Green fresh healthy smoothie
Lecic/iStock/Getty Images

Though somewhat controversial, cleansing diets are increasingly popular. Some cleansing diets may last only a few days, but Alejandro Junger, MD, author of “Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself,” recommends a 21-day cleansing program to eliminate toxins and restore the effectiveness of the body’s natural detoxification process.


The body is designed to naturally eliminate toxins from food, medications, cleaning products and the environment. However, the toxicity present in our modern world may be more than the body can handle, says Patricia Fitzgerald, homeopathic doctor and wellness expert. In addition, Dr. Junger states that the detoxification process does not kick in until digestion is complete. When we eat foods that are difficult to digest, or eat too much or too often, the body cannot adequately cope with its toxic load.

Elimination Diet

Dr. Junger recommends switching to an elimination diet before beginning the 21-day cleansing diet. An elimination diet involves abstaining from foods that are unhealthy, difficult to digest or potentially allergenic. Foods that are prohibited on Dr. Junger’s elimination diet include wheat, dairy, sugar, processed foods, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. He also recommends eliminating common allergens such as peanuts, tomatoes, bell peppers, soy, strawberries and eggs. He states that even people who do not have diagnosed allergies to these foods may have adverse reactions to them and not he aware of it.

The duration of the elimination diet depends on the current state of your diet. If you consume high quantities of processed and fried foods, sugar and coffee, you may want to remain on the elimination diet for as long as three weeks before beginning the cleansing diet plan.

Clean Diet Plan

The 21-day cleansing diet consists of eating one solid meal a day, along with two liquid meals. Dr. Junger recommends having a smoothie or freshly made juice for breakfast, a solid meal for lunch and soup or a smoothie for dinner. He stresses the importance of eating a dinner that is easy to digest and leaving 12 hours between dinner and breakfast so that the body can fully enter into detoxification mode while you sleep. He recommends preparing your own juices and soups to avoid the high levels of sodium and other additives in packaged products. Specific meals are not required on the cleansing diet as long as you follow the basic guidelines and continue following the elimination diet.

Other Recommendations

Cleansing diets work best when performed in conjunction with other healthful practices, notes the University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine. These may include massage, meditation, gentle exercise, saunas, short sun baths, and adequate rest and hydration. Dr. Junger also recommends other optional practices, such as swallowing two tablespoons of olive oil before bed to keep internal systems lubricated and eating a clove of raw garlic daily in addition to any garlic you use in cooking.


Scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of cleansing diets is lacking, notes the University of Southern California. However, Dr. Junger’s program stresses the importance of a nutritionally based cleansing diet as opposed to detox diets that are based on fasting or eating one type of food exclusively. Consult a medical professional before making major changes to your diet, especially if you have a serious medical condition. Dr. Junger does not recommend a strict cleansing diet for anyone who is pregnant or breastfeed, suffering from insulin-dependent diabetes or advanced cancer, or taking a medication that requires a stable blood concentration.