important to know the difference between them and use each for their appropriate scenarios and goals. By following the above recommendations, you should get the best bang for your buck with your next detox and cleanse, getting you closer to your health or fitness goals.


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