Clean Eating Detox And Withdrawals

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Is clean eating detox and withdrawals a thing? You betcha! And if you’re new to clean eating, it’s best to be aware.

I’d like to use this blog post to talk to those of you who haven’t yet gotten started with clean eating, but are definitely moving in that direction. Or even those of you who are trying to get back into clean eating. There are a few things you should expect if you plan on diving into this head first.

Clean Eating And Detox Withdrawals

While I personally tapered off the junk and eased myself into clean eating in the beginning, there is no shortage of times where I fell off the wagon and threw myself back in cold turkey just to get back on track. It’s happened more times than I can count and it’s not a fun process.

I noticed this a LOT when I did the No Sugar Challenge. It was the most uncomfortable part of getting [back] into clean eating. It was a  feeling my body (some of which was in my head – old habits die hard) like I was missing something and I was desperate to get it. I also had headaches and was very cranky.

It’s detox, and it’s not comfortable. It makes you want to run to the nearest bag of chips or jug of ice cream like nothing else.

If you are throwing yourself headlong into clean eating, and your normal food intake had a significant amount of processed foods in it, then you need to also brace yourself for the first few days. They won’t necessarily be pleasant. Everyone is different, of course, but for many it’s not a great experience.

I find that the hardest part is the first 3-4 days, while others say it can go on for up to 2-3 weeks. It’s different for everyone in its duration and if you can prepare yourself mentally, it’s your biggest hurdle.

I kind of look at it as if I were starting a new crash diet (lets face it, we’ve all been on one at some point in our lives). You know how you get really amped up and excited and you dive right in and starve yourself for about 2 weeks before falling off the diet? If you can get into that same mindset and just get through the first 3-4 days, it will be much easier after that. Your body will relax a bit and even though you will probably still crave stuff, it won’t be as hard to ignore. One incredibly helpful approach is to avoid ALL added sugars. Even clean ones for these first few days. A couple pieces of fruit is fine, but read every ingredient list and avoid any type of sugar.

After you get through those few days, the release is amazing. You really don’t crave much of anything. And if you do, it’s a mental craving rather than a physical one. At least that’s been my experience.

Also, be sure you are eating enough during this period. I forget about calories and portions during these first few days (unless you shouldn’t if have medical instructions to do otherwise). I just focus on getting the junk out of my eating plan. Once I get through the withdrawals, then I can focus on calories and portions. But the main thing is to not let myself get hungry.

Lastly, I drink plenty of water to help with flushing out toxins.

It’s definitely a yucky process, and if you’ve been through it, you know exactly what I mean. Processed foods are not addictive by accident. They are manufactured that way. They are created to make you want more. There is a lot of science that goes into creating fake foods and being addictive is high up on the priority list simply because it ensures corporate profits. Removing these fake foods from your eating plan is no small undertaking. So don’t diminish what you are going through if you experience it. And if any medical issue arises during this period, please do seek medical help.

Clean Eating Detox And Withdrawals

Here are just some of the issues my readers have experienced and shared with me.

  • Fatigue/tired/exhausted/lethargy
  • Frequent and/or different bowel movements
  • Passing gas
  • Headaches
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Cravings
  • Chills
  • Acne
  • Anxiousness
  • General crankiness
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  1. Carmen Rosario says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I have had many of those symptoms and didn’t realize that’s it is normal. Now that I know, I am gonna push through and do my best to stay on track !

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Carmen – I wish you all the best! If it gets too tough to handle, try tapering off instead. That works too.

    2. I also get major body aches

      1. The Gracious Pantry says:

        Lisa – Yes! It can feel like you have the flu!

      2. hello, I just started a “nutritarian” diet and I am having all the symptoms except the dizzieness. I feel extremely anxious and have “flu like” symptoms or maybe I AM getting a cold? I am only at day 3 but it is pretty hard. I have been stuck on junk and super fine chocolate for years. I have not had anything like that other than a drizzle of agave in my cereal and today a drizzle of honey. (oatmeal). I am eating 1 cup of legumes, lots of salad greens, fresh stir fried veggies,(carrots, beets, turnips, brussel sprouts) 3 servings of fruit and a few handfuls of nuts/seeds….pumpkin, sunflower seeds and almonds. A little bit of salt and seasonings for the veggies….also I made 15 bean soup and added kielbassa for husband but took it out for me. There was some kind of seasoning packet in it as well but it wasn’t that much.

        1. The Gracious Pantry says:

          Linda – Yes, detox can feel like the flu. But if it persists, you may actually have the flu! So if it does keep up, it might be time to check in with your doctor. Just to be safe.

  2. laura michelle says:

    Thanks for this blog post. Its really good to know that im alone with trying again and again. Your right though, I have been trying to eat clean now for about half a year and I still sometimes find myself being addicted to certain ‘fake foods’ but I wouldn’t change my failed attempts for the world because Ive learnt more and more on how to control my cravings and that you dont have to miss out on the foods you love. Anyway your blog is a god send! Xx

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Laura – It’s true! You never really have to miss out. You don’t cut out most foods, you just eat them a little differently. 🙂

  3. I can attest to every single one of those symptoms! But you do get through it … eventually. BTW I just found your YouTube videos and they are great. Thanks so much for all you do.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Nina – My pleasure! Welcome! 🙂

  4. Thank you for posting this. I have been eating mostly clean for a while, but now that I am getting much more serious about weight lifting, and gearing up for an obstacle race, I know that I need to really clean the crap out of my diet. I am planning to start your No Sugar Challenge soon, and I am honestly a little scared, but knowing what I can expect in terms of side effects makes it much less intimidating.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Fal – I’m glad you found it helpful! Be sure to drink plenty of water as that often helps. I wish you the best with your race!

  5. Vivian Anderson says:

    Thank you! I think this is the first time I have actually read someone else admit that the first days to weeks are tough. On most sites I see peoples amazing stories, and then feel completely isolated when my body is throwing tantrums about the lack of sugar or food, or whatever. I think that clean eating is the way that my body and I are heading now, although it may be a slower road, and I am grateful for a place to come and get honest information about it.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Vivian – My pleasure! Detox is no joke and you’re right. People don’t talk about it enough.

  6. I’m determined to get started on eating clean but just wondering if I should wait until after my period to detox? Can you imagine how rubbish you would feel with the above symptoms coupled with the usual symptoms of “the usuals”!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Pam – Everyone reacts differently. But that’s totally a personal decision. It will also depend on how much you have to detox from!

  7. My detox was all the above too…it was something that no one talks about so I am very glad to hear that people are. I joke that the reason I stay clean is so that I don’t have to detox again! Haha! I have some sweets every once in awhile and the sugar headache I get is almost as bad as detox for a few hours. I just remember that if I do have something that is a trigger for me I drink lots of water to help clean me up again. Thanks Tiffany!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Erica – Ya, those splurges are most often really not worth it!

  8. Three days ago I started clean eating completely cold turkey. I have experienced a lot of crankiness, dizziness and headaches. I am really looking forward to the part where I feel better! Anyway, your website has been a lifesaver. I don’t think I could have done this without it! Thanks 🙂

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jess – My pleasure! Drink plenty of water. It will get better!

  9. I’ve tried eating clean but always give it to cravings. It doesn’t help that my husband isn’t on board so there is junk food everywhere. I’m going to try again though! I am a faithful gym-goer. Have been for 2 yrs. Now to get my diet under control!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Kim – You’ve got this! I’m sure he could keep his junk in his own cabinet perhaps, where you can’t see it. Just tell him there will be more for him if you don’t know it’s there! 😀

  10. Hahaha! That alone should be motivation for him to hide it! I’m on the road quite a bit so that makes it more challenging at times. Any tips for on the go clean eating?

  11. Christina says:

    Thank you SO much for your blog. Phew! I thought i was going crazy. Im on day #6 of the 21 day challenge and this is the hardest thing that i have ever done & being a picky eater doesnt help either! The most frustrating part thus far was obsesing over carb/calorie intake. When seeing that im eating something healthy has more carbs than an eggo choc chip pancake, i grew frustrated and felt like i was wasting my time. But im not. I like how i read above that its good to slow it down and not necessarily go cold turkey.

    Thanks for your blog!! Best of luck to all 🙂

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Christina – Hang in there! It’s not easy, but once you get through it, you’ll feel amazing!

  12. hi! loving your blog. I myself go thru nasty with drawl symptoms every time I try to go it cold turkey.. is there any way you recommend easing into clean eating to make the process a little more tolerable??

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jenna – Make sure you are getting plenty of water and start with 1 meal. Then move to 2, and then 3. Then finally, switch over your snack. You don’t have to jump in cold turkey. I certainly didn’t. 🙂

  13. Katherine says:

    I am on week four of clean eating. I have been experiencing severe headaches and dizziness for about a week now. Is this common to happen after I have gotten this far along? I had absolutely no side effects during the beginning. Wondering if I should go through further testing with my doctor or if this is normal. I am eating clean along with gluten free.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Katherine – That’s hard to say. If it’s concerning, it might be good to speak with your doctor to ensure there isn’t something else going on. It could absolutely be detox, but it’s probably best to find out for sure.

  14. Started to eat clean 2 days ago. Not feeling that great at minute, major headache, lethargic and sleepy and what feels like an upset stomach. Drinking water and green tea …. Urgh.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tracey – Hang in there! It can be rough the first couple days…

  15. I am so thankful I came across this–I dived into clean eating cold turkey from a horrible carb and sugar loaded diet. I am still really struggling to feel better and these physical symptoms are tough and so very real. It’s nice to know you’re not alone when you see everyone else saying how great they feel and how easy it is, etc . I find myself dealing with a lot of hormonal and emotional issues at this time as well and it’s difficult to not seek out those comfort foods.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Morgan – Ya, it’s tough! Just keep in mind that it does get much easier with time. After a while, your comfort foods will become clean foods. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you stick with it. If you get desperate, I have converted a lot of comfort foods to clean eating on this site. And if you want something I don’t have, email me and I’ll see if i I can come up with something for you. Hang in there! And remember to drink all your water every day. It really makes a difference!

  16. Thank you for this article. I starting 3 month long clean eating detox in light of some recent health diagnoses. Yesterday was my first day and I’ve had a bad headache all day today. I thought to myself “I couldn’t be possibly be feeling the effects already!” Google lead me to your article and it was just what I needed to read.

    Thank you!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Della – My pleasure! Hang in there, it does get better!

  17. Hi Tiffany, I stumbled upon your blog when I was searching for “detox symptoms and acne”. Fact is, I’ve been eating clean since 3 weeks ago and taking on supplements to address vitamin deficiencies. But my acne outbreak situation is still here to stay and is killing me, emotionally. My bowel activity has improved tremendously though, but my skin.. couldn’t say the same.

    I needed some direction on whether I’m heeded in the right way and if I’m on my way to better skin. Because this waiting out part, is absolutely killing me.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jocelyn – I’m so sorry you’re going through that! I am not a doctor, so I can’t say what will help you and what won’t. I do know that my acne cleared up a lot when I gave up dairy for good. But it’s different for everyone and may not be your issue. If your bowels have improved, you know you’re on the right track. It’s all about what your body responds too. It may just take a little time for your skin to follow, or there could be something else going on. Have you talked to a doctor?

  18. Hi, I’m on day 6 and for the first 4 days I had was a bit headachy but felt great and was bouncing arround and I look so much better already but god yesterday and today I feel sooo bad. was hoping this was normal so glad I found this blog page. I think I was good the first few days as I eat about 70% clean and healthy anyway but now my body is screaming for chocolate and crisps. My skin is glowing and my stomach has deflated a lot but my head is so foggy and I’m so tired. hopefully only a few days of this for me,

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sheila – Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  19. Hi, I am on day 20 of The Daniel Plan and doing the Detox menu and receipts. Can you tell me when I will know when detox is over? Gave up sugar, dairy and gluten so not sure what my new normal should feel like.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sandi – It’s different for everyone. Generally speaking, you feel yucky, and after detox, you feel better. But that’s about as specific as I can get because it really is different for everyone.

  20. So at the moment I’m giving up caffeine and sugar (excluding fruit) AND wheat.cold-turkey straight after the sugar fest that is Christmas. I’m at on day 5 and feel absolutely dreadful: so drained I can barely crawl out of bed before 10, a persistent headache for the last 5 days, my back aches, my neck aches, I’m cranky as hell. I’m lucky I’m on holiday so don’t have to do anything constructive because I have literally no energy to do anything – All I want to do is sleep. Cant wait for this to be over so I can get my life back. i did 2 months vegan (from die hard carnivore) last year and have given up caffeine before and felt fine so I’m assuming a majority of what I’m experiencing must be down to sugar. No way am I ever putting that back in my body if it can do this to me and floor me for an entire week.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tash – Yes!! It can be a really tough process. But hang in there, this too shall pass! Just remember what a good thing you are doing for yourself.

  21. Cathy Hugenberg says:

    Do you think there is such a thing as reverse detox symotoms? I have been eating clean all year and Thanksgiving was out of my control and I had stomach like flu symptoms for 2 days. Nobody esse was sick or got sick.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Cathy – Totally possible!! If your body has adjusted to healthier foods and then you fill your tummy with not-so-healthy foods, ya. Your body will definitely react!

  22. Dolores Olivier says:

    I started Dr. Gundry’s lectin-free diet and I am so tired each day but I also stopped coffee and replaced with white or green tea.

    When will my body adjust to the changes and have more energy?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Dolores – Everybody is different. For some, it’s a couple of days, for other’s a couple of weeks. It really just depends.

  23. melissa dimarzo says:

    Just started eating clean, and for a while now nothing was “off limits” I ate anything and everything! I am a mom of 6 and was looking & feeling awesome after baby number 4!! Now, at age 42 my youngest is 4 and I am back to work full time. It is not easy to balance it all but I am determined! I honestly have 100 lbs to loose!! Due to medication & horrible food choices & lack of exercise! 🙁
    I am so miserable like this. Today is only day 2 of portion control & clean eating BTW my husband runs a gym & we are both personal trainers with nutrition education (so sad) lol I am now working back as a healthcare professional and I love what I do but can hardly climb a flight of stairs without feeling so winded! I hope I can accomplish my goals, and get through this “sick” withdrawal stage
    thanks, Melissa D.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Melissa – You can do it!! Just remember not to be TOO strict. Following the “rules” is always a great guide, but if you are too strict, you’ll never make it long term. I like to focus more on being kind to myself, as well as taking care of myself. It avoids the whole diet mentality that makes everything feel like one big punishment for gaining weight. You got this!

  24. Hello
    So thankful to see this blog. I am on Day 8 of 21 day kidney and liver detox. All bad stuff has been eliminated out of my diet.. sugar, dairy, meats, fish, carbs , caffeine….etc…and have not cheated…feeling proud….my biggest challenge has been not having my morning cappuccino…..finally started on green tea now ….. Felt terrible for the first 3-4 days….then awesome and energized….now back down feeling cranky and all other symptoms mentioned. Quick personal question: I am assuming it is normal and good to have green stools????
    Please confirm if possible…..hoping to be arriving to a new level of health After this. Praying more people learn of this and stop poisoning themselves with fake food. I know this will be worth it in the end but still waiting for my sustained new energized body…ups and downs of this is rough……emotionally and physically…..hard to find time to make meals at home as I am/was a restaurant person…..miss my food but realize now what I was eating before was not actually food….

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Kathleen – I’m afraid I can’t confirm that sort of thing. Your best bet is to talk to your doctor. I’m not a medical professional. Good for you for detoxing though! It’s quite the process….

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