What's the Difference Between a Fast and Detox Diet?

What's the Difference Between a Fast and Detox Diet?
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The Purpose of Fast and Detox Diets

Both fasting and detox diets share the common purpose of detoxifying the body of harmful toxins accumulated from a poor diet and environmental pollution. Though both diets are for detoxing, the diets do not use the same methods.

Alternative health practitioners often recommend fast and detox diets to cleanse the body, however, western medicine does not agree that these diets actually remove toxins from the body.



Fasting is done for one of two reasons. One, to remove toxins from the body. Two, as a spiritual or religious practice that allows one to focus on prayer. Fasting entails cutting out solid food intake and only ingesting fluids. Usually fasts only allow the intake of water, water and juice, or water and tea. The purpose of a fast is to allow the body rest from digesting food products so that it can use the energy on eliminating toxins. The intake of water, water and juice, or water and tea is allowed to keep the body hydrated and to assist the digestive system in moving toxins through the body and expelling them out of the digestive system through waste elimination. Some fasts include the use of enemas or colonic irrigation to cleanse the intestinal tract. When ending a fast, solid food is reintroduced slowly so as to not shock the digestive system and cause digestive problems.

Detox Diet

Fruit Bowl - Image Credit: Yosarian/creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en/commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fruit_bowl.jpg

A detox diet is done to remove toxins from the body. Unlike a fast, a detox diet allows for the intake of solid food. Detox diets commonly restrict solid food intake, only allowing non-toxic foods. They eliminate the intake of processed foods, meats, sugars, simple carbohydrates and alcohol. The diet focuses on fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Along with the restricted diet, herbs such as slippery elm, dandelion, senna or other cleansing herbs may be taken to assist the body in detoxification and soothe the digestive tract.

Not for Weight Loss

The current trend of using fast and detox diets for weight loss is growing in popularity, despite the fact that the diets are not designed for weight loss. The elimination of solid food in a fast puts the body into starvation mode. Detox diets severely restrict nutrient and calorie intake. After a fast or detox a person may find that they have lost weight, but the weight will most likely return once the person has returned to eating a normal diet.

Popular fast and detox diets such as the master cleanse, even though marketed for weight loss, are not a long-term weight loss solution. The weight lost is usually only water weight and is quickly gained once a normal diet is resumed. People that repetitively fast or detox in an attempt to keep weight off, may find that their weight yo-yo’s up and down.


  • A doctor should always be consulted before following a fast or a detox diet.
  • The elimination of solid food during a fast is not appropriate for people who are weak or who have certain health conditions. Fast and detox diets are also not appropriate for children and pregnant women.
  • Herbs used in a detox diet may cause interactions with certain medications. Check with your doctor before taking herbal supplements to see if they are known to interact with any medications that you are taking.
  • Generally, a fast should not last more than three days and a detox diet should not be undergone for more than 10 days.


Indiana University; “Did You Know?: Questioning Cleansing Diets”; soundmedicine.iu.edu/segment/1986/Questioning-Cleansing-Diets

Physicians’ Desk Reference; “The PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines & Healing Therapies”; Ballantine Books; May 2, 2000

Image credits:

Water: Derek Jensen/Public Domain/commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glass-of-water.jpg

Fruit Bowl: Yosarian/creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en/commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fruit_bowl.jpg