Are you in the midst of a cleanse, but instead of feeling better, you feel worse?
What you are feeling is what we typically refer to as “detox symptoms”. And yes, they can make you feel worse, even though you are doing something that is supposed to heal!
Detox symptoms generally include:
- Body aches,
- gut/digestion issues,
- brain fog,
- low energy,
- and extreme cravings (for the foods/habits that you are trying to give up).
Detox symptoms can manifest during a health cleanse, such as a juice fast, or sudden change in diet.
They can even manifest during an emotional or spiritual detox.
Many physical manifestations of detox are a result of repressed spiritual/mental/emotional trauma bubbling up to the surface during a cleanse.
Detox is a miserable experience for many, and if you are reading this page right now, you’re probably looking for some relief.
While most articles out there stick to the physical causes and remedies for detox symptoms, I prefer to take a holistic approach so I will share some spiritual causes and remedies in this article as well.
The point isn’t to cover up symptoms with a “bandage” and move on, but to deal with the root cause and heal body, mind, and spirit.
How To Deal With Detox Symptoms During A Cleanse
When you do any sort of cleanse – dietary or spiritual – it’s important to give yourself time and space to process emotions and feelings that come up.
During a cleanse is NOT the time to launch a new project, start a new career, or make major changes in your life.
Take it easy, and give yourself space.
Don’t neglect your daily, mindfulness practice (try our Magick Morning ritual here.)
Tuning into the wisdom of the lunar cycle can provide focus and perspective that will help you get the most out of your cleanse. While you cleanse or detox, let each moon phase guide you through the process.
If you’re interested in a moon-focused spiritual cleanse, take a peak at Lunar Balance!
It’s important to remember that not all detox symptoms have a cure, nor should they be cured or suppressed.
Everything you feel physically, mentally, emotionally are signals that you can learn from to facilitate healing.
Here are the most commonly reported detox symptoms that most people feel when on a cleanse – physical or spiritual – and what they might mean for you.
1) Fatigue & Low Energy
Fatigue and low energy is a symptom of insufficient calorie intake during a dietary cleanse or detox.
Fatigue and low energy can also manifest during a cleanse when the body and mind have been under chronic stress for a long time.
Once again, take time to step back and recharge.
Commit to treating yourself with kindness and understanding when you need down time. Self-care is not selfish.
You are not being lazy or unproductive simply by taking time to reflect, journal, and meditate.
Resist the urge to increase caffeine or other stimulants, or brute force your way through projects. (If you can’t take the time off, then don’t go full-on into a cleanse.)
Healing is work, and it is often hard work. Appreciate that with gratitude, and reframe slowing down not as something negative, but as something positive and productive!
2) Brain Fog
During a dietary cleanse, brain fog is generally a sign of insufficient calories, or withdrawal from sugar and caffeine.
The only way to fix it is to increase calories, patiently go through withdrawal, or stop the cleanse.
Mentally and emotionally, brain fog can be a symptom of overwhelm. This can be caused by depression, burn out, or simply by putting too much pressure on yourself.
Again, don’t try to do too much during a cleanse. Give yourself time and space to adjust to the change in diet or habits. Give yourself time to do the work of spiritual healing.
My go-to remedy for brain fog is to take a time out – even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes.
I’ll make myself a cup of tea and journal. Or I’ll take a walk outside and change my surroundings in order to get some fresh inspiration.
I like to work with tarot and oracle cards to help direct my thoughts and gain insights. This can be helpful when you feel stuck, and need some help with clarity or direction.
3) Acute Acne/Skin Breakouts
There is limited scientific evidence linking diet with acne. However, acute acne is sometimes reported as a detox symptom in people who change their diet suddenly.
It can also be a physical manifestation of stress. It could be likely that an acne flare up during a cleanse is your body’s way to processing chronic stress that you have been under.
In this case, I recommend incorporating self-care into your cleanse regimen. In fact, self-care should ALWAYS be part of a cleanse!
Shifting your skincare regimen toward more natural products and solutions can also help.
I love wild-crafted and organic products, like the ones I’ve used from Annmarie Skincare.
Disclaimer: I am an Annmarie Skincare affiliate, but it’s only because I love and use the products myself, so I can stand behind them 100%.
4) Digestive Issues/Gut Health
Digestive issues are more of a symptom associated with a dietary detox, and generally temporary while your body adjusts to the sudden change in foods (ie: more fiber = more, well, you know…)
However, digestive issues are also a result of stress, tension, and anxiety. Sometimes, these negative emotions are suppressed with food – especially if you are an emotional eater.
When emotionally numbing foods are removed from your diet during a cleanse, it may cause negative emotions that you haven’t faced another way to rear up again.
Give yourself time to adjust to the removal of these foods. Do some breathing and mindfulness exercises to check in with your stress/anxiety levels.
Do some journaling in a quiet place to discover any negative story, inner dialogue, or past trauma that needs to be acknowledged, processed, and released.
5) Headaches/Body Aches
While sometimes reported during dietary cleanses, headaches and body aches can also be physical manifestations of stress, anxiety, and depression.
We tend to hold negative emotions not just in our minds, but in our bodies – particularly our chest, shoulders, belly (causing digestive issues), and joints.
When we cleanse, we take a step toward shifting into a more aligned path.
When we do this, old thoughts, emotions, patterns, and energetic residue may manifest as physical pain and discomfort in our bodies.
The best way to alleviate this is through mindful movement. Yoga, Tai Chi, or any other spiritually-aligned dance or movement can help energy flow and facilitate our shift from negativity in our past and into our new present.
6) Extreme Cravings
Extreme cravings are a normal part of the detox process, and perhaps the most difficult one to deal with.
It’s normal to crave unhealthy foods when we cleanse.
It’s also normal to crave a return to unhealthy habits during a spiritual detox.
When it comes to cravings, the best thing you can do is to try to minimize the power they have over you.
It’s uncomfortable to experience cravings, and it’s hard to force ourselves not to cave in.
I find that a gentler approach is to use cravings to trigger an alternate behavior.
You can do this by pre-determining a behavior that is triggered by a craving. For example, decide in advance that when you crave candy, you will need to first take a walk around the block – for each piece you eat.
If you are doing a digital detox and are beside yourself wanting nothing more than to pick up your phone and check social media again, decide that you will instead take a walk in nature, or pick up your journal.
Perhaps the initial goal isn’t to force yourself into giving something up, but to trigger a positive habit to offset the negative one.
If you do eat a piece of chocolate, at least you walked around the block once. If you did end up madly scrolling on Facebook, at least you wrote three pages in your journal, or read 5 pages in a book first.
Doing this can help ease the strong urge to return to bad habits, and give you some better leverage on overcoming them.
And – get comfortable with allowing yourself to be uncomfortable.
Don’t resist discomfort – take it as an opportunity for growth. What can you learn about cravings? What are cravings trying to teach you?
When Detox Symptoms Persist
There are some rare cases when you may experience detox symptoms beyond the first few days of a cleanse.
Detox symptoms caused by a dietary cleanse, like a juice fast, may go away after a couple days. If they persist, your body may be telling you that the particular cleanse is not right for you.
You may need more calories, or something more balanced, or to take it slower. Ease into it. Take baby steps, like a 3-day detox instead of jumping into a 30-day juice fast.
Spiritually speaking, detox symptoms that linger may mean that deeper work needs to be done. For this, you may need to seek the help of a qualified mental health professional, or the support of a spiritual healer/coach.
I’ve always felt that short-term cleanses and detoxes didn’t work because they are short-term.
Use a cleanse to kick off a permanent change. And be sure to take a holistic approach.
Your physical health is linked to your mental and spiritual health as well. So don’t just focus on health or spirituality – work on all three – mind, body, and spirit.
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